Christianity 201

March 14, 2015

Is it a Sin Problem, or a Law Problem?

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Romans 4:14 If God’s promise is only for those who obey the law, then faith is not necessary and the promise is pointless.

Today we welcome back Greg Stubbings a friend of ours who posts thoughts like this regularly on his Facebook page. Facebook presents a wonderful opportunity to share your faith with your entire sphere of contacts. What do you post there? Does anything hold you back from sharing your faith on social media?

In two short paragraphs, Greg shows how striving to measure up through law-keeping only keeps us and God far away.  Then in part two, he continues this theme. (We’ve added full text of related scriptures throughout.)

One of my favorite prophets, Jeremiah, said that the right of inheritance is yours and mine, and redemption. Christians are given sonship in God’s family. With it comes an inheritance that includes divine health and prosperity. So why aren’t we seeing believers experiencing overwhelming benefits? Well, Paul answers that in one verse. This verse is memorized in hell. If you ask a Christian, “What voids your faith, keeps people from receiving God’s blessings, and what keeps them separated from God?”, they will inevitably answer, as I did for forty years, “SIN”. Paul says, “WRONG ANSWER!” He says it’s the law (Romans 4:14). More proof? See Ephesians 2:12-15.

Eph. 2:12 In those days you were living apart from Christ. You were excluded from citizenship among the people of Israel, and you did not know the covenant promises God had made to them. You lived in this world without God and without hope. 13 But now you have been united with Christ Jesus. Once you were far away from God, but now you have been brought near to him through the blood of Christ.

14 For Christ himself has brought peace to us. He united Jews and Gentiles into one people when, in his own body on the cross, he broke down the wall of hostility that separated us. 15 He did this by ending the system of law with its commandments and regulations. He made peace between Jews and Gentiles by creating in himself one new people from the two groups.

We have also clung to the law as a lifestyle that we think will make us holy. But in truth, the law will expose what a disgusting sinner you are. Maybe you don’t think you are. Then study the law. It’s a horribly honest mirror. No wonder we can’t receive God’s free gift of righteousness. We’re trying to establish our own through the law. No wonder we feel God is far off, and separated from us. That’s what the law did at Mount Sinai. God said, “Since you say you can do all I tell you to do, don’t come near.” That’s why Paul said to cast out the law (Galatians 4:21-31). No wonder the commandment-keeping, self-righteous Pharisees wanted to kill Paul. It is the law keepers who persecute those under grace (verse 29).

When the Lord sees us trying to establish our own righteousness through commandment-keeping, He says it’s disgustingly filthy to Him. Still want to go there? Count me out.

Gal 4:21 Tell me, you who want to live under the law, do you know what the law actually says? 22 The Scriptures say that Abraham had two sons, one from his slave wife and one from his freeborn wife.[a] 23 The son of the slave wife was born in a human attempt to bring about the fulfillment of God’s promise. But the son of the freeborn wife was born as God’s own fulfillment of his promise.

24 These two women serve as an illustration of God’s two covenants. The first woman, Hagar, represents Mount Sinai where people received the law that enslaved them. 25 And now Jerusalem is just like Mount Sinai in Arabia,[b] because she and her children live in slavery to the law. 26 But the other woman, Sarah, represents the heavenly Jerusalem. She is the free woman, and she is our mother. 27 As Isaiah said,

“Rejoice, O childless woman,
    you who have never given birth!
Break into a joyful shout,
    you who have never been in labor!
For the desolate woman now has more children
    than the woman who lives with her husband!”[c]

28 And you, dear brothers and sisters, are children of the promise, just like Isaac. 29 But you are now being persecuted by those who want you to keep the law, just as Ishmael, the child born by human effort, persecuted Isaac, the child born by the power of the Spirit.

30 But what do the Scriptures say about that? “Get rid of the slave and her son, for the son of the slave woman will not share the inheritance with the free woman’s son.”[d] 31 So, dear brothers and sisters, we are not children of the slave woman; we are children of the free woman.


Footnotes:

  1. 4:22See Gen 16:15; 21:2-3.
  2. 4:25Greek And Hagar, which is Mount Sinai in Arabia, is now like Jerusalem; other manuscripts read And Mount Sinai in Arabia is now like Jerusalem.
  3. 4:27Isa 54:1.
  4. 4:30Gen 21:10.

This is part two, which was posted several days later:

[Some] Christians will tell you, if you want to become holy, keep the commandments. They even sing about wanting to be holy. What they neglect is holy scripture that says, if you’re a Christian, you are automatically holy. To deny that is to deny Jesus as your Lord and Savior. He becomes the Christian’s holiness and righteousness, by divine fiat, just as He was made sin without sinning.

I heard on the radio that Richard Gere and others were holy men. Why? Because they are Buddhists? Get real. No human is holy, nor will ever become holy by their efforts. We were all born into sin and will die in sin because of our blood link to Adam. That’s why we sin. We’re natural sinners. Except Jesus. His bloodline goes back only to God. He did not get His blood type from Mary. A baby’s blood comes from the father only, not the mother.

After forty years of trying to become holy by keeping the commandments, I must admit that I fought the law, and the law won. That’s its purpose, to show me up. All my efforts only made me self-righteous, holier-than-thou, who weren’t as diligent about it as me. Then there were those who appeared holier, more righteous than me. That just made me condemn myself.
But since the Lord opened my eyes to Paul’s gospel of grace, I see that my past efforts were disgustingly filthy to God, as all religions are. No one will ever become righteous or holy apart from Jesus.

So I renounce and repudiate all my past efforts at becoming such. I now accept and claim Jesus’ free gift of righteousness as my own (Romans 5:17). I abandon the law as a means to holiness. Why? Because Jesus has become my wisdom, my righteousness, my holiness, and my deliverance from sin (1 Corinthians 1:30). I am now holy by “accident”. I might not look it, but my Lord says I am. I’m running with that. I don’t have to try to be, which only repels people. Holy men? Nope. Holy Savior

Rom. 5:17 For the sin of this one man, Adam, caused death to rule over many. But even greater is God’s wonderful grace and his gift of righteousness, for all who receive it will live in triumph over sin and death through this one man, Jesus Christ.

I Cor 1:30 God has united you with Christ Jesus. For our benefit God made him to be wisdom itself. Christ made us right with God; he made us pure and holy, and he freed us from sin.

 

all scriptures today: NLT

April 25, 2011

Spiritual Relapse

Today’s post first appeared at Thinking Out Loud under the title Spiritual Recidivism.

I remember the first time I heard the term recidivism, it was in the context of American federal prisons, as the word can be used to describe the situation where, after serving time, prisoners re-offend and are re-incarcerated. It’s a term I would image Chuck Colson‘s Prison Fellowship ministry discusses frequently.

Not being an expert, I can only guess at a few sample reasons why people might follow their previous paths and end up back in jail:

  • Crime is the only life they know; they haven’t been placed in a new direction or given enough new life skills, and they simply return to what they know.
  • They actually “learn” crime in prison from listening to other inmates; or they idolize other prisoners and see their exploits as something worth trying.
  • They fall back among former friends — people who didn’t do hard time — and get caught up in their lifestyle of illegal activities.
  • They either consciously or subconsciously miss the security and routine of prison life and/or feel “lost” in the outside world and are simply either expecting or hoping to get caught again.

Those are just some sample ideas, I’m sure there are more.

But I am equally guilty of recidivism.

I sin, and then I sense God dealing with me about it, and I repent and I abstain from that sin for a season, but then that temptation might call out to me. I’m not thinking of anything recent here, but it’s a pattern that most Christ-followers — including the Apostle Paul — are familiar with. I’m told that some sects — particularly the Catholic church’s earliest concepts of confession, and certain aspects of Mormon doctrine — teach that once confessed, you really shouldn’t sin the same sin twice.

So why do we?

Let’s see if we can follow the pattern above and get some insights:

  • A lifestyle of sin is deeply ingrained. This is where Charismatics and Pentecostals (among others) would say there is a need for something that goes beyond confession: Deliverance.
  • We actually “learn” sin from hanging around with other Christians who, instead of lifting us up, bring us down. Or, freed from one area of temptation, we don’t realize that without God filling the emotional or spiritual voids that exist, we are leaving ourselves open for other types of sin or distraction.
  • We go back to the people we knew before we determined to live a life of intentional spiritual formation. This includes people in the church who are simply not committed. It can also include media influences.
  • If we get deeply enough entrenched in a sinful lifestyle, we can become numbed to guilt, and our sin feels comfortable and enjoyable. Momentarily, the pleasures of sin outweigh the joy and satisfaction found in letting God direct our paths.

Here’s the full text from Paul I alluded to earlier:

NIV Romans 7:15 I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. 16 And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. 17 As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. 18 For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. 19 For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. 20 Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.

21 So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. 22 For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; 23 but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. 24 What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death?

To amend George Santayana’s well known quotation: “Those who fail to learn the lessons of their personal history are doomed to repeat them. “

Do you find yourself running down the same sin rabbit trails? Just as spring is bringing new life to the northern hemisphere, allow God to help you break free and enjoy spiritual new life.

…If a search engine brought you to this post, maybe God is trying to tell you something. Click here to watch a brief presentation on giving Him control of your life.