Why Should I Obey?

river of life

Have you bought into the lie that since we are saved by grace through faith, it makes no difference what we do?  Or are you still living with the notion that you are a pretty good person and if you are good enough God will let you into Heaven when you die?  Grace and obedience often get muddied in the fields of our hearts because we struggle to focus on God, who is outside of us, but constantly revert to focusing on ourselves.  We look in, not up.  So grace either gives us freedom to do whatever we want to do, or we want to prove ourselves and make ourselves worthy of our own salvation.

Martin Luther, the father of the Protestant Reformation, grappled with this very question, and answered it quite profoundly:

Although I am an unworthy and condemned man, my God has given me in Christ all the riches of righteousness and salvation without any merit on my part, out of pure, free mercy, so that from now on I need nothing except faith which believes that this is true. Why should I not therefore freely, joyfully, with all my heart, and with an eager will do all things which I know are pleasing and acceptable to such a Father who has overwhelmed me with his inestimable riches?

– Martin Luther, The Freedom of a Christian

Grace has given us salvation that we do not and cannot deserve.  We will never be good enough to earn or merit salvation by our actions, because we are wicked from the core.  All have sinned, and any sin is enough to separate us from God for eternity.  Remember Adam and Eve?  But yet, by grace God has provided a way for us to be saved, by the work of Jesus Christ and not of ourselves.  Our response to being given such a glorious gift is to freely and joyfully do those things that make Him happy.  Not out of a spirit of requirement but out of a desire to please our Heavenly father.

Jesus takes the conversation a step farther, however, to say that it is indeed the mark of the one who has been saved by grace to obey (Matt 7.15-20), and James states quite clearly that faith which has no works is dead:

What use is it, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but he has no works? Can that faith save him?  If a brother or sister is without clothing and in need of daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and be filled,” and yet you do not give them what is necessary for their body, what use is that?  Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself.

– James 2.14-17

Obedience does not save us.  But if we do not obey, we prove ourselves to have never been saved.  Obedience is the mark of those who have been saved.  Not out of obligation, but out of joyful response to a loving Father.  Does your faith have works?  Is there an outpouring of grace that has been poured into you?  Do you have a river of life flowing out of you from God and to others?

“He who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, ‘From his innermost being will flow rivers of living water.’”

– John 7.38

Did Jesus love the Pharisees?

thumper

If there is one thing that 21st century American culture knows today, it is that Jesus loves sinners.  We go to great lengths to point out the fact that Jesus ate with sinners and tax collectors.  We recount the story of the woman caught in the very act of adultery and Jesus sending her accusers away by saying “He who is without sin among you, let him be the first to throw a stone at her” (John 8.7).

Oh we know those stories so well.  
And yet, under our guise of tolerance and acceptance,
we judge the Pharisees so quickly.

Jesus, after all, called them “a brood of vipers” (Matt 12.34).  He even said that their father was the devil (John 8.44).  If Jesus called them these terrible names and pointed out the error of their religious systems, then we can discern that Jesus loved the non-religious and hated the religious, right?  That is our model, after all.  We throw out tradition, we jazz up a select-few hymns and sing rocking new praise songs, we tattoo verses on our bodies, grow long beards and wear skinny jeans and usher the old folks into the senior’s group and tell them to be quiet, if they want to come.  We want “everyone” to feel welcome, we do not judge, we look like the world in order to make the broken and wounded affirmed.  But our “everyone” is not really “everyone”.

We hate the religious crowd.
Because that’s what Jesus did.

Or did he?

Let’s consider a few things.  First of all, let us consider Jesus’ upbringing.  We know very little in terms of details of Jesus’ childhood before His ministry began, but we do know that Jesus’ family honored the traditions of the faith, traveling to Jerusalem annually, and one time Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem to learn from the Pharisees:

“Then, after three days they found Him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the teachers, both listening to them and asking them questions.  And all who heard Him were amazed at His understanding and His answers…And He said to them, “Why is it that you were looking for Me? Did you not know that I had to be in My Father’s house?”

 – Luke 2.46-49

Secondly, let us look at the twelve disciples.  Jesus called:

1.  Simon, who is called Peter (a fisherman)
2.  Andrew his brother  (also a fisherman)
3.  James the son of Zebedee  (also a fisherman)
4.  John his brother  (also a fisherman)
5.  Philip (profession unknown)
6.  Bartholomew (name means “son of furrows” which implies he was a farmer)
7.  Thomas (profession unknown)
8.  Matthew (a tax collector)
9.  James the son of Alphaeus (profession unknown)
10.  Thaddaeus (aka Judas, son of James, profession unknown)
11.  Simon the Zealot  (profession unknown, although “Zealot” could mean he was of the religious sect Zealots, who were devoted to the Old Testament Law)
12.  Judas Iscariot  (profession unknown, but we do know he handled the money)

So of the twelve, we have at least four fisherman, one farmer, one “sinner” (tax collector), one “religious” (zealot), and one betrayer.  Then, to take the place of the betrayer, Jesus appointed Saul – the Pharisee – to be the last apostle.  Jesus chose mostly average men, but he did choose one tax collector and two religious people to be in His circle.

Thirdly, consider Jesus’ normal activities and audience:  Jesus regularly went to the synagogues and temple to listen and to teach (John 18.20).  It was the Pharisees and Saducees who would have been teaching.  Almost every time a crowd gathered, there were Pharisees and/or Saducees listening.  We know that just like He went to Zacchaeus’ house for dinner, He also went to eat at Pharisees’ houses (Luke 14.1).

Fourth, we know that some of Jesus’ most committed followers were Pharisees.  Nicodemus, the Pharisee, came to Him at night to receive teaching and ask questions, and after believing he stood up for Jesus before the council (John 3; 7.51).  He also brought one hundred pounds of myrrh and aloe to prepare Jesus’ body for burial while all of the disciples fled (John 19.39).  Joseph of Arimathea was a member of the Sanhedrin and a follower of Jesus, and was the only one brave enough to ask Pilate for Jesus’ body after He died.  He donated his own personal tomb and took care of Jesus’ body after His death (John 19.38).  Gamaliel, another Pharisee, also stood up to the council for the apostles:

But a Pharisee named Gamaliel, a teacher of the Law, respected by all the people, stood up in the Council and gave orders to put the men outside for a short time.  And he said to them, “Men of Israel, take care what you propose to do with these men.  For some time ago Theudas rose up, claiming to be somebody, and a group of about four hundred men joined up with him. But he was killed, and all who followed him were dispersed and came to nothing.  After this man, Judas of Galilee rose up in the days of the census and drew away some people after him; he too perished, and all those who followed him were scattered.  So in the present case, I say to you, stay away from these men and let them alone, for if this plan or action is of men, it will be overthrown; but if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them; or else you may even be found fighting against God.”

 – Acts 5.34-39

Lastly, Scripture actually tells us that the Pharisees were divided as to belief in Jesus:

Therefore some of the Pharisees were saying, “This man is not from God, because He does not keep the Sabbath.” But others were saying, “How can a man who is a sinner perform such signs?” And there was a division among them.

 – John 9.16

Nevertheless many even of the rulers believed in Him, but because of the Pharisees they were not confessing Him, for fear that they would be put out of the synagogue…

 – John 12.42

What is my point?  Jesus did not only choose the most vile and unexpected people to serve Him.  Sometimes we over exaggerate the point that God chooses the underdog.

For consider your calling, brethren, that there were not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble; but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong, and the base things of the world and the despised God has chosen, the things that are not, so that He may nullify the things that are, so that no man may boast before God.

 – 1 Cor 1.26-29

Yes, it is true that God’s strength is perfected in our weaknesses (2 Cor 12.9).  But consider the very person who made that statement.  Saul.  He was the most Pharisee of all the Pharisees.  He was the epitome of that very person we think that Jesus hated .  And yet here he is, transformed by faith, and arguably the most dynamic Christian to ever live.  He wrote most of the New Testament, was the first missionary to the non-Jewish world, and started most of the early Churches.  A Pharisee.

Jesus hates sin.  He hates all sin.  He hates adultery, lying, stealing, cheating, false religion, pride and self-sufficiency.  People can, through faith, repent of all of these sins.  Tax collectors (white-collar thieves) and Pharisees (religious bigots) can repent.  And tax collectors and Pharisees who do not repent are left in the same state:  lost and damned to Hell.  Let us be careful when we consider the actions of Jesus.  He ate with everyone, and condoned only faith.  Sin was never excused.  Jesus did not participate in tax collecting thieving, nor did he participate in religious pride and condemnation.  He sat under the teaching of Pharisees and pardoned the adulteress.  Jesus was uniquely separate; offering salvation from any and all sin to the penitent, and yet hated and condemned all sin of the rebellious.

Remember, Jesus died for all types of sin.  If you tend towards legalism and Pharisee-like behavior, there is hope.  If you fall to carnal sins, there is hope.  All can be forgiven, if they are confessed and repented of.  And we must all rely on the Holy Spirit to convict us of sin, righteousness and judgment (John 16.8).  Be careful that you do not allow sin for the sake of welcoming people, and be careful that you do not alienate people because their sin is self-righteousness or legalism – the kind of sin that we think acceptable to hate.  Jesus can redeem it all.

Everyone Makes Mistakes

hypocrisy

I remember vividly the first time I realized that Scripture documents historical narrative in the New Testament.  The Old Testament, we all know, tells the history of Israel.  But often we tend towards the New Testament for instruction, for theology, for teaching about how the Church should function.  The Gospels and Acts tell the story of Jesus and the disciples planting the first few churches, and then the rest of the New Testament are letters telling those churches how to act, right?

Yes!  This is true!  But we pick up tidbits of the story line through those letters; just like when we write letters (or emails) today, we mix in stories with our thoughts!  And one particular story is causing me much reflection today.  When Jesus had his disciples, there were three who were his inner circle:  Peter, James and John.  If you have spent any time in the Scriptures, you know that Peter was the dynamic leader of the group.  He was the outspoken one, the one who spoke quickly and often put his foot in his mouth.  He was also the first one to preach and stand up to the Jews and religious counsel after Jesus returned to Heaven and the Holy Spirit came.

But when [Peter] came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned.  For prior to the coming of certain men from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles; but when they came, he began to withdraw and hold himself aloof, fearing the party of the circumcision.  The rest of the Jews joined him in hypocrisy, with the result that even Barnabas was carried away by their hypocrisy.  But when I saw that they were not straightforward about the truth of the gospel, I said to [Peter] in the presence of all, “If you, being a Jew, live like the Gentiles and not like the Jews, how is it that you compel the Gentiles to live like Jews?”

– Gal 2.11-14

Peter, the leader of the Church, the “rock” as Jesus called him, the one to whom God gave the vision and the first mission to take the Gospel to the Gentiles by declaring them clean, fell into the temptation to refuse to eat with the Gentiles because the Gentile Christians were not observing the Old Testament dietary laws.  In the book of Acts we are told the story of Peter receiving a vision that God declared all food and all people clean, and called him to go and preach the Gospel to Cornelius and his family, a man to whom God had given dreams about salvation.  And Peter went!  He was the first one to be led and to branch out preaching and taking the Gospel to non-Jews.  And yet, the Jews were so influential that when Peter went to Antioch – a Gentile city – and met with the church which was primarily not Jews, he was tempted and fell into hypocrisy.  He fell into a heresy that God Himself had refuted to him in a vision.  And his failure was so dynamic that the rest of the Jews followed him.  Even Barnabas, “the son of encouragement” was fell into this hypocrisy and sin.

Paul confronted him.  In front of everyone, Paul noted that Peter had been eating with the Gentiles until “certain men from James” showed up Peter was eating with the Gentile Christians and had no problem with them.  But their false Gospel drew him back into his old way of thinking; that he still must adhere to the Jewish dietary laws.

Peter.  The dynamic leader of the Early Church.  Messed up the Gospel.

If that does not give you hope, nothing will!  How often do we believe the claims of the Gospel that nothing can earn us merit with God, that we should obey Him out of love and reverence, but yet when we fall into our own temptations and sin blatantly or establish legalistic tendencies for ourselves trying to maintain our standing with God?  Do you beat yourself up if you forgot to read your Bible one day?  Do you judge other Christians for non-Biblical guidelines that you have layed out for your own life?

Peter did it too.

But thankfully Peter had Paul to call him out.  Peter and Paul rarely interacted with one another.  Peter was appointed as the apostle to the Jews while Paul was appointed as apostle to the Gentiles (non-Jews) (Gal 2.8).  But thankfully we see this interaction and we know that Peter repented because after this exchange he wrote his letters (1 and 2 Peter), which preach the same Gospel.

Everyone makes mistakes.  Everyone at times warps the Gospel in his mind.  Sometimes we are too lenient towards sin and sometimes we are too legalistic.  It’s normal.  But be humble when your friend points it out in your life and return graciously to the beauty of the Gospel that we cannot earn our salvation and keeping rules will not merit us worthy before God.  And repent when we are tempted to continue in sin because “God is gracious” and will forgive us. Yes, He will forgive, if we truly repent and turn away from our sin, we may not continue in it.  But we are all – just like Peter – a work in progress whom God is sanctifying and changing.

Desertion

desertion
There are so many things that distract us today and vie for our attention.  And in our “entertain me” mentality, we flit from one event, meeting and agenda to the next.  Everyone has a plethora of passions and initiatives:  save the whales, stop child slavery, raise money to fight cancer, equal pay for men and women, and the list goes on and on.  We jump on board and are passionate for the fundraiser gala, we run the 5K, we give up our lunch breaks and occasionally even host an event to raise awareness.
But in reality we are passionate-less.
We are not truly convicted.
Unless, of course, that cancer or slavery or animal abuse has hit us close to home.
Out of sight, out of mind might be a temptation of forgetfulness for our Earthly agendas, but have you noticed the same weakness when it comes to your spirituality?  Do you have a once-a-week Christianity?  Do you have a ten minutes-a-day faith?  Paul opens up his letter to the multiple churches in Galatia differently than any other letter he wrote.  He said, “Hi” and then jumped squarely into this confrontation:

I am amazed that you are so quickly deserting Him who called you by the grace of Christ, for a different gospel; which is really not another; only there are some who are disturbing you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to what we have preached to you, he is to be accursed! As we have said before, so I say again now, if any man is preaching to you a gospel contrary to what you received, he is to be accursed!

– Gal 1. 6-9
Can you imagine if the person who led you to faith wrote you a letter and this was the opening paragraph?  “I am amazed that you are so quickly deserting Him who called you by the grace of Christ”.  How shallow was your salvation experience and discipleship process that you have been distracted and led astray to love another?
What is particularly convicting in this assessment is that the people have not been led astray, primarily, by a foreign Gospel.  Paul’s problem with the Galatians is not that they became Christians and then turned to a foreign religion.  They were Gentiles (non-Jews) who received the Gospel with joy, and then Jews came in and started teaching them that in order to follow Jesus they had to keep the Mosaic Law.  They were accepting the forgiveness of Jesus in word, but then trying to earn it through works and sacrifice.  And Paul states that the attempt to earn God’s favor through obedience, sacrifice and ritual is to abandon Jesus.
Wait, what?
Aren’t we supposed to obey?  Didn’t Jesus Himself say,
“If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.”
 – John 14.15
Yes, Jesus did say that.  But notice the logic here.  Love is the foundation and obedience is the response.  When we distort the order by placing obedience as the foundation, then it turns into self-righteousness and merit.  We cannot earn forgiveness, and we cannot pay off our debt.  God is a just God who will punish every sin ever committed.  He cannot turn His face away and just let it slip by.  And no matter how much we do to try to balance the scale, we can never appease the punishment required for sin.
Notice that Paul says that the Law is “really not another” (V 7).  The Law is the foundation for the work of Christ.  The sacrificial animals whose blood was shed was a picture of the perfect sacrifice that could atone for all the sins of those who would believe.  The scapegoat that was released into the wilderness was looking forward to the inexplicably glorious exchange that happens at the moment of justification where Jesus takes our guilt and we receive His holiness.  The Law teaches us that God desires first that we love Him and obey Him, and the standard is  perfection and righteousness.  When we fail to miss that mark we need a Savior.  The Law looks forward to Jesus as the only one who can keep the Law and he offers us forgiveness by paying our penalty and debt.  The problem is that the Gentiles in Galatia wanted to distort salvation and attempt to make themselves worthy of God.  They put obedience before love.  It is not really another Gospel, but it is distorted enough that Paul calls the one who taught it accursed.
Damned.
Paul condemns anyone who perverts the Gospel of Jesus Christ as damned to Hell.
Have you abandoned Jesus?  Or do you wake up and start your day with Him?  Have you added to the Gospel or distorted it?  Or do you love Jesus, thank Him for salvation and obey Him in response?  Do you mess up the order, trying to earn His favor?  Or have you abandoned Jesus for a totally foreign Gospel?  A foreign religion?
Return today to the one you love.  Obey Him because you love Him.  Spend time with Him.  Enjoy Him.

You have left your first love.

first love

“I know your deeds and your toil and perseverance, and that you cannot tolerate evil men, and you put to the test those who call themselves apostles, and they are not, and you found them to be false; and you have perseverance and have endured for My name’s sake, and have not grown weary.  But I have this against you, that you have left your first love.  Therefore remember from where you have fallen, and repent and do the deeds you did at first; or else I am coming to you and will remove your lampstand out of its place—unless you repent.”

– Rev 2.2-5

Some of the most clear and definitive teaching we get from Jesus about the nature of salvation and God’s expectation of us as believers comes from the first few chapters of Revelation.  One of today’s hot topics is legalism vs cheap grace:  the legalist attempts to earn salvation through deeds and the cheap grace adherent defames Christ and disgraces salvation by continuing in sin for freedom’s sake.  But Jesus says both the heart and actions must be right. More specifically, the actions must be right because the heart is right.  Jesus praised the Church at Ephesus for their obedience and perseverance:  They were standing firm in the midst of persecution.  They also did not put up with sin or false teachers, they well maintained the integrity of doctrine and Scripture.  That is infinitely more than any of our testimonies – none of us have suffered persecution in the manner that they did.  But yet Jesus says that they are in danger of losing His blessing because they have left their first love:  Him.

They loved the mission without loving the master.  They buckled down and pushed through without growing weary, but forgot to rely on Jesus and persevere in His strength.  They fought for pure doctrine without praising Jesus because of the glory of the Truths contained therein!

This is more than simple legalism, however, they persevered through persecution.

So what was Jesus’ admonition?  “Repent and do the deeds you did at first“.  Repentance is exemplified in our actions.  You cannot repent from your sins without literally stopping them.  You cannot repent from a past sin without mourning it and making retribution.  You cannot repent without change.  But changing does not mean that you have repented.  What are the deeds the Ephesians did at first?  They repented and their actions of obedience were driven by love for Jesus and desire to honor Him.  I can abstain from lying or stealing for my own glory or I can do it for Jesus’ glory.  Or I can do it because it’s just simply the habit that I have developed.  It could have started out of love for and dependence on Jesus, but after a while it just becomes a habit.  That is what it means to leave your first love.  To forget Jesus.

Have you forgotten Jesus?  Do you rely on Him to not lie?  Do you rely on Him to tell the truth?  Do you rely on Him to not gossip?  Do you rely on Him to preach the Gospel?  Or have you developed habits?

There may come a time when you have to repent of habits.  Not because the habit is inherently bad (i.e. not stealing or telling the truth), but because we no longer do it out of dependence on Him and love for Him.

Return to your first love today.  Glorify Him with your words, actions, deeds and heart.

Wicked Morality

white washed tombs

Did you know that there is no term for legalism in Scripture? The idea is present, and Paul struggles to define it with terms like, “deeds of the flesh”, but if you flip open your concordance, there will be no reference for legalism (if you have a literal translation, anyway).

But we all know about legalism, don’t we? We hear Jesus’ stinging rebuke of the Pharisees calling them white washed tombs: dead on the inside, but beautiful and clean on the outside (Matt 23.27). We rebel against authority because we know that our hearts are not in our obedience, and we are so disgusted by religion that we would prefer to break the rules than look like a fake.

Is morality good?

This is a difficult question. Scripture tells us clearly that anything apart from faith is sin (Rom 14.23). Anything. Feeding the poor, obeying the rules, being morally upstanding people is sin if it is apart from faith. But what does that mean? If we are in a situation where we are tempted to sin and we do not feel like obeying, is it therefore sinful to obey if our hearts are not in it?

The bottom line here is, “what is faith”? Scripture tells us that faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” (Heb 11.1). So we are left to understand that any action we preform without the assurance of our future hope is sin. There is no emotion described here. Faith is not the warm fuzzy feeling that salvation can bring at times. Faith is not the feeling of butterflies or great excitement. Faith is not happiness. Faith is assurance. Confidence.

So if faith is not a feeling, how do we know if our obedience, when we begrudge it, is legalism or genuine reverence? How do we know if our morality is wicked or righteous?

It has to do with our mindset. Emotions are fleeting and generally uncontrollable. But if we have right, biblical, and holy thinking about our circumstances then we can determine our driving force. When you encounter a dilemma, do you think about the relational, legal or situational ramifications? Or do you think about what God has to say about the decision? When you consider sin, do you remember that your sin is primarily and foremost a sin against God? Or do you think of it as against another person or authority in your life?

If we keep rules for the sake of keeping rules, these are acts of self righteousness and therefore apart from faith, and ultimately sinful and damnable. This is legalism. If we keep rules because we know Gods expectations and we think we can earn favor or merit with God, we have no faith in the atoning death of Jesus, and therefore are performing sinful deeds. We must have the mindset of trust in the righteousness of Jesus Christ, and preform acts of obedience out of love and thankfulness. This is not a feeling, but a response.

Vain morality is every bit as much an outpouring of our sinful nature as blatant acts of sin. God is primarily concerned with our hearts and motivation. If we act out of honor, reverence, love and thankfulness for our forgiveness and future salvation, then we are acting in faith and not sinning. We do not have to emotionally enjoy or even engage in every act, as long as our motivation and hearts are pure. There will be emotional responses and we will feel His presence, but the emotion is not necessary allthe time.

So let’s check ourselves.

“Whatever you do, in word or deed, do all in the name of The Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father.”

– Col 3.17

And the ruin of the house was great.

“Without the gospel all the exhortations of the New Testament become not just law, but legalistic.”

“To say what we should be or do and not link it with a clear exposition of what God has done about our failure to be or do perfectly as He wills is to reject the grace of God and to lead people to lust after self help and self improvement in a way that to call a spade a spade is godless.”

– Graeme Goldsworthy

Do you struggle with legalism?  Do you get turned off by the Church because they are a bunch of hypocrites?  Or they hold standards to their lives that you could never attain?  Do you have the tendency to want to prove yourself by your good deeds?  Or do you know you have no chance and so you do not even try?

There is a movement today that is so concerned with avoiding the appearance of legalism and embracing the grace of God, that little to no conversation is given to the believer’s responsibility to fighting sin, dying to self and becoming a new creation.  There are also still churches full of people attempting to attain salvation of their own efforts and completely removing God from the equation of their actions.

But what we must embrace is the very simple fact that “if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come” (2 Cor 5.17).  When we embrace the Gospel of Jesus Christ for the salvation of our souls from an eternity in Hell and fullness of life both here on Earth and in eternity, God gives us a new heart and put a new spirit within us; and He removes the heart of stone from our flesh and give us a heart of flesh.   He puts His Spirit within us and cause us to walk in His statutes, and we will be careful to observe His ordinances (Ez 36.26-27).

When we surrender our lives to God through Jesus Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit, we are given a new heart and the Spirit takes up residence within us and causes us to walk in His statutes.

Period.

That is why Jesus so boldly says many times, “the tree is known by its fruit” (Matt 12.33).

Many people believe that with the beginning of the New Covenant of Grace, the Law was put away and there are no loner rules by which we must live.  On the contrary, if you read the New Testament you will see that Jesus did not abolish the Law but upped the ante.  He taught that you must love your enemy, not just your neighbor.  He taught that even looking at a woman in lust is worthy of judgment, and calling someone a fool is damnable.  Paul regularly lists activities to be done and avoided.

But, as Graeme Goldsworthy stated, to attempt to obey the exhortations of the New Testament in our own strength is legalism.  We can whitewash our tombs, but we cannot produce real and good fruit.

That all sounds great and rosy, but what does this look like practically?

Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship.  And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.

– Rom 12.1-2

It starts with the mind.  When we come to faith, God gives us a new heart on which is written His statutes (Ez 36.27).  He has placed His spirit within us to convict us of sin, righteousness and judgment (John 16.8).  But this is not a passive endeavor to live a righteous life.  We must commit our minds to the knowledge and understanding of God.  We must talk with him regularly and assess our hearts in every situation.  As I sit here typing this blog post, I must pray, “God, is this truth?  Is this your heart?  Help me to submit to your desires and write for your glory and not my own.”  As we stay home with our children and clean up the same mess for the one millionth time, we must remember that Christ came to serve, and we love our children through His love, to disciple them and train them up to know God.  As we encounter difficult coworkers we pray, “God, give me grace to love him” and then we serve even those who would take advantage of us.  If we do not take captive our thoughts every moment, and surrender our hearts and actions to God, we are living in our own strength, not His.  We are trying to self-justify.

But when we stop and evaluate, pray and ask for guidance and leadership at “home, at school at play”, we are acting in our new nature and allowing Christ to live through us (Nellie Talbot).  This is how we can say with the Apostle Paul,

“I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.”

– Gal 2.20

It is by grace alone, through faith alone that we are saved.  Not of works, so that no man can boast (Eph 2.8-9).  But when we are washed clean by the blood of Jesus, He puts His spirit within us and we are compelled, by love, to do what He commands and teaches.  If we do not, if we do not bear fruit after His heart, then we prove ourselves to not be of Him.

“Why do you call Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say?  Everyone who comes to Me and hears My words and acts on them, I will show you whom he is like:  he is like a man building a house, who dug deep and laid a foundation on the rock; and when a flood occurred, the torrent burst against that house and could not shake it, because it had been well built.  But the one who has heard and has not acted accordingly, is like a man who built a house on the ground without any foundation; and the torrent burst against it and immediately it collapsed, and the ruin of that house was great.”

– Luke 6.46-49

We must come to Him.  We must hear His words.  And we must act on them.  Through the power of the Spirit that is now indwelling us.  If we hear His word and do not act on it, our ruin will be great.  Let us turn to the Lord.  Let us not grieve the Spirit.  Let us enjoy Him forever.

house-moved