True freedom

In our church we’ve heard powerful messages recently about the grace of God that is available to us through Jesus.

Basically what we have been hearing is the same message that the Apostle Paul preached two thousand years ago and that was rediscovered by Martin Luther, John Wesley and others.   It is good news that is always fresh and never grows old – the good news that we don’t have to work hard to earn God’s favour, that we have his acceptance as a free gift, purchased for us by Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross.

This is great news for people who have been beating themselves up and always feeling like failures because they can’t seem to “do well enough” as Christ-followers.   It is wonderfully liberating to realize that Jesus has taken the burden of failure from our shoulders and paid the price for every sin we have ever committed or will ever commit.  Because of this amazing fact, we can come into our Father’s presence without fear, confident of His love and acceptance.

I love this emphasis, but I do have a concern.   There were two contrasting errors that plagued the New Testament church.  One error was the tendency to set aside the good news of acceptance by God as a free gift, and go back to Jewish religious rules.  The other error was the tendency to set aside all restraints on behaviour, based on a mistaken understanding of the truth that in Christ we are totally free.   If you read the letters that the New Testament apostles wrote to young churches, you see them having to deal with both problems.

My concern is that in a well-meaning attempt to emphasize the amazing liberty that Jesus has made available for us, we can end up giving the impression that the moment we start to emphasize guidelines for righteous behaviour, we are going back to “law” and that this will automatically put us into bondage.   But that’s not what Paul himself said.   He did warn the Galatians (Gal. 5:2-6) against going back to the religious requirements of Judaism, and told them to hold on to the freedom that Christ had won for them.  But he also took issue with the thinking and behaviour of the Corinthians – a group of Christians coming from a city known for its immorality.  They didn’t seem to realize that although God loves us, he is not pleased when his children indulge themselves in incest, gluttony, drunkenness, and other forms of immorality.  Paul warned them that such behaviour dishonours Christ and then told them “I myself am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law” (1 Cor. 9:21).

So – is there a place for law in the life of grace?  We can’t be saved by law – we can’t be saved by trying to make a list of all God’s requirements and keeping them to the best of our ability.   That is an attempt doomed to failure, and totally ignores the saving work of Christ on the Cross.  But if we have accepted the free gift of Christ, there is a new kind of law – not a written legal code, but the over-ruling power of the Spirit – that draws us to holy living, not as a way to be saved, but as an outcome of our salvation.  And because it takes time for new believers to learn the ways of God, sometimes we still need someone to point out to us that certain types of behaviour do not fit in with our Christian identity.   This isn’t bondage – in fact it is a key to walking in liberty.  True freedom isn’t doing whatever you please, but learning that in Christ you are free to do what pleases God – and that in the end this will make you happier than anything else.

Share

About Wisdom Hunter

Husband, father and grandfather, lover of Jesus, worshipper, intercessor, wisdom seeker, tech support guy, mentor, spiritual dad

01. April 2009 by Wisdom Hunter
Categories: Basic Principles, Reflections on Life | Tags: , , , | 15 comments

Comments (15)

  1. While I’ll not critique a particular sermon given by someone I know without first talking to that person about it, I can give some general statements on the topic.

    Not every instance of the use of law does it imply bare moral imperative and measurement of right/wrong behaviour. It is often used generally to describe God’s Word. (Ps 119 as an example)

    Romans, in particular, often has an emphasis on this Law / Grace juxtaposition, but even there, we have verses like Romans 3:31 ‘Do we then make void the law through faith? Certainly not! On the contrary, we establish the law.’

    Paul and the other apostles vigorously denounce ‘Checklist Christianity’ in favour of the inwardly transformed life. This echoes Jesus’ teaching: wash the inside of the dish, and the outside will be clean also.

    That said, there remains an accountability. We should have transformed behaviour. We are told to judge by their fruits. Outward evidence of inward change. People can claim to be anything they want, but their actions will be the test of their claims.

    If we did not have objective and meaningful behavioural standards, there would be no room for Church discipline. How could the behavioural requirements of elders (Timothy and Titus) be outlined if these things no longer matter?

    If grace is tossed freely around, without a particular concrete meaning, on what basis did Paul chastise the Church in Corinth for tolerating deviant behaviour? How could that behaviour even be defined? What about the 7 letters to the Churches in Revelation?

    Justification is total immediate and (I am convinced) irrevocable. It rests fully on the completed work of the Cross. The full weight of Divine Wrath upon sin (yours and mine) fell on the Son at the Cross.

    Sanctification is the ongoing transformation and conforming of our thoughts, will, conduct to his perfect model. We will require correction along the way. Not condemnation, but correction.

    Godly Sorrow leads to repentance… among believers, too.

    As many as He loves, He chastens…

    The Law also has positive affirmations.

    Don’t murder rests upon the supposition of sanctity of life. Don’t commit adultery — sanctity of marriage. Don’t steal — God affirms real property rights, and so on.

    It also defines and underscores the moral excellency of God. As we see the sharp relief of his moral perfection against the countless ways in which men have failed, it gives a more accurate understanding of the magnificent and complex nature of our God, and gives yet another reason to praise and trust in him.

    The Law is Good. If we did not sin, we would love the Law. Since we do sin, we hate it. It exposes us for what we truly are.

    The good news is this:

    Our strength comes from Grace — God’s power to transform the human heart to both will and to do his good pleasure.

  2. Wes, I agree with all your points – in particular I think your comment on the law as being more than just negative prohibitions is very important. The two great commandments that Jesus identified as the heart of the Law are both examples of this. We can’t hope to keep these commandments except with a heart and mind that is restored and renewed by grace, but they are still commandments that (i believe) remain in effect for New Covenant believers even though we don’t try to achieve God’s acceptance by how well we keep them. That part has been done for us – so that we may have the freedom to obey.

    I am also particularly struck by Paul’s reference in Eph 6:1-3 to “the first commandment with a blessing” – written to believers (children “in the Lord”) who were presumably saved by grace. Here he used a commandment from the Law as a positive illustration of a principle of blessing that (like all positive principles from the Law) is really an expression of walking in Love which is the heart of the New Covenant response to God’s grace.

  3. Wes and Peter,
    I thank you for bringing up the fact that there is a perfect balance required between grace and the law. God has perfected both of these gifts for us because of His pursuit of His one goal; the capacity to bridge the Holiness of the Father to a fallen world. God is holy and undeniably perfect and His law is a gift to us for a life with the least of suffering. God has emotions and God is just. We see this in the existence of hell all through the Bible and sadly, hell is full of people God loves. His love is unwavering; He cannot change His very character requires us to revere Him: He is a holy God. The Bible clearly mentions that the fear of God is the beginning of wisdom. Fear and awe and respect do not make Him unapproachable especially because of the utmost sacrifice that Jesus made for us. The temple curtain was ripped apart by God when Jesus gave His final breath; the bridge is eternally there. Finally, my family and I are living examples of God’s eternal mercy and grace. He pursued us for years and knew that our hearts were going to respond to His Love. We are still paying the price for our sins; sin is not without consequences and they are devastating. Praise be to our Lord that He has brought us out of this not because we deserve it but because He first loved us.
    Shalom in Yeshua

  4. Hey just passed through the Blog through rdale’s blog, and wanted to clarify and talk a little about a few
    of the points I am reading. This is meant in no way
    to show disrespect, but rather to clarify a little of what Iam seeing, and as someone who knows the heart of this message, it is important that discussion occur, for we perish for lack of knowledge.

    Romans 3:31 the verse you quoted Wes – just to clarify
    that the verse clearly states Paul’s opinion toward the law. We are not to make void the law through faith, because Christ never came to abolish, void or destory the law himself. Christ came to establish, and fulfill the law. He did not come to destroy it as stated in Matthew 5:17, but rather to fulfill it.

    A point that must be clarified – is that by no means
    are we attacking the validity of the law, rather it
    is important we truly understand its role and purpose
    in the believers life. Romans 7:12 says “So then, the law is holy, and the commandment is holy, righteous and good.” There is no denial that God gave the
    law, and that it is as the verse says. Ultimately the law
    serves a purpose – and that the bible is clear in saying.
    Romans 5:20 lets us know that “the law was given, so that sin might increase – but where sin increased, graced increased all the more.” Paul is clearly addressing believers here – and its important to note that, because we must understand who he is
    addressing. The law serves believers, by pointing out their sin, and how much more they need Christ as their saviour.

    For example – gasoline is a wonderful resource. It powers our cars, vans, busses and airlines, and has many other wonderful uses. You love gasoline when it powers your car, and lets you get from Point A to point B. Now, if I take that wonderful tool, and feed it to a human being – what will it result in? Probably death!
    Gasoline was not meant for human consumption, and although it has the ability to help power something and get it started when used in its right context, if drank by a human – it will result in near fatality! This too is a perfect picture of the law, which was never given for its original purpose to apply to believers. 2 Corinthians 3:6 says “He has made us competent as ministers of a new covenant – not of the letter but of the spirit; for the letter kills, but the spirit gives life!” the LETTER kills this verse is telling us.

    2 Corinthians 3:7 is my favourite, because it says “Now if the ministry that brought death, which was engraved in letters on stone, came with glory, so that the Israelites could not look steadily at the face of Moses
    because of its glory, fading though it was, 8will not the ministry of the Spirit be even more glorious? It’s leeting us know – that that which was engraved on stone (the Law) brought death, even though it was glorious,
    and holy. So now – imagine that if something holy and righteous could bring death, how much more will the Spirit be even more glorious, because it brings
    LIFE! My question here is how could something glorious and holy kill us? Just like the oil analogy – how could something so useful and great, have such fatal consequences? When not used in its proper context.

    The Law is meant to show a believer how much more they need for a saviour! John 1:17 says “the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came THROUGH Jesus Christ.” This is an important revelation that we must catch. Notice how the law was given to Moses? It wwas given to him. Then the verse says “grace and truth CAME THROUGH Jesus Christ” It was through Christ, that grace and truth came. Why? Because Grace came out of Christ, it was his character. Jesus is the ultimate picture of Grace, which is defined as “God’s unmerited favour, undeserved goodness.” We did not deserve a saviour, someone to pay the price for all our sin. Yet he sent us one anyway – because God is love. His love is so much greater than anything comprehensible, that he would send his son to earth, as the sin substitute on our behalf, one who would not cover, or cleanse our sins
    as they did in the old covenant – but that his death would TAKE AWAY our sins, remove them completely. (1 John 3:5, Hebrews 9:28).

    I agree completely the law has positive affirmations, but those are not to be followed as commandments by the believer. Why? When Christ died, and our debt and penalty was paid – we were given freedom. One in which
    we have the complete ability to do as we please – as stated in 1 Corinthians 10:23 “Everything is permissable, but not everything is beneficial” The reality here is that we have the ability to do whatever we please, because God has granted us that freedom, and that trust – knowing full well that we will fail. But the real question here is what is your motivation?
    Even though you can do as you please – Do you do things because you love Christ, or are you trying to get his attention? Do you do things because you
    are completely in love with him, or because you are forever trying to seek his approval and your righteousness? When a couple gets married, there is
    a mutual trust that exists is there not? Now, when a wife tells the man how much she loves him, and trusts him – does that give him license to cheat
    on her? No! The reality is that if he realizes how much he is loved, and how he can love her without trying to seek her approval, who in their right mind would want to PURPOSEFULLY hurt someone they love? The freedom
    that we have from the law through Christ’s fulfillment of it, is ours for the taking. Now that we know that Christ loves us so much, does it give us license to sin? Absolutely not! It is the realization of how much
    Christ loves us that sets us free, that enables us to serve, and to live out of love – not out of requirement and standard.

    I also fully agree that Justification is immediate – it is important to state that to me Justification is a state of being, and a process. When you make the decision to follow Christ – you are now a follower of Christ, one who is saved in that special moment. You are now called to live that salvation out, because faith without works is dead. Salvation is a state, and a process in which you continously work out – just like Justification. You stand righteous based on what CHRIST did, on what CHRIST accomplished, it is up to you, to lay a hold on that righteousness and run with it, letting
    it flow out of you instead of always chasing it.

    Lastly an important point I want to add – is that it is FAITH that is pleasing to God, that the bible says. Christ never asked for your obedience – when did you ever see him rebuke someone for lack of obedience? He challenged and rebuked those who lacked faith! It is that freedom and grace that Christ has enabled us with, that trust – that says that faith is pleasing to God.
    How much more pleasing is it to you, when someone you love does something for you because they WANT TO and DESIRE to please you, instead of you having to tell them to do it. What joy we can take in knowing, that our
    obedience to faith is what pleases God (Romans 1:5), not our obedience to any standard, requirement or moral code the law can ever provide. We please God, because we want to, it is the love that he has shown that enables us to love. The word says in Luke 7:47 “Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven—for she loved much.
    But he who has been forgiven little loves little.”

    Peter to address you point on Ephesians 6:1-3, do you know that that is the ONLY commandment with any promise? It is the only one, that says “if you do this, this will happen.” – it is one of God’s promises. Now since Christ fulfilled the requirements of the law through his death,
    so that we no longer had to fulfill those requirements, I strongly believe that this verse is Paul urging, and strongly encouraging those to cling to that promise.

    Paul himself took issue with the behaviour and thinking of the Corinthians, not because they were not living by guidelines or moral codes – but rather because they failed to TRULY understand the grace and love of God. When you understand how much he loves you – you will not want to go and do things contrary to his heart – because you are in a loving relationship! It would be hypocrisy if a wife told her husband how much she loved him, only for him to turn around and willfully hurt her and cheat on her. Is that love? No – because love and grace does not give you license to sin, it compels you to live out of the righteousness you have already been given. If anything Paul encourages them to see themselves the way God sees them, and talks more about love and Grace in this book, to show that its the understanding
    of such that changes people’s behaviour. Right beleiving leads to right doing. Peter, you quoted 1 Cor 9:21 which says ““I myself am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law” It is SO important to read such in context, otherwise you only get half the deal! In this set of verses, both prior and latter, Paul is saying that he became like those he ministerd to – he became
    relevant in order to reach them! Now read that verse again, and know that while he says he is not free under God’s law, it is because he is under Christ’s law – that he is not talking about the same law as we are discussing. He is referring to James 1:25 ““But the one who looks at the perfect law of freedom and remains
    committed to it-thereby demonstrating that he is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of what that law requires-will be blessed in what he does.” Now I have a question for you – this perfect law of freedom that he refers to, is it the same law? The perfect law of freedom
    is Christ’s law – because it was perfect in him, and by him. But this verse says that the “perfect law of freedom”. That’s interesting, because we know that the LAW of which we speak of in this blog, is by no means one of freedom – in fact numerous times it is referred
    to as one that puts us in bondage and keeps us yoked. So how then could that be the same law? It is not – Paul says he is under the law of Christ – which is but one, faith – the only requirement ever given by Christ.

    To end I would also just like to clarify a few points the Denise made. The law cannot be a gift to us for a lfie with the least of suffering, as you stated. In fact, if the law is one that is the ministry of Death
    that the bible says, and one that causes Sin to increase in its light (the Law acts as a mirror to point out sin) – then how can we state that such is a Gift of God? Romans 3:20 says “through the law we become conscious of sin.” Is Christ then giving us a gift of sin-consciousness? Is it not the devil who encourages and breeds sin, and who points out and accuses us of such? How could Christ and the devil ever share such a function? The law was never given as a gift,
    it was given originally because of man’s arrogance, pride and wilfull disobedience in the old covenant, prior to Jesus ever coming to earth. There can never be, and never should be spoken of any form of balance
    between grace and the law. This viewpoint is without support of scripture, because the two are completely incompatible. Romans 7:4-6 says “you also died to the law through the body of Christ, that you might
    belong to another, to him who was raised from the dead, in order that we might bear fruit to God.”, “But now, by dying to what once bound us, we have been released from the law so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit, and not in the old way of the written code.” It is through Christ that we have died to the law, so that we may belong to ANOTHER. So If i Have died to the law because of Christ, and I have died to what once bound me – and released from such. Why should I ever try
    and preach a balance of what gives me life, and what will kill me If I try and use it out of its context? There should never be a balance spoken of something that gives life and empowers, contrary to something
    that brings death and condemnation. Finally “We are still paying the price for our sins; sin is not without consequences and they are devastating.” Is a line that irks me quite a bit. We no longer pay the price for our sin. The price for our sin was death. Since we are not dead, and we continue to sin (we all fail at times) – then I think its same to assume that the statement is of no power. Christ paid our sin once and for all, because
    it was clear that we could never pay the price ourself. He died and paid our price and took our punishment once and for all – because when God looks for the required price to be paid for the sin that exists, he simply looks at Jesus who says that it has already been paid.

    Blessings to All

    Matt

  5. Hey Matt

    I’m really happy that you took the time to respond in such detail. I am familiar with all these points, but appreciate your having raised them.

    I won’t get involved in a lengthy or exhaustive reply but would like to make just five brief points in response.

    First – not a direct response to any one of your points, but rather a statement of where I am coming from in my post / my thoughts on this issue. I believe we can agree that we are not UNDER the law as believers in Jesus. I do not consider myself to be UNDER the Old Covenant law. I am led / guided by the law of the Spirit of life, the new law that gives perfect freedom, the operation of the Spirit in my life.

    Second – I agree that when Paul spoke to the Corinthians about their behaviour, he did not use the law as his reference point. He corrected them based on the implications of a redeemed life in Christ. I thought I had made this clear in my original post,but just to clarify, my concern here was that sometimes when people present the grace teaching, they go so far as to say that Christians never need to repent and never need to have their behaviour corrected (yes, I have heard this taught), that the Holy Spriit would never do this. Clearly Paul was not unwilling to correct the behaviour of Christians – and even to warn them of judgement if they did not recognize the truth of what he was saying. See 1 Corinthians 11:31-32 “But if we judged ourselves, we would not come under judgment. When we are judged by the Lord, we are being disciplined so that we will not be condemned with the world. ” – written to those who are IN THE LORD, not to the lost world.

    Third – Here we come to one of the really key points. I think part of our difficulty on this issue is that the New Testament in fact uses the same word – law – with a number of different meanings. Sometimes it refers to the Ten Commandments, sometimes to the whole law that is contained in Exodus, Leviticus and Deuteronomy, and sometimes to the whole content of the first five books of the Bible (as in the phrase “The Law and the Prophets“).

    Sometimes when Paul refers to the law he is referring to the Ten Commandments. This is what was engraved on the tablets of stone – the ministry that brought death (although even here there are positive principles and at least one command that explicitly has a blessing attached to it – which shows that it is not actually the commandment itself that brings death, but sin that is stirred up by the commandments).

    However there are other commandments as well that were not part of the Ten – Jesus referred to the Two Great Commandments, neither of which is part of the Ten, but which sum up the positive content of the law. It’s signficant that when a scribe affirmed that these were the heart of the law, Jesus told him he was not far from the Kingdom of God. In other words he was close to salvation – he was close to understanding grace rather than rule-keeping as a way of life.

    Since most of your discussion is based on the words of Paul, let me point out that Paul himself referred to the second of these two commandments – You shall love your neighbour as yourself – and said that if we love our neighbour we have fulffilled the law (Romans 13:8-10). Admittedly we cannot do this by our own efforts but how can anyone really say, based on a balanced view of Paul’s teaching, that we are going into bondage the moment we seek to keep any commandment, when Paul himself stated that we need to keep this one. Of course we don’t keep it so that we may be saved, but because we are saved – as an expression of “faith working through love“. So this is not being “under the law” but under grace. It’s also worth noting Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 7:19 “Circumcision is nothing and uncircumcision is nothing. Keeping God’s commands is what counts.” Yes, obedience is by grace – but evidently it’s still a part of the Christian life, even according to the “apostle of grace” …
    Fourth – if we are going to say that there is no place at all for the keeping of commandments in the Christian life then what do we do with the words of the Apostle John – the person who knew Jesus best and had the closest relationship with him of all the disciples? Surely his words carry some weight here? He said “This is how we know that we love the children of God: by loving God and carrying out his commands. This is love for God: to obey his commands. And his commands are not burdensome, for everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world? Only he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God” (1 John 5:2-5) The main command he was referring to was the command to love one another as Jesus loved us – so the focus is love, which is also Paul’s focus in all his instructions on how to behave – and he did also say that there is no fear in love, and that the ability to keep this command is based on faith. So he is clearly not talking about going back to a covenant of condemnation, but just as clearly he is giving a command and stating that it must be kept, and that our ability to keep this command is an indicator that we are walking as children of God.

    Fifth – I have to take issue with your statement that Jesus never challenged anyone on the issue of obedience. It is true that he often challenged us to walk in faith and to believe his promises. However he also said to his disciples in the Upper Room, just before he died for them : “You are my friends if you do what I command” (John 15:14), and “If you love me you will obey what I command” (John 14:15). Again, obedience as an expression of love which is the result of our salvation. I want to be his friend ! I know that I am his friend by grace, but I want to live like His friend.

    Having said all that – I have to add that I don’t really think we are that far apart. I appreciate your passion for truth and I love the grace message. It truly is the heart of the gospel. I have learned a great deal from the teachings I’ve heard on grace and have been challenged by them to look at Scripture again and to place my reliance and trust solely on the goodness of the Lord.

  6. Oh my Peter! Your blog topic seems to have stirred up a lot of emotions! There is a verse that I try to apply to my thought life whenever I tend to stray from the truth or whenever my emotions become the basis of any decision I take. Had I done this many years ago, I certainly would not be living out the consequences of my sins through my lack of obedience. The Lord states that obedience if greater than sacrifice and the verse I try to apply to my thought life is: I bring every thought captive to the obedience of Christ! Our Abba is a Dad after all no?

  7. I will post a longer response with some of my thoughts on this soon..i’m just studying it out a bit before i make any statements 🙂

  8. Hey everyone…:)

    Julie Davidson here! Wow…you guy’s have really gotten into this whole subject in a BIG way! Haha…:) Just passing on a note from my husband that if anyone would like to chat with him about this whole GRACE stuff to give him a call to go out and have a coffee to chat about all of this stuff! 🙂

    Caleb: 613 447 6011

  9. Sorry for taking so long to post! Heather’s been back at work these last 2 weeks and i’m at home with Sophie all day, so i’ve had to work around her 🙂 But here are some of my thoughts…finally 🙂

    “Now the Bereans were of more noble character than the Thessalonians, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true” (Acts 17:11). This is what we need to be like. We need to be open to what the word of God says, even if it messes with the Theology that we have. We need to be ones who examine the scriptures for ourselves, and not just accept what others preach or say. The word of God is our guide, it will not return void or empty, it gives life, and it is truth. If something that you hear preached does not line up with the whole word of God, then you need to question it. I love what Mike Bickle from IHOP has said many times, “If you cannot prove for yourself from the scriptures what I’m teaching, then reject it as falsehood and challenge me on it.” It is wonderful that we are on this search for the truth of God’s word together. “Together we have the mind of Christ.” 1 Cor 2:16.

    First off I want to talk about the Gospel and what the Gospel truly is. I think that the gospel of grace, and forgiveness of sins is only a partial truth if it is left at that. It is true, but it is only part of the picture, so therefore it is only a partial truth. The “Gospel of the Kingdom” (Matt 4:23, 9:35, 24:14, Mark 1:14) is what Jesus called us to preach to the nations (the full counsel of God is what Paul called it in Acts 20), not the forgiveness of sins. The Gospel of the Kingdom has three parts to it. Forgiveness of sins and grace absolutely, but also repentance (repent for the Kingdom of God is at hand..many references on this point), and thirdly that a King is coming.

    There is a kingdom, therefore there must be a King; Jesus. When he comes he will remove anything and everything that is not fully aligned with him and his ways. What does a Kingdom speak of? A kingdom does not speak of a democracy where we can all have a say, and all do what we want, it speaks of a supreme ruler, one who is on the throne, a judge righteous and loving, a bridegroom who is a jealous lover. He will come back to rule on the earth, and he will have for himself a bride that is pure, holy and blameless, without spot or wrinkle (Eph 5:27). I think it is dangerous to emphasize grace by itself, without the balance of the need for repentance, and without the reality of the coming King. What is the hope that we as believers have? The hope that we look forward to is being with Jesus on the earth forever, and ruling and reigning with him in his everlasting Kingdom. If that is the hope of our calling, we need to do as Peter instructs us and make our call and election sure (2 Peter 1:10). There are two extremes, there is no middle ground. At the end of this age, when Jesus returns to the earth, there are only 2 sides. Either you are on his side, or you are thrown into the lake of fire for all eternity. Looking at our future in this light, it makes me want to be diligent in my pursuit of God now. We need to have an urgency in the way we live our lives. If we teach grace, without the need for repentance, I fear many will fall into a lukewarm relationship with God. We all know what God’s response to lukewarmness is. He says in Rev 3:16, that he will spit those that are lukewarm out of his mouth. I do not want to be lukewarm!

    Repentance. I have heard it taught with this message of grace, that once we are saved we never need to, and never should repent again and that the Holy Spirit will never convict a believer of sin. This is a very dangerous statement to make, and one that i think is completely unfounded in the truth of God’s word. In the book of Revelation, in the letters to the seven churches (which i believe had an application to the churches they were physically written to in that day, but also has relevance to us now, and will have also have relevance as we approach the end of this age) John is instructed to write to them what he has seen and heard from Jesus. “Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken your first love. Remember the height from with you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first. If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place.” Rev 2:4-5. “Nevertheless I have a few things against you: … Repent therefore! Otherwise, I will soon come to you and will fight against them with the sword of my mouth.” Rev 2:14-16. “Wake up! Strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have not found your deeds complete in the sight of my God. Remember, therefore, what you have received and heard; obey it, and repent.” Rev 3:2-3. “Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest, and repent.” Rev 3:19. “My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punishes everyone he accepts as a Son. Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons. For what son is not disciplined by his father? If you are not disciplined (and everyone undergoes discipline), then you are illegitimate children and not true sons…God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.” Hebrews 12:5-11. James speaking to believers says “Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you my be healed.” James 5:16. I think these passages speak for themselves on this matter. I could bring up more scripture, and could expound upon these verses, but let’s allow the word of God to speak for itself. It is very clear to me that repentance still has a place in the heart of a believer, and that the Holy Spirit will convict us of sin. The Holy Spirit does not convict us, and bring to mind our failures in order to bring shame and condemnation upon us, but rather to draw us closer to God through repentance.

    I would also like to touch briefly on the topic of obedience that Matt brought up. Matt, you said that Jesus never called us to obedience but rather to faith. Jesus absolutely did call us to obedience. The verses my Dad brought up are right on, John 14:15, and John 15:14. We are friends of Christ if we do what he commands. The flip side of that is that if we don’t do what he commands, we are not his friends. In Rev 3:2-3 (quoted in the paragraph above) Jesus tells us (It is Jesus John sees, and Jesus is the one who is speaking to John) again to remember what we have received and heard and to obey it, and to repent. There are many more passages we could go through on this point but i won’t go through them, i’ll just put some references out there. Gal 3:1, 2 Thess 1:8, Heb 3:18, Heb 5:9 are a few.

    I agree that we are not saved by the old testament law, but that it is there to push us closer to Jesus, by realizing that in no way can we fulfill the law on our own. By looking at the law we realize how helpless we are on our own and realize our need for Him. I heartily agree with what Wes said about the positive affirmations of the law. When we get saved we no longer have the right to live as we please. What is salvation? Salvation is a complete surrendering of our mind, will and emotions (soul) to Jesus. That means that we’ve given the reins of our life to him, therefore we are not free to do what we want, we have bound ourselves to do what He wants us to do. The life he wants us to live is clearly laid out in the bible. The life of an overcomer, pursuing holiness with a violence (Matt 11:12) that says no to our flesh daily. Forceful men lay hold of the Kingdom of God (the violent take it by force). We need to have a violence to our pursuit of holiness and righteousness. We have to violently say no to our flesh, say no to things that may be permissible (not sin), but are not all that beneficial to taking us deeper with God. Those who are violently pursuing Jesus, living radical lives in the pursuit of holiness are those will will attain the Kingdom of God; not those who are going around passively day after day, living as though we can do whatever we want and it doesn’t matter. Love is not a feeling, or a response, it is a choice. When we say yes to God, we come to him in gratitude, realizing that without the sacrifice of Jesus we would have no hope. Saying yes to God daily, living for him, is a response of our heart to him because of the great love he has shown us, but it is also just as much a choice on our part. I am in love with my wife. Do I always feel those intense feelings of love toward her? No I don’t. Some days I have to make a conscious choice to love her, it’s a decision of my will. I know that I love her, even though I’m not feeling it right then and so I make a conscious choice to act accordingly. It is the same way in our walk with Jesus. We have to make a conscious choice to follow his ways, and to say yes to him. The writings of Paul, Peter, James are littered with instruction on how we should live our lives as believers. Not because we think we can do something to attain our own salvation, but rather because we are in love with this man Jesus Christ, and that is how he has called his followers to live. It seems paradoxical that a law could give us freedom, but the law points out sin in us and gives us the opportunity to ask for God’s forgiveness. As Christians we are saved by God’s grace, and salvation frees us from sin’s control. As believers, we are free to live as God created us to live. This does not mean that we are free to do as we please, rather we are now free to obey God (as we respond to God’s grace it truly does become our will to do what he wants. Obedience means doing “what we please” because it pleases us to obey him. As we set our wills to obey him, our desires will follow, so that it becomes our joy to please him.) How many times are we called in the New Testament to endure, to persevere. This is an act of our will. Those who endure to the end will be saved. This enduring they’re speaking of is a willful decision to push through, and to finish well. It is a willful decision to push through when things aren’t going well, when the feelings aren’t there. There is a part we have to play, it is a choice of our will. God has done his part, and he will not do our part for us. We must say yes to him daily, in the little things, looking forward to our reward. Talking about our rewards is not something we should avoid, thinking that it is a wrong motivation to obey God. The whole subject of rewards was God’s idea! Our reward in the next age, is based on the life we have lived in this age. Jesus will hold us accountable for every thought, word, and action. As we earnestly seek to live a holy, godly life, he will give us the grace necessary to do so. Titus 2:11-14 lays out clearly for us that the grace of God teaches us to say No to ungodliness and worldly passions and live self controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope which is the glorious appearing of Jesus. Grace teaches us to say no to worldly things, and say yes to living holy godly lives. Grace does not give us freedom to live however we please, it only gives us freedom to live under god’s ways. If we choose to live irresponsibly then we are demonstrating that we don’t truly understand grace. That is part of the reason why we need to be reminded of the core of the law – not as a burden that we have to bear to win God’s acceptance, but rather as a “check” to help us examine ourselves to see if we are in the faith as Paul says. Living a holy, godly life, surrendered to Him completely to the best of our ability is the least that we can give back to Him who gave us everything at the cross. It is not about living rightly in the hope that we’ll be able to “earn” God’s favor, rather it is because of gratitude for God’s goodness, and the freedom that we have in Christ. Holiness is not a “lawcode” or a set of rules. Paul describes holiness as “surrendering ourselves to God” (Rom 6) and “putting on the character of Christ” (Eph 4, Col 3). God has done his part at the cross, but he will not do our part for us. This is called free will. We have to say yes to him daily. Once we say our salvation prayer that is not it. We do what he commands because we love him, as a response to his love yes, but also for the very simple reason that that’s the way he’s told us to live. Jesus said the great commandment (love the lord your God etc..) summed up the law and the prophets. This does not mean that the OT law is obsolete and completely void, and to be ignored for the believer. Rather this new covenant law that Jesus gave us encompasses the entire old covenant law! If we are to keep the law Jesus laid out for us then we will be keeping the OT law as well. Do not murder, do not commit adultery etc are fully encompassed in the commandments to love the lord your God with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself. Therefore if we are keeping Jesus commandments (as he’s told us to do if we want to be counted as his friends), then we are keeping the old covenant law as well. The difference is that we don’t have to keep the letter of the law in order to attain salvation as under the old covenant. Rather, we do the best we can to obey what Jesus has commanded (which encompasses the law), and when we fail (because we will as it’s impossible to be perfect apart from Him) he’s there to pick us up, and put us on the right path again. The effort has to be there on our part though. That’s the beauty of free will! We are not God’s robots. He offers us eternal life, but in order to attain it we must die to our flesh. What a paradox! In order to live we must die. It’s a choice, a choice of our will … we have a part to play.

    This brings me finally to the “everything is permissible passage” i’ve heard thrown around. Paul had heard that the corinthians were misinterpreting this phrase and using it to excuse sin (1 Cor 6). Paul was addressing this issue in chapter 6, and in chapter 10 he was using this phrase again, but in the context to eating meat that was sacrificed to idols. The question we need to ask ourselves on this issue is not what is sin and what isn’t sin (what is permissible for me to do) but rather “God, what would you have me do?” There are many things that aren’t explicitly sin; eating, playing video games, watching movies etc, but we need to stop and ask ourselves if this is the best way we can spend our time? We will answer to God for every moment, for every thought, for every word. I want to be able to stand before him in that day and say that I used my time, my words my everything for him to the best of my ability, and that i didn’t waste it on permissible things that really have no value. I want to set my heart on him now. I want to say no to the many permissible things, the things that really aren’t beneficial from a Kingdom perspective in order to say yes to him. I want to live for the age to come, for eternity which will last, not for these 70 years I have now. I want to be found worthy to stand with Him in that day having given myself fully to him voluntarily. Every knee will bow, every tongue will confess that Jesus is Lord. I want to be given to him now, of my own free will, because one day everyone will give him the recognition he deserves whether it’s of their own free will or not. If I, or my daughter are going to live through the end of this age (which i think will possibly come in my life time, and probably in my daughter’s), I want to live my life now (while the going is easy), saying yes to him in the small things, so that I will be able to say yes to him and stay true to him when everything is being shaken. “Who can endure the day of the Lord?” asks the prophet Joel. Those who are given to him with fasting and weeping and mourning, denying the flesh, looking forward to our reward; the age to come. However I also think that if we cannot allow ourselves to enjoy legitimate pleasures then we don’t truly understand Grace. We are also called to enjoy the “sabbath rest of the children of God” and it can be God’s will for us to enjoy the “permissible things.” Jesus is our best example (as he always is :)) of this. He was given to his father’s purposes, but he also knew how to enjoy the legitimate pleasures of this life, to his father’s glory. It is important to note that we still need to be giving glory to God as we’re enjoying these pleasures, we cannot disconnect and put our relationship with him on hold. An example would be playing sports. We are called to honor God with our bodies, our bodies are a temple of his Spirit. Therefore exercising our bodies is a form of giving glory back to Him. As we’re playing however we need to be careful that we are being a representation of Him, and play to his glory. “God who gives us richly all things to enjoy” 1 Tim 6:17. God gives us things to enjoy absolutely, but in our enjoying of those things we have to make sure that we are honoring him in all we do, and if we are not, then it is no longer a permissible thing for us to be doing. “The pursuit of God is meant to be pleasureable” (Mike Bickle). Pursuing God is what we were created for. It will stimulate us beyond our wildest dreams when we truly get in touch with God and are actively pursuing Him with everything in our lives! God created pleasure, and we will find the highest pleasure imaginable in the pursuit of Him and His ways.

    Blessings to everyone. Feel free to shoot me any questions or comments about anything i’ve talked about. I’ve mentioned alot about eschatology (the study of the things of the end), and if anyone wants some more explanation about any of that feel free to ask for it! It truly is a vast subject and a very important one for the church in this hour of history.

    Cheers,

    Simeon

  10. Dude! Simeon man, you have some pretty good points. Just want to raise a few points.

    You quoted Revelation 2:4-5 “4Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken your first love. 5Remember the height from which you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first. If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place.” I just want to say how important it is that we understand the context of the verses we read, lest we be confused and apply these to situations that they are not to be applied to. In this verse, the letter inspired by God is addressing the church at Ephesus. Now if you read before and after that verse, you will realize that the Church at Ephesus went back to living under a merit-based system – one that was obviously inspired by the law. God actually commends their good deeds, their actions, yet they draw a very strong rebuke. Why? Even admist all their great actions, all their amazing deeds – they were rebuked for forgetting their first love. This actually draws a direct parallel to Matthew 7:21-25, in which we see that God says that many will come and describe all the great things that they did, they make even look like Christians in their actions – but the reality is that their heart is far from him. God commends them on their great actions, but they had turned away from love itself. This is why repentance was required (repentance is a 180 degree turn), and because they had put themselves back under the old covenant merit-based system, which promoted self-righteousness, instead of realizing that grace that had now been provided to them, and living out of that place of Grace and Love with God at the center, not their works as they had tried to do. Their actions were not motivated by love, and that was a big issue for them.

    You quoted Revelation 3:2-3. This is one of the letters as well, this time addressed to the Church at Sardis. Scripture tells us that the church at Sardis, is actually dead (verse 1). That’s a pretty strong way to start a letter, nevertheless – God rebukes this church because while they acted super spiritual, and seemed righteous and holy on the outside, they were actually Christians in name only. They too, had tried to live their lives on a system of self-righteousness, which draws another parallel, that of Matthew 23:27, when Jesus rebuked the teachers of the law “who look beautiful on the outside, but on the inside are full of dead men’s bones, and everything unclean.” That is a direct parallel and description of this church. This chruch was called the repentance because they’re lives were actually – once again, a picture of self-righteousness and one based on dead works. They actually tried to justify themselves based on their own righteousness, when the world clearly states to “seek first HIS righteousness.”

    Both of these verses, and churches are a perfect illustration of when repentance is actually needed, but I will get into that later on.

    Revelation 3:19 you quoted as well. The word for discipline, and chasten (found in some versions), actualyl has nothing to do with sin as is so commonly perceived in the church today. That word which is actually the greek “Paideuo” can mean either child training, or to scourge. Now if you are willing to tell me that God scourges those he loves then we have a serious issue. The original word in context actually deals with the issue of “child training, to be instructed or taught, to learn.” This is not at all the view we have today of that word. We teach that the word “chasten” and “discipline” have such negative connotations. This is far from the context of the verse. God actually trains us, and instructs us all the time through process, and situations, and while they may not seem to look Good often at the time, it always pays off in the end when we look back at that situation or time. Look at Job. The bible says he was actually found BLAMELESS before God, and was righteous. The bible says that he was chastened, and disciplined. Did Job sin, or do anything wrong that he deserved to be chastened or disciplined – the way we view those words today? Absolutely not! That would make for one cruel God! He was being trained, and this is the same context found for these words in the book of Hebrews. It is important to understand the context of verses, otherwise known as hermeneutics.

    I am not against the confession of sins. I am against the confession of sins for the purpose which it is taught today – to be forgiven of sin. It is often taught and perceived that we confess our sins to God, whether in our prayer closet, our room, or at the altar, to “get right with God” or to “be forgiven”. To me this is ludicrous thinking at best. Christ actually paid my debt in full, and didn’t even die to have them covered. He died to pay my debt in full, for all my sins past, present, and future – he died to remove the sins of the world the bible tells us. I confess my sins not to be forgiven, but rather as an extension of honesty! I don’t confess my sins to get right with God, I confess it because I am right with God! If we really had to confess our sins to be forgiven or to get right with God, you would spend all day on your knees confessing your sins, and you would probably forget half the things you had to confess! The bible does not call us to live confession to confession, but faith to faith. The bible says that the “righteous live by faith”.

    This brings me to an important point. You must differentiate between confession of sins, and repentance. Luke 5:32 says clearly “I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” Why is that? Because we are the righteousness of Christ! Not by our actions, but because of HIS action. In fact to take this further than the two churches we talked about up at the top of my response, the word “repent” in the New Testament, is found EVERY single time to be attached to one of two things. It is either being spoken to in regards or to an unbeliever, or to those that have fallen away. Remember that repentance is a full 180 degree turn, so how can repentance be for a Christian? To be living 180 degrees away from where you are supposed to is not just an occurence, nor is it a one-time thing. To be living at the complete opposite end of the spectrum means that you are far away from what you first beleived, hence those who have “fallen away”, who have turned from the True Gospel. Repentance is never once address in regards to the believer, only to the unbeliever, and to those who are believers only in words.

    I am not going to get into the Holy Spirit conviction topic, because there is too much to say, and we can chat about that later over other means, I just want to make it one more point as I don’t want to make this much longer.

    Lastly, absolutely those two verses on obedience are valid verses. But like I said earlier, we must examine context, and not just take verses for the sake of taking verses. Jesus actually says “IF you love, you will obey my command.” Notice the big word “IF”. That is put there, because love is a choice. Jesus is saying, “if you actually love me, your going to want to do this, you are going to be motivated to do this.” Why is it that we love God? The bible says “we love, because he first loved us.” It’s all about him. It’s his love for us, that motivates us, and out of this love do we obey his command. Was Jesus commanding obedience in this verse? Not at all. Hence the “if” – meaning actually a choice we have, it makes it conditional. He is trying to look at their heart, and motivation by saying “If you truly love me, you will follow me, you will want to do what I say because you love me.” Ontop of that, notice how the word command is singular? This is not a coincedence. Jesus here is referring to one command – and that is found in the next chapter, John 15:12 in which he says “My command is this” – referring to command. That command is “to love each other as I have loved you.” Jesus explicitly talks in the singular, because there is only one that he commanded, that we love each other the SAME way that he has loved us. The real issue at hand here is motivation of the heart, and being motivated by love, not obedience. Christ is saying “if we love him, we are going to love others the same way.” Why? “We love, because he first loved us.” 1 John 4:19

    Blessings!

  11. Hey Matt, you make some good points – as does Simeon.

    The only comment I would add is to ask why you contrast love and obedience (in your statement “motivated by love, not obedience”) as if they were opposites. What if I have a desire to obey God because I love him? There can be pain and self-denial involved in this process of crucifying selfishness for the sake of obedience out of love. It says in Hebrews that even Jesus had to learn obedience through what he suffered. Yes under the New Covenant obedience is intended to be from the heart, because of love – but it’s still part of the package of the Christian life. It’s not removed from the picture.

    Thanks to all for good input … this is how we grow in understanding and faith

  12. Matt, I also agree with most all of your points! I don’t think we’re far apart in understanding on these issues. I totally agree that our ability to love God is motivated out of a response to His love and His grace shown towards us. I also know that I can do nothing towards my own salvation, Jesus took care of that on the cross. However i do think it is important to also emphasize that there are choices we have to make every day (choices we might not “feel” like making, but choices we know we need to make as a proper response to His grace). Ultimately yes, they do flow out of love for Him and a response to His grace…but I do think we need to emphesize that we do have a part to play. It’s not a “coasting” faith, it’s an active pursuit of the man Christ Jesus.

    Repentance of sins etc. Repentance is a 180 degree turn absolutely! I think that we can be following God (given our life to Him etc), with a sincerity, and that our life might not be nice and neat and tidy yet 🙂 (are any of our lives neat and tidy according to his standards?). So in the overall picture no we (believers) don’t need to repent (turn 180 degrees) because our eyes are ultimately set on Him. However, there are issues in our lives that we havn’t completely surrendered to Him, areas that we’re still in control of. So I think that when we realize those things (even as believers), we need to repent and turn 180 degrees in those areas. Which was the point I was trying to make about the churches in Rev (sorry that didn’t come across clearly :)) I also agree that as believers we don’t confess our sins to have them forgiven, because that was taken care of at the cross. I’ve heard somewhere (and i agree with it), that as believers when we realize an area of sin in our lives, we repent to God for not allowing Him to have full control in that area, and agree with Him that it was sin. It’s not begging him to forgive me (he’s already done that..but I believe that I do still need to recognize what the sin was and admit that to Him, so that I can be healed of it. )

    Ultimately yes, everything we do in our christian life flows out of a response to His love for us, and His grace towards us. There would be no christian life if not for those 2 things. When we are saved we have chosen to set our sights on Him. So we are following Him out of a response to Him, however many times I have done things (spritual disciplines…fasting, praying, reading the word etc), not because in that moment i’m feeling tingly gratefulness for his love and grace towards me, but because I know that’s the way he’s called me to live (it is a choice of the will sometimes, and it’s not motived out of a feeling that i have to do something to be right with him). U know what I mean?? And yes, it comes back to his love and grace ultimately, because i wouldn’t have a relationship with him without them!

    When everything is being shaken, I want to be so grounded and rooted in Him (Psalm 1) that I will not be shaken. There will be deception (it’s already starting) that will look so much like the truth, that many will fall away from God, and become offended with Him. It’s important for us to discuss issues like these in a healthy way, so that together we can root out any deception there might be. I alone do not have the mind of Christ…we do..together!

    anyway..i have to go look after Sophie..it’s funny how everything i want to do has to work in around what she wants 😀

    Cheers, Simeon

  13. One more little tidbit on why we confess our sins. From a pastoral perspective – as someone who has done a lot of (and received a lot of) prayer ministry. When a believer stumbles into sin, especially when there is an entrenched pattern of sin in an area that they have not yet won victory in, it is often very important for that person to confess the sin, repent of it, and hear the words of forgiveness. Not because they haven’t been forgiven but because they haven’t received the forgiveness. “Confess your sins to one another and pray for one another that you may be healed”. So confession is a very important part of the process of healing and restoration – and sometimes, theological arguments about having already been forgiven at the cross can actually be a smokescreen, keeping the person from dealing with a controlling issue that is keeping them from freedom in Christ.

    Even for non-believers – in a sense you could say they’ve already been forgiven (the price has been paid) but until they receive it, they cannot experience God’s mercy and grace even though it is available.

    My desire is to see people actually walking in the freedom that Jesus has purchased – and I have found over many years that the process of confession/repentance/receiving forgiveness/applying the blood to specific areas of sin and bondage has huge power in seeing believers step into the reality of freedom in Christ.

  14. There seems to be a theological battle of wills on this most important subject… To be “born again” has at it’s very root in the process of seeking forgiveness first of all and then in obtaining grace as a gift. It comes as a result of the first step taken. The Lord actually beseaches us to examine our hearts and see where whe have fallen in order to get up again and follow Him on a daily basis. I have in my prior comments referred to the fact that disobedience has been an issue in my life and consequences have come because of this battle of my will versus His. People ask why this happens and that happens to the just and the unjust? Jesus says that He will have mercy on whom He wants to show mercy. He is full of mercy and prepared to shower His grace on us whether we deserve it or not. That is not the point here. Evil still exists in this world because of our Adamic nature. Thank God for Jesus the new Adam! What I was trying to convey in the past and still am is that there are consequences to sin! I can commit a crime(which I wont!) and still go to jail. I might receive mercy for my soul and still pray and study the bible in a jail setting but I am paying for having disobeyed the Lord and society. People all over the world have Aids and abortion is rampant which are the consequences of the direct disobedience to absolute truth. Let’s say I have an abortion, which I never did thank God. God will forgive me and shower me with Grace but I still will have in my heart the hurt and the pain until I heal. This is what Grace is about… Unmerited favor through the process of learning as a child with a Father who is there though I sin… If I chose to disobey the stop sign I will get a ticket no? Just a point I thought I’d bring up, again…

  15. Hi Denise, I appreciate your contribution to the discussion but just wanted to say that I don’t see this as a battle of wills. I believe we are all seeking greater understanding of God’s ways and I am grateful for the constructive tone of all the posts.