Thursday, November 20, 2008

Law keeper? Law breaker?

As a Christian, do you keep God's law? Do you break His law?

The answer to both is "no!"

As a Christian, do I keep God's law (am I a law-keeper)? You might see me walking righteously - not stealing, not committing adultery, honoring my parents, loving my neighbor as myself, etc, and you might say, "See, you're keeping God's laws!" To which I'd say, "No, I'm not!" I'm not looking to God's law as the source of my righteous living at all. Rather, what you see is an expression of the Life of Christ in me. I'm not following the law, I'm not keeping the law. What you see is me walking according to the Spirit of Christ who lives in me and who is my life.

As a Christian do I break God's law (am I a law-breaker)? You might see me doing unrighteous things - stealing, committing adultery (Matthew 5:28, anyone?), not honoring my parents, not loving my neighbor as myself, etc, and you might say, "See, you're breaking God's laws!" To which I'd say, "No, I'm not!" What you see is an expression of my flesh acting out in independence, rather than me walking according to my true identity in Christ and my union with Him.

In Christ I'm not a law keeper and I'm not a law breaker. I have died to the law. The only way I could "live to God" in the first place was to die to the law! How can I 'keep' or 'break' what I've died to? In fact that old written code was "wiped out." It was against me (no matter how well I kept it or how badly I broke it), and God took it out of the way, removing it completely. He nailed it to the cross. My life is no longer defined by law keeping or law breaking. My life is now defined by the Life of Christ in me, and nothing else! How has this become one of the church's best kept secrets???
Col 2:13-14
13 And you, being dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He has made alive together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses, 14 having wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us. And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross.

Gal 2:19-21
19 For I through the law died to the law that I might live to God. 20 I have been crucified with Christ; 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 for me. 21 I do not set aside the grace of God; for if righteousness comes through the law, then Christ died in vain."



    Just stop!! How can it get any better??? ;)

    WICKED GOOD, Joel...

    My cheeks hurt from smiling SO BIG!!

  2. Joel, Yes, I agree with RJW, the blog only get better and better.

    In the passed few months Jesus has been getting through to this hard heart of mine about Grace and Law (thanks to a pastor friend in Glenpool, OK who ministers to us by CD)

    I have also become amazed that many many people just cannot accept the completness of grace. They just HAVE to mix it with a touch of "you must"

    One of the most striking comments which this friend made to us was how we destroy grace when we counsel new converts. "We" take them through the prayer of salvation than then we say, now you must come to church, you must live a clean life, you must read the bible, you must pray, you must attend a home cell, you must stop smoking, you must stop going to clubs, you must stop using bad language, you must..., you must..... All this instead of just saying, listen to what the Holy Spirit tells you to do, and then tach the how to liste to the HOLY SPIRIT.

    Jesus help us let go of law and grab grace with both hand.

  3. great post Joel! I always find myself with not much to say after reading your stuff haha, you say it so well.

  4. Great Stuff. I wish we could teach the majority of Christians today this message. Most would never receive it though.

  5. Who else can articulate this in such a clean, smooth fashion? JOEL, YOU DA MAN!

  6. "My life is no longer defined by law keeping or law breaking. My life is now defined by the Life of Christ in me, and nothing else!"

    I loved that. I really enjoyed this blog. You made me think. Of course, I knew that I'm no longer a law breaker but I hadn't ever thought about the law keeper part. I really had to think about that one but you're right. We are dead to the law so we longer break it or keep it since we now live out of our union with Christ.

    Thanks for sharing this. I feel that my understanding of grace just got a little more established.

  7. Hey all, Yes, this stuff is good, isn't it! It's so amazing how we can have it right in front of us (in the Bible) and yet miss it. Then again, I understand because I think I 'saw it' for years but didn't believe it was so, because I was always taught that as Christians we're supposed to use the law as our guide in this life.

    Like Mark said, I also wish the majority of Christians would learn this! It's true, authentic life in Christ! Aida, you made a comment on the "Tree" post that fits here as well. I admit that just like I sometimes follow the wrong tree (the "right and wrong tree" instead of the tree of Life), I also sometimes go back to rules and principles, and my own versions of God's laws, instead of just pure Jesus.

    Lennart, there is one "must" in my life. I "must" continue to teach and preach the pure gospel! =) Except rather than being compelled by duty, it's the love of Christ that compels us. I don't know about you all (well, actually I do!), but I want to see people be set free and to know the Truth, Jesus!

  8. Wise answer. Many (in their zeal to have believers obey God by keeping the law with the help of the Spirit) forget that we cannot function to law in any degree (Gal. 5:23) because we died to the law.

    Law didn't die, but I died; therefore, law has no power over me.

  9. This is great, Joel! Simple, beautiful and powerful!

  10. Bino, thanks. I kind of hesitated to write it at first because I know my tendency to make simple things difficult... but when I listened to the Eagle's Nest program that I mentioned, they made it sound very simple and I then knew I could do the same in my own words.

  11. As I see it, since we died to law and live to God, the perfect fulfillment to the law (love) is expressed by the author of love (God) expressing Himself through me.

    How do we obey "without law". By faith we allow the author of law to express His law through us, and out comes the true expression of love.

  12. Philip,

    I think The Message offers a good view of what Paul meant in 1 Cor 9.

    19 Even though I am free of the demands and expectations of everyone, I have voluntarily become a servant to any and all in order to reach a wide range of people: 20 religious, nonreligious, 21 meticulous moralists, loose-living immoralists, 22 the defeated, the demoralized — whoever. I didn't take on their way of life. I kept my bearings in Christ — but I entered their world and tried to experience things from their point of view. I've become just about every sort of servant there is in my attempts to lead those I meet into a God-saved life. 23 I did all this because of the Message. I didn't just want to talk about it; I wanted to be in on it!

    If you look at all of Paul's other words about the law, he is clear as can be that we are not under law at all. "The law of Christ" isn't a "law" in the sense of 'rules and ordinances.' The law of Christ is love. Love is what guides us.

    Paul knows that his fellow Jews who haven't come to Christ are still "under the law," and he seeks to bring them out from under that to Christ! So he relates to them right where they're at, without forfeiting the true fact that he himself is not under the law.

    1 John 3, in my view, must be looked at in the context of the whole book. And check out what he says: "Whoever has been born of God does not sin, for His seed remains in him; and he cannot sin, because he has been born of God." Whoa!!! Look at this in the light of verse 5 - "And you know that He was manifested to take away our sins, and in Him there is no sin."

    Our sins have been taken away. We do not "sin" in the sense of being the old Adam creatures whose nature it was to sin. But as we look at this from Paul's point of view in Romans 7 and other places, there is this thing called "the flesh," and it will act up in sinful behavior... but yet it's not US. Our sin has been taken away. Our sinful acts are not really our sinful acts. Who we are, as is plainly stated throughout the new testament, are holy, righteous, blameless people. The new "us," who we are in Christ as opposed to who we were in Adam, is a righteous person, not a sinful person.

    Sinfulness was accounted to us, not because we ever sinned, but because we were born in Adam. In the same way, righteousness is accounted to us, not because we ever do anything righteous, but because we have died to Adam and we have been born again unto life in Christ.

    I know John's words are kind of tricky, but we really must look at them in the light of all of the new testament truth.

    I know this is somewhat of a mouthful. Get used to that if you communicate with me much. LOL! :) To summarize: In Christ, our sin has been taken away. Sinful 'behavior' is not the result of "us" (our true nature), but it's the result of us not walking according to our true nature. We remain 'born again," alive in Christ, and we are not the children of the devil that John talks about.

  13. Thanks,Joel,for the reply.(This is Philip,I've commented a little a few months ago?)...How do you differentiate what you're saying from what it's alleged the 'proto-gnostics' were saying as the possible backdrop for 1Jn?I mean,they were saying because our spirits have been made righteous,yet the flesh remains,we can sin all want and not be responsible for it. Obviously that's not right. And I'm not saying you're saying that. I just think that the NT makes a strong connection between the 'inner'and the 'outer'in that if we've been born again,we can't habitually sin in thought,word,deed in the 'outer'. Just isn't possible,Rom6...still thinking about these things...I ran into hot water with some things I said on a couple of posts on Pyromaniacs on sanctification recently. Do you agree with what Terry Rayburn said in the info he gave me in the comments section on his latest post? Don't feel obliged to hunt all that down. Thanks...

  14. Adrian,thanks for your comment, too.

  15. Philip,

    Those are some good things to discuss in relation to all of this, and there are several New Testament scriptures that help, I think.

    1 Cor 6:12 All things are lawful for me, but not all things are helpful. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any.

    1 Cor 10:13 All things are lawful for me, but not all things are helpful; all things are lawful for me, but not all things edify

    Col 3:5-7 Therefore put to death your members which are on the earth: fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. Because of these things the wrath of God is coming upon the sons of disobedience, in which you yourselves once walked when you lived in them.

    I see Paul saying, "I can do anything I want to do - but come on, get a grip, those things don't represent who I am! They don't edify, they don't build up, they don't help anyone at all. Why would I want to be brought under the power of any of those things when I have the Spirit of Christ as my life!"

    (That's my own dramatization of what I get out of it... ;)

    Paul does talk about 'sin' in the lives of Christians in a few places but overall it doesn't seem to be an issue of figuring out what is sin and what isn't sin, or what is flesh and what isn't flesh, but renewing the mind daily in the things of Christ and walking according to the Spirit. The deeds of the flesh are "obvious," he says in one place, and the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience... etc.

    Note that the words in the NT (Hebrews?) about habitual sin isn't a word about being careful to not habitually sin. It says that those in Christ don't habitually sin. Yes, we sin, and we may repeat some of the same sins, but that's not what this is talking about. I think it's talking about an utter disregard for what you do. A person in Christ may repeat some of the same fleshly deeds, but in his spirit he hates it.

    So the bottom line for me is to focus on Christ, and who we are in Him, and not to focus on sin. :)

  16. Thanks,Joel. I'll bookmark this for future reference. One the one hand I fear a kind of higher-life mentality that deceives itself into thinking things are ok when they're not. On the other,I want to just live without fear confident that I am actually in Christ and am under his affection. I don't find that under law,but fear that I may be shirking obedience etc.

  17. Philip,

    One thing you said in your comment sums up (to me) the power of the gospel of God's grace as it works in people: "I want to just live without fear confident that I am actually in Christ and am under his affection. All the other stuff will fall into place as we grow confident of our union with God in Jesus Christ and of His great affection for us.

    We love God because He first loved us (1 John 4:10, 19). We became the righteousness of God because Jesus became sin for us (2 Cor 5:21). Perfect love casts out fear (1 John 18-19). He who began a good work in you will be faithful to complete it (Phil 1:6). We are His workmanship (Eph 2:10).

    In all cases, it's God who is at work in us, as opposed to it being up to us to fulfill all these things. It's God who initiates it all and it's God who works in us to fulfill it all. That's something we can truly rest in, apart from fear or worry, and that will build our confidence more and more as we grow in it!

  18. Thanks,Joel. What do you consider to now be a healthy fear of God-when it's referred to as something positive in the bible?A healthy respect for the new covenant realities God's given us in Christ? In the which case,I guess that would now boil down to faith,working by love. And 'be holy as I am holy',be holy as I am holy and you are already in me?

  19. Philip,

    "Godly fear" is based not upon being afraid of Him, of course, but as you say out of respect and reverence for Him and in awe of Him. Bino posted a great post over at Branch of Vine, called "as if God needed anything..." that, to me, represents the wonder and awe of God. Also, as you say, His covenant realities in Christ, His great love for us, His tender mercies, His coming to earth and dying on the cross to save us from our sins... the list goes on and on. :)

    Be holy as I am holy... several verses talk about this. Eph 1:4 says that God chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love. The point is repeated in Eph 5:27. The fact that we are holy as the Lord is holy is all due to God's work, not our own. In 1 Peter 1:15-16, we're simply exhorted to walk in holy conduct, and the only reason we can do that is because we are holy. :) It's not that we're trying to behave holy to become holy, but rather that as we grow in grace, our outward behavior matches more and more with who we truly are in Christ.

  20. Thanks again,Joel.