Archives

All posts for the month February, 2015

Under the law, for Christ’s sake

Published February 11, 2015 by Dawn

Jesus sent him away …”Go, show yourself to the priest and offer the sacrifices that Moses commanded for your cleansing as a testimony to them. (Mark 1:14)”

Grace, sin and the law are such a hot topic these days. We know our righteousness is not a result of our goodness, it’s because of grace. So we disregard the law in favor of living a life of freedom in the Lord. Some churches even take the stance evident in the Corinthian church, that everything is permissible, and it is the Christian’s right to do whatever they choose because grace has set us free from the wages of sin. I’ve even heard leaders in the church proclaim, “I’m just enjoying grace” as an excuse to live whatever lifestyle benefits them.

I’ve been praying over this topic for a few years now. Because I don’t want to say anything that isn’t true regarding the word. I feel like this morning, the Lord finally cleared up a few of my questions with this one verse. Such as, if I am free to live however I like and everything is permissible, why am I convicted all the time? And when I do live freely as some suggest I should, why do I feel like I am feeding my flesh and dying in my spirit-man? What is it that draws me back to the law, which was the standards of God, which I know I am incapable of upholding but want to try anyway? Finally, I have found my answer:

In the above verse, which I added an emphasis to, Jesus tells the healed leper to go and show himself to the priest and offer the sacrifices commanded by Moses as a testimony to them. He was essentially saying, “because they need to see you doing this in order to believe.” Had he not fulfilled that law before them, they would have been so caught up in his irreverence for God (because in their minds, there was a process and a law that governed his healing), that they would not have even considered him clean. Even if his skin showed that he was, they would have never seen it, because they were blinded by the law and needed to see that first.

Scripture says that when Moses is read, a veil covers the hearts of the people (2 Corinthians 3:15). And the priests and Pharisees could not accept a teaching that was not in accordance with the law. Jesus himself upheld the law on many occasions just so he could get an audience with the very people who were blind to him. And once they were no longer blind, he challenged their beliefs about righteousness based on the law (remember his healings on the Sabbath, his touching the lepers, his disciples picking grain on the Sabbath and their disregard for ritualistic fasting). Many times, Jesus rebuked the Pharisees for being blind. What were they blinded by? The law.

And the law remains a blinder today. A stumbling block to many who look at the lives of Christians and say, “But doesn’t the Bible say you should be doing this?” And we who understand grace and accept it will agree that the Bible does indeed say that, but instead we choose to live in grace that Christ purchased for us with His blood. But we are talking to blind people! Blind people who are focused on the law. “For the god of this world has blinded the minds of unbelievers so that they cannot see the light of the gospel that displays the glory of Christ … (2 Corinthians 4:4)”

How do we live among them and be the light and bring them to Christ? By offering the sacrifices of Moses … by adhering to the law for their sake, in front of them, to the best of our ability. Because when unbelievers look at us and we are indistinguishable from the world around them, they see nothing to compel them out of the darkness. We are supposed to shine in the darkness! We should be different! Our lives should cause people to say, “I want that.” Imagine the awe in the heart of an unbeliever when a Christian shows the ability to stand in the face of persecution instead of reacting. The awe of an unbeliever when a Christian chooses truth regardless of the consequences in a situation. Or chooses to say nothing in their defense when people slander and falsely accuse them. Because this is how Christ reacted. And although grace bought our freedom, the world will not accept our testimony unless we first offer the sacrifices of Moses … an adherence to the law that covers their minds. We have to get under that veil so that they can see us! We do this by sacrificing our rights for their benefit.

There are many scriptures in the Bible that verify this. Here’s a taste:

“be careful, however, that the exercise of your rights does not become a stumbling block to the weak. (1 Corinthians 8:9)”

“…I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love…put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness. Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to your neighbor …in your anger, do not sin … and do not give the devil a foothold. Anyone who has been stealing must steal no longer … do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouth, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen … Get rid of all bitterness, rage, and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice.(Eph. 4:1-2, 22-32)”

“…make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in the way of a brother or sister. (Romans 14:13)”

“We live in such a way that no one will stumble because of us, and no one will find fault with our ministry. (2 Corinthians 6:3)”

The beauty of grace is not that it frees us from restraint regarding the law, but that it frees us from the condemnation we would be living under because we cannot uphold the law on our own and be righteous before God. The Holy Spirit lives in us to help us to live lives worthy of God’s calling. To help us to control our wayward, sinful nature because it’s been bought and brought under the authority of Christ. So we are able to live a testimony before the unsaved that draws them to Christ. Not because he demands it, but because his heart desires it and we desire his heart.

“…whoever brings back a sinner from his wandering will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins. (James 5:20)”

Advertisements

Because We’re Shameless

Published February 5, 2015 by Dawn

Suppose you have a friend, and you go to him at midnight … or her. I’m supposing, and I’m thinking about my  best friend, and her response to me if I went to her at midnight… she’d probably respond initially with worry. “What’s wrong!” she ask, with such tender concern. In a hushed voice, so as not to wake her son, who sleeps much softer than the rest of the house. And then her husband would get up and come to the door too, and they’d both be worrying about me, and why I’m knocking on their door at midnight.

I’d say, “Sorry to bother you guys so late at night, but … do you have a loaf of bread, and maybe some cheese?” Immediately, their faces shift from concern to confusion and consternation … “Really?! What for? Why are you even awake and thinking about food? Why’d you come all the way over here for bread AT MIDNIGHT? You’re going to wake up the baby!” And although our voices are low and whispery, from the back room comes the familiar cry of the baby. She rolls her eyes and turns to take care of him, but her husband stands at the door looking at me, trying to figure out how to respond ….

“Why didn’t you just go to Wal-Mart?” He’d ask finally, while turning to go get the bread and cheese. Then he’d hand it to me, and my muttered thanks would fall on a closed door. I’d probably have three seconds to get to the car before the porch light goes off and the house goes quiet again.

That would be weird, right? And she’d call me the next day and expect a full explanation of the night before, and I’d give her the same story, but it wouldn’t satisfy, it’d just be a reason to cover up my shameless audacity. The shameless audacity of someone who needs something so badly, that time isn’t a factor, and fear isn’t either. It is the need, and the filling that matter most.

Jesus gives this illustration to a crowd in Luke 11:5-8, and he points out to the crowd that the friend doesn’t respond because of the friendship, or even the need itself. But because of the shameless audacity of it. The way the asking isn’t necessarily timely or thoughtful, or empathetic. It’s candid, vulnerable, straightforward. Frank. And because it’s midnight, it’s also kinda rude. It’s shameless. Lacking regard for anyone or anything. The need is is so compelling, nothing else matters. And it’s answered because that’s how good, loving people respond to such desperate neediness.

Verse nine says, “So I say to you, ask and it will be given to you, seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and the one who knocks, the door will be opened.”

Ask! But be shameless about it. Don’t go before the Lord timid and hesitant. He is good! And because of your shameless audacity, He will answer you. Seek Him! Press in, without propriety. Forget your manners before the Lord and be up front about your need, and your expectations. Lay it out there! And because of your shameless audacity, He will answer you! Knock! That door will open. If for no other reason than your shameless audacity. The one inside will open is because of your persistent knocking. It may seem rude, but hang in there, the door WILL open! Matthew 11:12 says, “From the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom if Heaven has been subjected to violence, and violent people have been raiding it.”

Dear friend, there are a lot of good ideas out there when it comes to prayer. But I also believe the Holy Spirit supersedes man’s wisdom, and will lead you in how to pray. Sometimes, we are compelled to kneel before the Lord in reverence and silence, and listen. Sometimes, we are compelled to come before Him in worship until we are led like a new bride into his chambers. And sometimes, no protocol will restrain our need, and we have no other way of going about it but to storm the doors and come before the Lord so boldly. Uncomfortable because we’ve intruded, aware that we’re out of line and begging for mercy even as we plead our case. It’s impudent. It’s dauntless. It’s shameless! But because of our audacity “He will surely get up and give you as much as you need!”

P.S. The above scenario paints a picture of cranky, half-asleep friends … Probably more like me than my friends. My friends are good people.

The Kindness of God

Published February 4, 2015 by Dawn

My mouse hovered over the share button, and my mind raced trying to contemplate my hesitation. I was about to share a “Christian” article on gay marriage, but something in me was keeping me from hitting the button. I couldn’t figure out what it was, and so I decided it was just my own pride and fear. So I sucked it up and hit the share button …. Then immediately chased it down and deleted the post. Because I realized what it was, and it wasn’t my pride or my own selfish fears. It was discernment, and that article was wrong.

Not that the writer had misinterpreted scriptures, or even misrepresented the Word in and of itself. He had misrepresented Christ. And that’s a big deal to me. Because I’m not interested in being right; I am interested in being Christ-like. And no matter what biblical principle you are arguing (why are we always arguing?!), name-calling and condemnation are UN-biblical and serve no purpose in the kingdom of God. They do, however, serve Satan in driving others away from the truth.

The truth is, the Word of God speaks for itself. We spend an awful lot of time defending something that doesn’t need our help. Either people believe or they don’t. We are called to love. We are called to be a light. Hatefulness is dark and repulsive. We’re supposed to be compelling people to Christ. Here are a few scriptures I like to hold things to in deciding whether or not to align myself with them:

“…knowledge puffs up, but love builds up. (1 Corinthians 1:8)”

“Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, forbearance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance. (Romans 2:4)”

I especially like the second one. It is the kindness of God that leads people to repentance. The forbearance of God, that sees us as we are, and loves us through it. The graciousness of the Holy Spirit to lead us away from our sin as we follow Him. Away from our sin and into the arms of our loving Father. How wide and deep is the love of God! How unfathomable is His grace toward us! And not just to those who call themselves by His name, but to all men. Because He does not desire that any should perish but that all should have everlasting life. That all should come to repentance and the saving knowledge of Christ. And how can we share this with them if we are pushing them away with condemnation and hateful rhetoric?