The Gospel for my messy life …

Archive for December, 2013

Image

The Gospel Sets You Free, Legalism Keeps You In Bondage!

The Gospel Sets You Free, Legalism Keeps You In Bondage!

“For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile. For in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed—a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith.” – Romans 1:16-17

————————————————————————–

Pastor Tullian Tchividjian comments from an interviewed regarding his book, Jesus + Nothing = Everything

What is the biggest threat to Christianity?

This might come as a surprise to some, but the biggest threat to Christianity exists inside the church, not outside the church. According to the Bible, the biggest threat to Christianity is legalism.

Since the fall of man in Genesis 3, the human race has been naturally prone toward works-righteousness, self-salvation projects. Having determined way back then that we could do it better on our own, we’ve been trying ever since.

There’s a common misunderstanding in today’s church, which says there are two equal dangers Christians must avoid. On one side of the road is a ditch called “legalism”; on the other is a ditch called “license” or “lawlessness.” Legalism, they say, happens when you focus too much on law, on rules. Lawlessness, they say, happens when you focus too much on grace. Therefore, in order to maintain spiritual equilibrium, you have to balance law and grace. If you start getting too much law, you need to balance it with grace. If you start getting too much grace, you need to balance it with law. This dichotomy exposes our failure to understand gospel grace as it really is; it betrays our blindness to all the radical depth and beauty of grace.

It’s much more theologically accurate to say that there is one primary enemy of the gospel—legalism—but it comes in two forms. Some people avoid the gospel and try to “save” themselves by keeping the rules, doing what they’re told, maintaining the standards, and so on (I call this “front-door legalism”). Other people avoid the gospel and try to “save” themselves by breaking the rules, doing whatever they want, developing their own autonomous standards, and so on (“back-door legalism”). In other words, there are two “laws” we can choose to live by apart from Christ: the law which says, “I can find freedom and fullness of life if I keep the rules,” and the law which says, “I can find freedom and fullness of life if I break the rules.” Either way, you’re trying to “save” yourself, which means both are legalistic because both are self-salvation projects. So what some call “license” is just another form of legalism.

This distinction is super important because the biggest lie about grace that Satan wants the church to buy is the idea that it’s dangerous and therefore needs to be kept it in check. The perceived fear is this: if we think too much and talk too much about grace and the radical freedom it brings, we’ll go off the deep end with it. We’ll abuse it. By believing that lie, we not only prove we don’t understand grace, but we violate gospel advancement in our lives and in the church by perpetuating our own slavery. The truth is, disobedience happens not when we think too much of grace, but when we think too little of it.

As a pastor, one of my responsibilities is to disciple people into a deeper understanding of obedience—teaching them to say no to the things God hates and yes to the things God loves. All too often I’ve wrongly concluded that the only way to keep licentious people in line is to give them more rules—to lay down the law. The fact is, however, the only way licentious people start to obey is when they get a taste of God’s radical, unconditional acceptance of sinners. What licentious people need is a greater understanding of grace, not a governor on grace. Grace alone melts hearts and changes us from the inside out. Progress in obedience happens only when our hearts realize that God’s love for us does not depend on our progress in obedience.

A “yes, grace—but” disposition is the kind of fearful posture that keeps legalism swirling around in our hearts and in the church.

What is the “now power” of the Gospel and what difference does it make?

I once assumed (along with the vast majority of professing Christians) that the gospel was simply what non- Christians must believe in order to be saved, while afterward we advance to deeper theological waters. But I’ve come to realize that once God rescues sinners, his plan isn’t to steer them beyond the gospel but to move them more deeply into it. We never outgrow our need for the gospel. Because I am a daily sinner, I need God’s daily distributions of grace that come my way as a result of the finished work of Christ.

When God’s good news met me in my dark place during the summer of 2009, I started to see the many-faceted dimensions of the gospel in a more dazzling way. It’s almost as if, for me, the gospel changed from something hazy and monochromatic to something richly multicolored, vivid, and vibrant. I was realizing in a fresh way the now-power of the gospel—that the gospel doesn’t simply rescue us from the past and rescue us for the future; it also rescues us in the present from being enslaved to things like fear, insecurity, anger, self-reliance, bitterness, entitlement, and insignificance. Through my pain, I was being convinced all over again that the power of the gospel is just as necessary and relevant after you become a Christian as it is before.

The gospel liberates us to be okay with not being okay. We know we’re not okay—though we try very hard to convince ourselves and other people that we’re basically fine. But the gospel tells us, “Relax, it is finished. The pressure’s off.”

Because of the gospel, we have nothing to prove or protect. We can stop pretending. We can take off our masks and be real. The gospel frees us from trying to impress people, appease people, measure up for people, or prove ourselves to people. The gospel frees us from the burden of trying to control what other people think about us. It frees us from the miserable, unquenchable pursuit to make something of ourselves by using others.

The gospel frees us from what one writer calls “the law of capability”—the law, he says, “that judges us wanting if we are not capable, if we cannot handle it all, if we are not competent to balance our diverse commitments without a slip.” The gospel grants us the strength to admit we’re weak and needy and restless—knowing that Christ’s finished work has proven to be all the strength and fulfillment and peace we could ever want, and more. Since Jesus is our strength, our weaknesses don’t threaten our sense of worth and value. Now we’re free to admit our wrongs and weaknesses without feeling as if our flesh is being ripped off our bones.

That’s what I mean in the book when I talk at length about the “now-power” of the gospel.

Why are Christians legalists when it comes to sanctification?

The way many Christians think about sanctification is that it’s a step beyond our need for Jesus and his finished work on our behalf. In other words, we tend to think of justification as step one and sanctification as step two. And once we get to step two, we never need to go back to step one. We needed Jesus a lot for justification. We need him less for sanctification. The truth is, though, that sanctification is simply getting used to your justification–it’s receiving Christ’s words “It is finished” into our rebellious regions of unbelief.

As Luther put it, “To progress is always to begin again”–it’s going back to the already secured reality of your justification and hitting the refresh button 1000 times a day. Going forward, in other words, requires a daily going backwards.

Legalism happens when what I need to do, instead of what Christ has already done, becomes the end game of my life. The gospel tells us the determining factor in my relationship with God is Jesus’ work for us, not our work for him; his performance for us, not our performance for him; his obedience for us, not our obedience. The Gospel is the good news that God doesn’t relate to us based on our feats for Jesus but Jesus feats for us. The gospel tells us that God’s acceptance of us is not gained by our successes or forfeited by our failures—because it’s not about us!

Martin Luther defined sin as “mankind turned inward.” And sadly, the way many of us think about sanctification is terribly narcissistic. We spend too much time thinking about how we’re doing, if we’re growing, whether we’re doing it right or not. We spend too much time pondering our failure and brooding over our spiritual successes. In short, we spend way too much time thinking about ourselves and what we need to do and far too little time thinking about Jesus and what he’s already done. And what I’ve discovered is that the more I focus on my need to get better the worse I actually get–I become neurotic and self-absorbed. Preoccupation with my performance over Christ’s performance for me makes me increasingly self-centered and morbidly introspective. This is the opposite of how the Bible describes what it means to be sanctified. Sanctification is forgetting about yourself.

Peter only began to sink when he took his eyes off Jesus and focused on “how he was doing.” Anytime our natural fixture on self is rattled, shaken, turned from itself to that Man’s blood, to that Man’s cross, the devil runs!

When we stop narcissistically focusing on our need to get better that is what it means to get better. When we stop obsessing over our need to improve, that is what it means to improve!

Source: http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/tullian/2011/11/17/stetzer-interview-part-two/ – (November 17,2011)

Image

In Christ, God Is Well Pleased With You!

In Christ, God Is Well Pleased With You!

“Christ frees you and me from our self-enslaving thrones. Christ frees you from the need to justify yourself, the need to be in control, the need to have recognition, and the need to seek manmade fulfillment. May the old Sinful nature in each and every one of us be utterly killed and destroyed, for we are forgiven of this idolatry, placed in the shadows of the Cross and given every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realm.

Baptized Saints, the sins of your past, the sins of today and the sins of tomorrow cannot and will not destroy the authority, power and work of Christ and His Word for you. You, who have ears, hear this present reality. In Christ you are forgiven, are chosen, have a legacy, and have an identity. In Christ, God is well pleased with you, for Christ has sufficiently accomplished everything for you and has made you citizens not of any earthly kingdom, but His kingdom that will have no end.” – Rev. Dr. Matthew Richard

Image

Martin Luther’s Definition of Faith

Martin Luther’s Definition of Faith

“Faith is not what some people think it is. Their human dream is a delusion. Because they observe that faith is not followed by good works or a better life, they fall into error, even though they speak and hear much about faith. “Faith is not enough,” they say, “You must do good works, you must be pious to be saved.” They think that, when you hear the gospel, you start working, creating by your own strength a thankful heart which says, “I believe.” That is what they think true faith is. But, because this is a human idea, a dream, the heart never learns anything from it, so it does nothing and reform doesn’t come from this `faith,’ either.

Instead, faith is God’s work in us, that changes us and gives new birth from God. (John 1:13). It kills the Old Adam and makes us completely different people. It changes our hearts, our spirits, our thoughts and all our powers. It brings the Holy Spirit with it. Yes, it is a living, creative, active and powerful thing, this faith. Faith cannot help doing good works constantly. It doesn’t stop to ask if good works ought to be done, but before anyone asks, it already has done them and continues to do them without ceasing. Anyone who does not do good works in this manner is an unbeliever. He stumbles around and looks for faith and good works, even though he does not know what faith or good works are. Yet he gossips and chatters about faith and good works with many words.

Faith is a living, bold trust in God’s grace, so certain of God’s favor that it would risk death a thousand times trusting in it. Such confidence and knowledge of God’s grace makes you happy, joyful and bold in your relationship to God and all creatures. The Holy Spirit makes this happen through faith. Because of it, you freely, willingly and joyfully do good to everyone, serve everyone, suffer all kinds of things, love and praise the God who has shown you such grace. Thus, it is just as impossible to separate faith and works as it is to separate heat and light from fire! Therefore, watch out for your own false ideas and guard against good-for-nothing gossips, who think they’re smart enough to define faith and works, but really are the greatest of fools. Ask God to work faith in you, or you will remain forever without faith, no matter what you wish, say or can do.”

– An excerpt from “An Introduction to St. Paul’s Letter to the Romans,” Luther’s German Bible of 1522 by Martin Luther, 1483-1546

-Translated by Rev. Robert E. Smith from DR. MARTIN LUTHER’S VERMISCHTE DEUTSCHE SCHRIFTEN. Johann K. Irmischer, ed. Vol. 63 Erlangen: Heyder and Zimmer, 1854), pp.124-125. [EA 63:124-125]

Image

Compassionate Friend – Quote By Henri Nouwen (1932-1996)

Quote By Henri Nouwen (1932-1996)

A compassionate friend is a gift of grace, mercy and humility within a friendship. – Pedro Rodriguez

Image

I Still Sin, Because I am A Sinner!

I Still Sin, Because I am A Sinner!

ROMANS CHAPTER 7

14 We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin. 15 I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. 16 And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. 17 As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. 18 For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. 19 For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. 20 Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.

21 So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. 22 For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; 23 but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. 24 What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? 25 Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!

QUOTES FROM MARTIN LUTHER

“Strange, though I am saved from sin, I am not saved from sinning.”

“So when the devil throws your sins in your face and declares that you deserve death and hell, tell him this: “I admit that I deserve death and hell, what of it? For I know One who suffered and made satisfaction on my behalf. His name is Jesus Christ, Son of God, and where He is there I shall be also!”

ON CHRISTIAN FREEDOM  > “Whenever the devil harasses you, seek the company of men or drink more, or joke and talk nonsense, or do some other merry thing. Sometimes we must drink more, sport, recreate ourselves, and even sin a little to spite the devil, so that we leave him no place for troubling our consciences with trifles. We are conquered if we try too conscientiously not to sin at all. So when the devil says to you: do not drink, answer him: I will drink, and right freely, just because you tell me not to.”

“In accusing me of being a damnable sinner, you are cutting your own throat, Satan. You are reminding me of God’s fatherly goodness toward me, that He so loved the world that He gave His only-begotten Son that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life. In calling me a sinner, Satan, you really comfort me above measure.”

“The devil and temptations also do give occasion unto us somewhat to learn and understand the Scriptures, by experience and practice. Without trials and temptations we should never understand anything thereof; no, not although we diligently read and heard the same.”

“So then, have we nothing to do to obtain righteousness? No, nothing at all! For this righteousness comes by doing nothing, hearing nothing, knowing nothing, but rather in knowing and believing this only–that Christ has gone to the right hand of the Father, not to become our judge, but to become for us our wisdom, our righteousness, our holiness, our salvation!

Now God sees no sin in us. For in this heavenly righteousness, sin has no place. So now we may certainly think, “Although I still sin, I don’t despair, because Christ lives–who is both my righteousness and my eternal life.” In that righteousness I have no sin, no fear, no guilty conscience, no fear of death. I am indeed a sinner in this life of mine and in my own righteousness, but I have another life, another righteousness above this life, which is in Christ, the Son of God, who knows no sin or death, but is eternal righteousness and eternal life. For if the truth of being justified by Christ alone (not by our works) is lost, then all Christian truths are lost…On this truth and only on this truth the Church is built and has its being.”

“If you are a preacher of Grace, then preach a true, not a fictitious grace; if grace is true, then you must bear a true and not a fictitious sin. God does not save people who are only fictitious [or imaginary] sinners. Be a sinner and let your sins be strong [sin boldly], but believe and rejoice in Christ even more boldly still. For he is the victor over sin, death, and the world.”

Lutheran Pastor Matthew Richard, “Sin is like glue. It clings to us, damns us unto death, and puts us in the grave. But take comfort you baptized children of God. The Gospel puts you not in your own grave, but in Jesusgrave where you are promised a future resurrection at His second coming, a resurrection of the body; full salvation free from sin, free from the fear of death, and free from the pathetic lies and deceit of the evil one.”

Image

Galatians Chapter Three

Galatians Chapter Three

Faith or Works of the Law

3 You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? Before your very eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed as crucified. 2 I would like to learn just one thing from you: Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by believing what you heard? 3 Are you so foolish? After beginning by means of the Spirit, are you now trying to finish by means of the flesh? 4 Have you experienced so much in vain—if it really was in vain? 5 So again I ask, does God give you his Spirit and work miracles among you by the works of the law, or by your believing what you heard? 6 So also Abraham “believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.”

7 Understand, then, that those who have faith are children of Abraham. 8 Scripture foresaw that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, and announced the gospel in advance to Abraham: “All nations will be blessed through you.”9 So those who rely on faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith.

10 For all who rely on the works of the law are under a curse, as it is written: “Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law.” 11 Clearly no one who relies on the law is justified before God, because “the righteous will live by faith.” 12 The law is not based on faith; on the contrary, it says, “The person who does these things will live by them.” 13 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: “Cursed is everyone who is hung on a pole.” 14 He redeemed us in order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus, so that by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit.

The Law and the Promise

15 Brothers and sisters, let me take an example from everyday life. Just as no one can set aside or add to a human covenant that has been duly established, so it is in this case. 16 The promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. Scripture does not say “and to seeds,” meaning many people, but “and to your seed,” meaning one person, who is Christ. 17 What I mean is this: The law, introduced 430 years later, does not set aside the covenant previously established by God and thus do away with the promise. 18 For if the inheritance depends on the law, then it no longer depends on the promise; but God in his grace gave it to Abraham through a promise.

19 Why, then, was the law given at all? It was added because of transgressions until the Seed to whom the promise referred had come. The law was given through angels and entrusted to a mediator. 20 A mediator, however, implies more than one party; but God is one.

21 Is the law, therefore, opposed to the promises of God? Absolutely not! For if a law had been given that could impart life, then righteousness would certainly have come by the law. 22 But Scripture has locked up everything under the control of sin, so that what was promised, being given through faith in Jesus Christ, might be given to those who believe.

Children of God

23 Before the coming of this faith, we were held in custody under the law, locked up until the faith that was to come would be revealed. 24 So the law was our guardian until Christ came that we might be justified by faith. 25 Now that this faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian.

26 So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, 27 for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.

Properly Dividing Law And Gospel

Image

“While many sermons on Sunday may teach the orthodox Christian faith, most are not proper because they do not apply the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the lives of believers. Sure, you may leave church after hearing the truth concerning both the Divinity and humanity of Jesus Christ – that He is both man and God, but most likely you will not have heard the Gospel applied to your everyday life. Here is a case study illustrating this fact, based on a recent broadcast of Law & Gospel by Pastor Tom Baker. All names are fictitious.

Ann is a middle-aged woman who recently lost her husband in an automobile accident, where a drunk driver was responsible. She is a member of a mainstream Christian church denomination where her fellow members and pastor all encourage her to forget and forgive because the bible tells her she must do so. After all, we read such commands in the bible. Under inspiration of the Holy Spirit, St Paul writes:

Ephes. 4:32
Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.

Jesus Himself states:
Matthew 6:14-15
For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, [15] but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.

Grieving over the loss of her life’s companion, Ann is naturally confused. When asked, she forcefully testifies she is not angry with God, but instead angry with the drunk driver who caused her pain and suffering. Her pastor and church friends are uncomfortable being around Ann and continue to encourage her to forgive the drunk driver and get on with her life. But Ann cannot simply do this. She thinks she is in a good church home and has heard the truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. But has she really?

Most Christian denominations believe that “if the bible says it, then that settles it – I believe it”. Sadly, such a viewpoint is prominent throughout Christianity and demonstrates a profound ignorance of the Word of God. There are two methods God speaks in His Word: Law and Gospel. “Law” is shorthand for the will of God, usually understood in the context of the ten commandments. In the above Scripture quotations, these verses are definitely Law. It is the will of God that we forgive one another, just as stated in the Lord’s Prayer(e.g. Matthew 6:12). All religions of the world are Law based, believing that the way a person gets right with God is by doing the will of God. Such people are referred to as those who live under the Law. Although Ann’s denomination professes belief in Jesus Christ, this church is not really different from all other religions of the world because it encourages it’s members to live under the Law. Ann is terribly burdened by her loss and under condemnation for failing to forgive the drunk driver who killed her husband. Instead of comforting Ann, her church burdens her with the full weight of the Law: Ann must forgive. This is a classic example of the failure to properly distinguish between Law and Gospel.

The bible is riddled with passages of Scripture that are either Law or Gospel. In fact, many verses can be understood as either one, depending upon whether one lives under Law or under the Gospel. Most denominations fail to understand that the primary purpose of the Law is to reveal and magnify sin, not to present a challenge for a man to keep the will of God(Romans 3:20;5:20). The Law of God is good in that it reveals the will of God, but it only condemns a person and does not enable him to keep it. The Law is a mirror showing us how imperfect and sinful we really are and is a tutor pointing to Christ(Galatians 3:24). Most denominations know the Law well and rather than emphasize the scriptural purpose for it, they encourage members to try to keep it, often believing that the Holy Spirit will empower people to do this, thus pleasing God. Such encouragement is a confusion of Law and Gospel and even attempts to use the cross of Christ as Law rather than Gospel! Such denominations believe that the purpose of the bible is to present “right rules for living”. Unfortunately, this is not Christianity, but rather exactly what all other man made religions of the world teach, such as Buddhism, Mormonism, or Islam.

Romans chapters 7 and 8 illustrate the apostle Paul’s understanding of Law and Gospel, sin and Grace. Romans 7:9 shows how the Law created awareness of sin for Paul and the inner turmoil over failure to keep it. Paul says that even though the Law is good, it caused death for him. In verse 15 Paul states that he does the exact opposite of the will of God, despite his desire to do otherwise! Verse 24 shows Paul exclaiming what a wretched man he is, finally realizing that the only solution to his dilemma is Jesus Christ. Paul is no different than any other man: All have sinned and fallen short of the will of God(Romans 3:23). The good news is that there is now no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus(Romans 8:1). Most denominations don’t seem to understand why there is no condemnation of believers such as Ann, who professes belief in Jesus Christ. Instead, such churches place Ann on another guilt trip for failure to keep the Law completely. Such denominations read Romans 8:1-6 as those who live under the Law, believing that walking according to the flesh refers to continuing to sin and walking according to the Spirit as ceasing from sinning. But this is not the Gospel of Jesus Christ! Such churches should be embarrassed and ashamed at failing their members. Ann’s denomination does not heed the Scriptures, which plainly state that the Law reveals sin to those secure in their sins, as shown above, but that the Gospel is to be given to those terrified of their trespasses. Jesus came to fulfill the Law perfectly for all men, including Ann(Matthew 5:17). Jesus did what no other man was capable of – He was the Representative Man. Jesus came not for the righteous, but sinners(Matthew 9:13), including Ann. As a believer, Ann is concerned over her failure to forgive, which is a sin of omission, not commission(e.g. James 4:17). The Gospel is that Jesus Christ died for the sins of the entire world, which includes Ann(John 3:16). Jesus did not die for those who kept the will of God perfectly throughout their entire lives, but for sinners. Only Christ lived the perfect, sinless life. This is the GOOD NEWS, the Gospel, which is rarely preached from the pulpits of most denominations. The Gospel is not that God forgives your sins and sends the Holy Spirit to enable you to keep the Law of God. The Gospel is 100 percent gift: God forgives your sins because the Son of God took the punishment for your sins. God gives you the gift of Faith in which to receive this blessing and also the seal of the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 1:13-14). Jesus Christ exchanges His Righteousness for your sins so that we become adopted children of God through absolutely no merit of our own. Being aware of her sins and failure to forgive the person who killed her husband, instead of being burdened with more Law, Ann should have been comforted with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Ann should be encouraged to continue to walk by the Spirit, confessing her sins and receiving the forgiveness of sins and the peace of God through Jesus Christ her Savior, which is living under the Gospel. Jesus Christ lived the perfect life of obedience under the Law for Ann. Jesus Christ received the full wrath of God for Ann’s sins. In the eyes of God, through faith in Jesus Christ, Ann is considered perfect, sinless, and righteous(2Cor 5:21). This is the Gospel. This is the comfort and peace which is sorely lacking in Christian preaching today.

Source: By Frank Marron (Lutheran) – http://beggarsallreformation.blogspot.com/2006/09/guest-blog-properly-dividing-law-and.html

Tag Cloud