Thursday, August 31, 2017

How to please God.

“Therefore, if you died with Christ from the basic principles of the world, why, as though living in the world, do you subject yourselves to regulations…”
Colossians 2:20 NKJV

As Christians, we are free from the law (Romans 6:14) and are no longer under the bondage of having to live under rules and regulations regarding our relationship with God. We are dead to the influences of rules and regulations (see Galatians 5:1-5).

“…why, as though living in the world, do you subject yourselves to regulations— 21 “Do not touch, do not taste, do not handle,” 22 which all concern things which perish with the using—according to the commandments and doctrines of men?”
Colossians 2:20c-22 NKJV

Paul is asking why we as Christians, who are free from rules and regulations, would subject ourselves to the bondages that we are now dead to? We should be enjoying the freedom of the abundant Christ-life instead! Man and religion, are consumed with actions and appearances, whereas God is always more concerned with the heart (1 Samuel 16:7). The law can only regulate actions – it cannot change the heart. We have been set free from the weak and worthless principles (Galatians 4:9) of external regulation – true holiness could not (and cannot) be produced through adherence to it!

Too many Christians are far too intimate with the law which is weak and powerless to produce a life that pleases God; this intimacy will not produce anything that is life-giving and it will not please God.

“But that no one is justified by the law in the sight of God is evident, for “the just shall live by faith.” 12 Yet the law is not of faith, but “the man who does them shall live by them.”
13 Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us (for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree”), 14 that the blessing of Abraham might come upon the Gentiles in Christ Jesus, that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.”
Galatians 3:11-14 NKJV

“…without faith it is impossible to please Him…”
Hebrews 11:6 NKJV

It’s plain and simple: the law is not of faith and the just (the justified, aka Christian) lives by faith. Therefore, the Christian should not have a relationship with the law. Faith comes by hearing the word of Christ – the Gospel (Romans 10:17) – and faith is built-up as we focus on Jesus who is the origin and perfector of our faith (Hebrews 12:2), therefore, we should not be focused on the law nor should we have a relationship with the law. Holiness and the abundant life can only be produced by focusing on Jesus and having faith in what He has done for us.

“I know that these regulations look wise with their self-inspired efforts at worship, their policy of self-humbling, and their studied neglect of the body. But in actual practice they do honour, not to God, but to man’s own pride.”
Colossians 2:23 PHILLIPS

Rules and regulations appeal to our carnality because it gives us a sense of achievement which reinforces a performance-based mentality, all of which is focused on self and fills us with pride. We think we’re worshipping God through strict adherence to the law but we’re actually worshipping (or honouring) ourselves. What honours God is faith, and faith is a heart issue. We worship God when we let go of trying to be right with Him and trying to please Him, and when we look to Jesus and trust in (faith) what He has done for us. The Christian life is not about what we do for God – it’s about what He has done for us!

Monday, August 14, 2017

Did Jesus destroy the law?

“Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil. For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law, till all be fulfilled.”
Matthew 5:17-18 KJV (Italics from NIV)

It is important to realize that Jesus didn’t come to destroy or abolish the Law or the Prophets (speaking of the Old Testament), rather He came to fulfil them. The word “fulfil” means to make full, to perfect, complete or finish. Jesus is saying that He came to complete the law, or to bring it to an end. He came to perfect it. We’ll all agree that Jesus did what He came to do, and therefore the law is now complete or brought to an end. Matthew 5:18 shows us that the law stood until all was fulfilled. In John 19:30, Jesus was hanging on the cross and He declared in His final breath that “it is finished”. Jesus had come to fulfil the law and through His sacrifice, He did it. He completed it and brought it to an end, so that we could relate to God under a new and better covenant.

“Why then the law? It was added because of transgressions (sin; violation)…

So then, the law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian, for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith.”
Galatians 3:19; 24-26 ESV (Brackets mine)

The word “added” shows us that law was not a part of God’s original plan. The law (the covenant which came through Moses) was “added” to the Covenant of Promise that God had already made with Abraham. The purpose of this was to expose sin and show that self-salvation could never be attained. The law prepared us for the covenant of grace (through Jesus) in which we need to let go of our effort for acceptance and blessing, and trust in our Saviour.

“So then, the law was our guardian until Christ came”
Galatians 3:24 ESV

The word “until” shows us that the law was a temporary situation “until Christ came”. Jesus came to fulfil the law; complete it and bring it to an end.

“For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth.”
Romans 10:4 KJV

It is not possible to obtain right standing (righteousness) before God based on our effort and obedience to the law. It’s only by faith (believing) in what Christ has done for us.

“I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain.”
Galatians 2:21 KJV

If you could be right with God by obeying and living by the law (the Old Covenant), then it would frustrate (void, stop the flow or reject) the grace of God (the free gift of undeserved favour) and it would mean that Christ’s death had no purpose.

Friday, August 11, 2017

Are you a disciple of Moses, or Jesus?

“For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.”
John 1:17 KJV
The scripture is speaking of two different covenants (or ways of relating to God) revealed in this verse: Moses (the Old Covenant) and Jesus (the New Covenant). The word “but” divides this verse in two, showing us that “the law was given by Moses” and “grace and truth coming by Jesus Christ” are not the same thing. The Old Covenant was based on the law, which came through Moses to the Jews. The New Covenant is based on grace and truth, which came for all people through Jesus. Sadly, many Christians are ignorant of this truth and try to live their new covenant Christianity under old covenant principles. A good question to ask ourselves is: are we disciples of Moses or disciples of Jesus?

“He also told them a parable: “No one tears a piece from a new garment and puts it on an old garment. If he does, he will tear the new, and the piece from the new will not match the old. And no one puts new wine into old wineskins. If he does, the new wine will burst the skins and it will bespilled, and the skins will be destroyed. But new wine must be put into fresh wineskins.”
Luke 5:36-38 ESV
In Jesus’ day, if you were to sew a new piece of cloth onto an old garment to patch up a tear or a section which was worn out, it would shrink the first time it was washed and it would tear away from the old garment that had already shrunk. This would further damage the garment. This shows us that Jesus did not come to patch up the Old Covenant with the New, but instead, He came to replace it.

“For on the one hand, a former commandment is set aside because of its weakness and uselessness (for the law made nothing perfect); but on the other hand, a better hope is introduced, through which we draw near to God.”
Hebrews 7:18-19 ESV
You don’t put new wine (unfermented wine) into old wineskins. You’d need to use new wineskins because as the fermentation process occurs only new wineskins can accommodate the expansion of the gas. New wine in old wineskins would cause the old wineskins (which are already stretched) to burst and the wine would be lost. The Old Covenant law could never stretch enough to accommodate the New Covenant truths of mercy and grace.
You cannot mix law and grace and have a successful Christian life.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Knowing that God is Good.

“…the people who know their God shall be strong, and carry out great exploits.”
Daniel 11:32b (NKJV)
True strength and confidence comes from knowing who God really is. As we said yesterday: when you know that God is not the author of tragedies, suffering and pain, it will enable you to trust Him. Knowing that God is not the author or origin of our troubles will deepen our relationship with Him. We can trust Him because He is good.

“Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good; Blessed is the man who trusts in Him!”
Psalm 34:8 NKJV
God doesn’t just do good – He is good. You cannot take good out of God and be left with God. The essence of who God is, is good. In other words, whatever God does is only ever good. Knowing this brings us a confidence and makes us strong! Tasting and seeing are both tangible experiences. It’s not enough to know about a great buffet restaurant: I want to know it for myself, and that means seeing it and tasting the food for myself! God’s goodness isn’t some mystical concept that we can only know intellectually, it is a tangible reality that we can experience.

The Lord is good means that the Lord is equal to good – when you experience God, you will experience good. Every time you encounter God or engage with Him, you will experience good. You can never encounter God and not encounter good. But sadly, because many people see God has harsh, judgmental and angry, they do not have a healthy relationship with him. Their wrong view of God prevents them from experiencing who He really is: good!

Moses asked God if he could see His glory (Exodus 33:18). God responded by saying that He would make all of His goodness pass before Moses and He would proclaim His Name (who He is).

“And he said, “I will make all my goodness pass before you and will proclaim before you my name ‘The LORD.’ And I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy.”
Exodus 33:19 ESV
Moses asked God if he could see His glory and God responded by saying that He would show him His goodness - part of God’s glory is His goodness.  God proclaimed that when you see or experience Him, you see and experience good. Then God proclaimed who He is: gracious and merciful.

If we know God’s true nature, that He is good and only good, then it will give us a deep sense of security because we know what to expect: good. This makes us strong and will enable us to be confident in our relationship with Him and cause us to both expect good things from Him and do great things with Him. When you have the root of knowing and being confident in His goodness, you will have the fruit of strength, great expectations (faith)  and doing great things with Him.