Some Have Departed

Friday, May 16, 2014, 5:41 a.m. – the Lord Jesus put the song “Your New Life” in mind. Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read 1 Timothy 1:1-11 (NIV).

Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the command of God our Savior and of Christ Jesus our hope,

To Timothy my true son in the faith:

…As I urged you when I went into Macedonia, stay there in Ephesus so that you may command certain people not to teach false doctrines any longer or to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies. Such things promote controversial speculations rather than advancing God’s work—which is by faith. The goal of this command is love, which comes from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith. Some have departed from these and have turned to meaningless talk. They want to be teachers of the law, but they do not know what they are talking about or what they so confidently affirm.

We know that the law is good if one uses it properly. We also know that the law is made not for the righteous but for lawbreakers … and for whatever else is contrary to the sound doctrine that conforms to the gospel concerning the glory of the blessed God, which he entrusted to me.

Law and Grace

I believe much of the false teaching in the church here in America evolves from wrong perceptions of law and grace, some of which is purposeful (with full intent to deceive), and some of which is just out of ignorance, I believe. So, I believe for us to understand the false doctrines which are most prevalent in today’s modern church here in America, we need to first of all understand what the scriptures teach on this subject of law and grace. I am no theologian, though, so I will just trust the Spirit of God to quicken my heart and mind to understand what the scriptures teach on this subject, and I will share what I am learning.

First of all, I will state the obvious. Through the law we become conscious of sin, yet we cannot be declared righteous by works of the law. Not one of us could ever keep the law perfectly because we are born sinners. If we fail in one point, we become lawbreakers, and thus we are under the penalty of the law, which is eternal death (separation from God and eternal damnation). So, what is the solution? Jesus Christ became sin for us, he crucified our sins with him on the cross, he buried them with him, and he conquered them (rose victorious over them) in his resurrection. So, we are justified by faith apart from the works of the law. Those who pursue righteousness through works of the law will never attain their goal, for it is by human effort that they try to attain salvation, which is thus not by grace.

“Do we, then, nullify the law by this faith? Not at all! Rather we uphold the law” (Ro. 3:31). So, what does that mean? I believe the answer is found in Romans 6. It says in v. 14: “Sin shall no longer be your master, because you are not under law, but under grace.” So, what does that mean? Well, the law, although it convicts us of sin, has no power to overcome sin nor does it have power to give us life and freedom from the control (power) of sin. Only in Christ Jesus can we have the freedom from the control of sin over our lives and the Holy Spirit power within us to resist sin, to flee temptation, and to draw near to God in full assurance of faith. So, grace does not negate God’s moral laws. It upholds God’s moral law, i.e. grace provides the way in which we can now be set free from slavery to Satan and sin, and so we can be free to walk in Christ’s righteousness and holiness (See Tit. 2:11-14).

What is Faith?

Ok, so how does this work exactly? What is this faith through which we receive God’s great salvation he provided for us through Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross for our sins? Well, for one, we learn in Romans 8 that God “condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.” So, faith means we no longer live according to our sinful flesh but according to the Spirit: “What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer” (Ro. 6:1-2)? “And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again” (2 Co. 5:15). “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me…” (Gal. 2:20).

“…when you heard about Christ and were taught in him in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus. You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to 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” (Eph. 4:21-24).

The heart transformation spoken of in these verses, i.e. a heart transformation away from a life of sin, and to God, and a walk in his Spirit - in his righteousness and holiness - is the working of the Spirit of God in our lives. We are only able to live and to walk according to the Spirit because of the life of Christ now within us, and in the power and working of his Spirit within us as we cooperate fully with that work. In other words, when we believe in Jesus we do not become puppets on a string. We must daily surrender our lives to our Lord and choose to cooperate with his work of grace in our lives. We are not trying to earn salvation by following a set of rules, but we are submitting to the ONE who has the power to transform our hearts and lives away from lifestyles of sin to lives lived according to the Spirit of God. This is what it means to be saved – out with the old; in with the new.

His Commandments

Is there a distinction, then, that should be made between the law and God’s/Christ’s commandments? The reason I ask this question is because of what the New Testament teaches us on the subject of keeping God’s commandments:

First of all we read that the law is summed up in one command – “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Ro. 13:9; Gal. 5:14). Then, we read in 1 John that we know we have come to know Jesus Christ if we keep his commands. “Whoever says, ‘I know him,’ but does not do what he commands is a liar and the truth is not in that person” (2:3-4). We “receive from him anything we ask, because we keep his commands and do what pleases him” (3:22). “The one who keeps God’s commands lives in him, and he in them” (3:24). “This is how we know that we love the children of God: by loving God and carrying out his commands” (5:2). “This is love for God: to keep his commands. And his commands are not burdensome” (5:3). “And this is love: that we walk in obedience to his commands. As you have heard from the beginning, his command is that you walk in love” (2 Jn. 1:6).

Then, we read in Revelation 3:10: “Since you have kept my command to endure patiently, I will also keep you from (or through) the hour of trial that is going to come on the whole world.” And, in Rev. 12:17: “The dragon was enraged at the woman and went off to wage war against the rest of her offspring – those who keep God’s commands and hold fast their testimony about Jesus.” Also, we read in Rev. 14:12: “This calls for patient endurance on the part of the people of God who keep his commands and remain faithful to Jesus.”

What’s the Take-Away?

So, what are we to take away from all this? Well, for one, we can definitely know that we, in our flesh, can never be good enough to earn God’s grace. Our good will never outweigh our bad. Jesus died for us while we were still sinners. We can do nothing to deserve or to earn our salvation. Not one of us could ever keep the law perfectly, and the law has no power to transform our lives, so we can’t be saved by keeping the law. Only through Christ’s death on the cross for our sins can we be saved from the penalty of sin (death) and the control of sin over our lives. It is by God’s grace alone, through faith, that we are saved. Yet, what is faith? As we learned here from the scriptures quoted, faith is not just a feeling, a belief, a doctrine or religious practice, but it is action, yet all in the power and working of the Spirit within us, and not in our own flesh. We are not saved by works, but action is part of faith (See the book of James). We show that our faith is genuine by the things that we do, not in our flesh, but in no longer walking according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.

We keep God’s commandments, thus, not to earn salvation, and not in our own flesh, but as part of walking in the Spirit and not in the flesh. His commandments are his instructions, orders and/or requirements as taught in the New Testament. They are the word of God from scripture as taught in conjunction and agreement with the teaching of his grace, i.e. the gospel of our salvation. They are what are involved in walking in the Spirit, which involves obeying our Lord and doing what he says (See Jas. 1:22-25). “No one who lives in him keeps on sinning. No one who continues to sin has either seen him or known him” (See 1 Jn. 3:6). “No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God’s seed remains in them; they cannot go on sinning, because they have been born of God” (1 Jn. 3:9).

This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. If we claim to have fellowship with him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin. 1 John 1:5-7

So, if someone is bringing you a gospel other than this gospel taught in the word of God, then he or she is bringing you a false teaching. If you are being taught that coming to Christ, for instance, involves praying a prayer and so now you have the promise of eternal life with God in heaven, but that you don’t have to turn from your sin, you don’t have to obey God, and you don’t have to please God, then that is false (See Ro. 8:8; 2 Co. 5:9; Gal. 6:8; Eph. 5: 10; Col. 1:9-11; 1 Thes. 4:1; Heb. 11:6) . We don’t obey a set of rules to earn salvation. This is true. But genuine faith in Jesus Christ is expressed in a turning from living for sin and self to a walk of faith in the Spirit and in Christ’s righteousness and holiness – all in the power and working of the Spirit within us as we cooperate fully with that work.

We have to understand here that scripture teaches that if we say we know God/Christ, but we continue in sin (in a sinful lifestyle or practice of sin) and we don’t make it our goal to please him and to follow his commandments, that we have no part of him. This is not about perfection, because we are not perfect, but it is a lot about heart attitude, purpose, and intent. We are still human, so we will still fail at times, but that should never be an excuse for willful sin and rebellion against God, claiming that God’s grace covers it all. Many will come before God on the Day of Judgment and will say to him that they did this or that in his name, and he will tell them he never knew them. Make sure today that your salvation is genuine. Make sure it is based in the word of truth and not in the teachings of humans. Read these scriptures quoted here prayerfully and carefully, examining your own heart to make sure you are in the faith, and that you have not bought into a false gospel.

Your New Life / An Original Work
Based off the Gospels / May 15, 2014

Go and make disciples of peoples,
Teaching them to obey their Savior.
Do not fear, but go where He sends you.
Tell them all of what you have heard.

The kingdom of God now is upon you.
Come, and follow Jesus, your Lord.
He will make you fishers of man.

If the people Jesus desire,
They must die to sin and to self-life.
If they want to hold on to their lives
They will lose them forevermore.

Surely you heard that coming to Christ
Means a new life in Jesus, your Lord.
Follow Christ wherever He leads.

Love the Lord with all of your heart, and
Love your neighbors as you would yourself.
Preach the gospel to all the nations.
Do not worry what you will say.

Proclaim the freedom for all the captives.
Share the light with all who are blind.
You are ministers of our God.