The Apostle Paul wrote to the believers, and to us, a wonderful truth in Romans 8:1-4: “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and of death. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.” (ESV)
I have had my own struggles at times to walk consistently without condemnation. I know so many believers who struggle with condemnation, and who are not walking in true peace with God. Why is this? I believe, for myself and others, that we have not fully accepted that because Christ died for all of our sins, God is not “sin conscious” like we are. Many people believe that God can and will forgive them of their smaller sins, but they do not believe that He will ever forgive them of their BIG sins. This, my friend, is not the truth.
Where does this “sin consciousness” come from? Well, we know that the Law was written down for Moses and the Israelites to reveal to them their sin. The law brought judgment and death. But how did this change when Jesus came and was crucified, died and resurrected? Jesus fulfilled the law! Therefore, believers are no longer subject to the law. Yet, to this day, Christians continue to struggle to accept this grace and freedom from the law. Instead, we want to mix parts of the old law into our relationship with God, afraid that if we don’t do certain things or behave in certain ways, He will no longer love us. Could this be why the “Church” is struggling? Is powerless? Is not witnessing the miracles and “greater works” than those Jesus performed, which He promised we would see when He sent the precious Holy Spirit? (John 14:12)
Romans 5:20-21 offers another explanation of the difference between law and grace: “Moreover the law entered that the offense might abound. But where sin abounded, grace abounded much more, so that as sin reigned in death, even so grace might reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” Most believers who have accepted Jesus as their Lord and Savior grasp the “eternal life” part of this verse, but many do not grasp the significance of this promise: “…so grace might reign through righteousness…” It is a powerful and awesome thing to realize that Jesus came to fulfill the old law and to give us a new commandment. What is the new commandment? “And this is His commandment: that we should believe on the name of His Son Jesus Christ and love one another, as He gave us commandment.” (1 John 3:23) There is no higher law or commandment than this one: Believe in what Jesus Christ has done FOR YOU!
The law of the Old Testament was a standard of how mankind was required to live to be righteous before God. Jesus came to fulfill that standard of living, so that we can have His life as a free gift. If you have this in mind as you read the Bible–“I must do EVERYTHING Jesus did”–then you must do everything He did. Let me explain: you must go to the temple, you must wear the clothes that Jesus wore, if you were healed you must go to the temple and sacrifice as Moses commanded, you must keep the Sabbath laws, you must eat only “clean” foods, and the list of requirements goes on and on. Today, only the most devout Jews even attempt to live by the Law of Moses, yet there is a misguided form of law that people in the Church continue to feel bound to. This mixed form of law and grace does not bring life, peace or freedom, because we are “redeemed” from the law and are the recipients of grace through Jesus Christ. Isn’t this great news? Jesus kept all of the rules of the law while He was here on earth. Why? He had to in order to fulfill the law. In order to be the “perfect” sacrifice, He had to be without sin, and if He had not kept the whole law, He could not have been the perfect sacrifice for the sins of the whole world.
So here it is: It is not by our obedience to laws that we can stand holy before God. We can only stand holy before God through the obedience of Jesus Christ on our behalf. Hallelujah!!! This is the manifestation of the love of God toward us: “In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him.” (1 John 4:9)
So, as a believer, what happens when you sin? Is God pleased with your sin? No, He is not pleased with your sin, but this doesn’t change His love for you. Every one of us has messed up, but here is God’s “mess–age”: He took care of our mess! Jesus gave Himself on the cross to atone for all of our sins, for all time. Our sins “died” with Christ on that cross, and because they are now covered by the atoning blood of Christ, God no longer holds our sins against us. That is His grace! So, does that mean we can go on sinning, since God has given us this grace? “By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. For one who has died has been set free from sin.” (Romans 6:2-3, 6-7 ESV)
God wants to know that we love Him, and one of the key ways we show our love to Him is by choosing to receive what Jesus did for us. God gives us the choice, because He wants lovers, not robots. (“We love Him because He first loved us,” 1 John 4:19)
Jesus had the unshakeable knowledge of the Father’s love for Him. We can have this knowledge too, but we must realize that we cannot love Him until we know that He loves us first. His love is placed in us when we believe. The only thing we “do” is receive the free gift of salvation. We don’t have to do good things to earn his love so that He will approve. We must simply live in the work of Christ on the cross and rest in what He has already done for us, what we could never have accomplished for ourselves.
When we first believed on Jesus as our Lord and Savior, many of us were taught Ephesians 2:8-9: “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.” We began our walk of faith by receiving this great and precious promise of grace, which means “unmerited favor.” Yet, as we continued our walk with Christ, many of us fell into the bondage of believing that in order to become holy, we had to “do” holy things. We became focused on works and lost sight of His grace.
I want to reiterate the last half of 1 John 4:9, “. . .that we might live through him.” We can’t live by the law. We must live in and through Christ. God sees us through Jesus. He sees Jesus’ righteousness, Jesus’ shed blood covering us, and Jesus’ perfect, sinless life. It is not by our works of the flesh that we become righteous, not by our own hard work or power. Rather, it is God’s gift to us that Jesus’ life becomes our own, and we are judged, not according to our own failures and acts of selfishness, but according to Jesus’ perfection.
There are two ways God takes away sin: 1) He took upon Himself the punishment for our sin, and 2) For those who believe in the work of Jesus on the cross, He has removed the law. Forgiveness of sin is not just God saying, “I’m not angry with you.” Forgiveness of sin means to set free from the dominating power – the law. My friend, Christ as set you free from the curse of the law. (Galatians 3:13) Praise His name!!! It is easy for sinners to sin. It is easy for believers to do right because we now live in Christ and in the power of the Holy Spirit, not in our own willpower or belief in our own ability to do right.
The gospel of Jesus Christ is the only way that is free from the requirement of works, from having to do things by your own power in order to achieve righteousness. This is the REALLY, REALLY, REALLY good news. . .the GOSPEL! Oh, don’t you just want to praise Him for what He has done for you by taking your sin upon Himself so that you can live a wonderful, peace-filled, satisfying life?
Let’s pray together:
Dear Heavenly Father,
Thank you for sending Your Son Jesus to pay the penalty for all of my sins. I receive what you have done so I can walk in this newness of life. Please show me the areas in my mind where I have been caught up in “law-based thinking” and help me to allow You to replace this with a full acceptance of Your grace. Please help me to be free of “sin-consciousness” and the fear that I can never be “good enough” for You to love. I want to be ever aware of Your grace and love, and to live daily in this wonderful freedom you have given to me by Christ’s holy work on the cross.
In Jesus Mighty name I pray,
Except as noted, all scripture references are from the New King James Version.
By Sherry McPherson | April 21, 2010 11:28 am |
When you were a child, as Christmas approached, your parents may have said something like this to you: “You had better be GOOD, or Santa isn’t going to bring you any presents!” I know mine did. Even though our parents knew they would still give us gifts, the myth of Santa gave them a kind of leverage they used to influence us to be extra good, in case our bad behavior, like fighting with our siblings, might ruin the happiness Christmas was supposed to bring.
A young child’s mind is very impressionable. Even at ages 4, 5 and 6 we have already begun forming mindsets based on our experiences and what we have heard from adults. Much of our belief system is built upon those early experiences; both good and bad.
How many of us have grown up to believe that God must be like Santa Claus? You may have never put the two together as I am suggesting, but I hope you will consider the following observations and examine your own belief system for possible misconceptions about God.
Here is a song almost every child in America has sung many times, not to mention the countless times they’ve heard it on T.V. and radio. Let’s consider this song line by line and then ask some questions:
“Santa Claus Is Coming To Town”
You better watch out, you better not cry,
You better not pout, I’m telling you why,
Santa Claus is coming to town!
Do you believe that God is someone you’d better “watch out for?” You know, in case you haven’t behaved yourself very well? And what about crying and pouting? Do you think God is angry if you cry or pout? Even adults cry and pout sometimes and feel sorry for themselves. Does God turn away and tell us, “Grow up! Get over it?” Is God really that harsh and insensitive? I say He’s not, and so does the Bible! “See what kind of love the Father has given to us that we should be called children of God; and so we are!” (I John 3:1a) “I have loved you with an everlasting love.” (Jeremiah 31:3)
He’s making a list and checking it twice,
Gonna find out who’s naughty or nice,
Santa Claus is coming to town!
Wow! Does God keep a list of all we’ve done? And if we’ve been bad does He use it against us and keep good things from us? Well, yes He knows everything about us: our past, present and future. Most people believe God is capable of this. But God’s reason for keeping track of everything isn’t to see if we’re being good or bad and to knock us over the head if we mess up. If we are in Christ, if He is the Lord of our life, He has cleansed us and we are in His righteousness. Yes, we still mess up and fall short most every day, but His grace is greater! “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by His grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus” (Romans 3:23). And if that wasn’t enough, consider Psalms 103:12: “as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us.”
Now what about the line, “Gonna find out who’s naughty or nice?” By this the child is convinced that he or she must be good enough (perfect?) in order to receive gifts for Christmas. The great news about being a believer in Christ and living for Him is that God shows His love for us in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8). He first loved us, so that is why we are able to love Him (I John 4:19).
But what about this: If we have been a believer for quite some time, we know we are to please God and not sin. But when we do sin, is God mad at us? Will He not forgive us? Will He turn away and not give anything good to us if we’re not perfect? I John 1:9 assures us, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” If we have hurt another person or have sinned against them we need to follow James 5:16, “Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed.”
The Law given to Moses and the Israelites, as recorded in the book of Leviticus, was meant to reveal to the people just how far short they had fallen from the Lord’s standards. The law required the sacrifice of goats, sheep and bulls, so that the shed blood would atone for the people’s sins. Yet, because of their selfish natures, the people were still unable to keep God’s commandments. So God sent His only Son, Jesus Christ, to be the perfect atoning sacrifice for all of mankind, that whoever would believe in Christ as Savior would not die eternal death, but would be saved and have eternal life (John 3:16). God doesn’t force anyone to believe in Jesus. He leaves it up to each of us, individually, to choose to believe and follow Him, and to accept the shed blood of Christ as the atonement for our sins. “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all” (Isaiah 53:6). “Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29).
The next few lines of the song read:
He sees you when you’re sleeping,
He knows when you’re awake,
He knows if you’ve been bad or good,
So be good for goodness sake!
Yes it is true that God sees us when we’re sleeping and He knows when we’re awake. No human person is capable of doing this, only God is. He is omnipresent (always present) and omniscient (all-knowing). “The eyes of the Lord are in every place, keeping watch on the evil and the good” (Psalm 15:3). The message of the Santa Claus song is that you had better be good so you can get good things from a man who comes to your house once a year! But when we have repented of our sins and accepted Christ as our Savior, we can rest assured that as God sees us and knows us, we can feel protected and safe in His presence. Not judged and condemned or in fear that we’ll not receive good things from Him because He’s angry at our behavior. “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set us free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death” (Romans 8:1-2). If we decide to sin and behave in rebellion toward God, we leave ourselves open to the influence of the devil. God sees all of this too, but He leaves us with the choice to follow Him or our own selfish desires.
It is so wonderful how His Holy Spirit reveals truth to us. As we seek Him, He is faithful to transform our hearts, so our desires become His desires, and we find ourselves wanting to do good and to be like Him. And with the help of the Holy Spirit we can become all that God desires for us to be. He longs to help us; not to criticize and judge us.
Have you seen any similarities between your faith walk and “Santa Claus is Coming to Town”? Deep down inside, do you really trust God to be for you and to be there to help you? If not, pray that the Lord will help you replace your wrong beliefs with His truth: “What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31).
The Christian life is a journey. It is a mountain climbing, valley walking, river crossing journey in which we must learn to depend on God and not ourselves. When we mess up we must turn to God and not away from Him, because He loves us and wants to help us get back on His path. And He wants us to experience His love. Why? So we can know His love is always there and will never fail us, and so we can love others as He loves us. “. . .God sent His only Son into the world, so that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another” (I John 4:9-11).
The song ends by repeating the first verse again, “You better watch out.” Do we need to watch out for God? Yes, but not because He wants to punish us. We should watch out for Christ’s return, when He will come to receive his Bride, that is, those who accept Him as Savior and truly follow Him. The Bible says that He will return in the clouds and take us to be with Him forever. “And then they will see the Son of Man coming in the clouds with great power and glory. And then He will send out the angels and gather His elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of the heavens” (Mark 13:26-27). We are to watch and be ready! “Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect” (Matthew 24:44).
I know that I haven’t been perfect, but your Word says that You love me anyway. Forgive me for relying on my own efforts and going my own way. I ask that you help me to step down from the throne of my life and to give You complete control. Please come into my heart and make me new. Help me to see You as the loving Father that You are and help me to then love others as You love me. Thank You that I now see that You are not to be compared to Santa Claus, or to any other man. You are God and You are always with me, guiding me, revealing truth to me and helping me to be transformed into your very likeness. Thank You for being My Lord and Savior!
All scripture references are from the English Standard Version
By Sherry McPherson | December 1, 2009 3:14 pm |