Saturday, April 10, 2010

A Bunch of Rubbish or Jesus?

"Steer clear of the barking dogs, those religious busybodies, all bark and no bite. All they're interested in is appearances—knife-happy circumcisers, I call them. The real believers are the ones the Spirit of God leads to work away at this ministry, filling the air with Christ's praise as we do it. We couldn't carry this off by our own efforts, and we know it—even though we can list what many might think are impressive credentials. You know my pedigree: a legitimate birth, circumcised on the eighth day; an Israelite from the elite tribe of Benjamin; a strict and devout adherent to God's law; a fiery defender of the purity of my religion, even to the point of persecuting the church; a meticulous observer of everything set down in God's law Book.

The very credentials these people are waving around as something special, I'm tearing up and throwing out with the trash—along with everything else I used to take credit for. And why? Because of Christ. Yes, all the things I once thought were so important are gone from my life. Compared to the high privilege of knowing Christ Jesus as my Master, firsthand, everything I once thought I had going for me is insignificant—dog dung. I've dumped it all in the trash so that I could embrace Christ and be embraced by him. I didn't want some petty, inferior brand of righteousness that comes from keeping a list of rules when I could get the robust kind that comes from trusting Christ—God's righteousness.

I gave up all that inferior stuff so I could know Christ personally, experience his resurrection power, be a partner in his suffering, and go all the way with him to death itself. If there was any way to get in on the resurrection from the dead, I wanted to do it.

I'm not saying that I have this all together, that I have it made. But I am well on my way, reaching out for Christ, who has so wondrously reached out for me. Friends, don't get me wrong: By no means do I count myself an expert in all of this, but I've got my eye on the goal, where God is beckoning us onward—to Jesus. I'm off and running, and I'm not turning back." Philippians 3:2-14 (The Message)

I could write my own version of this. While I don't think I was very successful at living up to all my self-righteous standards as a legalist, I did try. And I do think that others viewed me as spiritual, godly, etc... So here's my take on the pedigree I've torn up and thrown in the garbage in exchange for the far more glorious life of enjoying intimacy with Jesus:

Born into a Christian family, attended church since a baby, passionately sang worship and praise to God as far back as I can remember, prayed for lost souls with many tears, shared what I thought was the gospel with many, fasted, kept a spiritual/prayer journal, served faithfully and sacrificially in the church, served others by providing free childcare, cooking meals, etc.., tithed and gave money beyond the 10%, read many many spiritual books, read and studied the Bible, confessed sins regularly to God and others, was sorry when I made a mistake or wasn't consistent in my spiritual disciplines and committed to being more faithful, tried to be humble and submissive to my husband, submitted willingly and joyfully to 'spiritual authority', was very careful about what I listened to, read, or watched in the way of media to make sure it was glorifying to God, worked at trying to grow in all the fruits of the Spirit, acknowledged weakness and failures and sought God sincerely to help me change and do/be more like Jesus.


They gained me NOTHING! In fact, the more I did the more self-righteous I became. This self-righteousness alternatingly gave me the high of success and the low of condemnation and failure. And I was addicted to this cycle, couldn't feel godly or spiritual without it.

But I've given it all up and am more than satified with Jesus Christ who has given me his perfect righteousness and completely unearned! I don't need any of those things any more to make me righteous, more holy, more pleasing to God, even more mature. What I need, is initimacy with Jesus. End of story.

You see, all those things can be done on my own. And while I was doing them on my own, 'letting' God help me a little if he would, rather then deepening my intimacy with him I was actally distancing myself from him, cutting myself off from grace and nullifying faith. It makes me wonder...who was more distant from the Father, the prodigal or the older son? The prodigal seemed to have a better understanding of his father's character and love than his older and supposedly more faithful brother.
I've been the older brother but I don't want to be suspicious of my father anymore. I don't want to work for him as a slave, not revelling in his love or enjoying the benefits of sonship.

As for my list of good (more like dead) works, it becomes of no use to me anymore. Everything I was ever trying to gain I've found in Jesus.


The Righteousness of God said...

Beautifully put! I was sharing with my brother about the passages in Phil.3 and said a picture is worth a thousand words & that I wanted to take some dung, put it in a picture frame with my name & Phil.3 next to it. He just shook his head like I was crazy. The point is, and I know you already know, is that most I have met do not count all their credentials, status & especially their obedience to the law for righteousness as dung. All I know is that if when I preach/teach this, if Im misunderstood and not invited back...WHO CARES! I want the world to know that Im in love with Jesus, not all of the religious trappings Paul listed as dung, manure, waste, trash. Way to go on this post Juls, way to go!

bibl774 said...

Matthew 7:21..."Not everyone who says to Me, Lord, Lord. will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter."

The faith that says but does not do is really unbelief.

jul said...

Thanks Righteousness! Glad you enjoyed it.

Hi Barb, nice to see you back. Great verse from Matthew reminding us that it doesn't matter how spiritual we look or act, or how many dead works we may perform, what counts is knowing Jesus the way Paul is describing in the passage I put up.

Faith IS obedience. John 6:28-29

"Then they asked him, "What must we do to do the works God requires?"

Jesus answered, "The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent."

Our 'work' is to believe and then we abide in Jesus, entering his rest. By entering his rest we declare that we believe what Jesus proclaimed from the Cross: IT IS FINISHED!!!!! We now have been crucified with Christ and he lives in us by his Spirit. And his Spirit produces in us every good fruit! But if we choose to live by our own efforts under the Law and allow our flesh to work hard we will produce all sorts of sin.
See Galatians 5:16-26

"But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.

Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires."

Now I'm guessing that you can clearly see the warning here that "those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God". But can you clearly see that those who do these things are doing them because they are under law and not the Spirit? That they are putting their faith in their flesh, their human effort to work? This is the trap.

The gospel is backwards from any worldly system or wisdom. It is not until we give up trying to be good and do good that we are free to be yielded to the Spirit who lives in us and learn to let Jesus be Jesus in us and through us.

Ask a lifeguard whether they can easier save a drowning person who is struggling to survive on their own or who gives up the struggle to trust the lifeguard to save them. Many people drown not because there is no one to save them but because they won't trust the one who came to save them.

Faith never leads to further dead works, and many have confused dead works with good works. Good works, or fruit, can only come through the Spirit of God at work in someone who has received the free gift of the righteousness of God by faith and has given up trying to do and be righteous by obedience.

And true faith is never a saying, it is a doing. Believing is our work. (many grace people would not agree with me here!) It is our only work, and even our faith is a gift from God in that it is our response to a gospel which is so powerful it enables faith to rise up in us for salvation.

But don't get me going on how amazing the gospel is, I could ramble on all day!

I hope this helps explain what I believe better. Feel free to ask questions and challenge with Scripture. I've wrestled through most of the seemingly contradictory Scriptures throughout the process of coming in to more revelation of grace. Surprisingly, most are simple to understand once taken out of the context of bad teaching and put into its original context of the words before and after...

The Righteousness of God said...

I agree with you Jul's, the 'work,' John 6:28-29, is the 'will of My Father,' Matt.7:21, that is 'THE COMMANDMENT' in 1John 3:23-24. I like to ask this question for those who put out 'not everyone & many shall say' in Matt.7 that "What is the will of my Father" in Matt.7:21? & What are the "works" James is speaking of in that letter? If 'no man (everyone)' is justified by 'the works' of the law, then 'what works' must I 'do' to be saved? It is 'to believe on the One who God has sent, Jesus Christ.' Hebrews 4, states "He (you or me) who have entered into His (Gods) rest (Jesus) has CEASED (STOPPED) from his (you or me who believe in/on Jesus) own works (the law & ceremonies, feast days, Levitical diet & rituals) and now we 'work/labor' to enter into His rest. Example: When I am bothered or began to worry about income, I labor to enter into His rest, that is, I labor/work to enter into what Christ has done for me to prosper which when I began to be at rest with what Christ has done, I am now 'doing the will of God which is believing on the Lord Jesus in what He has done!' In the New Covenant, the only sin God is dealing with is the sin of unbelief in Jesus, John 16:8-11. This is the 'sin that so easily throws us off track' in Hebrews 12 because of the weights self righteous people try to put on us which is anything other than 'believing on Jesus in every area of our life.' The 'workers of iniquity/lawless & disobedient are not people who break the big 10 commandments but the wolves in sheep clothing, Matt.7:15 that are the 'many who say Lord Lord have we not....' the wolves in sheep clothing dont 'work/believe' on Jesus, they 'work on believing in themselves.' God can never say to those He has conceived/born again that He never knew them!We 'do the will of God' by believing on Jesus, we do the work of the devil by 'believing on our own obedience/works.'

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