“What dynamic transforms us into the image of Christ? Is it through will power, looking at the law and being determined to never sin again? Is it through the power of shame and guilt that we are transformed?” (Pure Grace)
I think not! God forbid! May it never be! “I suggest that there is no other conclusion which can be drawn from those who teach versions of legalism? They say if you can make sin look grotesque enough, believers will stop sinning. How is that working for you? I have a Greek word for that philosophy – baloney!” (Clark Whitten)
Either we choose to rest in the dynamic of Christ’s finished work, or we will foolishly seek ways to finish it ourselves and continue in a hopeless journey of defeat after defeat! The following passages from Galatians could not be clearer as to what Our Father in Christ is offering to us!
But first; we must face our foolishness which manifests itself in our human/fleshly or religious strategies! And I had to admit that all my efforts; good intentioned as they usually were-were only perpetuating my being “stuck on stupid.” I submit to your heart; Jesus paid it all! Stupid, foolish, crazy, defeated, hopeless; are not words associated with Christ’s perfect and finished work on Calvary!
The following scriptures provide ample, simple and clear evidence that our only hope is to believe the Gospel for ourselves! Why?
12 “God means what he says. What he says goes. His powerful Word is sharp as a surgeon's scalpel, cutting through everything, whether doubt or defense, laying us open to listen and obey. 13 Nothing and no one is impervious to God's Word. We can't get away from it - no matter what. The High Priest Who Cried Out in Pain…” Hebrews 4: 12-13 (Msg)
14.” Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has gone through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. 15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are--yet was without sin. 16 Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” Hebrews 4: 14-16 (NIV)
Considering the above admonition from Hebrews 4, we are encouraged to give ourselves a spiritual check-up; to be totally assured that it is the Pure Gospel of Grace that we are staking our lives upon!
Galatians 3:1-14 (Msg) You crazy Galatians! Did someone put a hex on you? Have you taken leave of your senses? Something crazy has happened, for it's obvious that you no longer have the crucified Jesus in clear focus in your lives. His sacrifice on the Cross was certainly set before you clearly enough.
2 Let me put this question to you: How did your new life begin? Was it by working your heads off to please God? Or was it by responding to God's Message to you? 3 Are you going to continue this craziness? For only crazy people would think they could complete by their own efforts what was begun by God. If you weren't smart enough or strong enough to begin it, how do you suppose you could perfect it? 4 Did you go through this whole painful learning process for nothing? It is not yet a total loss, but it certainly will be if you keep this up!
5 Answer this question: Does the God who lavishly provides you with his own presence, his Holy Spirit, working things in your lives you could never do for yourselves, does he do these things because of your strenuous moral striving or because you trust him to do them in you? 6 Don't these things happen among you just as they happened with Abraham? He believed God, and that act of belief was turned into a life that was right with God. 7 Is it not obvious to you that persons who put their trust in Christ (not persons who put their trust in the law!) are like Abraham: children of faith?
8 It was all laid out beforehand in Scripture that God would set things right with non-Jews by faith. Scripture anticipated this in the promise to Abraham: "All nations will be blessed in you." 9 So those now who live by faith are blessed along with Abraham, who lived by faith - this is no new doctrine! 10 And that means that anyone who tries to live by his own effort, independent of God, is doomed to failure. Scripture backs this up: "Utterly cursed is every person who fails to carry out every detail written in the Book of the law." 11 The obvious impossibility of carrying out such a moral program should make it plain that no one can sustain a relationship with God that way.
The person who lives in right relationship with God does it by embracing what God arranges for him. Doing things for God is the opposite of entering what God does for you. Habakkuk had it right: "The person, who believes God, is set right by God - and that's the real life."
12 Rule-keeping does not naturally evolve into living by faith, but only perpetuates itself in more and more rule-keeping, a fact observed in Scripture: "The one who does these things [rule-keeping] continues to live by them." 13 Christ redeemed us from that self-defeating, cursed life by absorbing it completely into himself. Do you remember the Scripture that says, "Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree"? That is what happened when Jesus was nailed to the Cross: He became a curse, and at the same time dissolved the curse.
14 And now, because of that, the air is cleared and we can see that Abraham's blessing is present and available for non-Jews, too. We are all able to receive God's life, his Spirit, in and with us by believing - just the way Abraham received it.
Galatians 4:4-10 (Msg) But when the time arrived that was set by God the Father, God sent his Son, born among us of a woman, born under the conditions of the law so that he might redeem those of us who have been kidnapped by the law. 5 Thus we have been set free to experience our rightful heritage.
6 You can tell for sure that you are now fully adopted as his own children because God sent the Spirit of his Son into our lives crying out, "Papa! Father!" 7 Doesn't that privilege of intimate conversation with God make it plain that you are not a slave, but a child? And if you are a child, you're also an heir, with complete access to the inheritance.
8 Earlier, before you knew God personally, you were enslaved to so-called gods that had nothing of the divine about them. 9 But now that you know the real God - or rather since God knows you - how can you possibly subject yourselves again to those paper tigers? 10 For that is exactly what you do when you are intimidated into scrupulously observing all the traditions, taboos, and superstitions associated with special days and seasons and years
Galatians 5: 1-6 (Msg) Christ has set us free to live a free life. So take your stand! Never again let anyone put a harness of slavery on you. 2 I am emphatic about this. The moment any one of you submits to circumcision or any other rule-keeping system, at that same moment Christ's hard-won gift of freedom is squandered. 3 I repeat my warning: The person who accepts the ways of circumcision trades all the advantages of the free life in Christ for the obligations of the slave life of the law. (Is this not sobering enough to get out attention?)
4 I suspect you would never intend this, but this is what happens. When you attempt to live by your own religious plans and projects, you are cut off from Christ, you fall out of grace. 5 Meanwhile we expectantly wait for a satisfying relationship with the Spirit. 6 For in Christ, neither our most conscientious religion nor disregard of religion amounts to anything. What matters is something far more interior: faith expressed in love.
Galatians 5: 13-14 (Msg) It is absolutely clear that God has called you to a free life. Just make sure that you don't use this freedom as an excuse to do whatever you want to do and destroy your freedom. Rather, use your freedom to serve one another in love; that's how freedom grows. 14 For everything we know about God's Word is summed up in a single sentence: Love others as you love yourself. That's an act of true freedom.
Galatians 2: 18-21 (Msg) If I was "trying to be good," I would be rebuilding the same old barn that I tore down. I would be acting as a charlatan. 19 What actually took place is this: I tried keeping rules and working my head off to please God, and it didn't work. So I quit being a "law man" so that I could be God's man.
20 Christ's life showed me how, and enabled me to do it. I identified myself completely with him. Indeed, I have been crucified with Christ. My ego is no longer central. It is no longer important that I appear righteous before you or have your good opinion, and I am no longer driven to impress God. Christ lives in me. The life you see me living is not "mine," but it is lived by (the) faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.
21 I am not going to go back on that. Is it not clear to you that to go back to that old rule-keeping, peer-pleasing religion would be an abandonment of everything personal and free in my relationship with God? I refuse to do that, to repudiate God's grace. If a living relationship with God could come by rule-keeping, then Christ died unnecessarily.
Look, these are no small matters! Our embracing of the Grace and Mercy by/of faith extended through Jesus Christ is our only hope. But, what a pregnant hope it is! We can never exhaust the depths, widths, heights or lengths that Jesus went through on Calvary for our freedom. He has given us the opportunity in faith to truly know His Father as Our Father! He is also offering to baptize us in His Holy Spirit, who empowers us to walk in His righteousness, power and freedom; instead of our weakness and defeat. Can you identify with the following?
Romans 7: 15-25 (Msg) What I don't understand about myself is that I decide one way, but then I act another, doing things I absolutely despise. 16 So if I can't be trusted to figure out what is best for me and then do it, it becomes obvious that God's command is necessary. 17 But I need something more! For if I know the law but still can't keep it, and if the power of sin within me keeps sabotaging my best intentions, I obviously need help!
18 I realize that I don't have what it takes. I can will it, but I can't do it. 19 I decide to do good, but I don't really do it; I decide not to do bad, but then I do it anyway. 20 My decisions, such as they are, don't result in actions. Something has gone wrong deep within me and gets the better of me every time. 21 It happens so regularly that it's predictable. The moment I decide to do good, sin is there to trip me up.
22 I truly delight in God's commands, 23 but it's pretty obvious that not all of me join in that delight. Parts of me covertly rebel, and just when I least expect it, they take charge. 24 I've tried everything and nothing helps. I'm at the end of my rope. Is there no one who can do anything for me? Isn't that the real question?
25 The answer, thank God, is that Jesus Christ can and does. He acted to set things right in this life of contradictions where I want to serve God with all my heart and mind, but am pulled by the influence of sin to do something totally different.
I know this battle all too well! And, I refuse to continue to fool myself about me! Instead, I trust Jesus-PERIOD!
Romans 8: 1-3 (Msg) With the arrival of Jesus, the Messiah, that fateful dilemma is resolved. Those who enter Christ’s being-here-for-us no longer have to live under a continuous, low-lying black cloud. 2 A new power is in operation. The Spirit of life in Christ, like a strong wind, has magnificently cleared the air, freeing you from a fated lifetime of brutal tyranny at the hands of sin and death. 3 God went for the jugular when he sent his own Son. He didn't deal with the problem as something remote and unimportant. In his Son, Jesus, he personally took on the human condition, entered the disordered mess of struggling humanity to set it right once and for all.
In Him and Him alone our lives truly are BEYOND HOPE! Ron Ross