Monday, 11 July 2011

The Obedience Gospel

How foolish can you be? After starting your Christian lives in the Spirit, why are you now trying to become perfect by your own human effort? (Galatians 3:3)

The obedience gospel is probably a term you have not heard before, mostly because I just made it up. Nevertheless, although the term may not be in popular use, there are many adherents to this branch of Christianity. Most people would be more familiar with calling it a works orientated or partial law (like the ten commandments) gospel.  But anyway, I prefer the term the obedience gospel, simply because most people would admit that we are no longer under the law or that we are not saved by our own works, that we are saved by faith alone BUT... They will even go as far as professing a “come as you are” alter call, yet the second after someone has become a Christian, they get lumped with a set of rules that they are expected to keep. Go to a weekly church service or you will backslide, tithe or God won’t bless you, have a quiet time and pray daily, feed the poor etc etc. Those would be the bigger demands but you could add a thousand smaller ones to the list, speak in tongues, pray with a hat on ladies, read only this bible version, don’t listen to Christian rock music…

Now I would say that some of those are good things, some of them even are biblical. But the problem with how the “obedience” scriptures are presented today is that the focus is taken off of Christ and the Spirits work through us and put right back onto our shoulders. The first 90% of the bible shows that man simply cannot fulfill the law, and the new testament commands such as “love your enemies” and  “don’t even lust in your heart or you are guilty of adultery” don’t exactly lower the bar either. So why do we not take all this into account when reading ordinances in the New Testament? The Christian life can be highly discouraging and one can become overwhelmed with a sense of guilt and failure quite quickly when we realize that our best is not good enough.  But some people are to scared to get off the performance track because deep down inside they are still trusting in their own righteousness to tip the scales.

In my eyes the problem is simple, Christians are always trying to live their lives for God, when in reality, what God really wants is to live HIS LIFE through us! He is the only one capable of living the Christ life, and our part is simple, it’s up to us to “die to self” and submit control to Him. Jesus was not impressed with the external purity exhibited by the Pharisees, in Mathew 7 there are people who say “Lord Lord, didn't we prophesy in your name and cast out demons in your name? They had obedience down, but Jesus replies and says ”I never knew you”.

I have a view of the ordinances and so on in the bible not so much as being commands, but promises to those who submit control to God. In other words, what we read as a list of rules and regulations should rather be viewed as fruits in a God controlled life. If my life is not one that shows love and compassion, then it’s not that I need to try harder, but a sign that there is something wrong with my relationship with Christ. This is not making excuses for rebellion, but lifting the burden of righteousness off of our shoulders and having Christ’s righteousness counted toward us and even lived out through us.

If you love me, you will keep my commands. (1 Jn 2:3, Joh 14:15)

I will give you a new heart and put my Spirit in you, causing you to be guided my rules (Ez 36:26-27)

Notice also, how Paul’s emphasis is not on the advise he gives about how to live in victory, but rather on reckoning ourselves to be dead but alive in Christ (excerpts from Romans 6 and Galatians 2 and 6.

Galatians 6

 11-13These people who are attempting to force the ways of circumcision on you have only one motive: They want an easy way to look good before others, lacking the courage to live by a faith that shares Christ's suffering and death. All their talk about the law is gas. They themselves don't keep the law! And they are highly selective in the laws they do observe. They only want you to be circumcised so they can boast of their success in recruiting you to their side. That is contemptible!

 14-16For my part, I am going to boast about nothing but the Cross of our Master, Jesus Christ. Because of that Cross, I have been crucified in relation to the world, set free from the stifling atmosphere of pleasing others and fitting into the little patterns that they dictate. Can't you see the central issue in all this? It is not what you and I do—submit to circumcision, reject circumcision. It is what God is doing, and he is creating something totally new, a free life! All who walk by this standard are the true Israel of God—his chosen people. Peace and mercy on them!

 17Quite frankly, I don't want to be bothered anymore by these disputes. I have far more important things to do—the serious living of this faith. I bear in my body scars from my service to Jesus.

Romans 6

 1-3 So what do we do? Keep on sinning so God can keep on forgiving? I should hope not! If we've left the country where sin is sovereign, how can we still live in our old house there? Or didn't you realize we packed up and left there for good? That is what happened in baptism. When we went under the water, we left the old country of sin behind; when we came up out of the water, we entered into the new country of grace—a new life in a new land!

 3-5 That's what baptism into the life of Jesus means. When we are lowered into the water, it is like the burial of Jesus; when we are raised up out of the water, it is like the resurrection of Jesus. Each of us is raised into a light-filled world by our Father so that we can see where we're going in our new grace-sovereign country.

 6-11 Could it be any clearer? Our old way of life was nailed to the cross with Christ, a decisive end to that sin-miserable life—no longer at sin's every beck and call! What we believe is this: If we get included in Christ's sin-conquering death, we also get included in his life-saving resurrection. We know that when Jesus was raised from the dead it was a signal of the end of death-as-the-end. Never again will death have the last word. When Jesus died, he took sin down with him, but alive he brings God down to us. From now on, think of it this way: Sin speaks a dead language that means nothing to you; God speaks your mother tongue, and you hang on every word. You are dead to sin and alive to God. That's what Jesus did.

 12-14 That means you must not give sin a vote in the way you conduct your lives. Don't give it the time of day. Don't even run little errands that are connected with that old way of life. Throw yourselves wholeheartedly and full-time—remember, you've been raised from the dead!—into God's way of doing things. Sin can't tell you how to live. After all, you're not living under that old tyranny any longer. You're living in the freedom of God.

 15-18 So, since we're out from under the old tyranny, does that mean we can live any old way we want? Since we're free in the freedom of God, can we do anything that comes to mind? Hardly. You know well enough from your own experience that there are some acts of so-called freedom that destroy freedom. Offer yourselves to sin, for instance, and it's your last free act. But offer yourselves to the ways of God and the freedom never quits. All your lives you've let sin tell you what to do. But thank God you've started listening to a new master, one whose commands set you free to live openly in his freedom!

Galatians 2

 For when I tried to keep the law, it condemned me. So I died to the law—I stopped trying to meet all its requirements—so that I might live for God. I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. I live life in this body I live by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.  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 reject God's grace. If a living relationship with God could come by rule-keeping, then Christ died unnecessarily.   (Galatians 2:19-21)

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