Position Versus Practice-2

Yesterday, we considered the amazing and wonderful "position" given to us who receive His Son as Savior and Lord. God's Grace is superabundant, indeed! Today, we look at our actual "practice." Some contend that a "perfect legal standing" granted to them would give them immunity from judgment and they would be free to sin with no consequences. What a pathetic lack of understanding of the scope and wonder of Salvation! First of all, would God draw to Himself someone who only seeks an excuse to sin? (If He did, it would be with an eye to deliver them from such an awful attitude). Secondly, God implants a new nature in us at conversion. This "new nature" craves holiness and motivates us to abhor that which is evil. Thirdly, the Blessed Holy Spirit uses the Word of God and His teaching and convicting ministry to gradually conform us to the image of Christ (i.e; shape us into His likeness [Romans 8:29]). If we are truly saved, there will be grief and regret when we fall into sin. Fourth, God has ways of lovingly, and yet sometimes painfully, correcting and restoring us (Hebrews 12:11).  He is constantly at work in us and in our behalf (Philippians 1:6; Philippians 2:13). Having paid such a price for our redemption, God never stops working to bring our practice into conformity with our position. Selah! God never gives up on His children!    Ron

His aim? "….to present you holy and unblamable and unreprovable in his sight…." (From Philippians 1:22). He doesn't miss!

Position Versus Practice-1

Today's title calls attention to one of the most important teachings in Scripture. I am not using "versus" in the sense of competing. I'm considering it as two interlocked facets of our Salvation experience. Let's begin with "position" (or our "standing" with God). When we trust in Jesus as our Savior and Lord, when we turn our lives over to Him and we are reborn (Spiritually) from above, we are given an amazing blessing from God. We are given a "position;" a legal "standing." We are declared legally perfect! How can that be? It's because of an astonishing "swap" or exchange. Jesus takes all of our sin, corruption and guilt on Himself and dies on the Cross to pay the penalty for all the wrong that we have been and done! Then, wonder of wonders, we find that that includes all the wrong that is to come. All our evil, wicked sin and sins, past, present and future were atoned for on that Cross! However, that's only half of the provision. In His Grace, God credits us with Christ's Perfect righteousness. In this wonderful act of God, He views us as  being as righteous as His Son! This is why we are told that: "There is, therefore, now no condemnation to them who are in Christ Jesus." (From Romans 8:1). Ephesians 1:4;  Colossians 3:1-4 and Psalm 103:12 are some places in Scripture that underscore this legal "standing."  No wonder the hymnwriter exclaims, "Justified fully thro' Calvary's love, O what a standing is mine!" (John W. Peterson). But what about my actual behavior, you might ask. Well, that is for tomorrow's article, God willing. Selah! By way of a slight preview, let me ask a question. Why wouldn't our "position" give us an excuse to try and get away with sinning? Be sure and drop by tomorrow!     Ron

Trembling

When was the last time that we trembled, not in fear, but with an overwhelming awareness of God's awesome Presence? I have been very conscious of His Presence at various times. I have consistently held an intellectual belief in His Holiness. I have sensed His Holiness in times of prayer and study of His Word. I have feared the Holiness of God, when faced with guilt and conviction for sin, until I confess and receive forgiveness. But, trembling?  Have I, have we "trembled" before Him? Isaiah must have trembled when he felt "…the posts of the door moved at the voice of him who cried…." (From Isaiah 6:4). Oh, that God's house (the Church) might feel His Presence like that, in our present day! When the angel was sent with a message from God for Daniel, this is how Daniel described his reaction to it, ".…And when he had spoken this word unto me, I stood trembling." (From Daniel 10:11). As we experience the sanctifying aspect of our salvation, we are instructed to, "...work out your own salvation with fear and trembling." (From Philippians  2:12). Could the too often "anemic" outworking of salvation in many today be traceable to not trembling with the serious responsibility of cultivating a holy walk? What about our life work? Do we decide what we are going to do and be, or is God's Will the determining factor? Consider Saul's career altering encounter with the Living God. So great was this Holy Vision, that he fell to the ground, "….trembling and astonished…." (From Acts 9:6). The outcome? In his own words, "….Lord, what wilt Thou have me to do…?" (From Same Verse). Selah! An indication of true discipleship is how seriously we take the Presence, the working of and the Word of God!    Ron

"…but to this man will I look, even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembleth at My Word." (From Isaiah 66:2).

Ignorance is No Excuse!

Keep in mind that inherent in the word "ignorance" is the act of ignoring. Why do I mention this? Because, there is abundant information available to us now, more than ever before. This is true in relation to Christianity as well. We have access to the Bible, which is the Truth. We also have available more helps than at any time in history. We have explanatory help. We have helps to defend the Truth. We have tools with which to expose error. With all these aids, there is no excuse for us to ignore them. Why are these resources so seldom drawn on? In some cases, we are unaware of them. (Now that you know that info is available, all you have to do is seek it out). In many cases, it is laziness that keeps us from utilizing them. Another reason is our being distracted with lesser things. The bottom line is that we choose to "ignore!" Let me extract a phrase from God's Word that pinpoints the problem: "…they willingly are ignorant…." (From II Peter 3:5).  They willed to "ignore Truth!" When we neglect the things that matter most, we are guilty of ignorance! Let me borrow another phrase that reminds us of our responsibility: "…I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren..."  (From I Thessalonians 4:13). While this phrase is used, in this instance, in relation to the Rapture, the principle overlaps all Truth. That is why we are commanded to, "Study to show thyself approved unto God, a "work"man that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the Word of Truth" (II Timothy 2:15). If you are one of those who are not ignoring, you are to be commended. If you are not one of those, it's time to change! Selah! With all the attacks on the Bible, on our society, and on the church, it is indeed time to pay attention to God's commands and stop ignoring!   Ron

Legalism, License and the Spirit of the Law

A little long but well done!  Mr. Oakley has written some very timely articles.

The “spirit of the law” spoken of in the New Testament (in passages such as Rom. 2:29 and 2 Cor. 3:6) is revealed to and in a believer through the Holy Spirit, not through self-indulgence, not through self-righteousness, not, in fact, through “self”-anything but through God Himself.

Knowledge of the difference between the letter of the law and the spirit of the law is at the very core of the new life granted to the children of God through Christ. It is part and parcel of the freedom bought for us at the cross and absolutely essential to fully experiencing that freedom. The opposite errors of legalism and license that have plagued so many Christians through the centuries are both derived from a functional ignorance of what Jesus came to deliver His people from and both lead back to spiritual bondage.

In the case of legalism this ignorance manifests itself in a futile attempt to earn our way to God through self-righteous moral scrupulosity. Legalism may be based on codes of conduct obvious or implicit in either the Old or New Testaments, but in each case it is manifested by works that originate in the self rather than in the enabling power of God.

Furthermore the motivation behind legalism is often found in a combination of pride and fear of punishment rather than love of Christ. Because of this faulty motivation those caught up in it cannot please God no matter how holy their conduct may appear. They are out of touch with the grace and kindness of God, the only things that lead to true repentance in humility of spirit. People who are bound up in legalism have bypassed the cross to their own harm and the harm of those under their sway. To be completely given over to legalism is to exhibit the same alienation from the Son of God for which the Pharisees were condemned.

Licentiousness, meanwhile, shows an ignorance of the continued destructive power of sin. This is the error that says that Jesus came to abolish the law rather than fulfill it. To be licentious is to be morally self-indulgent, to commit obvious or subtle sins in the mistaken belief that one can somehow avoid sin’s wages because one has been released to do so by grace.

But, as Paul said in Romans, “Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase? May it never be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it?” (Rom. 6:1-2). License does not prove freedom from the law of God, but only defiance of that law. Its end is the same slavery to sin that held us before we came to know Christ, and, like unrepentant legalism, licentiousness begs the question of whether we ever knew Him at all.

Standing over and against both these potentially deadly errors is living in a state of harmony with the “spirit of the law”. This is the hallmark of the truly surrendered and Spirit-filled Christian. Such a person is no longer ruled by the opposite poles of self-centeredness apparent in legalism and license, but by the Spirit of Christ Himself. This kind of believer is not sinless, no Christian this side of Heaven is, but the law is in the process of being written on his or her heart.

This can only happen when the Holy Spirit has so shifted our attention off ourselves that Jesus is before our spiritual eyes more than we are. He then progressively fulfills the law in us and makes us truly holy as He is holy. We come to embody the fulfillment of the law that our Lord and Savior achieved on Calvary.

True freedom from sin is the lasting fruit of this vicarious fulfillment. The Spirit behind the law now becomes resident in our deepest hearts and we are set free to live in the true righteousness we once tried to either simulate or reject.

© 2009 by Shea Oakley
All rights reserved

Shea Oakley is a freelance Christian writer from Ridgewood, New Jersey

“Originally published in Pulpit Helps Magazine, used by permission. www.pulpithelps.com.”

An Endangered Species?

 The greatest mission ever undertaken by any human being is the mission to penetrate the darkness of Spiritually blinded people with the "….light of the glorious gospel of Christ…." (From II Corinthians 4:4). This mission, delegated to the Church, is the responsibility and privilege of all believers, beginning with where our lives intersect with other lives, and stretching to the most remote places on earth. All are called to execute this mission locally, some are specially chosen to carry out a foreign assignment. (This is a good place to be reminded that there is no "foreign field" from God's point of view. The world is the field)! So anyone not participating in this mission is AWOL. But why would anyone avoid active duty? There are a variety of reasons. Let's examine a few. There is a cacophony of siren voices clamoring for our attention. Entertainment, "toys," materialism, desired careers, self-centered, discordant and distorted music, and relationships, are examples of ways in which the voice of Jesus is drowned out from our hearing. He is calling all believers to participate in this grand mission. Can you hear Him? Get away, alone with Him, removed from all these distractions and listen carefully to that "…still small Voice…." (From I Kings 19:12). Then, answer His call to service! Selah! There is another tragic explanation for the failure to hear the Voice of God. Too many pulpits are not telling us what our Savior is saying regarding this great mission and our part in it.   Ron

This is what we need to hear: "….Go ye into all the world, and preach (proclaim) the gospel to every creature." (From Mark 16:15). Are we listening?

A Prayer Befitting a Disciple

Oh! for a heart that is burdened! Infused with a passion to pray;

Oh! for a stirring within me;  Oh!  for His power every day.

Oh! for a heart like My Savior, Who, being in agony prayed.

Such caring for others, Lord,  give me; On my heart let burdens be laid.

My father, I long for this passion, to pour myself out for the lost-

To lay down my life to save others-"to pray" whatever the cost.

Lord, teach me, Oh teach me this secret, I'm hungry this lesson to learn,

This passionate passion for others, for this, blessed Jesus, I yearn.

Father, this lesson I long for from Thee-Oh, let Thy Spirit reveal this to me.

                                                 –Mary Warburton Booth

"Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, Whom shall I send, and who will go for us? Then said I, Here am I; send me"  (Isaiah 6:8).