Galatians 2:19-21 (Message)
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. 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 faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. 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.
I am a rule follower by nature. I do not want to know the consequences or what-if’s associated with wrong doing. Illegal activity is not enticing to me because I am afraid to go to jail. I do not understand those who live like this. I also am challenged by Christians who profess Christ but live in the world making no attempt at all to be righteous. I am judgmental. I know the words sound harsh. Imagine how I spoke when the Holy Spirit revealed this to me. For some reason, I had adopted the philosophy that there was such a thing as “more right” that I was unconscious of until now. Somehow along my own journey with Christ, I applied my rules of living to others when that was not what the Lord intended. I became jealous when those who live “carelessly” were blessed. I was envious when the blessings of the Lord seemed to show up on their doorstep and in their mailboxes every other day. It was easy to sit up on my throne and look down on others excusing God’s Provision and Blessing as products of their own design that would be part of the corruptible things that would soon deteriorate. How does this happen? How could I forget how Jesus Christ found me? How He saved me even in the midst of my mess and gave me the wonderful life that I now live? Truth is that we all do sometimes whether we care to admit it or not. For just a little while, we forget that the life we live is not our own, but the product of faith resulting from the Holy Inhabitation of Jesus Christ inside of us. What I do does not move the Heart of God, who I am does. So today, I will stop working for salvation and start working it out. I am in right standing with God only because Jesus Christ is standing on the inside of me.
Titus 3:3-8 (Message)
It wasn’t so long ago that we ourselves were stupid and stubborn, dupes of sin, ordered every which way by our glands, going around with a chip on our shoulder, hated and hating back. But when God, our kind and loving Savior God, stepped in, he saved us from all that. It was all his doing; we had nothing to do with it. He gave us a good bath, and we came out of it new people, washed inside and out by the Holy Spirit. Our Savior Jesus poured out new life so generously. God’s gift has restored our relationship with him and given us back our lives. And there’s more life to come—an eternity of life! You can count on this.
My siblings and I are the result of a blended family. I have a full sibling, a half sibling, an adopted sibling and a step sibling. My brother, sister and I were all raised by the same father. He was strict and reinforced very strong work ethics that have allowed us to become productive adults. However, my half-brother shared our mother and a different father who was very laid back and easy going. He was not a staunch disciplinarian and chose to allow his child to pretty much live like he wanted and find his own way through life without much guidance and direction. He covered his faults but did not require anything of him. My half-brother has spent most of his adult life in prison. The role of father in the family dynamics is very important. Even though my half-brother and I share the same mother, we have chosen very different paths. Nevertheless, God loves him. I have been just as stubborn and stupid as he has been. I have been duped by sin, too. I have lived by my emotions and feelings, as well as going around with a chip on my shoulder at times. The difference in the outcome of our life, I believe has a great deal to do with our natural fathers. But in the realm of the supernatural, we are on equal playing fields. There is no one who has accomplished life without sin. Everyone has failed to meet God’s Glorious standard of living. We all have the same Father who has done the exact same thing to put us back into right standing with Him. There is nothing that I can do even by attempting to be a good person and follow all the “rules” that will keep me from being captive by sin but Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ poured out His Life so that everyone could have the gift of a restored life no matter how far they have fallen. Who are we to put a hierarchy on sin or decide the requirements of righteousness that allows one to prosper? We do it all the time. Jealousy and envy are produced by a heart that believes one is loved and cared for over another and unjustly. When we evaluate the life of another rather than examining our heart for faith and belief in God alone, we are imprisoned and taken captive once more. Whom the Son sets free is free indeed, we can work to earn such freedom! (John 8:36)
Romans 3:21-24 (Message)
But in our time something new has been added. What Moses and the prophets witnessed to all those years has happened. The God-setting-things-right that we read about has become Jesus-setting-things-right for us. And not only for us, but for everyone who believes in him. For there is no difference between us and them in this. Since we’ve compiled this long and sorry record as sinners (both us and them) and proved that we are utterly incapable of living the glorious lives God wills for us, God did it for us. Out of sheer generosity he put us in right standing with himself. A pure gift. He got us out of the mess we’re in and restored us to where he always wanted us to be. And he did it by means of Jesus Christ.
We proved that we were utterly incapable of living the glorious life that God willed for us. Reference back to the garden, this is when humanity chose something less than God’s Best. The only way that we can choose God’s Glorious Standard of living once more is found in Christ alone. We add on the other parts in an effort or attempt to earn the free gift that we have been given. You cannot ever earn a gift but you can show your appreciation for it by using it and offering thanksgiving and praise to the giver. Aside from that, the purchase has been made and paid in full. (Romans 4:1-5) However, because of our selfish nature we have trouble receiving because we do not want to owe anyone anything. We want to be our own person and live our own life. This is a trap for Christians, too. We begin to believe that if we do what the Word says, it entitles us to more prosperity and more promise than those who keep falling all around us. When those people get blessed, we are highly offended that God has overlooked our offering. However, God is not interested in anything that we do as a means of salvation. He wants one thing – our faith. The Lord wants us to stop trying to impress Him and learn to embrace Him more and more.
Galatians 3:11-12 (Message)
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 into 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.” 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.”
A right relationship with God is nothing more than fully embracing what God has prearranged for us. Doing things “for” God is the opposite of entering into what God does “for” you. Let that soak in for a minute, if you are like me you will see the reverse order we are guilty of so many times. To believe in God is to be set right with God – there is nothing more that we can do humanly to “earn” righteousness. We do not know how to and we when give the opportunity to do so – we chose something else entirely. It is human nature to rebel against God’s Will and Way. We want His Word to come to pass but are unwilling to do what it takes to secure it. No it is nothing something we can work for by following all of God’s Rules. It is attained by faith alone. Faith in God alone that abandons belief in this world and what we can see and do to fully embrace all that Christ has done for you! This idea totally messes with the “doers” of this world like me who are more comfortable working in our own strength than relying on anyone else. Situations in my early life had made me a survivor who has a difficult time operating in the unknown and unscheduled which usually is the way that God does things in my life. If it takes too long, I get antsy. If it doesn’t look like I think it should, I over analyze it. To fully embrace Jesus Christ means putting all my faith, hope and love into this relationship that I am building with Him rather than working on it all the time, I must live in it day by day!
Hebrews 4:1-7 (Message)
For as long, then, as that promise of resting in him pulls us on to God’s goal for us, we need to be careful that we’re not disqualified. We received the same promises as those people in the wilderness, but the promises didn’t do them a bit of good because they didn’t receive the promises with faith. If we believe, though, we’ll experience that state of resting. But not if we don’t have faith. Remember that God said, exasperated, I vowed, “They’ll never get where they’re going, never be able to sit down and rest.” God made that vow, even though he’d finished his part before the foundation of the world. Somewhere it’s written, “God rested the seventh day, having completed his work,” but in this other text he says, “They’ll never be able to sit down and rest.” So this promise has not yet been fulfilled. Those earlier ones never did get to the place of rest because they were disobedient. God keeps renewing the promise and setting the date as today, just as he did in David’s psalm, centuries later than the original invitation: Today, please listen, don’t turn a deaf ear . . .
Every single promise that God has for you comes from His Original Plan for your life. God is not a man and He does not lie or change His Mind. So on the seventh day when He rested, it was because He was done and satisfied with His Creation. Man was the discontent party. We thought that surely there must be something better and walked away. The Promise of God for your life was not changed or altered by man’s rebellion just placed on hold until right standing with God could be re-established. To believe and have faith in God means to rest on these promises, if you feel compelled to constantly work on “rule following” rather than “relationship finding” than you will miss His Promise all together. It was the Lord’s Intention all along to give you good things. Each day His Mercy renews His Promises and His Grace sets that day as THE day that you will find the Lord’s Favor and be blessed. It is not a matter of what you are doing but what you believe that determines the outcome of each moment of every single day that has been predetermined for your good and prosperity according to His Promises. Will you rest in the Love of God today and receive His Promises? Or will you continue to run around trying to work for it?
John 16:8-11 (Message)
“When he comes, he’ll expose the error of the godless world’s view of sin, righteousness, and judgment: He’ll show them that their refusal to believe in me is their basic sin; that righteousness comes from above, where I am with the Father, out of their sight and control; that judgment takes place as the ruler of this godless world is brought to trial and convicted.”
Sin is refusal to believe God. Everything that we do contrary to His Word means that we do not believe the Truth. Obedience is an offering not an obligation. To say that obedience gives power to our faith is inaccurate – it is the product of faith that allows confident hope to keep us in right standing thanks to Jesus Christ. The Lord has positioned us in right standing – the only way to get out of it is to walk away. (Romans 5:1-2) If we choose to be patient and wait on the Lord, we will have all that He has promised. We accomplish this by faith in God alone. (Romans 5:3-5) There is nothing that we can do other than believe to receive the Promises of God for our life. To believe keeps us right where we need to be. The only credential that we have is Jesus Christ. (Philippians 3:7-9) It doesn’t matter if we are a strong Christian or faithful follower, the only thing that matters is do we believe in Jesus Christ. Believing and doing become seamless once righteousness is truly established. You will do what God wants because you cannot help but honor Him with your life. If obedience is your effort to move the Hand of God, you have missed the point altogether. If you think you believe, but do nothing to further your relationship to God and fully embrace Christ than you are living a lie. (James 2:25-26) Obedience is a product of what we believe and does nothing to produce faith in our life. (I John 5:1-5) God is looking at our heart every day and all day. Without faith and belief in God you can do all the right things and still not maintain righteousness. This is why weakness is a requirement. So that we can fully perceive that His Grace is all that we need to live in right standing with Him. (2 Corinthians 12:7-10) God’s Strength is most evident in my total weakness. Faith is born the moment that we can do nothing and He becomes our everything.
2 Corinthians 5:16-20 (Message)
Because of this decision we don’t evaluate people by what they have or how they look. We looked at the Messiah that way once and got it all wrong, as you know. We certainly don’t look at him that way anymore. Now we look inside, and what we see is that anyone united with the Messiah gets a fresh start, is created new. The old life is gone; a new life burgeons! Look at it! All this comes from the God who settled the relationship between us and him, and then called us to settle our relationships with each other. God put the world square with himself through the Messiah, giving the world a fresh start by offering forgiveness of sins. God has given us the task of telling everyone what he is doing. We’re Christ’s representatives. God uses us to persuade men and women to drop their differences and enter into God’s work of making things right between them. We’re speaking for Christ himself now: Become friends with God; he’s already a friend with you.
Today I ask those who I have evaluated from a purely human point of view to please forgive me. It doesn’t matter how we look or what we do – it is the intention of our heart to fully embrace all that Christ has done for us that makes us different. This is faith in action. This is how we believe. I want the new life that I have been promised so I release this old way of thinking so that I can have a transformed mind that lives by faith not by sight and chooses to believe. God settled my relationship with Him and now I have stepped into that life through the Grace provided by Jesus Christ. I did nothing to make this happen but have chosen to fully accept my weakness to have the freedom offered by the Power that lives in me. I am a representative of Jesus Christ. I am a work in progress because He is inside of me working His Love out of me. I cannot work for it. So I will stop looking around and look within in to fully embrace Jesus Christ. My obedience will be my offering rather than viewed as an obligation. I will prosper in the Promises of God today simply by living what I believe.
Romans 12:1-2 (Message)
So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.