fruitage of the spirit's journal

Expressions from the Heart

Live by law, I dare ya!

 Live by law, I dare ya! by Julie McAllen

Has not Moses given you the law? Yet not one of you keeps the law. Why are you trying to kill me? (John 7:19)

Jesus addressed a group of Jews familiar with the Old Law covenant. They were religious people, but not perfect. As Jesus said, “not one of you keeps the law.” Do you know any religious people like this today? Don’t start pointing fingers, three of them will be aimed back at you. For the law was given that it might prove what sin is, and we are all sinners. But not everyone reacts the same to the exposure of their sin. In this case, Jesus had to ask, “why are you trying to kill me?”

You might think it’s only hardcore atheists determined not to open a Bible who are trying to kill Jesus, but like the group being addressed in the above passage, religious people today do a pretty good job of it also. I know, I was one of them.

When salvation is based upon performance, a person may be completely immersed in religious activity and even possess an above average knowledge of scripture and yet feel separated from God. Separated from God? Isn’t that what sin is? This is what’s so confusing for religious people “in good standing.”

I was very proud of being in “good standing,” but felt the separation. I would remind God in my anger “didn’t you see me do all those things? How good do I have to be!!?” I was working, but upset that I could not sense His approval of me. A salvation based on my works was not only wearing me out, it was embittering me toward God. And as I was trying to live up to law, I was trampling on the grace He had poured out. I was “killing Jesus” in favor or my own path to righteousness. I could not see at the time how the sin of PRIDE led me to be a religious person. Had I heard of grace? Yes, but I chose law. And I believe God knew what He was doing when He allowed that to run its course.

17 As Jesus started on his way, a man ran up to him and fell on his knees before him. “Good teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

18 “Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good—except God alone. 19 You know the commandments: ‘You shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, you shall not defraud, honor your father and mother.’”

20 “Teacher,” he declared, “all these I have kept since I was a boy.”

21 Jesus looked at him and loved him. “One thing you lack,” he said. “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”

22 At this the man’s face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth.

Mark 10:17-22 describes Jesus’ approach to a rich man who, like me, believed that he had to “do” something to earn God’s favor. Jesus’ response to his question of: “What shall I do to inherit eternal life?” (verse 17) is perceptive. He did not give him the simple Gospel of grace, but rather, challenged him with obedience to God’s commandments (verse 19). The pride of this man was seen in his response to Jesus when he said: “Teacher, I have kept all these things from my youth up.” (verse 20) Was this statement true? Of course not! Scripture explains that: “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23) “If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us.” (1 John 1:8) This man’s pride had deceived him into thinking he was righteous enough for eternal life. He was not ready for the Gospel of grace. So, Jesus broke him with the law by saying:

” ‘One thing you lack: go and sell all you possess, and give to the poor, and you shall have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.’ But at these words his face fell, and he went away grieved, for he was one who owned much property.” —Mark 10:21-22

Jesus put His finger on the rich man’s pride by emphasizing the essence of the law — that of loving God and others by denying self and surrendering all to God. The rich man’s “face fell, and he went away grieved” because he wasn’t ready to give up his pride in his accomplishments and possessions. I find it interesting that in this passage Jesus does not emphasize grace to this man. He gives him more from the law in order to grieve him. I too went away grieved when I heard only more law from the Word. In the same way that Jesus broke the rich man with the law, my religious pride was broken by the impossible notion that I was capable of living up to the standards imposed by my religion. Only by being challenged by law was I humbled into hearing the true Gospel of grace.

What must you do to inherit everlasting life? C’mon, you know. Is it to sell all you have and give to the poor? Jesus knew the hairs on this young man’s head, that’s why he told him to do that. He knows you too. You know what it is. How hard do you have to work? How perfect do you have to be?

Tired yet?

I was. The more I tried to gain life through my own ability to keep the law, the more tired I got. I kept asking “what must I do?” in my heart. I couldn’t hear grace — only more law. Isn’t this what the young man heard too? He went away grieved. I did too. And it was good for me. I was humbled to the point of hearing another way. One day I noticed Jesus did it all and there was nothing I could add to it. There was nothing I could “do.” That left me helpless. I realize now that God allowed me to live a life under law to show me I was in fact “the worst sinner.” God led me to repent of my pride in being a religious person like this young man who had the audacity to say he kept all the commandments from his youth on. What human could ever do this? Only one man I know was perfect. His name is Jesus Christ and he is my righteousness now. I am a sinner, but he paid my debt. I couldn’t do it, could you? Are you still trying to?

If you live a basically good life but still feel separated from God, let me ask you this: Have you ever thought to repent of your “good works?” Maybe you’re like I was asking “what did I do wrong?” because you got tricked into thinking “sin” just meant the bad things we do. Have you repented of your pride? Do you know you will NEVER be good enough? NEVER!! To think we as humans could somehow obtain perfection through our own efforts is a denial of Christ. We “kill Jesus” rather than accept the life he gave us.
And if the idea of one man dying for your sins is ridiculous and unnecessary, then go ahead, live by the law. I wish you luck.

For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. (John 1:17)

Keep yourself in God’s love, Julie

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July 1, 2011 Posted by | According to Scripture, Expressions | , , , , , | Comments Off on Live by law, I dare ya!

Two trees in the garden

Two trees in the garden by Julie McAllen

So God created man in his own image,
in the image of God he created him;
male and female he created them.
(Gen 1:27)

Man was created in the image of God placed on this earth to represent his will. We learn a lot from the Genesis account. It’s here we grasp God’s deepest desire for us–to be a reflection of him, created in his own image.

Later in scripture, he restates his purpose for us through the writings of the apostle Paul who said it was God’s intention to conform us into the likeness of his son.

For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers (Ro 8:29)

So we see the truth of the matter. From the very start of our conception as people, the goal of God was stated clearly,

Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.” (Gen 1:26)

In the likeness of God. In the likeness of his son. This is why we are here. It is the desire of our creator and therefore the deepest desire within us “to be like God.” And the enemy knew it from the beginning. He knew the truth. And thus, the lie had to be formed around that truth.

“For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” (Gen 3:5)

Isn’t that the expressed desire of God himself? He intended that his creation would be in his image and likeness. But who spoke these words to Eve? Who knew her desire to be like God so well that he convinced her to take a path that her creator had warned against?

Well we all know the story. It was Satan twisting the words of God to conform to his own goal of separating the creation from the creator. And it worked. Was there any truth in the serpent’s lie? Yes, for he promised Eve that she would be “like God” if she ate of the forbidden fruit and this is the result according to God’s word.

And the LORD God said, “The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil.” (Gen 3:22)

Man was created in God’s image. And yet God is proclaiming that after their disobedience he has now become like the Divine nature in knowing good and evil?

Let that sink in a moment.

When Adam was created and placed in the garden, was he already perfect? Was he already living forever? Was he already conformed to the image of his creator?

Some have made the assumption that the couple were already perfect and living forever on the earth. Had Adam not sinned, the logic follows that his offspring would have inherited everlasting life on earth through him. But think again. Was Adam “like God” before the sin?

Were there not two choices in the middle of that garden?

And the LORD God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die.” (Gen 2:16-17)

Of all the trees in the garden they were free to partake. There was only one law, one thing forbidden to them. And where was it placed? In the same arena as another very important tree.

And the LORD God made all kinds of trees grow out of the ground—trees that were pleasing to the eye and good for food. In the middle of the garden were the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. (Gen 2:9)

The tree of life was placed in the middle of the garden and they were free to eat from it. Two trees in the middle of the garden. One was forbidden and certain to bring death, the other was free and certain to bring life. God knew it and so did his enemy. Two choices, both tempting the pair “to become like God.”

Notice in the temptation that there is only reference to “the tree in the middle of the garden” but none is distinguished by name. Neither Eve nor the serpent say “tree of life” or “tree of knowledge of good and evil” they just have a conversation about the tree in the middle of the garden. I’ve often wondered if Satan and Eve realized they were even talking about the same tree?

2 The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, 3 but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.’”

4 “You will not surely die,” the serpent said to the woman. 5 “For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” (Gen 3:2-5)

Eve ate from the wrong tree. She ate from it because she was deceived into thinking it would be good for her and her husband to do so. They desired to be “like God” after all, and the fruit, therefore, had appeal.

The two trees in the middle of the garden are Law and Spirit. Both offered a promise to the couple who were designed to be perfected into the image of God. But perfection did not come for them. Their growth was halted. By their choice of one route to God, they were banned from the other route.

22 And the LORD God said, “The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil. He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever.” 23 So the LORD God banished him from the Garden of Eden to work the ground from which he had been taken. 24 After he drove the man out, he placed on the east side of the Garden of Eden cherubim and a flaming sword flashing back and forth to guard the way to the tree of life. (Gen 3:22-24)

What Adam and Eve had come to know was Law. They had become like God knowing good and evil. They had indeed attained the wisdom Eve desired when she gazed upon the fruit. But nothing is made perfect by law (Heb 7:19). And though Law promises to draw us near to God, our source of life, it actually draws us further from him. The separation known as sin.

7 What shall we say, then? Is the law sin? Certainly not! Indeed I would not have known what sin was except through the law. For I would not have known what coveting really was if the law had not said, “Do not covet.” 8 But sin, seizing the opportunity afforded by the commandment, produced in me every kind of covetous desire. For apart from law, sin is dead. 9 Once I was alive apart from law; but when the commandment came, sin sprang to life and I died. 10 I found that the very commandment that was intended to bring life actually brought death. (Ro 7:7-10)

Our first parents underwent this separation. They underwent spiritual death. Where they used to walk freely in the garden with their creator, now they hid from the voice that called out “where are you?” Now banned from the tree of life, they would never be brought to perfection through the way God had always intended to bring everlasting life. Law brings death. The Spirit brings life.

Though each one of us is made in the image of God, like Adam and Eve, none of us are born perfect. Though we are sons and daughters knitted together in our mother’s wombs, we make choices as we grow and how we will respond to our innate desire to be “like God.” It helps to understand the first lie because the enemy of life is still telling it. He is the father of lies (John 8:44). Though Jesus spoke of Satan as having “no truth in him” that does not mean he doesn’t have the word memorized and able to quote from it. He basically quoted God’s word to Eve when he said that if she ate of the tree in the middle of the garden she would be like God. He twisted the truth to get her to eat from Law rather than the Tree of Life. The father of our flesh, Adam, fell for the lie. But the father of our Spirit, Jesus Christ, combatted the assault of twisted truth by quoting it back properly.

The first assault on Jesus was to get him to question if he even was a son of God (Luke 4:3) Believe it or not, this lie is often presented within religion today. Lies that whisper “knowing scripture is knowing God…..you’re not really saved unless you do this….. following the rules is following God…. only certain members within our group are sons of God….” But Jesus had witness born to him at his baptism when the Holy Spirit came upon him and told him the truth.

And a voice came from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.” (Luke 4:22)

Have you also had that witness born to you? Or has someone caused you to question your adoption?

Wasn’t Adam promised dominion over the land? Did he receive it or did it produce thorns in his toil? The devil dared to promise Jesus dominion over kingdoms of the world, but unlike Adam, Jesus did not bow to the way in which Satan promised to give it. And when the devil took Jesus to the heights of religion symbolized by the temple, he quoted directly from Psalm 91. The teachers of the Law were always trying to trip Jesus up by quoting from it, but Jesus said they were from their father the devil (John 8:12-47).

Are you getting the picture? Satan uses God’s truths to tell his lies. By this, he steals your inheritance in the tree of life.

Anyone can quote scripture. Bibles abound for any thief to use for his own glory. No one can stop them. But, only God can reveal truth by his Spirit. Only by his Spirit can we, therefore, be brought into the complete and perfect image of God he intended at our conception.

Adam was a son conceived in the heart of God to be made in his image. However, Adam was never perfect, before or after the sin, and able to bring forth perfect children. Perfection only comes through death (Heb 11:40).

Look at Jesus. How was he perfected?

Son though he was, he learned obedience from what he suffered and, once made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him (Heb 5:8-9)

Jesus LEARNED obedience and once made perfect, he became the eternal father of all living. And through that obedience until death, Jesus was made perfect forever (Heb 7:28). Adam could never do this, he is only the father of our flesh which is imperfect. But the imperfect comes first and then the perfect. As we all have borne the likeness and image of the earthly Adam, so we shall bear the likeness of the last Adam, the man from heaven (1 Cor 15:42-49). One day, we will be among those mentioned in Hebrews 12:23 as “the spirits of the righteous made perfect” but that depends on which tree you choose now. You can be like God, but you are what you eat.

Keep yourself in God’s love, Julie

March 27, 2011 Posted by | According to Scripture, Expressions | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

   

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