Bible Study: Cheating on Jesus

As presented to CCC 8/21/11

Last week we learned about how we, as Christians, need to stop living under the law or even under a hybrid religion that combines the law with grace.  Instead, we should live 100% under GRACE, but even knowing that I think it’s still hard to walk in that.  So today, we are going to discuss this topic a bit more.

The law is so ingrained in us, I will be the first to admit it may take time to even realize how it rules us.  But God, in His wisdom and power, is doing that in my life!

First, look at me.  Today, I stand here and I am wearing flip flops.  In the 80’s I called them thongs, but my kids tell me that is inappropriate nowadays.  I am teaching Bible Study wearing flip flops and THAT IS JUST WRONG!  I was raised that you should NOT wear these to church and certainly not be on the PLATFORM is such sinful attire!

Oh, clothing certainly is an area that is STRONGLY ruled by the law.  Years ago, when I first became a Christian in a Foursquare church, I was encouraged to wear long dresses and very modest clothing.  Now I am not saying to dress immodestly, but it really felt like the girls in our church were encouraged to dress much more modestly than the boys.  I followed the rules because I wanted to be a good Christian girl as many of you did as well.  At least we could wear pants and shorts, unlike Deana’s upbringing, but at CHURCH we were told dresses were the best approach.  That even existed when I began to play the drums at church!  I mean, hello – drummers have to sit with the snare between the legs, and I had to wear a DRESS?????  Never mind that, I was told it was more important that “ladies on the platform wear dresses than if they had to sit in a unfeminine manner while there”.  The law for law’s sake is silly sometimes!

And so, to break that, I asked “will it be a sin to wear flip flops today?  Will I feel more holy if I wore closed toe shoes today?”  Now, remember the whole “all things are permissible, but not all things are beneficial” study last week?  I will say it would be VERY inappropriate for me to stand here in a bikini – and I won’t even explain to you how traumatized you would be – but there ARE some reasonable do’s and don’t about these things.  But the LAW that flip flops are “signs of sin” is just hokey.  And what kind of burden do we put in these sort of areas to people we are trying to bring to church so they have FREEDOM IN CHRIST?

Ah come on, come to church!  We want to love on you!  But make sure you don’t wear flip flops!  God FORBID you come as you are!  Clean yourself up before you come to OUR church.

Now, this is not a big deal at CCC, where this stereotypical church rule is not as prevalent, but you get my drift?  What is something that YOU feel is required to do before you come to church?  Is it a man made law or requirement?

That can also be true for those who judge people who dress nicely for church – it goes both ways!

I am reminded how the Jews who received the grace of Christ struggled with this sort of thing, too.  In fact, even APOSTLES OF CHRIST got into drag out fights over this issue!

Galatians 2:11-21 (Paul is sharing this story)

When Peter came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he was clearly in the wrong. Before certain men came from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles. But when they arrived, he began to draw back and separate himself from the Gentiles because he was afraid of those who belonged to the circumcision group. The other Jews joined him in his hypocrisy, so that by their hypocrisy even Barnabas was led astray.

When I saw that they were not acting in line with the truth of the gospel, I said to Peter in front of them all, “You are a Jew, yet you live like a Gentile and not like a Jew. How is it, then, that you force Gentiles to follow Jewish customs?

“We who are Jews by birth and not ‘Gentile sinners’ know that a man is not justified by observing the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by observing the law, because by observing the law no one will be justified.

“If, while we seek to be justified in Christ, it becomes evident that we ourselves are sinners, does that mean that Christ promotes sin? Absolutely not! If I rebuild what I destroyed, I prove that I am a lawbreaker. For through the law I died to the law so that I might live for God. I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!”

Thousands of years later, are we STILL claiming that righteousness can be gained through our actions and/or the law?

But the law is not as obvious as this in many of our day to day activities.  It finds its way to permeate the way we think!  For example, I started my new job this past week and was able to go out to lunch with some of my co-workers.  That was really great, to connect with them outside of the office.  So here we were at In-N-Out Burger and somehow the topic of “being unclean” came up.  One of my co-workers began to explain to us that to Jewish people in Biblical times, if they touched a dead body they could not stay within the city or attend temple activities for about 6 weeks.  And then he went on to share the story of the Good Semaritan.

His version went something like this:

One day a man who was seriously injured laid on the side of the road.  At the same time, a priest who was heading to his duties in the temple was walking down the street.  The priest, wanting to avoid the man, went to the other side of the street and passed him.  In the mean time, the Samaritan – who was the dirtiest of the dirty by the virtue of being a Samaritan – helped the man immediately.  He even paid the inn keeper to care for him and promised to come back and pay any amount due, as long as the man was cared for.

And the moral of the story?  The priest cared so much for God, that he knew he could not touch the man because he would be unclean and then he would not be able to serve God and God’s children for several weeks.  And we, as Christians, could be more concerned about serving God like the Priests of the Bible and yearn to remain clean for God.


But how does it read in the Bible?

Luke 10:25-37, as told by our Lord Jesus

On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

“What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?”

He answered: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”

“You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.”

But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”

In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he fell into the hands of robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, took him to an inn and took care of him. The next day he took out two silver coins and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’

“Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”

The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”

Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”

Our Lord did not say that the priest or the Levite acted as neighbors to the injured man.  Instead, it was the Samaritan, the most unclean in their society!  It is clear that the LAW was not lifted up in this parable (aka, do not become unclean) but rather the compassion of LOVE.  And how important it is that we take the time to find out where are “law blinders” are touching on stories where it totally changes the true message!

That leads me to share with you a friend of mine – a former co-worker of mine is an Orthodox Jew.  Now, it may seem that I am picking on her or her beliefs, but that is not what I mean to do.  She is just a great example of what we ALL do in some areas of our lives.

My friend – I’ll call her Laura – was born in Israel although her parents were from Europe.  She has always lived an Orthodox Jewish life.  She observes the Sabbath by observing Shabbat beginning each sundown on Friday to sundown on Saturday.  She observes all the religious holidays, studies the Tanakh which is an acronym formed from the initial Hebrew letters of the Masoretic Text’s three traditional subdivisions: The Torah (“Teaching”, also known as the Five Books of Moses), Nevi’im (“Prophets”) and Ketuvim (“Writings”)—hence TaNaKh.  She only eats kosher food (which was fun when we’d go to client sites that made things like sausages!), and follows the law in every way that she could.

And you know, it was great fun to ask her about her beliefs, to compare our views of Bible stories, and ask about certain things.  Like, did you know there is such thing as kosher wine?  When I asked her what made wine kosher, she said basically that is was produced by Orthodox Jews, and the process itself was not special.  But going through these “kosher lessons”, some things were revealed to me.

For example, there were several rules that Laura shared with me related to the Sabbath:

•    You could not cook, so all food was prepared before sunset
•    You could not carry items in or out of your home
•    You could not work (or even have non-Jews serve you!)
•    You could not “light a fire”

But then, when I asked more questions, things got a bit more complex

•    You “could” cook, as long as it didn’t get the food too hot
•    You could probably carry small things outside of the house
•    She would NOT work, so that was not an issue.  But some would tell her reading her kindle was sort of like work since she was a computer programmer and the kindle was like a computer.  She didn’t agree with that.
•    “Lighting a fire” was subjective, as many Orthodox Jews believed that also meant you could not turn on electricity during the Sabbath.  Laura didn’t take it that far, but she said sometimes if others were in her house she would at least turn the lights on BEFORE Sabbath and leave them on so that she wasn’t LIGHTING anything…… was already on.

Where is became even more complicated was in the day to day activities at work with Laura.  For example, at our work we had to account for 100% of our time even though we were salaried employees, due to how we billed our clients.  Laura would often say she would enter times very late at night or even early the next morning on days where she knew she needed to leave early, even though she actually worked at different times or even days.

This speaks to a recent Harvard Business Review article that I read that shared many “high moral standard” employees often break the most rules because they feel they stay on the “straight and narrow” so often that a little turn here or there is permissible.

And really, what I am trying to point out that basically, the more rules you create to make you FEEL righteous, the more parameters you will create to circumvent those rules!  And yet, these rules make us feel holy, special, set aside, and so many other things.

And then there are those of us who do all we can to be acknowledged as “good people”.  It reminds me of a church I visited once, where it was preached from the pulpit why members of that congregation were better than everyone else.  Some things the Pastor shared:

•    The men wore suits
•    The woman wore dresses
•    The children went to the church’s Christian school
•    The members NEVER went to movies, few watched TV, and NO ONE listened to worldly music
•    They followed the Bible to a “T”, and sin did not live in their house
•    They only sang songs from hymnals, just as God intended
•    Because of these actions, God listened to these members more than any other souls on the earth.

You get the gist of it.

I am NOT saying any of those activities are wrong or right, just sharing their view of themselves.  In fact, I have to say that I was indirectly called out because it was said that “no woman” in that church would EVER sin by wearing pants, though I was there in such horrible garb!  So, I walked out understanding this – they had arrived and were righteous, at least in their own minds!

And yet, when I went out to my car in the parking lot – the church’s LOCKED parking lot and where they made sure only church members parked – there was a huge dent in my car.  A dent that was not there before I parked my car that morning.  And there was no note saying, “Hey, call me and we can work this out.”

All the things that they were “doing right” did not make them righteous.  And yet, whoever dented my car, if they have Jesus in their heart, was already righteous even though they hit my car and took off!  They were righteous because of CHRIST, not because of anything that Pastor shared…….and their righteousness was not negated by their actions with my car.

Here is what Paul says about these examples.

Romans 2:17-29 (The Message) – picture yourself and your rules as the Jews Paul is talking to.  Whatever it is that makes you feel holy or the actions you do that makes you feel like you deserve God’s grace:

If you’re brought up Jewish, don’t assume that you can lean back in the arms of your religion and take it easy, feeling smug because you’re an insider to God’s revelation, a connoisseur of the best things of God, informed on the latest doctrines! I have a special word of caution for you who are sure that you have it all together yourselves and, because you know God’s revealed Word inside and out, feel qualified to guide others through their blind alleys and dark nights and confused emotions to God. While you are guiding others, who is going to guide you? I’m quite serious. While preaching “Don’t steal!” are you going to rob people blind? Who would suspect you? The same with adultery. The same with idolatry. You can get by with almost anything if you front it with eloquent talk about God and his law. The line from Scripture, “It’s because of you Jews that the outsiders are down on God,” shows it’s an old problem that isn’t going to go away.

Circumcision, the surgical ritual that marks you as a Jew, is great if you live in accord with God’s law. But if you don’t, it’s worse than not being circumcised. The reverse is also true: The uncircumcised who keep God’s ways are as good as the circumcised—in fact, better. Better to keep God’s law uncircumcised than break it circumcised. Don’t you see: It’s not the cut of a knife that makes a Jew. You become a Jew by who you are. It’s the mark of God on your heart, not of a knife on your skin, that makes a Jew. And recognition comes from God, not legalistic critics.

Stop cheating on Jesus with your own theatrics at righteousness.

Here are some more examples, which I have pulled from Andrew Farley’s book THE NAKED GOSPEL.

First, let’s go back to the times of the Israelites.  Back then they were in the middle of the desert and had their Tabernacle, where sacrifices were made to God.  Imagine one day a priest found a PERFECT lamb, with no one blemish.  The priest rushes to the Israelites and said, “WOW!  I found THE perfect lamb, and after I sacrifice it to the Lord, we will NEVER have to perform any other sacrifices!  ALL of our sins – FOREVER – will be covered!”

The Israelites, in their excitement, accept the sacrifice and then dismantle the Tabernacle and begin to live a guilt-free live “under the blood”, knowing that the perfect lamb has done away with sins once and for all.

Of course, you and I both know this never happened like it says here.  Instead, the Israelites continued to give animal sacrifices over and over as no single sacrifice was enough to perfectly cleanse them.  Hebrew helps to explain this:

Heb 10:1-2  NIV

The law is only a shadow of the good things that are coming—not the realities themselves. For this reason it can never, by the same sacrifices repeated endlessly year after year, make perfect those who draw near to worship. If it could, would they not have stopped being offered? For the worshipers would have been cleansed once for all, and would no longer have felt guilty for their sins.

Now, WE know as Christians there WAS such a lamb in Jesus Christ, and it is confirmed in the Bible as well:

John 1:29

The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!

Because of Jesus, there is no longer a need for the tabernacle, the temple, or the daily sacrifices.  We have been cleansed ONCE AND FOR ALL.  There is NO method or procedure required for us to remain forgiven.  Instead, we are invited to depend on the onetime sacrifice as the means to lifelong forgiveness, without any strings attached.

1 Peter 3:18 (first portion)

For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God.

But maybe you’re like me – heck, like so many of us humans – who thinks, “Yeah, that’s great!  But I need to ASK for forgiveness.  I need to repent.” OR “I need to act this way or that way to prove I am holy” or so many other things.

I may even quote 1 John 1:9 which says

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.

I am not a theologian, and this verse is complex when taken out of context.  But let me clarify something very quickly as this is really a different lesson altogether:

•    This is the ONLY verse in the entire NT that says there is a method for maintaining daily cleansing.
•    It is not in Romans, Galatians, Ephesians, Corinthians, Philippians, Colossians, or Thessalonians.
•    When 1 John was written, Gnostics has infiltrated the church and popularized the idea that Jesus was only spirit as God would never stoop to the level of being human.
•    Further, Gnostics also did not believe sin existed
•    John was trying to show the Gnostics both views were incorrect.  Because of that, John purposely uses physical words in his opening statement to challenge this Gnostic heresy.  Later, he says that anyone who doesn’t believe that Jesus came in human flesh is NOT FROM GOD (1 John 4:3)
•    As such, John was not talking to true believers, because we know Jesus walked on the earth.  Instead, it was addressed to non-believers, or Gnostics who had entered the church.  In fact he says in 1 John 1:8 If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.
•    True believers in Christ KNOW they are sinners, because to become a Christian you have to admit you’re a sinner!
•    As such, John here is concerned with Unbelievers, encouraging to confess their sins, so that they can accept Christ and be saved.  Or, in other words, the verse is an invitation to become a Christian.  Once you’re a Christian, the confessing is done.
•    Notice verse says, “from ALL unrighteousness”?  There is no one-by-one concept here!

So, let’s break that down and think about this.  I asked myself, “do I REALLY believe that I have the power to control the power of Jesus’ blood to forgive?”

“Do I REALLY believe if I talk to God more and more, he will pour out more of His blood, because He’s holding some back from me now?”

And then I asked myself this: Do I REALLY believe the blood of Jesus was sufficient to bring me a lifetime of forgiveness and cleansing, or do I actually believe it was lacking, and therefore I need to fill in the gap with my own efforts?

Crazy questions, yes?

So let’s talk about and try to understand God’s economy – from the beginning of time, cleansing included BLOOD which covered sin.  The animal’s blood is what covered the Jews, and the blood of Jesus is what covers us today.

Hebrews 9:22 says it this way

In fact, the law requires that nearly everything be cleansed with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.

But even with knowledge, we push the truth away, saving that is for heaving, but POSITIONALLY on the earth “once and for all” does not work.  Maybe it’s because it feels way too easy!

“You mean I don’t have to do ANYTHING to be forgiven?  That doesn’t sound right.”  My human pride doesn’t want to admit that it really IS a free gift, and that I am not powerful enough to extract my own salvation.  And, truthfully, what would I do if I didn’t have my daily list of sins to feel guilty about anyway?  I mean, I was taught all these years that I need to confess my sins, to ask forgiveness, and take a truthful tally of my sins.

But there’s no blood in those actions, is there?

Do I REALLY believe the blood is only effective in HEAVEN?  That it lacks power here on earth so I need to do my piece?  Aren’t remembering, confessing, asking, and claiming MY powers?

Ultimately, it becomes OUR responsibility to make the cross carry real benefits in the present.

And that’s just plain cheating on Jesus!  At it’s plain insulting to His sacrifice, don’t you think?

In adopting this fine-sounding belief system, we fail to recognize that the cross is a historical event.  Its effects are already accomplished, no matter what we believe or claim.  Our actions do not cause more blood to be shed.

So I encourage you – start accepting the fact that, as a Christian, you are saved by grace!  Today, tomorrow, it’s done.  Repeat the following truths as much as needed:

•    Only blood brings forgiveness
•    Jesus’ blood will never be shed again
•    Therefore God is SATISFIED
•    And I enjoy lifelong and eternal cleansing
•    Jesus plus nothing!

Bible Study: Jesus Plus Nothing

As presented to CCC 8/14/11

Today is not going to be a lesson based on my shortcomings, at least not directly.  It’s not going to be about my work, although I WILL share that my tenure there didn’t last the two weeks as planned.  Instead, my last day was Thursday and I will be starting my new job tomorrow!  In all I can attest that Jesus DID have it, and He still does!

Today I’d like to share with you a concept that, at times, has apparently caused great controversy and debate.  Even in the bible study, when this topic was touched on we all struggled in some way or another.  And yet, even with this struggle, I wonder, “Why should this be so HARD?”  I can’t answer that, but wanted to say straight out that you may hear some things that initially at least will cause you to say, “NO WAY!” and that I understand that reaction.

So without further adieu, everyone who calls him or herself a Christian, in theory, can attest that they’ve been saved by Christ.  That they have been covered by the cleansing blood of Jesus Christ, who died on the cross for each one of us.  His death, and more importantly resurrection, broke the chains of bondage to sin and has allowed us eternal life as well as provides HIS righteousness for us TODAY.   This miracle is described in our Gospel, as recorded in the New Testament.

Everyone agree?

Yet, many of us do NOT live under grace, or the “Jesus plus nothing” umbrella, but instead have created a hybrid religion.  That is not healthy for us as Christians, nor to the world as we try to proclaim His Truth.  As described in Andrew Farley’s book THE NAKED GOSPEL:

“Many Christians still walk in Old Covenant bondage.  Regarding the law as a Divine ordinance for our direction, they consider themselves prepared and fitted by conversion to take up the fulfillment of the law as a natural duty.”

Andrew Murray (1828-1917)

“If you Christians want to make us agnostics inclined to look into your religion, you must try to be more comfortable in the possession of it yourselves.  The Christians I meet seem to me to be the very most uncomfortable people anywhere around.  They seem to carry their religion as a man carries a headache.  He does not want to get rid of his head, but at the same time it is very uncomfortable to have it.  And I for one do not care to have that sort of religion.”

Quoted in Hannah Whithall Smith, The God of All Comfort

Why do we as Christians insist on viewing ourselves as not good enough, or define ourselves by our sins?  How about us Christians who “do and do” and don’t even really have time to interact with our Lord?  Or even feel Him?  Why are we compelled to do this?  This is not a present day problem, even Martin Luther struggled with this.

Martin Luther, who many would say was a very faithful man and has done so much for Christians for centuries, struggled with guilt.  Yet a large portion of his life was ruled by self-flagellation and other physical abuse in attempt to atone for his long list of sins.

Mother Teresa is another great example, and many of you can say you know she worked endlessly and unselfishly for so many in need.  Yet, in a personal diary entry penned to Jesus, she wrote the following:

I am told God loves me – and yet the reality of darkness and coldness and emptiness is so great that nothing touches my soul.  Before the work started, there was so much union, love, faith, trust, prayer, and sacrifice.  Did I make a mistake in surrendering blindly to the Call of the Sacred Heart?

Even after working for over 40 years exclusively for Christ, Mother Teresa struggled for meaning, purpose, and a stable relationship with God!

Can you related to these two, at least partially?

How did this happen to these two, maybe even to us?  Let’s go back in time and do a little research.

In Exodus 24:3,4 and 7, it reads:

When Moses went and told the people all the LORD’s words and laws, they responded with one voice, “Everything the LORD has said we will do.”  Moses then wrote down everything the LORD had said.  Then he took the Book of the Covenant and read it to the people. They responded, “We will do everything the LORD has said; we will obey.”

This amounted to 600 commandments in all – more than 350 items and actions to abstain from and nearly 250 actions on the Jewish to do list.  Some actions were even punishable by death!

And how did the Israelite’s fair with these laws?  I think they reaction is best described as a rollercoaster ride!

Psalm 78:56-59 says:
But they put God to the test and rebelled against the Most High; they did not keep his statutes.  Like their fathers they were disloyal and faithless, as unreliable as a faulty bow.  They angered him with their high places; they aroused his jealousy with their idols.  When God heard them, he was very angry; he rejected Israel completely.

But you may say, “he give them a break, they may have not known better!  Maybe if they were knowledgeable on the Lord, they’d fair better!”  So let’s see how the Priests handled God’s commandments:

Malachi 2:1-2

“And now this admonition is for you, O priests. If you do not listen, and if you do not set your heart to honor my name,” says the LORD Almighty, “I will send a curse upon you, and I will curse your blessings. Yes, I have already cursed them, because you have not set your heart to honor me.”

Time didn’t seem to help the Israelite’s get their act together, either, for centuries later Saul or Tarsus – maybe the most committed of all – wrote the following:

Romans 7:15

I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.

So, struggling to do the right thing to feel the presence of God is not a new thing at all.  But maybe Martin Luther, Mother Teresa, even the Israelites had it wrong!

But certainly, you can say, there were many Old Testament Heroes who were SUPER close to God and received great blessings from Him.  Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, even David!  Yet they lacked SO MUCH compared to us if we are to believe the Bible.

Hebrews 11 speaks of the faith so many of these heroes manifested, which saved them or caused great miracles to occur.


And what more shall I say? I do not have time to tell about Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel and the prophets, 33 who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, and gained what was promised; who shut the mouths of lions, 34 quenched the fury of the flames, and escaped the edge of the sword; whose weakness was turned to strength; and who became powerful in battle and routed foreign armies.


These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised. God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect.

So what was this that God had planned, this “something better” than what amazing people received?

The Old Testament defined who could approach God, and how.  So it’s with amazement that I realized though this study that our High Priest, when viewed through the Old Testament , does not meet the requirements to hold this office!  The law requires that a person be from the tribe of Levi to qualify as high priest, yet Jesus was from the tribe of Judah!  This has been confirmed in Hebrews 7:13-14.  Do you agree that no one from the line of Judah has EVER served as priest?  The law forbade it.  That’s because the law and Jesus just don’t mix.

That’s why it’s amazing to read and receive what Hebrews 7:12 says:

For when there is a change of the priesthood, there must also be a change of the law.

So, with this change of the law, should we live exclusively under Christ’s grace, should we follow the law, or should we combine the two?

My struggle IMMEDIATELY escalates at this point!  I mean, we are ambassadors for Christ and our walk is important when we represent Him, right?  It’s important to live righteously, to be holy, to honor our Lord!  So how can you even PRETEND to ignore the law?

Do you feel me?

But grace is still a contract, with Jesus Christ directly.  In contrast to the old contract that God wrote through Moses, GRACE will never be replaced!  IT IS THE FINAL WORD CONCERNING A HUMAN’S RELATIONSHIP WITH GOD!

Hebrews 8:8-9

But God found fault with the people and said:

   “The time is coming, declares the Lord,
   when I will make a new covenant
with the house of Israel
   and with the house of Judah.
 It will not be like the covenant
   I made with their forefathers
when I took them by the hand
   to lead them out of Egypt,
because they did not remain faithful to my covenant,
   and I turned away from them,
            declares the Lord.

God always intended to usher in something RADICALLY DIFFERENT, and that passage clearly states something totally new was coming.  And this new way was going to solve a huge problem – our failure to remain faithful.  Whatever this NEW is, it somehow CAUSES people to remain faithful, even when their own strength fails them!


In the new, we have a personal connect with God, as explained in Hebrews 8:10:

This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after that time, declares the Lord.  I will put my laws in their minds and write them on their hearts.  I will be their God, and they will be my people.

I want to share a very subtle change in this verse, one that I overlooked for years.  For the writer of Hebrews purposely MISQUOTED the Old Testament; he changed the old testament “my law” to “my laws”.

Contrary to popular teaching, it’s not the law of Moses that is written on our hearts, It’s GOD’S LAWS!  The New Testament speaks to this and Jesus also helps us with this.:

•    The Royal Law –
o    James 2:8 – If you really keep the royal law found in Scripture, “Love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing right.
•    The Law that Gives Freedom –
o    James 1:25 – But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it—he will be blessed in what he does.
•    Jesus’ Commands –
o    Mark 12:30-31 – Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’There is no commandment greater than these.”
o    John 13:34-35- “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
o    John 14:15 – If you love me, you will obey what I command.
o    “Jesus plus nothing”

Okay, if you’re anything like me, your mind might be filled with “but what about this?” and “what about that?”

So what IS the law for????  The law is there to point unbelievers to Jesus, not to lead believers.

But how can I know I am on the right path if I don’t have a road?  Jesus is the lamp that lights our paths.

1 Cor 10 talks about “all things are permissible, but not all things beneficial”
•    In context of eating meat used for sacrifices to idols
•    Today, it could be drinking around an alcoholic
•    Today it could be having tattoos
•    Neither action is wrong to Christians, but it may cause problems for others OR create a habit that is not beneficial for the believer.  Neither has anything to do with our righteousness in Christ.

So let’s talk a little more about specifics.  Are you hearing me say we should be lawless?


Am I saying standards like “thou shall not kill” or “there shall be no other gods” no longer matter?


But let’s put this in context –

•    do rules and regulations make us RIGHTEOUS?
•    If we DO those things, are we focused on our Lord?
•    If we fail on one of those things, do we really believe Jesus has saved us from it already?

The biggest struggle I have with the concept of GRACE over the LAW is the dichotomy they represent.  Yes, I am 100% forgiven, but I need to represent my Lord, and it’s easier for me to do that if I have a list of standards to follow.

But I am telling you, the whole FOCUS changes when you accept that you only need to LIVE under GRACE!

For example, you hear Pastor Bob talk about tithing often.  He tells us this is the only place in the Bible where we are told to test God, to see what He will do.  That is the truth, I believe it.

But when I thought about tithing in the context of the LAW, I saw it very differently.  You see, it was something I had to do to prove I was a faithful Christian.  It was a requirement of mine, established by the Bible.  And in THAT context – I call “the law context” – I approached it one of these ways:

•    With fear – I better tithe or I will be in trouble with God (the church, my Pastor)
•    With rebellion – Why is it a rule anyway?  My church has plenty of money and God can do all things, anyway.
•    With Guilt – after all Jesus did for me, how can I say I love him when I can’t even give 10% of what He gave me?
•    With Appearance – I don’t want others to think I am less of a Christian
•    With Defiance – I’m just not gonna do it.  I will handle my money the way I want to, period.

All of the above have something in common – they are all 100% focused on ME and MONEY!  NOWHERE is my focus on my Lord.

However, when I began to view tithing in the context of GRACE (as I believe Pastor teaches is), it took on a whole new set of clothes:

•    With Truth – Jesus loves me so much, that He died for me so that I don’t have to fulfill ANY requirement
•    With Appreciation – Jesus provides for me so much, thank you Jesus!  Thank you for blessing me with this income.
•    With Freedom – I know I will have a home/food/clothing/etc. no matter what, so I want to give a small portion so others can know this truth too.
•    With Abundance – Lord, you HAVE truly proven Yourself!  The more I give, the more I have – both monetarily and spiritually!

Notice the above, which truly happened to me.  Do you see much talk about money?  ME?  JESUS was the focus!  The law points to US, Grace points to JESUS, even in things such as the standard of tithing!  And the truth is, because Jesus is IN each of us, the closer we draw to our established relationship with Him, the more clearly He will guide us with His Holy Spirit!

Another way I reconciled the dichotomy of Grace and Law was an analogy I heard from my dear friend, George.  And let me tell you, George gets fired up about the Grace we already have in Jesus!  He does NOT want us to be tied down by the Law!

“Breakfast in Bed”

Everyone likes breakfast in bed!  I know I love it!  But breakfast is bed is very different when viewed under the Law!

Let’s say you’re married to the Law.  The Law demands YOU prepare breakfast everyday, right at 7:30am.  That breakfast needs to be exactly on time, perfectly prepared (not too hot, not too cold, eggs over easy, pinch of salt) everyday or else your marriage may be in jeopardy.  Can you imagine the pressure you’d be under each day?  There is no room for mistakes, no room for empathy if you’re feeling unwell, didn’t sleep through the night, etc.  There may even be days when you RESENT the law, and grumble about having to serve breakfast in the first place.  Or, if the eggs are cold (as they are sure to be) you have no recourse to fixing it and the guilt may overwhelm you.

To further complicate matters, this marriage TO the law cannot be ended UNDER the law, because the law says you can only remarry if you are a widow, or your spouse dies.  But you know what?  Here comes Jesus!  HE died, and the Bible tells us that we are crucified with Christ, even though we live!  So, WE died with Christ, breaking that marriage to the Law, and now we are free to remarry Grace.

Romans 7:1-4 says:

Do you not know, brothers—for I am speaking to men who know the law—that the law has authority over a man only as long as he lives? For example, by law a married woman is bound to her husband as long as he is alive, but if her husband dies, she is released from the law of marriage. So then, if she marries another man while her husband is still alive, she is called an adulteress. But if her husband dies, she is released from that law and is not an adulteress, even though she marries another man.  So, my brothers, you also died to the law through the body of Christ, that you might belong to another, to him who was raised from the dead, in order that we might bear fruit to God.

Having read that, how do you think Jesus feels if we say we are married to Him and His Grace, but keep going back to visit our old spouse, the Law?  ………..But let’s get back to our breakfast, with our new marriage to Christ:

Now breakfast in bed under Grace is very different.  IN THIS arrangement, JESUS prepared the breakfast each day just the way you like it.  As it turns out, it’s exactly perfect each day – over easy, not too hot, perfect seasoning – everyday, without fail.  And, service is provided with the most amazing love and care!  Day in and day out!  He NEVER fails!

And then suddenly, something amazing happens to you after each breakfast is served!  Suddenly, YOU begin to want to serve JESUS breakfast, and HE says, “oh, that’s okay, I can do it, it’s already prepared!” but you say, “Oh Jesus, I love you so much and appreciate you so much!  I don’t care if I am required to make breakfast or not, I WANT to because I love you!”

Grace CAUSES us to do right, to take on the actions of Jesus.  The Law does not!

Now, maybe you have in your head another situation.  What about those who claim to be Christians, yet they are hypocrites!  Maybe their walk shows no signs of Jesus, maybe they even ridicule the things of the Lord, even as they claim to follow Him!

Well hey, what do Jesus’ commandments say to do?  Love them.

Further, it is usually not OUR job to measure the worth of a man, or to decide his heart.  Now, there are parameters where leaders such as Pastors of this church can address actions or behaviors, but overall Jesus really says to us, “what is it to you?”

Like how Jesus dealt with Peter and John in 21:15-23.  Keep in mind this is after Jesus’ death and resurrection, after Peter denied Christ 3 times.  The disciples were fishing when John see’s a man and says, “It’s Jesus!”  Before you know it Peter jumps out of the boat, swims to Jesus, and soon Jesus and Peter are going over the “Peter, do you love me?  Feed my sheep” conversation.  Jesus goes on to tell Peter he faces a tough death, and ends with FOLLOW ME.

About this time, here comes John, who had NOT swam to shore is a flurry to see Christ.  I can see, even with Peter’s failures in the past, he felt pretty good about himself right now in relation to Christ.  He may have even felt a little competitive with John.  So he looks at mister “mosey on in” and says, “Hey Lord, what about HIM!”  And Jesus’ reply?  You don’t need to worry about him, you need to just worry about following ME!”

So, I encourage you, don’t go back to your first spouse, the Law.  Stop living under that life.  Let Jesus’ grace, which exists inside of you, allow you to grow in Him.  Focus on JESUS, and if others bug you, let Jesus handle it.  Don’t try to read a list to be righteous, walk under grace which has already made you righteous in Christ.  You can succeed by living under this truth – Jesus plus nothing.

Bible Study: Knowing Vs. Doing

As presented at Crossroads Community Church

You know, there’s a difference when you KNOW something and when you ACT ON something.  Some are basic truths, like I know for a fact that if I exercised more I would lose weight and would feel healthier overall.  However, I hardly ever exercise and have a great many justifications as to why.  More complex is that I can be given some pretty strongs facts that bungie jumping with a licensed firm is very safe, but you will NOT catch me jumping off ANYTHING with a rubber band tied to my ankles.  This is very similar to me spiritually, because we’ve talked before that as a believer, I am a Child of God.  However, I don’t often walk in that truth in my day-to-day life.  My salvation?  No worries.  Today’s problem?  Ah…….

Let me step back and share some background with you – and maybe you can relate to this.  A little over a year and a half ago Deana and I were in dire straits.  My job at the time was bouncing payroll checks, was being investigated for IRS fraud, Deana was unemployed, and we were living in Southern California.  Fear often gripped me, not knowing if we would get through the next two weeks if my check bounced, let alone deal with all the stress that was consuming our lives.   During this time I was slowing thawing to the idea of going back to “organized church”, the establishment that I had ran from since coming out and being viciously treated.  Our family slowly began attending Glory Tabernacle and, in the midst of what I felt was the darkest point in our lives since coming out, we began to stop focusing on the horrible situation we found ourselves in and started welcoming back the Lord into our lives.

Long story short, through what has to be nothing but a miracle, I received a job offer in Dallas.  It included perfect timing, the pay I requested, the type of job I wanted – you name it, I WAS AMAZED and rejoiced at what the Lord had done.  And He also brought Deana, me, and the kids to Crossroads Community Church, where we have found forever spiritual family members and have grown so much in the Lord!  It was wonderful!

So, this is where I tell you that I learned to not stress, to live in the fact that I am  King’s Kid, and trust in the Lord.  But I can’t…….

You see, the honeymoon period of my new job wore off within 6 months, and before I could say “can I have a raise”, I was writing my practice resignation letter – full of vinegar, I might add – and sending out resumes.  It’s not really important WHY I was feeling that way, more that how I reacted to my situation.  I asked for prayers, I prayed, and everyday the anger inside of me grew, the fear in me grew, the feeling of dissatisfaction almost consumed me at times.

Oh, my faith was strong at this point – I KNEW I could pray to God and He would help.  I mean, he helped me find THIS job in the prefect timing, right?  And the Bible assures me of this as well, too.

1 John 5:14-15 NIV

This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him.

So I would take this Truth – you all agree the Word is living and true, right? – and I prayed like this:

“Lord Jesus, I know You hear me!  If it is your will that I find a new job, then make it happen!”

And then the cycle would continue!  No new job, not even a NIBBLE on my resumes!  And the things that bothered me the most at work were growing – more people bothered me.  More issues that I felt were wrong appeared.  I would try harder to shine the light of Christ throughout my day, but inside bitterness was taking hold of me.

Now, I think it would have been good for me to remember at this point the following verse – turn to Proverbs 20:22 NIV

Do not say, “I’ll pay you back for this wrong!”  Wait for the LORD, and he will deliver you.

Some days I was interested in deliverance, I wanted revenge.  I wanted to file claims against my firm, contact the media, you name it – I WAS JUSTIFIED!  And I don’t know about you, but I was not walking in the Truth that I was a Child of God.  I was letting my frustration, my anger, and my impatience rule me.  Further, I don’t think I was even thinking about MOVING in the truth that I could truly expect Jesus to ANSWER my prayers.

Let’s check out Romans 5:1-5 NIV

Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God.  Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.

You see, I was out of whack.  I was not feeling the follow:

•    Peace
•    Faithful
•    Appreciation (or rejoicing)
•    Hope
•    I was NOT persevering
•    My character was NOT being improved!

Instead of was feeling:

•    Anger
•    Fear
•    Worry
•    Bitterness
•    Impatience
•    Apprehension
•    Vindication
•    The list goes on…..

I think you get the drift!

So let’s recap:

•    Gina and family in bad situation
•    God saves Gina and family miraculously
•    Gina and Family start walking in the Truth of who they are in Christ?  NO!
•    Gina and Family find themselves in the same mess, different city

While all this was going on, miracles were still happening in our lives by no power of our efforts;

•    Deana found an amazing job with the City of Dallas
•    We have learned to walk in faith in other areas of our lives, such as tithing
•    We built and moved into a brand new house, which is a story in itself!
•    We have watched our children grow in their own faith
•    I was continually receiving God’s favor at work, winning prizes, iPad, money, getting bigger and more important accounts…..

And yet this issue with my work remained for over a year!  I sincerely prayed, put my petitions in the prayer box, and TRIED with my own efforts to make this thing happen.  It now went like this:

“Lord, I know I have inherited everything you have as my own, I know I am your child with Your full authority on earth.  If your will says there is a new job for me out there, I believe it and received.  Please make it so.”

And then Pastor started a series and once again started proclaiming the truth as derived from 1 John Chapter 5 –

•    We KNOW we have salvation in Christ
•    We can trust Jesus to not fail us
•    We should be like Jesus and not worry about the details
•    If you have Jesus, you have HIS life and He will not flake on you!

And then Pastor challenged us –

•    Live like it’s TRUE
•    Not as proof that we are Christians, but because it strengthens our relationship with Jesus.

Now, let me tell you, half of me is Type A – I like control.  Relying on Christ is not fleshly easy for me.  And I am not going to stand here and tell you I walked out of church and everything fell into place.  But I started “doing” what Pastor encouraged us with instead of just “ACCEPTING” or “KNOWING”.

•    I acknowledged that I still needed to learn something from the Lord – Hosea 4:6a – my people are destroyed from lack of knowledge.
•    I knew I needed to rely on my faith in Christ.  Romans 10:17 – Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ.
•    I told myself, even when it was just words, that Jesus has got this

Jesus knew the desires of my heart, yet all along I never really believed that He would answer MY prayers.  Somehow, despite all that He had done for me and my family, I didn’t walk in the knowledge that He’d really provide me a new job.

Then, as I was preparing our home Bible Study, the following truths were revealed to us:

Romans 8:32 – He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?

Hebrews 6:18 – God did this so that, by two unchangeable things in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled to take hold of the hope set before us may be greatly encouraged.

“Jesus has got this, and I can trust Him”  God cannot lie.  It’s not that He won’t lie – He is not able to lie.  If He could, He would lose His identity as The God of Truth.  SATAN is a liar!  He wants us to believe we are powerless.  In Christ, we have the keys to walk in victory.  God has given us power through His Son, and Jesus’ death and resurrection has already defeated Satan.  This truth means that God has removed every hindrance.

Colossians 2:15 – And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.

“Why was I focused on getting revenge, when it has already been dealt with?”

2 Peter 1:3 – His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.

“There is nothing else I need to MOVE IN THE TRUTH that I will have that new job I wanted”

Hebrews 12:1 – Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.

“It’s not too late for me to learn this lesson.”

I was determined that my attitude would change, but here’s another truth – often, the more you walk in the Truth, the more Satan stirs up trouble.  I left for Alice TX, a small town near Corpus Christie, for a client engagement that Monday.  While I was on site Tuesday and Wednesday, all of a sudden several co-workers became very belligerent with me, and in ways that had never happened before.  Some were outright lying, and others became so enraged that they were very hurtful.  I was out in the middle of nowhere, at first wondering what the heck was going on!

I ain’t gonna lie, there were moments when this was happening when I easily fell into my old habits, but the Holy Spirit in His loving-kindness reminded me to walk in His Glory, not the circumstances that surrounded me.  On Thursday, as things were building and it felt for the first time that my job might even be in jeopardy, I prayed then went to because of my whole “you need to act in the truth” thing, which is a little different than “I’ll show you”.  I applied for the first two jobs in the list – one for an Accountant Position, the other a mix of accounting and software support similar to what I am doing now.  I could NOT tell you anything about either job as I just felt I needed to act and stop wallowing in my fear at that time.

So Thursday continued and Satan certainly was not letting up, but through the Power of Jesus I just kept saying to myself, “I will not be robbed of God’s Glory.  You have no power over me.”  And this is what happened next:

•    I got an email saying from a person named Melanie, “Gina, we received your resume and would really like to talk to you!”  I was at the client site, so couldn’t even check what job this was for, but still ……
•    I replied to the email and a 3pm phone interview was scheduled during my trip back to the airport.  At this time I found out it was the software position and I was able to research them a bit.  The call went VERY well, but was told the hiring manager would be going on vacation, so I might not hear more until after 8/8.
•    By the time my plane landed at 7pm that night, I had a new email saying the hiring manager wanted to talk to me the next day.  Now, Satan was in full force, because one of the owners of my current job had blown up right before my flight.  But as I replied to that email, I said “Jesus, you provided me a new job and I will NOT let Satan turn my face from you.  He can go to hell!”
•    The Friday call went VERY well and the hiring manager Johnny said he’d like to meet with me the day he returns from vacation on 8/8.  However, shortly afterward Melanie called and said the company didn’t want to wait that long, so one of the owners was flying out the following Wednesday to meet with me.  I was amazed!!!!!

Then low and behold, here come Shaw teaching on Sunday – last week –  and sharing her story about praying for her foot to be healed.  If you were here, I am sure you remember it.  But if you were NOT here, here is the gist of it:

•    At first she’d pray something like this: “Lord, if it’s in your will to heal my foot, I receive it” and then would later ask her foot, “How you feeling?”  Does that sound familiar?
•    But after realizing the TRUTH that we are ALREADY healed, she changed her stance to something more like this, “Jesus, I receive the healing you’ve already provided and thank you for healing my foot.”  Then, if her foot started giving her hints of trouble, she’d say “Foot, you need to align yourself with the Word!”  She went from a life-long foot problem to being HEALED.

So I began last week with a new attitude, and was often gently reminded by Deana, that I can and should LIVE IN the Truth and ACT ON the Truth of my position in Christ.  So I changed up my prayer:

“Lord, I no longer want to focus on my problems at work, but instead focus on You.  I will no longer fight my way through each day with myself and other people.  I will let You reign over every situation and not worry about getting revenge.  Most importantly, WHEN I receive the new job that you’ve already provided for me, I will share the miracle of who You are and all you’ve done.”

I walked into work Monday and, through the power of the Holy Spirit, there WAS a change!  Now, don’t forget the previous week had several issues that should have put me in a state of fear or at least encouraged me to come in fighting.  However, in areas where I disagreed with approaches or issue, I voiced my concern very diplomatically, but didn’t escalate to the previous arguments that were my norm.  This type of thing happened all day, to the point where several different co-workers asked me, “are you okay?”.  My reply was “Well, yes I am!”  And that reminded me of Pastor’s sermon last week from Mark where the people were afraid when the crazy person was no longer crazy.  ☺

Wednesday came and I met with Chuck, one of the owners, and I walked into that interview with several praying for me and with my cloak of the Truth surrounding me – THIS WAS A DIVINE APPOINTMENT AND JESUS HAS GOT THIS.  I was NOT nervous, I was NOT anxious.  Everything went well.  And, bottom line, I was offered the position the next morning at 8:05am – one week to the day I applied!

This job was 100% provided by my Lord, through no real effort on my part, and I truly believe all I really needed to do on my side is walk in the Truth of who I am in Christ.

I don’t know what you’re in the middle of, but I leave you these two verses:

Psalm 27:1 NIV

The LORD is my light and my salvation—
   whom shall I fear?
The LORD is the stronghold of my life—
   of whom shall I be afraid?

Phil 3:12-16 (The Message)

I’m not saying that I have this all together, that I have it made. But I am well on my way, reaching out for Christ, who has so wondrously reached out for me. Friends, don’t get me wrong: By no means do I count myself an expert in all of this, but I’ve got my eye on the goal, where God is beckoning us onward—to Jesus. I’m off and running, and I’m not turning back.

So let’s keep focused on that goal, those of us who want everything God has for us. If any of you have something else in mind, something less than total commitment, God will clear your blurred vision—you’ll see it yet! Now that we’re on the right track, let’s stay on it.