You Just Can’t Do Enough…

Having been in ministry in the capacity that I have for many years, I have had NUMEROUS occasions to talk with people concerning what they “believe” it means to be a Christian and furthermore, what it takes to “maintain” a “Christian” status…

To many, Christianity is like a car that they have to do routine daily maintenance on in order to keep it running or they think it will quit working when they need it to run the most! (Like in an emergency situation)…

It is an interesting perspective and not one that I haven’t had to work through, in some capacities, myself.  I mean, it’s difficult to turn on the TV or sit in a church service and not hear SOMETHING that might lead you to believe that there are a laundry list of things that you have to do in order to maintain that “Christian” engine…

Being one who has written several books, both published and unpublished, I have written chapters in times past about “disciplines” in our “Christian Walk” and what I am about to say may sound contradictory if not prefaced with a bit of explanation… What I am about to address, is NOT about sin or refraining from sin…Or even disciplining our thoughts so that they line up with God’s word… I believe that sin IS under our authority and for those who love God, there should be a cognizant effort exerted to attempt to avoid circumstances or situations that may cause us to find ourselves in a “setback” situation that we know according to His Word would be displeasing to Him… but these “disciplines” are simply ways that we honor Gods leading and Word in our lives…NOT an adherence to any “rule” that somehow makes us more saved or better than others…This is where personal convictions vs legalisms take a very different stance… Personally, I know that God will deal with different people differently about issues that could cause them personal set backs, others would disagree with that statement…it is an area where we must simply agree to disagree…

For example, God may tell one person not to go down to the “Red Light” district because they are not in a place where it wouldn’t be a temptation for them, where He might ask another to go into that environment and minister to the hurting in that industry… Just because God deals differently with one does not mandate His requirement for the other… which is why we “work out our own salvation…With God”.

Too many doctrines teach a legal adherence to “rules” as an outward sign of holiness…and this is simply not a requirement from a biblical perspective.  Just this week, I have had SEVERAL people contact me with questions about leaders in their lives placing unbiblical requirements upon them for the sake of rules and/or legalism… One young man wanted to go out and minister on the street with a team of people and was not permitted because he had on shorts…Another questioned the love of God for them because of their past and sins that they have committed and they felt that they didn’t “measure up” to the other Christians that they knew or their perceived “expectations”…and the list goes on… I’ve only been a Christian “this long”… “I haven’t read the bible all the way through yet…” etc…

All of these ideas come from unbalanced teachings about doctrinal issues that do NOT have biblical foundations!  And this is why I am writing this chapter today.  My hope is, that perhaps, what I am about to present will offer a bit of balance, perspective and peace to minds and spirits that are unnecessarily burdened by “Religious Expectations” that have no biblical foundation!

Jesus said in Matthew  Chapter 11 vs 30 (Msg Version)

28-30″Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”

Another version says, “My yoke is easy and my burden is light”… Jesus didn’t come to make things complicated… He simplified what religion had previously made so difficult!  And even though it is so simple, PEOPLE still try to make it harder than it needs to be by adding burdensome yokes and expectations to a relationship with God that should be liberating… It’s as if they just don’t believe that it can possibly be as simple as God and the bible have made it, and they feel that they have to do something “extra” in order to measure up…

Check this out, as I wrote in a previous chapter, Paul (who wrote 2/3’s of the new testament) was at one time one of THE MOST legalistic and religiously bound individuals of his day!  He actually sought to kill Christians for what they taught because it contradicted his “religion” and belief system.  Then he has a miraculous encounter with God that completely changed his entire perspective and he became a completely new man with a new purpose in life!  He turned 180 degrees around and actually set out to undo and confront all of his previously unbalanced teachings about God and His desire/love for mankind!  He learned a truth that he simply could NOT keep silent about because he recognized that the religious chains that once bound him and thousands of others like him were UNNECESSARY!  God had provided freedom and Paul was on a mission to relay that “Good News” to the world!  Eventually, this passion and conviction cost Paul his life and he was executed… But his tenacity and willingness to die for what he came to believe and understand and ultimately convey to us just goes to show how convinced he was of the truth of it and the immense importance to him that this truth that he came to understand was passed on to the rest of the world!

In Galations Chapter 3 Paul says some profound things that, considering my recent conversations with people, leapt off of the page at me this week, as I saw something that I had never really seen before, even though I had read this passage so many times!

Let me preface by saying, Paul is writing this chapter to a group of people that he had already preached the life giving gospel of Jesus to… he left with an understanding that they “GOT IT” and that they understood that what Jesus had done for them had freed them from their previous legalistic bondages… then, some other teachers came along and messed up what Paul had taught them. The Galatian people, began to embrace a bastardized version of the gospel which once again incorporated undo burden and religious/legalistic rules.  Paul, disgusted with what was being taught and the similarities to what he himself used to be completely bound and driven by, set out, in a letter to “set the record straight” once again!

Galatians 3 (Msg Version)

Trust in Christ, Not the Law

1 You crazy Galatians! Did someone put a hex on you? Have you taken leave of your senses? Something crazy has happened, for it’s obvious that you no longer have the crucified Jesus in clear focus in your lives. His sacrifice on the cross was certainly set before you clearly enough.

2-4Let me put this question to you: How did your new life begin? Was it by working your heads off to please God? Or was it by responding to God’s Message to you? Are you going to continue this craziness? For only crazy people would think they could complete by their own efforts what was begun by God. If you weren’t smart enough or strong enough to begin it, how do you suppose you could perfect it? Did you go through this whole painful learning process for nothing? It is not yet a total loss, but it certainly will be if you keep this up!

5-6Answer this question: Does the God who lavishly provides you with his own presence, his Holy Spirit, working things in your lives you could never do for yourselves, does he do these things because of your strenuous moral striving or because you trust him to do them in you? Don’t these things happen among you just as they happened with Abraham? He believed God, and that act of belief was turned into a life that was right with God.

7-8Is it not obvious to you that persons who put their trust in Christ (not persons who put their trust in the law!) are like Abraham: children of faith? It was all laid out beforehand in Scripture that God would set things right with non-Jews by faith. Scripture anticipated this in the promise to Abraham: “All nations will be blessed in you.”

9-10So those now who live by faith are blessed along with Abraham, who lived by faith—this is no new doctrine! And that means that anyone who tries to live by his own effort, independent of God, is doomed to failure. Scripture backs this up: “Utterly cursed is every person who fails to carry out every detail written in the Book of the law.”

11-12The 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.”

13-14Christ redeemed us from that self-defeating, cursed life by absorbing it completely into himself. Do you remember the Scripture that says, “Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree”? That is what happened when Jesus was nailed to the cross: He became a curse, and at the same time dissolved the curse. And now, because of that, the air is cleared and we can see that Abraham’s blessing is present and available for non-Jews, too. We are all able to receive God’s life, his Spirit, in and with us by believing—just the way Abraham received it…

18-20What is the point, then, of the law, the attached addendum? It was a thoughtful addition to the original covenant promises made to Abraham. The purpose of the law was to keep a sinful people in the way of salvation until Christ (the descendant) came, inheriting the promises and distributing them to us… the original promise is the direct blessing of God, received by faith.

21-22…For if any kind of rule-keeping had power to create life in us, we would certainly have gotten it by this time.

As Paul addresses the Church at Galatia, he explains to them that serving God is not about the rules, it’s not about the legalistic adherences, it’s not even about anything that we could do for God… it’s ALL about what God has done for us!

As I read this chapter, the words in verses 11-12 were like a beam of light on the page… 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.

That sums up the WHOLE teaching!  Doing things for God is the OPPOSITE of entering into what God does for you!

There is a “rule of thumb” that most churches adhere to when establishing “doctrine” and  I will stick to it as well as I attempt to disrupt the legalism applecart.  The rule is that “Doctrine” is established with agreement or repetition of 2 or more biblical teachings that agree and as a result make the teaching doctrinally sound… So, here are a few more just to solidify my doctrinal antithesis on this issue…

Psalm 127 (NIV)

1 Unless the LORD builds the house, its builders labor in vain. Unless the LORD watches over the city, the watchmen stand guard in vain.

2 In vain you rise early and stay up late, toiling for food to eat for he grants sleep to those he loves.

Matthew 11:28-30 (The Message)

28-30″Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”

Ephesians 2:8-9 (New International Version)

8For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9not by works, so that no one can boast.

John 3:16 (The Message)

16-17″This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his one and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life. God didn’t go to all the trouble of sending his Son merely to point an accusing finger, telling the world how bad it was. He came to help, to put the world right again. Anyone who trusts in him is acquitted…

Romans 10:9-10 (New International Version)

9That if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved.

…and the list could go on… but I think these scriptural references solidify the “doctrinal” prerequisite…

I had a thought this week and it is still something that I am chewing on, but will share with you as it pertains to this whole concept about where we stand with God as it pertains to having a relationship with Him…

Jesus, in Matthew 22:14 makes a statement in a parable about salvation that “many are called but few are chosen”…

I think that every Christian denomination would agree that salvation is obtained/received through faith in agreement with the scriptures that I have listed above and additional scriptures that also parallel and establish the doctrine for salvation…  Most would agree that it is a free gift that all are able to embrace if they “will”… but this scripture in Matthew is often quoted by those who feel that there is a “work” that we can do that makes us “chosen”…

Personally, I think that, IF there is a “work” after receiving salvation that we can do that somehow puts us in a different “class” (not necessarily saved vs unsaved but maybe usable vs MORE usable) I think it may have to do with submission to the work of God in our lives as outlined in the paragraphs above and entering into what God is doing for us…

I think most just don’t submit to the work of God in their lives and instead are trying to always “make something happen” because that is what they have been wrongly taught was how we “do it”… As a result, “many are called” but simply do not step from “servant status” into their rightful “son status” in order to receive the inheritance of being a Son!

They constantly strive as a “servant” would without inheritance in hopes of somehow pleasing God instead of comprehending that they are actually more than a servant because of the work of Christ and the cross…Ultimately rendering their menial and labored “righteousness” attempts, worthless and possibly even viewed by God contemptuously on some levels because, to Him, OUR righteousness (outside of Christ and His sacrifice) is viewed as “filthy rags”… (that scriptural reference to “filthy rags” is actually referring to the uncleanness of a menstrual towel that a woman would use during her monthly cycle… During the time that this was written, under Jewish law, a woman was considered “unclean” and even “untouchable” from a intimacy/covenant perspective…For this analogy to be used in scripture to explain this point, definitely puts God’s view of “our righteousness” in perspective doesn’t it?)

Back to being “chosen vs called”, I don’t believe that “eligibility” per se’ is earned, I believe it’s simply RECEIVED by a submission to the work of the Father!

Hosea 4:6 states MY PEOPLE perish for a lack of knowledge…

Key words being “MY PEOPLE”!  Not “outsiders”, not other nations, God is speaking to HIS people dying because of a lack of knowledge… Meaning that they have a relationship with Him, they are His people, yet still perish…because they ultimately don’t understand something about what it actually means to be in a covenant relationship with Him…is it possible that perhaps this has something to do with those many who are called and few who are “chosen”?

My thoughts are, if there is a set of “rules” that we need to adhere to after salvation, it rests in a simple teaching from Jesus that states that, as we seek to Love God with all our minds and hearts and submit to allowing the love of God to extend through us, to our neighbor… Then we fulfill all of the “expectations” that God has for us!  At that point, we are postured to receive the work from Him that NO EFFORT of our own could establish!

The old testament (old covenant) is richly established in the “Law” where man, in his efforts, is in passionate pursuit of God… The New Testament (New Covenant in Christ) is established in the Love and Grace of Father God, where God is in passionate pursuit of Man and having an intimate relationship with him!

The paradigm shifted and God gave ALL so that we could have the relationship with Him that He originally created for us to have!

He makes it SO SIMPLE that it almost seems unfair on His end, yet, when this covenant is mutually embraced and the Love is reciprocated the way that He intended and we recognize that all of it is, HIS WORK and HIS DESIRE as we are just simply recipients of what He wanted to do for us!  Then, at that point, I believe that we can step into the fullness of the “chosen” destiny that He created and desires for us…I say “step into” because, it’s already established…

Anything we “attempt” to do, to make it better, or to make ourselves more “worthy” is simply futile… You just CAN’T do enough… and in actuality, anything you try to do, is too much…The great things is, Christ did for you what you NEVER COULD DO YOURSELF!!!  So just roll with it and embrace that relationship with Him that He CHOSE to have with you!

I’ll reiterate the Word one more time… “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…”

When Jesus said, “It is finished”…that’s exactly what He meant…

If you can dig it…SAY WORD!!!

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