~~i want to be everything you dreamed when you called my name~~

Monday, December 18, 2006

Grace and Works

I was reading in Galatians this morning - and was just reminded of God's grace...and overwhelmed at how much I don't deserve it...

The believers in Galatia had found themselves heading down a dangerous path, and they needed a reminder from Paul. They had become children of God by placing their trust in Jesus, but their simple, childlike faith was being assailed by the false teaching that faith alone is insufficient for salvation. Jewish Christians were telling them that along with faith in Jesus, God's people were accountable to keep the Jewish traditions and laws in order to be saved (Galatians 3:1-14).

The main thrust of Paul's letter to the churches in Galatia was the truth that anyone who believes in Jesus is therby God's child - and that this adoption and salvation have nothing whatsoever to do with adherence to rules. Both Jewish and Greek believers are sons and daughters of God - both slaves and free, both men and women - all who believe are God's children (v. 26-29).

Sometimes it appears that "faith" as exemplified in the Old Testament was based on how closely people followed the commandments and how faithfully they offered sacrifices. But being a member of God's family has always been a matter of trust rather than of any futile attempt at perfection. While the law of God teaches us what He is like and defines for us the kind of liefstyle He expects from us, it does not "impart life" (verse 21). Only Jesus' sacrificial death could accomplish that: "When the time had fully come, God sent His Son, born of a woman, born under law, to redeem those under law, that we might receive the full rights of sons" (Galatians 4:4-5).

As the Holy Spirit moves within us, we are freed from the stranglehold of constricting rules. Instead, we are guided by His power to want to live holy lives. While we are not saved by our good deeds, they are indeed evidence that the Holy Spirit is at work in us. Paul minced no words in addressing the Galatian believers: "You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you?...After beginning with the Spirit, are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort?...Does God give you His Spirit and work miracles among you because you observe the law, or because you believe what you have heard?" (Galatians 3:1,3,5).

Remember, the old covenant of the law was replaced by the new covenant of Jesus' sacrifice. We no longer have to follow a list of rules and regulations to understand and get close to God - Jesus' death and resurrection opened up a new covenant for us - a covenant that says we grow close to God by faith and grace - not by our behavior. We are no longer bound by the letter of the law, rather we as believers are "clothed...with Christ" (verse 27), and our focus becomes pleasing Him because of our love from and for Him. Salvation comes from grace, not works - and works come from a deep, love relationship with our Creator.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Faithful and True

After the roar and shouts of multitudes praising God, John saw "heaven standing open and there before him was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True" (Revelation 19:11). Faithful and True. This rider is also referred to as, "the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the ruler of God's creation" (Revelation 3:14). Faithful and True. And this person is none other than Jesus himself (Ephesians 1:22; Colossians 1:16). He is somewhat mysterious, this Judge and Warrior, because "he has a name written on him that no one knows but he himself" (Revelation 19:12). We are also told that "his name is the Word of God" (Revelation 19:13, see also John 1:1-14). Faithful and True.

The very essence of Jesus' name - Faithful and True - is something that we who are living within the confines of a sin-stained world can only begin to understand. We have never experienced the quality of unadulterated faithfulness in any one person, because all of us humans are fragile, prone to breaking down under duress or temptation. And not one of us can claim to know someone who is absolutely honorable. We all fall prey to the tendency to twist the facts just a bit to make ourselves appear better than we actually are. Even as godly, maturing Christians, we know that our framework of truth can never be the same as the absolute, pure truth of Jesus. Only His perspective is consistent with all of the facts; only He can perceive and interpret reality from every possible vantage point. Faithful and True.

The Bible assures us over and over again that we can trust God to keep His word. And this is much more than a character trait passed down from Father to San. Because God the Father and Jesus Christ are one (John 17:11, 22), the Rider on the white horse can safely be followed through every circumstance - all the way to eternity. Faithful and True. We often use phrases like "As sure as I'm standing here" to convey the reliability of what we are about to state. In my work, every meausre used must be proven reliable before it can be used - and even then, it's hardly completely trusted. Paul simply relied on who God is, using God's faithfulness as a reference when he made the claim that his own words would be absolutely true: "As surely as God is faithful," he assured his readers (2 Corinthians 1:18). Faithful and True. (ps...can you imagine if in a research talk - I said 'As surely as God is faithful, the SFQS is reliable' - which would be a lie...)

As we hear and believe the gospel message, we come to know that it is altogether true; as we experience it's dynamic power we come to see that all of God's truth comes to one majestic affirmation in Jesus Christ, in whom all of God's promises are "yes". Our God does not waver in carrying out His word. He follows through with every detail of what He promises us, because He is and will always be faithful (Philippians 1:6, 2 Thessalonians 3:3). Faithful and True.

It really makes no difference whether or not we believe this to be true. Paul addressed this issue through a rhetorical question followed by a resounding affirmation: "Will our lack of faith nullify God's faithfulness? Not at all! Let God be true, and every man a liar!" (Romans 3:3-4). Faithful and True.