Why did Jesus tell those under the law that they were slaves of sin, but under the New Covenant, we are slaves of righteousness? What does that mean and how does this give the Christian assurance?
Chapter 4 of this teaching series based on my book, The Revelation of Grace. This study looks at the difference between forgiveness and redemption. What does the word ‘redemption’ mean? What does the Bible mean when it says that Christ gave us eternal redemption?
Chapter 3 of this teaching series based on my book, The Revelation of Grace. This study looks at how Christ overcame sin for us, and how we are overcomes by receiving from the work of Christ.
Chapter 2 of the Revelation of Grace study. This study looks at what the Bible means about salvation, why the law cannot save, and how the Old Testament journey of the law delivers us to Christ, where we are justified by faith alone.
The article on Paul’s thorn in the flesh has generated some questions. To those who emailed me, I apologize that I can’t reply individually. I’ll try to answer the main points of objection in this post. Some of the emails I’ve received said that God did heal Paul of his thorn in the flesh. As one person put it, “God’s grace was sufficient, and that means Paul was healed.”
The primary point Paul was making is that when he was weak through the infirmity of his flesh, God more than made up for his weakness with God’s limitless strength. This is intended to teach us a principle of life.
It is hard not to be emotionally invested in a belief, but we must be careful not to explain away scriptures that challenge what we’ve been taught to believe. Every Christian group has misconceptions. Many of the things I was taught, such as a legalistic mixture of law and grace, have been dismantled by scripture. When someone challenges our beliefs, the first reaction is to fight against it, but I encourage you to examine the scriptures and see if these things are so. Perhaps you have a perspective I haven’t considered; but equally true is that I may have a perspective you haven’t considered. Don’t disregard the scriptures I am using but prayerfully seek to reconcile your understanding to what the Bible is teaching.
This is why clarity through looking at a scripture in its context is so important. The purpose of the passage from 2 Corinthians 12:7-10 was to rely on God’s strength, and that our weaknesses enable God to show Himself strong on our behalf. Paul did not say he was healed. He said, “I will glory in my infirmities that the power of God may rest upon me.” To glory in our infirmities is not a declaration that we have been healed. It is a call to look beyond human strength and our measures of success, and rest fully upon God’s power. When we recognize our inabilities or infirmities, we are then able to rely on God all the more.
This does not mean that God does not heal. It does mean that God has the right to use infirmities when the greater blessing is our discovery of His strength.
This is not a passage about healing. Paul pleaded three times and God made it clear that the answer was not to come through healing. How can we see Paul acknowledge his infirmities, but then deny that God allowed it to remain? Let’s let Job testify again. Look at Job 23:10-11
10 But He knows the way that I take; When He has tested me, I shall come forth as gold.
11 My foot has held fast to His steps; I have kept His way and not turned aside.
Job wrote this in the midst of his anguish, and gave this as a testimony to his friends that declared, “God will never do this to a righteous man.” Does God not have the right to refine us? Peter instructed the church not to be shaken when a fiery trial comes upon them as though some strange thing has happened. God not only permits hardships, often times God orchestrates these things for the purpose of removing the things that hinder our life in the Spirit. Let’s let Job again testify, Job 2:10
But he said to her, “You speak as one of the foolish women speaks. Shall we indeed accept good from God, and shall we not accept adversity?” In all this Job did not sin with his lips.
This is when his wife was shaken by the trials Job went through, and told him to curse God and die. Some say that God will never bring adversity, but the Bible says that Job’s statement was not sin. He said that God has the right to send adversity, and clearly credited God with the trials he was going through.
So is it a sin to make a false declaration about God? Yes. The Bible calls this blasphemy. But God said to us, “Job did not sin with his lips,” when Job testified that this adversity was from God’s hand.
The heart of the problem is that people measure good based on comfort and what the flesh determines as good. It’s easy to call the monetary blessings good. When we prosper in this world, we say, “God is good.” But when we suffer in this world, this is a greater blessing than worldly prosperity. To be refined with the promise, “I shall come forth as gold,” is not evil. The truth is, if we get everything we want and God meets our will as we demand His riches, our faith will be tissue thin and our perspective will be flawed. God does not produce spoiled children. He produces people who are strong in the power of His might, a people who are not shaken by this world, and trust in God without wavering.
When the church teaches that God answers our prayers based on what we will to happen, this shakes people’s faith more than adversity could ever do. Paul pleaded with God three times to change his circumstances, but God’s will was for Paul to be refined. God’s answer was ‘no’ to Paul’s will, but yes to God’s perfect will for Paul’s life. And God’s will was to weaken Paul’s human strength for the purpose of revealing to Him God’s perfect strength.
If we are taught that God must answer as we expect, this forces people to pretend they have what they demanded, even when it never comes to fruition. There is no willingness to acknowledge that God’s purpose may be counter to what we are claiming for ourselves. Then people either have to keep saying, “I have it,” when they don’t, or they are criticized with, “You just don’t have enough faith.” But when we teach people to trust in what God is doing, then God’s people walk confidently in every situation, knowing that on the other side of every adversity is greater glory.
Yes, God WILL sacrifice your physical comfort for your eternal good. The point of the Christian life is not to demand our will, but to die to our will and rest fully upon the Lord. We trust God to both heal, and to give us strength when the Lord chooses to use our struggles to refine us. Stop looking at the earthly perspective, and start seeking God to reveal the life of the Spirit to you.
Take care not to cheapened grace and reduce it to only fit within a fleshly perspective. It is commonly taught that grace means, God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense. That is true, but you have to understand that the greater riches are not the things that are manifested in our natural / carnal life. God indeed richly blesses us in many, many ways, most of which are not bound to the physical world. Grace is also the invitation to enter into the agape fellowship of God (the fellowship that has always existed between the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit). The gifts of this world that come from God’s love are extras. They are not the purpose. If we only want physical riches, we are missing the true meaning of the Christian life. We are called into unhindered fellowship with the God who created us, and redeemed us out of our sin.
Grace is the love of God that removed every barrier between God and man so we could experience the same fellowship that Jesus had with the Father. Those who don’t understand grace still exalt sin, and rebuild the barrier by placing themselves back under condemnation each time they fall back into the flesh. Those who don’t understand grace make the Christian life about what we can get from God, and how God can make our life in this world more comfortable. Both of these perspectives rob us of the true fellowship God has invited us to be a part of. This is the only way we can live a life that cannot be shaken, for once we are in agape fellowship and grounded in grace, we’ll experience Romans 8:37-39
37 Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.
38 For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come,
39 nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Any view on grace that does not center us on the love of God will not stand when the world falls into chaos. Grace is not about getting what God has, but growing in intimacy with God. Or as God told Abraham, “I am your exceedingly great reward.” God promised Abraham many things, and though these physical promises enriched his life, the center of it all was his walk with God. If he only focused on what he was getting from God, he would not have been willing to give his nephew the best of the land when a dispute arose in the family. He was able to leave possessions behind because of his confidence in God as his reward.
To the one walking in intimacy with God, hardships cause them to trust all the more. To the one focused on what they get from God, when something they want is taken out of the way, it will rattle their faith. One teacher said, “The Lord gives, but the Lord never takes away.” To those bound in this mindset, they will never have confidence when trials arise.
When Job lost everything, his faith was not shaken. He said in Job 1:21-22
21 And he said: “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, And naked shall I return there. The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; Blessed be the name of the LORD.”
22 In all this Job did not sin nor charge God with wrong.
Once again, the Bible makes it clear that Job’s testimony was right with God. When he said that the Lord has taken away, God declared that his words were not blasphemy. Job proved that his faith was not dependent upon blessing. The worse things became, and the more his friends called him faithless and guilty of sin, the more Job leaned upon the Lord. In the midst of many days of religious people scorning him with many accusations, Job said in Job 19:25-27
25 For I know that my Redeemer lives, And He shall stand at last on the earth;
26 And after my skin is destroyed, this I know, That in my flesh I shall see God,
27 Whom I shall see for myself, And my eyes shall behold, and not another. How my heart yearns within me!
When his health was stripped away, Job declared his confidence in the Lord. While the religious community ridiculed him, he proclaimed his faith that He will stand in the end, and his eyes will behold God. When everything humankind holds dear was stripped away, Job declared how his heart yearns for the Lord.
We should learn from this example. If your confidence is in anything other than the love of God, when hardship tries to shake you, your faith will not stand. But to the one grounded in the rock of Christ, no storm can move them.
Jesus explained this when He spoke of the two men building their houses. The man who rushed to get into prosperity and ease, his house was built on the sand. The man who built on the rock had to study the word, dig deep into his foundation, and through steady growth his house was raised on Christ. He did not escape the storms of life. Until the storms came, both foundations appeared good. Both had to weather hardship, but the one founded on Christ stood secure, while the other had a great fall.
A Christian should never be dependent upon circumstances. We all want comfort, but in the end, we’ll be grateful that God didn’t settle for leaving us in the comfort-at-all-cost mentality. God wants you to grow in the life of the Spirit, and when the flesh is in the way, God refines us. We have a natural tendency to gravitate toward the flesh, but the Lord wants us to have an eternal mindset so we don’t come short in any gift. Look at James 1:2-3
2 My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials,
3 knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience.
The word ‘patience’ here is ‘hupomone’, which means steadfastness, constancy, and patient endurance. This tells us that trials are intended to break the distraction of the flesh so we can have a steadfast faith. This is why we count it as joy. Joy is when we look beyond our circumstances to the good outcome we know is coming. Just as the Bible says that Jesus despised the cross, but for the joy set before Him, He endured it. The joy before Him was the outcome of the cross – our reconciliation to Himself. You were the joy that gave Jesus endurance. The joy set before us also gives us patience/endurance when trials come.
We should not teach people that trials come because we don’t have faith, or that God would never do these things. Then people are confused because when they are taught that trials are never God’s will, but they do come, instead of being strengthened through the joy before them, they believe God has abandoned them or that they are lacking in faith.
Don’t allow the challenges of life to shake your confidence. View life through the love and acceptance of God, and when hardships come, walk in confidence knowing that God is your strength and He is producing a life in you that is pure like gold. When you are weak, take pleasure in your weakness, for that is when the strength of the Almighty rests upon you. When you walk through life with a steadfast spirit, you will see the end of God’s purpose, and you will be grateful God brought these things in your life. God never settles for merely restoring us. He restores abundantly above what we have lost when we are steadfast in our trust in Him. Let this be your confidence!
It amazes me how that the church completely rejects the Bible’s teaching that the just shall live by faith. The church has no problem believing you are saved by faith, but once you teach that we must live the same way we enter the Christian life, legalist call this ‘disobedience’.
Legalism attempts to force Christians to choose between believing in the grace of Christ and obedience, as if these two are opposing forces. This is a false teaching. The Apostle Paul said it best when legalist persuaded the Galatian church to submit back under the law when he said, “Are you so foolish, having begun in the Spirit, do you now think you are perfected in the flesh?” He goes on to explain that it is the hearing of faith that transforms their lives, not turning back to the law.
In order to create conflict, legalists are telling the church that believing in God’s grace through Christ is equal to disobedience. We supposedly must choose between grace and obedience. The truth is, obedience IS trusting in grace. When the law-minded religious community came to Jesus and ask what they must do to do the works of God, Jesus said, “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him [Christ] whom He [God] sent.”
God didn’t change His mind after the cross. This is still the work of God, that you believe on Christ. Everything comes through Christ. Nothing comes through human effort. The just shall live by faith – not – the just shall live by the law or by works.
Here is a typical response I received. Similar arguments often come from legalistic believers in the law. As you read this, ask yourself, “Do these scriptures undermine grace?”
This was posted in response to the article, The Myth of Hypergrace:
Let’s let the Scriptures Speak for themselves. 1 john 5:2-3 By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and observe His commandments. 3For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments; and His commandments are not burdensome.
Matthew 5:16-19 16 Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.17 Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill. 18 For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.19 Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.
Luke 24:46-48 46 He told them, “This is what is written: The Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, 47 and repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses of these things.
Does 1 John 5:2-3 teach that God is pleased by works and not by faith in the grace of Christ? If anything, this shows why scripture should not be taken out of context. This builds on what John said in 1 John 3:23
And this is His commandment: that we should believe on the name of His Son Jesus Christ and love one another, as He gave us commandment.
The commandment is not to return to the law, but to believe on Christ, and out of a heart that is receiving by faith, we have the love of God (which is agape) and through the love we are abiding in, we also express agape toward one another. Man is incapable of agape love outside of the Spirit. Man’s love is called ‘philia’ love in the Bible. Agape love is the love of God that is poured in our hearts by the Holy Spirit (Romans 5:5).
Legalism takes a passage that places our trust in Christ and transforms it into a law that trusts in what we do for Christ – or think we do for Christ.
Now let’s look at the next objection from Matthew 5:16-19. The answer is actually in the objection. Jesus indeed says that the law will not pass away until all is fulfilled, but in verse 16, He clearly says, “I have come to fulfill the law.” If Jesus has fulfilled the law, are we now going to count the blood of His sacrifice as a common thing and do despite to the Spirit of grace, and try to fulfill it ourselves? (See Hebrews 10:29).
This question is also answered in Romans 8:4
The righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.
Verse 2 tells us that the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death. The Bible calls the law ‘the ministry of death’ (see 2 Corinthians 3:7). Romans goes on to explain that the mind on the law is in the flesh, but the mind in the Spirit (which is the mind on faith in Christ) creates life. After explaining that the mind stuck in the law is the mind in the flesh, verse 8 says, “So then, those who are in the flesh cannot please God.” People try to make it sound like those who are in the flesh are those who are committing adultery and other sexual sins. Not so. The mind that is not in the Spirit by faith is in the flesh, no matter what the person is doing or not doing.
This is further affirmed by Hebrews 11:6
Without faith it is impossible to please God, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.
The law is strangely absent from this promise. Other than the law of faith, which is to trust fully in Christ. Man desires to have a share in his own salvation because it gives him glory. But God said, “No flesh shall glory in my presence.” You cannot make God owe you salvation. You can’t make God owe you a reward. Your obedience cannot put God in debt to you. Obedience without faith is actually disobedience, for we are rejecting the gift of God’s righteousness, and trying to usurp glory for ourselves by substituting our righteousness in God’s place.
To the claim that grace-believers are teaching people to not obey the law, I refer back to Jesus’ words. He came to fulfill the law, and we who walk in the Spirit by faith have fulfilled the law in Him. We are doing the works of God because we believe in Christ, who was sent to fulfill the law AND redeem us out of the debt of the law.
To those who trust in the law, I refer you to Galatians 5, which warns that those who submit to the law are a debtor to keep the whole law – not just a modernized version of the law that fits our lifestyle. I also refer you to James 2:10, which warns that if you keep the whole law, but stumble on one point, you are guilty of all the law.
Why is it so hard for legalists to see that the law is not a merit system, but a condemnation system? If you fail once, you are guilty. There is no blessing. There is no reward. There is no honorable mention. The law was intended to make every person guilty (Romans 3:19-20) so we were driven to Christ. If you trust in the law, you are not trusting in Christ, but yourself. And the Bible says that your flesh IS the weakness of the law. You are the weak link. That is until you enter Christ, who fulfilled the law, which none of us can do.
Finally, let’s look at the misconception of the meaning of Luke 24:46-48. This does not point to your ability to keep the law. It is not a man-dependent religion. It all points to Christ, not our ability to become Old Covenant keepers. Forgiveness is through Christ, not obedience to the law. It can’t be obedience to the law, for we just discussed that one offense nullifies any obedience. That is the nature of law. A good man who breaks the law is a law breaker in the eyes of the law. No one can point to all the good things they have done as a defense for their crime in a courtroom. Their good means nothing. They broke the law, and the law demands condemnation and penalty.
This is through Christ. And the word repentance has nothing to do with keeping the law. To repent means to change the mind. Your mind was once in the flesh, but when faith came, you were invited into the Spirit. The mind in the Spirit is life and peace, but the mind in the flesh is death. Repentance means to change the mind from the flesh to the Spirit – which means turning from anything else (religious or anti-religious) and turning to faith in Christ alone.
According to the Bible, you and I have been given all things that pertain to life and godliness by God’s divine power through Christ.(See 2 Peter 1:3) What is not included in all things? Is there anything other than life and godliness? It is a call of faith. Christ has accomplished all things, and all things are given to those who will believe and receive by faith. Righteousness, godliness, holiness, the fruit of the Spirit and all other things are gifts of God through Christ.
Romans 4:4-5 makes it clear that grace is freely given through faith, but unattainable through works. The moment you try to earn grace, it becomes your debt. But to him who does not work, but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted as righteousness.
The natural mind scoffs at grace, and to that mind the Bible says, “those who are in the flesh cannot please God.” It is no surprise that religion hates grace, for the Bible says, “The natural mind cannot understand the things of God and cannot receive them, for they are spiritually discerned.” Those who are trusting in their own works and righteousness scoff at the grace of Christ, for the natural mind cannot understand how grace drives out sin. They don’t understand how a life that has been freed from the law will do by nature the things that are in the law, and do so without fear of condemnation or a legalistic rule demanding submission. Grace frees us to walk according to our new nature, but legalism calls us to take our eyes off Christ, and return to the same type of system that couldn’t succeed through human effort.
When the natural mind encounters grace, it rages. It does so because the fleshly mind is threatened by anything that does not build its glory. Or as the Apostle Paul said about those who were trying to bring the church back under the law. They don’t keep the law, but they desire you to be under the law that they may glory in your flesh. In other words, the flesh feels glorified when it persuades others to submit to the form of religion it is drawing self-glorification from.
The truth is, we are all receivers of God’s works as we trust in Christ. Anything we do for God is a rejection of what God has done for us. But by faith, we are transformed into Christ glory as we behold His glory. By faith, we enter the Spirit where the life of the Spirit will give life to our mortal bodies. Only then will our outward behavior reflect the righteousness of God. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God. Without faith, it is impossible to please God. But we have the promise, walk in the Spirit (which is walking by faith in Christ) and you will not fulfill the lusts of the flesh.(Galatians 5:16) That’s a promise the law cannot fulfill. Compare that to Romans 7:5, which says the law stirs up the passions of the flesh. Faith and grace stirs up our life in the Spirit, and legalism and law stir up the flesh. Which is more likely to produce obedience?
One of the biggest mistakes Christians make is demanding the world to live by a Christian standard. According to the Bible, we are all born into a fallen nature. Before I became a Christian, I tried to be religious, but I could not live by the perfect standard of Christ. After becoming a Christian, I didn’t do much better. My struggles didn’t improve until I learned what the Bible meant that I am a new creation, and for this reason, I am called to walk according to the Spirit. Or as the Apostle Paul put it, “It is no longer I who lives, but Christ lives through me.”
The truth is, a fallen nature cannot live by an eternal spiritual standard. Bruce Jenner’s gender identity crisis is not the problem – it’s a symptom. The problem is that in the flesh – or our old natural state, we are all slaves to our passions. It just happens to be that some people’s passions are socially acceptable. I don’t see Christians blowing up over a sailor that has a girl in every port. Or the countless people in the church that give in to their passions with the opposite sex. Or what about people whose God is their belly (Philippians 3:19). What about the warning of Proverbs 23:20, which tells us not to mix company with gluttons, and to put a knife to our own throat if our appetites are aroused by the foods of the glutton?
This is the very reason why Romans 2:1 says that we who judge others are condemning ourselves, for we are guilty of the same things. The truth is, we are all born in the same boat as Jenner, even though our symptoms may be different.
What is the response the church should be making? Is it to wag our fingers at someone who is clearly tormented by their inner struggles, and condemn them for making choices that they hope will meet their needs? Is this really what the Bible teaches? Or could it be that Jesus showed us how to reach starving souls?
The woman caught in adultery is one of my favorite examples of ministry. Just as we see in the church today, religious people threw this woman at Jesus’ feet and said, “This woman was caught in the very act of adultery. The law condemns her to die by stoning, what to you say?”
Why did they come to Jesus? They didn’t need His permission. The Bible says that Jesus did not come to condemn the world, but bring them into salvation. The same message is given to the church by Christ. He said, “You are not of the world, but I have called you out of the world.” This is the heart of the great commission. Jesus did not command His disciples to force the world to live like Christians. He commanded them to go out into the world, call others out of the world, and make disciples.
The world knew that Jesus lived contrary to it. This includes the religious world. They thought they were serving God, but the Bible calls them enemies of the cross. Jesus even warned that they would persecute His followers while thinking they were doing God a service. Why did religion hate Christ? Because He was full of grace and truth. Grace does not condemn sin. Grace overcomes sin with the goodness of God. This is why the Bible says that our righteousness is worthless to God, but His righteousness is a gift to us. We are righteous by becoming receivers of grace, not accomplishers of the law. In fact, the Bible says that by the deeds of the law, no one will be justified in God’s sight.
The woman in adultery is the evidence of this truth. Instead of pointing at the woman’s sins, Jesus pointed at the sins of her accusers. When He stooped down, He wrote things on the ground that began convicting them. I imagine Him writing things like, Adultery = to lust is adultery in our heart. Thievery = he that is greedy is a thief in his heart. He that covets is guilty of idolatry. One by one, Jesus exposed their hidden sins, then He stood up and said, “Let the one who is without sin be the first to cast a stone at her.”
Grace was given to the woman before the call to sin no more was issued. “Are there none to accuse you? Neither do I accuse you. Go and sin no more.”
The thieving tax collector Zacchaeus was hated by the religious community. He robbed people with the Roman tax system, was greedy, covetous, and guilty by any religious standard. Yet without pointing out a single sin, Zacchaeus was transformed by grace when He spent time with Christ. As he was filled with the love of God, he volunteered his money. “I will give half my money to the poor, and if I have robbed anyone, I will repay four times what I took.”
Ironically, the religious rich young ruler refused to part with his money in Luke 18, but the sinful scoundrel who was anti-religious eagerly gave up this world once he experienced the grace of Christ.
And we haven’t even gotten into the prostitute, Mary Magdalene, the foul mouthed fisherman named Peter, or the other thieving tax collector Matthew. Matthew and Peter both abandoned their sin without Jesus pointing out their faults. Once they saw the value of the new life of Christ, their old life suddenly looked like trash. They soon became the apostles that Jesus used to present the church of the New Covenant. Or what about Paul. He was a murderer of Christians, yet Jesus called him through grace, and the very religious Paul declared that his old life was nothing but a dung heap compared to the excellence of knowing Christ.
Another great example was the woman at the well. She was living in open sin. Her sinful reputation was so shameful that she would not go to the well to draw water until the heat of the day. The other women came for water in the cool morning and the cool of the evening, but to avoid the scornful looks and whispers of gossip, she came during the high noon time of the day. In a culture when divorce was almost unheard of, she was a five time divorcee, and was shacking up with a man who wasn’t her husband. She was the town tramp.
Just as it is with the struggles of someone like Bruce Jenner, her life was a symptom of her problem. She couldn’t fulfill the need of her soul, so she bounced from relationship to relationship. She was openly living in adultery, yet Jesus didn’t address her sin. He addressed her need. Her soul was parched and starving, and her life was a symptom of that problem. So how did Jesus address this? He focused on her need; not her lifestyle. “I can give you living water.” He explained that not only could He satisfy her soul, but this living water would become a spring of life that would flow out from her.
As He spoke, she began to recognize her need, though she still believed this need could be satisfied in her flesh. Jesus used the need of her flesh to reveal the only source of satisfaction and fulfillment; the life of the Spirit.
Are we ministering like Jesus did? Are we looking at the Bruce Jenners of the world who are trying to fulfill their need with the dry things of this life, and telling them about the living waters? Did the scorn and condemnation of religious people change the woman at the well? The religious community scolded her, and this only caused her to avoid them. Beating her over the head with the law didn’t do anything to rescue her from her sin.
The truth is that we don’t need to shove condemnation into anyone’s face. We don’t even need to tell them that they are sinners. According to Jesus, the Holy Spirit convicts the world of sin. That is His job; not ours. Our job is to point others to the living water. When we unveil the grace of Christ, the Spirit unveils the true need – to be rescued from a parched soul corrupted by sin – and in doing so, people are able to see the life-giving living water that is given freely as an act of God’s grace. Grace is the unearned and unearnable love of God.
Trying to chew moisture out of dead sticks only looks good because the spring of life has never been seen. To tell someone to stop trying to draw life from death sounds foolish to someone who sees this as the only hope of their soul. To tell the Jenners of this world to stop trying to find satisfaction from their passions seems foolish. It’s something that cannot be comprehended until they see life. And the church is repelling instead of drawing.
Why were sinners drawn to Christ, but religion hated Him? Why are only religious people drawn to the church, but the church repels sinners. It repels even those who are seeking answers. If sinners are repelled by the church, but were drawn to Christ, what does this tell us about the spirit of our churches?
The Bible tells us that the way of the Spirit is incomprehensible to the natural mind. Yet we are trying to force people into a way of thinking and living that cannot be lived outside of the Spirit. Instead of condemning, we should be pointing others to the living water.
Until Bruce Jenner or any other person is transformed from within, constraining them from the outside is only building frustration, and driving them away from life. We have to remember one of the basic truths of faith. No one can live until they die. When we put our trust in Christ, we were crucified with Christ, buried with Christ, and a new life was given to us as a gift of God. We are born from above, with a new spirit, which has a new nature. That nature is the only way we can live in righteousness. Bruce doesn’t have that nature. Until he does, condemnation is fruitless and we, are becoming the very people who drove the woman at the well into isolation.
Our call is to be like Christ. We should be showing the world that the Spirit is life to their parched soul, and when someone gets a glimpse of true life, their life of the flesh will become worthless. Or as Jesus said, the kingdom of God is like the man who found a treasure in a field. For the joy of obtaining that treasure, he sold everything he had to buy that field. Everything in this life becomes worthless once we discover the treasure of the Spirit. Until then, demanding someone to sell out seems foolish. Grace must come first. Until then, all affection, passion, and value will be on what cannot satisfy – the life of this world.
Let us become preachers of living water instead of condemners of parched souls.
Great advice written in the mid 1800s!
It has pleased the Lord to teach me a truth, the benefit of which I have not lost, for more than fourteen years. The point is this: I saw more clearly than ever that the first great and primary business to which I ought to attend every day was, to have my soul happy in the Lord. The first thing to be concerned about was not how much I might serve the Lord, or how I might glorify the Lord; but how I might get my soul into a happy state, and how my inner man might be nourished. For I might seek to set the truth before the unconverted, I might seek to benefit believers, I might seek to relieve the distressed, I might in other ways seek to behave myself as it becomes a child of God in this world; and yet, not being happy in the Lord, and not being nourished and strengthened in my inner man day by day, all this might not be attended to in a right spirit. Before this time my practice had been, at least for ten years previously, as an habitual thing, to give myself to prayer, after having dressed myself in the morning. Now, I saw that the most important thing I had to do was to give myself to the reading of the Word of God, and to meditation on it, that thus my heart might be comforted, encouraged, warned, reproved, instructed; and that thus, by means of the Word of God, while meditating on it, my heart might be brought into experiential communion with the Lord.
I began therefore to meditate on the New Testament from the beginning, early in the morning. The first thing I did, after having asked in a few words the Lord’s blessing upon his precious Word, was, to begin to meditate on the Word of God, searching as it were into every verse, to get blessing out of it; not for the sake of the public ministry of the Word, not for the sake of preaching on what I had meditated upon, but for the sake of obtaining food for my own soul. The result I have found to be almost invariably this, that after a very few minutes my soul has been led to confession, or to thanksgiving, or to intercession, or to supplication; so that, though I did not, as it were, give myself to prayer, but to meditation, yet it turned almost immediately more or less into prayer. When thus I have been for a while making confession or intercession, or supplication, or have given thanks, I go to the next words or verse, turning all, as I go on, into prayer for myself or others, as the Word may lead to it, but still continually keeping before me that food for my own soul is the object of my meditation. The result of this is, that there is always a good deal of confession, thanksgiving, supplication, or intercession mingled with my meditation, and then my inner man almost invariably is even sensibly nourished and strengthened, and that by breakfast time, with rare exceptions, I am in a peaceful if not happy state of heart. Thus also the Lord is pleased to communicate unto me that which, either very soon after or at a later time, I have found to become food for other believers, though it was not for the sake of the public ministry of the Word that I gave myself to meditation, but for the profit of my own inner man.
The difference, then, between my former practice and my present one is this: Formerly, when I rose, I began to pray as soon as possible, and generally spent all my time till breakfast in prayer, or almost all the time. At all events I almost invariably began with prayer, except when I felt my soul to be more than usually barren, in which case I read the Word of God for food, or for refreshment, or for a revival and renewal of my inner man, before I gave myself to prayer. But what was the result? I often spent a quarter of an hour, or half an hour, or even an hour, on my knees, before being conscious to myself of having derived comfort, encouragement, humbling of soul, etc., and often, after having suffered much from wandering of mind for the first ten minutes, or a quarter of an hour, or even half an hour, I only then began really to pray. I scarcely ever suffer now in this way. For my heart, first being nourished by the truth, being brought into experiential fellowship with God, I then speak to my Father and to my Friend (vile though I am, and unworthy of it) about the things that He has brought before me in His precious Word. It often now astonishes me that I did not sooner see this point. In no book did I ever read about it. No public ministry ever brought the matter before me. No private intercourse with a brother stirred me up to this matter. And yet, now, since God has taught me this point, it is as plain to me as anything, that the first thing the child of God has to do morning by morning is, to obtain food for his inner man. As the outward man is not fit for work for any length of time except we take food, and as this is one of the first things we do in the morning, so it should be with the inner man. We should take food for that, as every one must allow. Now, what is the food for the inner man? Not prayer, but the Word of God; and here again, not the simple reading of the Word of God, so that it only passes through our minds, just as water runs through a pipe, but considering what we read, pondering over it, and applying it to our hearts. When we pray, we speak to God. Now, prayer, in order to be continued for any length of time in any other than a formal manner, requires, generally speaking, a measure of strength or godly desire, and the season, therefore, when this exercise of the soul can be most effectually performed is after the inner man has been nourished by meditation on the Word of God, where we find our Father speaking to us, to encourage us, to comfort us, to instruct us, to humble us, to reprove us. We may therefore profitably meditate, with God’s blessing, though we are ever so weak spiritually; nay, the weaker we are, the more we need meditation for the strengthening of our inner man. Thus there is far less to be feared from wandering of mind than if we give ourselves to prayer without having had time previously for meditation. I dwell so particularly on this point because of the immense spiritual profit and refreshment I am conscious of having derived from it myself, and I affectionately and solemnly beseech all my fellow believers to ponder this matter. By the blessing of God, I ascribe to this mode the help and strength which I have had from God to pass in peace through deeper trials, in various ways, than I had ever had before; and after having now above fourteen years tried this way, I can most fully, in the fear of God, commend it. In addition to this I generally read, after family prayer, larger portions of the Word of God, when I still pursue my practice of reading regularly onward in the Holy Scriptures, sometimes in the New Testament, and sometimes in the Old, and for more than twenty-six years I have proved the blessedness of it. I take, also, either then or at other parts of the day, time more especially for prayer.
How different, when the soul is refreshed and made happy early in the morning, from what it is when without spiritual preparation, the service, the trials, and the temptations of the day come upon one.
May 9 1841.