Thursday, February 19, 2015
Earning or Believing?
"how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?" Hebrews 9:14
The Christian life is not easy but impossible to us by our first birth. How many years has it taken me to learn that? And I need reminded every single day!
At the Goodwill the other day, I found a little gem of a devotional called "None but the Hungry Heart." Edited by Miles J. Stanford, author of The Complete Green Letters, it is filled with snippets from some of the great teachers in Christianity. Apparently this devotional ran as a series, starting in 1968 and ran through 1987. My volume was from 1968. Perusing through it, I found an entry called "Mount Sinai, Mount Zion" for Feb. 23, where the message comes from Hebrews 12:18. ("For you have not come to the mountain that may be touched and that burned with fire, and to blackness and darkness and tempest,")
There is a world of difference we see between Mount Sinai where Moses received the law from God, vs. Mount Zion, which speaks of a "new and living way," entering into God's favor through the grace of Christ. The devotional by an author with the initials C.A.C. (not sure who that is ), reads:
"So long as one thinks that his blessing depends in any way, or in any degree, upon himself, he is under the shadow of Sinai, and naturally we all gravitate in that direction. Many truly converted persons are more occupied with themselves, and in trying to improve their own condition, than in seeking to learn the grace of God. The result is that where there is a shallow work of the soul they get lifted up with pride and conceit, and perhaps deceive themselves so far as to think there is no sin in them."
I don't know about you, but when I first was saved I tried so hard to be good. When I thought I did pretty good for the day somehow I thought that God was more pleased with me than on days where I committed a "whopper" sin. Then when I thought I had done pretty well, it was easy to look down on others critically. Somehow, Christ died to save me eternally but as far as the day to day went, well, that was still my job. After a long time, I knew that I really did not have what it took to live a life that pleased Him. All the while, though, I pasted on my Sunday Christian smile and kept up the facade. One day, though, I had enough and was ready to quit trying.
Instead of that being a bad thing, it was the best thing!I began a new way of life learning of the grace of God. God is very pleased with me because when He looks at me He sees the righteousness of Christ, not me in my trespasses and sins. He already dealt with them once and for all (seeing them in the future, for me), and when Jesus cried "It is finished," then the punishment for them was complete. Romans 4 says that if we work we are owed wages, as if we are trying to "earn" our Christianity, but when we believe in the finished work of Christ, we receive the gift of righteousness by faith.
Romans 4:4-5 "Now to him who works, the wages are not counted as grace but as debt.But to him who does not work but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness,"
If we did nothing to earn it, then why do we think we have to maintain it by good works? We can't, but that really is good news. We then don't have to expect anything good coming from ourselves, but keep on relying on Christ living inside of us to do the works that are pleasing to God.
"Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think of anything as being from ourselves, but our sufficiency is from God,who also made us sufficient as ministers of the new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life." II Corinthians 3:5-6
Reading in the Gospel of Luke, I've been using William Barclay's commentary (The Daily Bible Study Series). In the portion in Luke 7:11-17,
Jesus encounters the widow at Nain, who just lost her only son. Jesus had such compassion (in raising the young man from death), that there was no stronger word for it in all the Greek language. He identified fully with the plight of the stricken woman, and did what only He could do, bring the dead back to life.
In the same way, He has compassion on us. He knows that we cannot do it. It is like He is tapping His foot, just waiting for us to acknowledge that fact, and to look to Him then for everything we need, right down to producing in us what He requires of us. Another quote from January 13 (in None but the Hungry Heart) by T.Austin Sparks sums it up beautifully:
"It is for want of a complete or adequate realization of the meaning of the Cross, that so many Christians are carnal, or try to live for God out of themselves...There is much prayer for 'revival,' and much effort for 'the deepening of the spiritual life.' The only answer to this is a new knowing of the Cross, not only as to sins and a life of victory over them, but as to Christ supplanting the natural man."
In letting Him live in us that we find who we really were all along!
“I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me." Galatians 2:20