Religion is our attempt to try to earn something which the Bible says cannot be earned through the efforts of our flesh or our works…
As God’s covenant children, it all starts with the love that God first bore towards us, through Jesus’ propitious sacrifice, and poured out blood and life on Calvary’s Cross.
The Apostle Paul lived a life of working his way to heaven before he met the Lord Jesus on the road to Damascus (Acts 9).
Legalism is a terrible thing, a harsh taskmaster under which no one can succeed.
To be found in Jesus, Paul says, is worth more than all my religion, race, and ritual, all my Pharisee-ism and culture.
It’s not just knowledge of Jesus or fellowship with Jesus but righteousness through Jesus.
Paul said, “I’m tired of trying to work my way to Heaven.
I’m going to start trusting, not having my own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith” (Phil. 3:9).
It is my relationship with Jesus that is all important!
Liberty, not legalism, is what the Lord Jesus Christ offers.
Freedom, not bondage. Relationship, not religion.
We give up nothing for which Jesus will not abundantly offer more than we could ever hope or dream.
I remember hearing a story of an American Pastor who some time ago was in Mexico City, visiting the central square, where this huge paved square is surrounded by grand buildings on three sides.
On the fourth side is a great cathedral.
He said that he saw this peasant woman, who was crawling across the great square, palms and knees being gouged by the ancient stones which pave the square.
After she had crawled a while, she would stop, rise to her knees, pray a while, and then begin crawling a little farther.
The slow painful crawl seemed to take forever as she tried to appease God through her self-inflicted suffering.
He said that he saw a similar sight in Guatemala, where people were bringing gifts to the church and laying them on the altar.
They knocked on the wood of the altar, trying to get God to notice them.
They lit candles and poured wine as an offering, seeking to merit God’s favor.
These incidents are sad examples of how far people will go to win God’s favor and earn His grace.
Yet we often fall into similar bondages as we try to please God.
We fear that if we get irregular in our Bible reading and prayer God will punish us.
Or we feel that if we don’t give money to the church God will not bless us.
Or we get into the performance trap in our efforts to be accepted by God.
We volunteer for everything and never say no because we fear that God will not fully love and approve of us.
If you have trouble believing that God accepts you, if you have difficulty resting in the fact that God loves you, if you feel you have to do something to earn acceptance in God’s eyes, then you have something in common with the woman in Mexico.
You are crawling across painful, rocky, pavement, trying to earn God’s favor.
These performances are a terrible burden because you can never know if you have done enough to appease Him.
Today, if you are struggling with your acceptance with God, then read Philippians 3 and it will be a breath of fresh air for you.
In chapter 3, Paul encourages the Philippian Christians:
Have no confidence in gaining merit in God’s eyes through things that you do.
From this chapter we learn that we no longer have to perform to get God’s approval.
Rather, we will discover that it was Christ who appeased God through His death on the cross.
We also learn that in the midst of an unbelieving society, joy comes by our knowing Christ and by our doing His will.
The gospel message starts out by saying that “For God so loved the world…” (John 3:16).
And in John’s epistle we are told…
1 John 4:17-19
To Love, to Be Loved
17-18 God is love. When we take up permanent residence in a life of love, we live in God and God lives in us.
This way, love has the run of the house, becomes at home and mature in us, so that we’re free of worry on Judgment Day—our standing in the world is identical with Christ’s.
There is no room in love for fear.
Well-formed love banishes fear.
Since fear is crippling, a fearful life—fear of death, fear of judgment—is one not yet fully formed in love.
19 We, though, are going to love—love and be loved.
First we were loved, now we love.
He loved us first.
Let’s look at what else the Bible says on this subject…
God was the initiator:
“You have not chosen Me, I have chosen you.” (John 15:16)
“No man can come to Me except the Father who sent Me draw Him.” (John 6:44)
“But even though we were dead in our sins God, who is rich in mercy, because of the great love he had for us, gave us life together with Christ—it is, remember, by grace and not by achievement that you are saved—and has lifted us right out of the old life to take our place with him in Christ in the Heavens.
Thus he shows for all time the tremendous generosity of the grace and kindness he has expressed towards us in Christ Jesus.
It was nothing you could or did achieve—it was God’s gift to you.
No one can pride himself upon earning the love of God.
The fact is that what we are, we owe to the hand of God upon us.
We are born afresh in Christ, and born to do those good deeds which God planned for us to do.” (Eph. 2:4-6 – J.B. Phillips)
It is God, not us, who is the primary actor here, who enters into a personal relationship with us, setting us free from our bondage to sin and death and clothing us in righteousness.
Christianity is all about our following Jesus and our experiencing the joy of knowing Him.
“Joy is the serious business of heaven.” — C. S. Lewis
Righteousness is found only by faith in Christ.
I forsake all things just to know Him and press toward the goal of spiritual maturity.
Paul gave up everything—family, friendship, and freedom—in order to know Christ and His resurrection power.
We, too, have access to this knowledge and this power, but we may have to make sacrifices to enjoy it fully.
What are you willing to give up in order to know Christ?
A crowded schedule, in order to set aside a few minutes each day for prayer and Bible study?
A friend’s approval?
Some of your plans or pleasures?
Whatever you must change or give up, having Christ and becoming one with Him will be more than worth the sacrifice.
No amount of law keeping, self-improvement, discipline, or religious effort can make us right with God.
Righteousness comes only from God, and we are made righteous—receive right standing with Him—by trusting in Christ.
When we do this, He exchanges our sin and shortcomings for His complete righteousness.
When we become one with Christ by trusting in Him, we experience the power that raised Him from the dead.
That same mighty resurrection power helps us live morally renewed and regenerated lives.
But as we walk in our new life, we also share in His death by considering our old way of life and sinful desires as dead and unresponsive.
Just as the Resurrection gives us Christ’s power to live for Him, the Crucifixion marks the death of our old, sinful nature.
We can not know the victory of the Resurrection without personally experiencing the meaning of the cross.
Paul says for us to follow him, as we see that he is following Jesus (1 Cor 11:1); and we are not to follow those who have set their minds on earthly things.
The good works that we do for Christ are done only out of our deep love for Christ, and our appreciation for all that He has done for us.
Selah (let us pause and calmly think about these things)
Friday, June 3
The Winning Walk
by Dr Ed Young
The One Dimensional Man
“That I may know Him, and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His suffering.”
— Philippians 3:10
What gets you out of bed every morning?
I’m not talking about an alarm, your spouse, your kids or your pets.
What is “IT” that gives you a passion for life and focus of purpose?
In our Scripture, Paul says he was all about “one thing” and he focused like a laser on that one thing: to know Christ.
From the highest of highs – the power of His resurrection – to the lowest of lows – the fellowship of His sufferings, Paul wanted to know Jesus Christ and be all the Lord had called him to be.
What is your one thing?
I encourage you to describe it in a sentence like Paul did.
Whatever it is, I trust it will reveal a heart focused on Christ and on becoming more like Him every day – because Jesus is our One Thing.
Come join the Adventure!