Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Are You a True Follower of Christ? Part II


What does Jesus say is necessary for eternal life?

Matthew 19:17 - And he said unto him, Why do you call me good? None but one are good, God: but if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments.

He very plainly says keep the commandments. Jesus never once said to have faith in Him. He said, in Mark 11:22, “have faith in God’’. In Matt 5:20 he says your righteousness must exceed that of the Pharisees. What did he mean by that? He answers that in Matt 23:23. The Pharisees were light in their regard for the law. Jesus points out that the Pharisees were more concerned with tithing than with the weightier matters of the law – judgment, mercy and faith. What did Jesus say about grace? He never even mentions it. Nowhere in the words of Jesus will you find Paul’s attitude that the Law is done away with by grace. Nowhere in Jesus’ words will you find faith or grace replacing obedience. Jesus stressed judgment, mercy, and then faith. Only Paul stresses grace.

So let us look closer. First, we should seek to define grace. We often consider grace to be a favor or kindness but it is more. The following are condensed definitions of Grace: by Merriam-Webster – unmerited divine assistance; by Strong - the divine influence upon the heart, and its reflection in the life. We see then that grace is not God forgiving us or turning a blind eye to what we do. It is God giving us unmerited assistance to obey His commands by the divine influence of the Holy Spirit upon our hearts. Hence, we are saved, not by grace, but with grace – we couldn’t obey without God’s help – but we must still obey. Why do you think Jesus, in Matthew 22:14, said, “For many are called, but few are chosen”? Could it be because many will be offered this grace and abuse it? You say, “But wait, Jesus died for our sins didn’t He?” Yes! Hence, “Saving Faith” then is faith in the fact that God will accept Jesus’ sacrifice to atone for your sins. Sins committed prior to accepting God as your God; and, accepting God’s appointment of Jesus as your Lord. Having this faith, God will grant you His Grace by baptizing you with His Holy Spirit to enable you to walk in obedience thereafter. If you have that faith, you, as in Old Testament times, will have found “grace in God’s eyes” – and will be given the Holy Spirit. When you are “born of the Spirit” you are given the ability to walk in obedience – if you chose to.

For the believer, the law is not written just in stone anymore, it is written on their heart. So what is the law we are to follow? We know Jesus, twice, made it very plain that the two primary commands were to love God and to love thy neighbor. We also know that there is more to it. Jesus said these were the greatest of the commandments – not the only ones. The follower of these is “not far from the Kingdom of God” (Mark 12:34).

It’s time to stress an important point here – it is not about being “legalistic” or “bound to the law”. It is about the grace God has given you to be as Jesus was – loving and obedient. Jesus said you must also love your enemy (Matthew 5:44). It is about where your heart is. Do you focus on the differences or faults of others; or, do you strive to bring the best out in them? Do you strive for earthly gain and security; or, do you have faith in God to provide for you and lovingly share what you have? Do you give freely of the life God has given you? Are you “good ground”?

Luke 8:15 - But that on the good ground are they, which in an honest and good heart, having heard the word, keep it, and bring forth fruit with patience.

Jesus paid to make you clean, to make you whole. It is up to you, with God’s grace, to stay clean and whole. Jesus also said:

John 5:14 - Afterward Jesus found him in the temple, and said unto him, Behold, thou art made whole: sin no more, lest a worse thing come unto thee.

Why the warning of a worse thing? Again, when Jesus speaks you must remember not grace, but judgment, mercy, and faith. So, you may be saying, “But, none of us are perfect, we all still sin, and the wages of sin are death, so that would mean we aren’t saved.” Not true, Jesus addresses that issue too. His sacrifice made you clean so you could be His. God has given Him everyone that accepts Him as Lord. He makes it very plain though, how we will be judged regarding our sins that are not covered by His sacrifice – sins committed as one of His. In Matthew 6:12-15, in Mark 11:25-26, in Luke 6:35-38 and 17:3-4, Jesus expresses very clearly how we will be dealt with. In a nutshell – you will be forgiven to the same degree and extent to which you have forgiven others. If you don’t forgive others you won’t be forgiven. Judgment is for all – mercy is for those that show mercy. Judgment is for all – forgiveness is for those that forgive. Jesus is very clear about his opinion of hypocrites; so, you can’t expect to be forgiven you if you don’t forgive others. Consider why Jesus spoke the parable in Matthew 18:22 – 35.

What was the very first thing Jesus told people to do? We find the answer in Matthew 4:17 and Mark 1:15 – repent. The definition is in order: in Merriam-Webster – turn from sin; in Strong – to think differently. Again, in Luke 13:3 and 5 Jesus warns us we must repent. He does not say you are saved from sin – He says turn away from sin – obey! One of the last things Jesus said concerned obedience, in Revelation 22:12: And, behold, I come quickly; and my reward is with me, to give every man according as his work shall be.

             John 15:10 - IF you keep my commandments, you shall abide in   
             my love; even as I have kept my Father's commandments, and
             abide in his love.

In Brotherly Love,

Wayne

 

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