Slaves?

What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? Certainly not! Do you not know that to whom you present yourselves slaves to obey, you are that one’s slaves whom you obey, whether of sin leading to death, or of obedience leading to righteousness? But God be thanked that though you were slaves of sin, yet you obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine to which you were delivered. And having been set free from sin, you became slaves of righteousness.
Romans 6:15‭-‬18 NKJV

Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage. Indeed I, Paul, say to you that if you become circumcised, Christ will profit you nothing. And I testify again to every man who becomes circumcised that he is a debtor to keep the whole law. You have become estranged from Christ, you who attempt  to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace. For we through the Spirit eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness by faith.
Galatians 5:1‭-‬5 NKJV

Jesus answered them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, whoever commits sin is a slave of sin.  And a slave does not abide in the house forever, but a son abides forever.  Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed.
John 8:34‭-‬36 NKJV

We naturally like the idea of being powerful and in control and in authority over our own lives. We naturally like our who to be inflated and proud,  in fact,  the world and modern society rewards and applauds those with inflated egos and envies them and puts them in high places of honor because they are usually very productive and successful from a worldly perspective.

I’m not saying that the humble cannot also be very productive and successful, but for the humble it is a byproduct of the Lord’s favor and blessing poured on them so they can help others – while for the proud, it is a heeping up of treasures for themselves. Yes, it truly is about the master of our heart and desires. You cannot say rich=favored/forsaken and poor=forsaken/favored anymore than you can say works=heaven and still=death. The Lord is not a respects of persons, stations, or titles and sets us each in our own position to be used according to His will and guidance, for His glory and honor.

Yes, if I’m seeking my own honor and glory, isn’t it clear which master I am serving? If I choose to live in evil and doubt over living in the righteousness of faith and godly love, isn’t it clear which master I am serving?

Do not fear, little ones, He corrects you in order to change you. He shows you what needs to be cast out of your life so that the enemy will not gain a foothold within your life. He tells you that there is a better master to free you, not just from the wages and consequences of death “some day” but to free you from a life of sin TODAY.

He who Christ sets free is free indeed. Are you on your way towards being set free? Are you longing for that day when sin and death and the darkness of this world will be long forgotten and you will walk in light? Then keep seeking Him diligently and remain steadfast in the faith,  because many have fallen away,  friend. And don’t rest in your own strength, which is weakness and imperfection. Our help comes from the Lord. Trust in Him and Him alone.  Hunger for righteousness for His name’s sake, not so that you can appear righteous in the eyes of others. Become a slave,  and in doing so, experience true freedom.

Slave to the master who frees slaves to an abundant life – or slave to the master who steals, kills, and destroys? We each choose. As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.

We gave no such commandment

And when they had come to Jerusalem, they were received by the church and the apostles and the elders; and they reported all things that God had done with them. But some of the sect of the Pharisees who believed rose up, saying, “It is necessary to circumcise them, and to command them to keep the law of Moses.” Now the apostles and elders came together to consider this matter. And when there had been much dispute, Peter rose up and said to them: “Men and brethren, you know that a good while ago God chose among us, that by my mouth the Gentiles should hear the word of the gospel and believe. So God, who knows the heart, acknowledged them by giving them the Holy Spirit, just as He  did to us, and made no distinction between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith. Now therefore, why do you test God by putting a yoke on the neck of the disciples which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear? But we believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved in the same manner as they.” Then all the multitude kept silent and listened to Barnabas and Paul declaring how many miracles and wonders God had worked through them among the Gentiles. And after they had become silent, James answered, saying, “Men and brethren, listen to me: “Known to God from eternity are all His works. Therefore I judge that we should not trouble those from among the Gentiles who are turning to God, but that we write to them to abstain from things polluted by idols, from sexual immorality, from things strangled, and from blood. Since we have heard that some who went out from us have troubled you with words, unsettling your souls, saying, “ You  must be circumcised and keep the law” —to whom we gave no such commandment— it seemed good to us, being assembled with one accord, to send chosen men to you with our beloved Barnabas and Paul, men who have risked their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. We have therefore sent Judas and Silas, who will also report the same things by word of mouth. For it seemed good to the Holy Spirit, and to us, to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things: that you abstain from things offered to idols, from blood, from things strangled, and from sexual immorality. If you keep yourselves from these, you will do well. Farewell.
Acts 15:4‭-‬13‭, ‬18‭-‬20‭, ‬24‭-‬29 NKJV

The commandments we hear from Christ are, “Repent”, “Follow me”, “Go and sin no more”, “Love”, “Walk with me”, “Abide with me”. And yes,  these will keep us from sinful ways when we walk in the Spirit and not in the flesh – but I wonder how often we argue for or against our weak,lost, and broken brothers and sisters when we mean to be standing against sin but end up entangling perfect grace with the law of Moses instead of the law of liberty. 

Yes, the law is beautiful to the man freed from it to look upon its beauty as a demonstration of guidance and instruction. But we must remember that to those still under the law, it is a curse – and we do not bring cursing upon the people but we bring Good News. Don’t let us submit ourselves to be slaves to sin or slaves to the law of Moses – let’s walk in the freedom of a life reborn to live with Christ living in us and through us.

The path of humanity

Speaking humanly –

We all know that it is better to do right than to do wrong. We all know that it is better to help someone than to hurt them. We all know that there are ways that we can all work together for the common good of a community.

But why do we on one hand know these truths, if on the other hand we say it is all about serving self and having the right to decide what is right for ourselves? How foolish is it for us to ignore central, unchanging truths about how life is best lived? How foolish is it for us to decide that “I know better”, “This won’t hurt me”, and “I can do what I want”. Are we so blind to the warnings of others, of history, of laws that we are simply fools to the consequences we are lining up for ourselves and others through our poor decision making and lack of self control and discipline? Or are we inviting destruction into our lives like a kamikaze pilot?

So, still speaking within the bounds of our humanly understanding, we should all be able to understand that there are bad paths with negative consequences, and that there are good paths with positive rewards. And yes, we can acknowledge that many times the bad path is trading off some small, immediate gratification at the cost of a later, higher cost – which is attractive to the foolish. And we can acknowledge that many times the bad path is trading off a small pleasure or treasure for ourselves at the cost of hurting, oppressing, or denying someone else – which is attractive to the selfish.

We could go on all day agreeing to what is good and what is bad, and building laws around these things to remind men of what they already know. And we could build prisons and lay out punishments for them, if they are just foolish and need to learn the truth that they are making decisions that are hurting themselves and others.

But through law and punishment alone, we cannot change the hearts and desires of those who are selfish, prideful, deceitful, hateful, gossipers, slanderers, adulterers, lustful, addicts, etc. Because the law doesn’t make any change to the inside, it just strives to force people to conform on the outside, leaving the underlying urges of people’s hearts to do things that are not right or good. The law doesn’t create obedience on the inside, it hides inward disobedience under the mask of compliance.

In fact, the law on its own then serves as a catalyst for those to argue, “But if I am born with this urge in my heart, then who are you to deny me” as they strive for the very lawlessness and destruction that their hearts desire. And can’t we, see this is true when we look at the eradication of our communities which were once vibrant and interactive and alive – but that have been traded for isolation and fear and all kinds of, wickedness rising up around us?

Yes, this world when left in the hands of men is headed on a collision course with disaster. Because men are either foolish, or they are selfish, or they are both. And there is no other kind of man. You yourself that is reading this, have you devoted much time to helping your neighbor this week? Have you clothed and fed the homeless? Have you treated your friends with kindness? How about your enemies, have you treated them with loving kindness? Have you loved and praised God like He deserves?

And some of you will jump at that with a startled reaction, and say “But I thought that we were talking humanly, why did you have to bring God into this?” And yes, that is the reaction of proud men who want to solve this predicament on their own. We do not want to admit that we are not in control and that we are unable to build our own stairway to heaven. Isn’t that the struggle? That we want to do it our way so that we can get some credit for ourselves?

And yes, there is one path that many choose where they can take credit for their own choices, their own decisions, their own works. And they can choose to lay the evidence of their life’s works on the table and be judged by a righteous and perfect God, and they will get what they deserve – the pit of eternal flames. Because each and every one of us deserves that if we are only under the law, right? How many times have you worn clothes of different types of fabric? How many times have you looked at someone other than your spouse with lust and committed adultery in your heart? How many times have you seen something that wasn’t yours and longed for it in envy and jealousy instead of being satisfied and content with the many blessings the Lord has already given you? How many times have you done things in the dark and alone and in secret that you don’t want the world to know about? How many times have you forgotten God’s way and done it your own way?

Do you not know that you are a wicked, foolish person far from the perfect ways of a just God who will judge with righteousness and uprightness? Do you not know your need to be changed on the inside – not by religious adherence to traditions of men, but by the transforming power of something greater than you that can change your very heart, nature, and desires?

As the people were in expectation, and all were questioning in their hearts concerning John, whether he might be the Christ, John answered them all, saying, “I baptize you with water, but he who is mightier than I is coming, the strap of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand, to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.” So with many other exhortations he preached good news to the people.
Luke 3:15-18 ESV
http://bible.com/59/luk.3.15-18.ESV

I’m not asking you if you’ve received the baptism of John where you promise with your mouth to repent and interact with some water from this world, friend. I’m asking if you’ve come in contact with the living waters of the baptism of the Holy Spirit coming into your life and changing you from the inside out. Is there any breath of His abundant life in your lungs? Is there any fire in your bones for sharing the Good News with the nations? Is there a transplant for your cold, hard heart so that you now go out to serve and love your neighbors, the needy, the afflicted, the imprisoned, even your enemies?

And do you realize that none of YOUR works are pure, perfect, and good? But do you realize that if you allow Him to use you, He can do amazing works through you? If you realize this in your mind, I ask you, are you allowing it to take place in your heart?

And humanly speaking, if we all lived like Jesus. If we followed His example and His teachings, wouldn’t it be a better world? Are there some things that each of us must give up that our hearts desire and long for by nature, yes. But there is something much greater than desire, than pleasure, than lawlessness – and it is love for God and for others – and the payoff isn’t “someday when I get to heaven”. The payoff is now, both for you and for those around you.

Every good and perfect gift is from God, and His gifts don’t come with hidden consequences and destruction for you and those around you. But how many times have we accepted curses from that genie whose gifts always come at a cost because they come quick and easy – instead of living in the blessing of an abundant life filled with God’s presence.

You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.
Psalm 16:11 ESV

Love like Christ?

So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other.
John 13:34 NLT
http://bible.com/116/jhn.13.34.NLT

The NEW part of this commandment is not to “Love each other”. Even in the Old Testament, the Jewish people we instructed to love their neighbors as themselves.

Leviticus 19:18
You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against the sons of your own people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the LORD.

God’s voice did not change in the new testament, the message has been the same all along – it’s just that Jesus Christ came to demonstrate it fully revealed, and to open our eyes to what real love looks like, and to teach us what the Spirit of the Word of God looks like in contrast to the Letter of the Law. He came to open our eyes from a perspective of obligation and sacrifice – to a perspective of mercy, faith, and opportunity.

The NEW part of Christ’s commandment is “Just as I have loved you, you should love each other.” It’s about us being like Christ. — Hold on, hit the brakes, are you really saying that I need to follow in His footsteps? — Yep, I sure am, but let’s hold onto that meat for a moment while we drink some milk and prepare ourselves for a hearty meal. Let’s talk about “our way” for a moment.

You see, we can make asking us to love our neighbor easy on ourselves, because we look at the word love, examining the letter of the law, and we start to tear it down into a measuring stick where we say to ourselves, “Well, I don’t really know my neighbor or care about them, but I don’t steal from them or cause them any problems, so that’s loving in a way.”

Mankind is very good at arguing whether or not we’ve met the “requirements of the law” – we even have a lucrative profession whose whole purpose is to tear apart the wording of the law and speak for us in a court of law. But when it comes to the things that matter, it doesn’t matter if our tongues are silver enough to argue how well we measure up to the requirements. In fact, Christ expects us to be truthful and for our words to flow from our heart and from the Holy Spirit who guides and teaches us.

Luke 6:45
The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.

When you are arrested, don’t worry about how to respond or what to say. God will give you the right words at the right time.  For it is not you who will be speaking—it will be the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.
Matthew 10:19-20 NLT
http://bible.com/116/mat.10.19-20.NLT

So Christ expects us to love like He loves. He reveals something revolutionary. He wants us to be like Him. In fact, He sets the bar amazingly high, telling us to give open handedly to others without expecting payment in return, He tells us to turn the other cheek to those who hurt us, He tells us to love and forgive those who consider themselves our enemies, He tells us to not be angry with others, to not even look at someone in lust. And He does this so that if we decide to measure ourselves by the law, it should become immediately clear to us that we will fall short of perfection.

For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard.
Romans 3:23 NLT
http://bible.com/116/rom.3.23.NLT

And it isn’t that the law itself is bad, but that man’s perspective about the law was perverted, was twisted:

Psalm 19:7
The law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul; the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple

Obviously, the law applies to those to whom it was given, for its purpose is to keep people from having excuses, and to show that the entire world is guilty before God. For no one can ever be made right with God by doing what the law commands. The law simply shows us how sinful we are.
Romans 3:19-20 NLT
http://bible.com/116/rom.3.19-20.NLT

The law of Moses was unable to save us because of the weakness of our sinful nature. So God did what the law could not do. He sent his own Son in a body like the bodies we sinners have. And in that body God declared an end to sin’s control over us by giving his Son as a sacrifice for our sins. He did this so that the just requirement of the law would be fully satisfied for us, who no longer follow our sinful nature but instead follow the Spirit.
Romans 8:3-4 NLT
http://bible.com/116/rom.8.3-4.NLT

He makes us right through faith.

We are made right with God by placing our faith in Jesus Christ. And this is true for everyone who believes, no matter who we are.
Romans 3:22 NLT
http://bible.com/116/rom.3.22.NLT

And this is because He is changing us, reconciling us back to God, so that we are living for God and loving others like He demonstrated love for us.

He died for everyone so that those who receive his new life will no longer live for themselves. Instead, they will live for Christ, who died and was raised for them. So we have stopped evaluating others from a human point of view. At one time we thought of Christ merely from a human point of view. How differently we know him now! This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun! And all of this is a gift from God, who brought us back to himself through Christ. And God has given us this task of reconciling people to him. For God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, no longer counting people’s sins against them. And he gave us this wonderful message of reconciliation. So we are Christ’s ambassadors; God is making his appeal through us. We speak for Christ when we plead, “Come back to God!” For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ.
2 Corinthians 5:15-21 NLT
http://bible.com/116/2co.5.15-21.NLT

Yes, He is making us like Him. He is revealing to us this great mystery. He is restoring the relationship that is the very essence of our being alive and freed from death.

God has given me the responsibility of serving his church by proclaiming his entire message to you. This message was kept secret for centuries and generations past, but now it has been revealed to God’s people. For God wanted them to know that the riches and glory of Christ are for you Gentiles, too. And this is the secret: Christ lives in you. This gives you assurance of sharing his glory. So we tell others about Christ, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all the wisdom God has given us. We want to present them to God, perfect in their relationship to Christ.
Colossians 1:25-28 NLT
http://bible.com/116/col.1.25-28.NLT

So we should ask ourselves – am I following His commandment to love others like He demonstrated? Am I still a slave to sin? Am I a son being reconciled to be like Him? And I don’t have the excuse of “I can’t” to fall back on, because “He can”. The question them becomes “Do I believe? Have I fully accepted His Lordship over my life? Do I have this relationship with a living Christ who is in me?”

It’s a pretty important question, friend – one with eternal consequences. Yes, now we are past the milk and getting into the meat. Are you still a slave, or are you a son?

Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave of sin.  A slave is not a permanent member of the family, but a son is part of the family forever.  So if the Son sets you free, you are truly free.
John 8:34-36 NLT
http://bible.com/116/jhn.8.34-36.NLT

And you, dear brothers and sisters, are children of the promise, just like Isaac. But you are now being persecuted by those who want you to keep the law, just as Ishmael, the child born by human effort, persecuted Isaac, the child born by the power of the Spirit. But what do the Scriptures say about that? “Get rid of the slave and her son, for the son of the slave woman will not share the inheritance with the free woman’s son.”  So, dear brothers and sisters, we are not children of the slave woman; we are children of the free woman.
Galatians 4:28-31 NLT
http://bible.com/116/gal.4.28-31.NLT

So Christ has truly set us free. Now make sure that you stay free, and don’t get tied up again in slavery to the law. But we who live by the Spirit eagerly wait to receive by faith the righteousness God has promised to us. You were running the race so well. Who has held you back from following the truth? It certainly isn’t God, for he is the one who called you to freedom. For you have been called to live in freedom, my brothers and sisters. But don’t use your freedom to satisfy your sinful nature. Instead, use your freedom to serve one another in love. For the whole law can be summed up in this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”
Galatians 5:1, 5-5, 7-8, 13-14 NLT
http://bible.com/116/gal.5.1-14.NLT

So I say, let the Holy Spirit guide your lives. Then you won’t be doing what your sinful nature craves. The sinful nature wants to do evil, which is just the opposite of what the Spirit wants. And the Spirit gives us desires that are the opposite of what the sinful nature desires. These two forces are constantly fighting each other, so you are not free to carry out your good intentions. But when you are directed by the Spirit, you are not under obligation to the law of Moses.
Galatians 5:16-18 NLT
http://bible.com/116/gal.5.16-18.NLT

When you follow the desires of your sinful nature, the results are very clear: sexual immorality, impurity, lustful pleasures, idolatry, sorcery, hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, dissension, division, envy, drunkenness, wild parties, and other sins like these. Let me tell you again, as I have before, that anyone living that sort of life will not inherit the Kingdom of God. But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things! Those who belong to Christ Jesus have nailed the passions and desires of their sinful nature to his cross and crucified them there. Since we are living by the Spirit, let us follow the Spirit’s leading in every part of our lives.
Galatians 5:19-25 NLT
http://bible.com/116/gal.5.19-25.NLT