Over Simplified Contrasts Between Law and Gospel Hurt People

I recently came across a list comparing the Gospel and the Law. It attempted to contrast what the Law demands and how the Gospel doesn’t demand anything.

This list is from Keswick Theology, the Let Go and Let God crowd. Here are a couple of the contrasts that I have a problem with:

The Law says “Do”
The Gospel says “Done”

The Law says “If”
The Gospel says “Therefore”

Under the Law, salvation was wages
Under the Gospel, salvation is a gift

The Law says, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind”
The Gospel says, “Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins”

These distinctions are too cute, too simplified, to the point that they aren’t right.

The Gospel also says “do.” Many times. There are commandments all over the New Testament. “But we are human BEings, not human DOings.” I know we are, but that has nothing to do with anything.

I have also heard many people try to convince me that “if” is a law word. There are no conditions in the Gospel. Again, the word “if” is used plenty of times in the New Testament. There are conditions. Reaping and sowing is not a law principle; it’s life. Colossians says:

yet now hath he reconciled In the body of his flesh through death, to present you holy and unblameable and unreproveable in his sight: If ye continue in the faith grounded and settled

Notice anything there? A giant, conditional IF. 1 Corinthians 15 says:

I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand; By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain.

Another giant, conditional IF.

Stressing the “do” of the Law out of place and eliminating conditional IFs, also makes them say people under the law were saved by works, that they earned their salvation as a wage. I have heard any number of people say this, and it is a gross misunderstanding of salvation, not to mention the character and holiness of God. As Paul tries to say in Romans 4, Abraham, David, and we today are all justified by faith. Whether you lived before law, during law, or after law, you are saved by grace through faith, not by works. Works always flow out of faith. Remember the Pharisees? They did the works better than anyone under the Law, but didn’t have faith, thus they were not saved.

When the list gets to love, my head explodes! Seriously? People in the Gospel are not told to love the Lord with all their heart, soul, and mind? That is an evil requirement of the Law? Come on now.

This is the kind of pithiness that leads people astray. I’m all for making complex subjects simple, but when the simplicity ends up cancelling out the original point, helpfulness is gone.

Seek to be biblical, not pithy. Be ware of simplistic sounding comparisons. The Law is more complex than this list would have you believe, and so too is the Gospel.

Oi.

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Lying is A Sin Too

In our obsessions with “bad sins,” Christians have skillfully avoided dealing with actual sins in their own lives. The sins that are the most fun to rail against are the ones you don’t personally struggle with.

Although we like to talk about murderers, abortionists, and homosexuals, how often do we feel convicted about our sin?

Lying is a classic example. Lying is bad. Christians aren’t supposed to lie. In Ephesians 4 where Paul talks about putting off the old man and putting on the new, guess how he starts talking about the new man?

put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness. Wherefore putting away lying, speak every man truth with his neighbour

Lying is the first thing he brings up. God speaks truth. Jesus Christ is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. If you follow Him, then speak the truth.

Again, it’s more fun to make fun of our postmodern society and their shifting ground of truth and mock their lies, propaganda, and deception, but again, bring it home. How often do we lie?

I know liars who claim to be Christians. Most of their lies seem innocent, they are justifications of sin, attempts to not be rude, trying to be complimentary, trying to dismiss one’s self from obligations in a nice way, and other not so evil sounding things.

But lying is bad. Habitual lying is bad. Liars don’t get into heaven.

But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.

Again, I didn’t say that. Just quoting the Bible.

The main problem with lying is that you can’t love people if you’re a liar. Love “rejoices in the truth.” Liars, because they know they are liars, have a real problem trusting other people. Since I’m a good person and I lie, imagine how much these other people are lying to me?!

Lying eats at the soul, makes you nervous, paranoid, and eventually, very lonely. People don’t like to be with liars.

Liars are insecure, they say things to make up for the reality of their failing. They pump up their stats in word, only to look foolish when it’s time for action. Thus they fear action. They fear vulnerability. They can’t love and they are very difficult to love in return.

Lying is antithetical to all that God stands for. Christians should be known as people who speak the truth. That keep their word. That deal with reality, not vain-talkers. God is honored by truth, so don’t be afraid to speak it.

The Good Gifts of James 1:17 Are Not Money and Possessions

Rich people seem to have a problem dealing with what the Bible says about money. Although the Bible is filled with verses about the dangers inherent in wealth, rich folk like to find a couple of verses that justify their materialism.

A classic example is James 1:17

Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.

Rich people then conclude: I think money, and the stuff I buy with it, are good. Therefore, if I get money and stuff, which are good, God must have given them to me.

Let me explain why James is not talking about money and stuff being the good gift.

Because James is not talking about money and stuff!

When James does talk about money and stuff (2:6-7; 5:1-6) he says it’s evil and nasty. Based on the general context of his epistle, James can’t possibly be saying that money and stuff are good gifts.

James, in fact, seems to be saying that bad stuff is actually a good gift.

“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds,” is how James opens his letter. He develops the point further in 1:12-15

Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him. 13 Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. 14 But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. 15 Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.

Our lust drags us into sin. Wanting stuff leads to sin. He then says every good gift comes from the Father. Good gifts, to be considered good, can’t lead to sin. Getting what you lust for is not a good gift.

If context means anything, there is no way that the good gift of James 1:17 is referring to money or possessions. The good gift is that God makes us new creations, not living in the entrapment of the old creation.

The good gift is that God is forming us though trials to grow into Christ, and to enjoy new life in Christ, able to love others rather than be consumed with self.

Words mean things, and it’s a good idea to find out what they mean, rather than misapplying them to feed our lust.

Rich People Are Evil, Thus Saith The Bible

I mention the dangers of money and materialism quite frequently in my sermons, Bible studies, and on my blog. I do this for two main reasons

  1. It’s all over the place in the Bible
  2. This is a problem that I and many others struggle with

The Bible is very clear on the issue and very repetitive. While pointing out the clear, oft-repeated message, I have gotten accustomed to the responses. They generally go like this:

  1. The Bible’s teaching on money is unrealistic. You can’t go through life literally applying what the Bible says. It makes no sense.
  2. What? Are you saying I can’t have a house? You have a house, so who are you to tell me?
  3. It’s OK to be rich as long as you do good things sometimes.
  4. I’m not rich, I have problems paying off my cell phone, cable bill, credit cards, and Starbucks drinks every month.

Few respond with, “Oh, wow, I should seriously examine this issue and take steps to resolve my errors.”

The Bible says bad things about rich people.

You should realize that. James is probably the worst of them all. He sounds like a Bernie Sanders supporter, in all honesty.

you have dishonored the poor man. Are not the rich the ones who oppress you, and the ones who drag you into court? Are they not the ones who blaspheme the honorable name by which you were called?

That’s from James 2.

Come now, you rich, weep and howl for the miseries that are coming upon you. Your riches have rotted and your garments are moth-eaten. Your gold and silver have corroded, and their corrosion will be evidence against you and will eat your flesh like fire. You have laid up treasure in the last days. Behold, the wages of the laborers who mowed your fields, which you kept back by fraud, are crying out against you, and the cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord of hosts. You have lived on the earth in luxury and in self-indulgence. You have fattened your hearts in a day of slaughter. You have condemned and murdered the righteous person. He does not resist you.

That’s from James 5.

James basically says the rich only get rich by doing sinful stuff. That’s James, which is in the Bible. He equates being rich with being sinful.

We tend to view riches as God’s blessings. We must be doing things right if we have so much stuff. James decidedly disagrees.

Again, I know the justifications–Jame’s is speaking generally, not all rich do this, Abraham, David, and Solomon were all rich and God liked them, etc.

The issue will be brought up on Judgment Day. Thought you’d like to know.

Should I Teach or Should I Go Now?

One of the best ways to learn something is to teach it. I encourage all Christians to find opportunity to teach someone else. This doesn’t have to be an official church role, it can be as informal as you like. But teach.

At the same time, a lot of people who are out there teaching should probably stop.

Although I just gave seemingly contradictory advice, I am merely quoting the Bible. Observe:

For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God–Hebrews 5:12

My brethren, be not many masters, knowing that we shall receive the greater condemnation.–James 3:1

One one hand, believers are being lectured for not teaching; on the other hand, believers are being told to stop being teachers! What gives?

Context.

The context in Hebrews is about Melchizedek and the changes to the priesthood brought in by Jesus Christ. Jesus brings in a new and better covenant, fulfilling the types and shadows of the old. They’ve been in it, they’ve been taught it, but now they are reverting. They are becoming like babies again needing milk. The writer of Hebrews can’t give them any meat because they will choke on it. He’s frustrated with them. They’ve been in it long enough to be experts and out teaching others, instead they need to be taught their ABC’s again.

The context of James is coming out of chapter 2–faith without works is dead. Many people were claiming faith as an intellectual thing, while lacking all practical obedience. James confronted their shallowness. Chapter 3 talks about the difficulty of taming the tongue. If you aren’t living up to the claims of faith, don’t put yourself in as an expert on the faith! If you aren’t living it, if your tongue isn’t controlled by faith, then please, for the love of all things holy, pure, and good and for the general good of the church, SHUT UP!

There are people who should not teach, they are not mature enough. Therefore, they should keep their mouths shut. However, instead of moping about your immaturity, put the time in so that eventually you can be a teacher.

Being a teacher is a responsibility to be taken seriously. There is greater judgment on a person for assuming the role of telling others what faith is about. It is to be taken seriously. It’s why Paul says officially recognized teachers in the church should be tested first, not a novice, not a new convert, someone who has been around a while.

At the same time, if you’ve been around a while and know some stuff, you should be finding someone to teach. God doesn’t give you spiritual maturity so you can isolate yourself in a cave. He gave it to you so you can edify others.

Teaching the Bible is a responsibility not to be taken lightly. It’s a responsibility we should all desire to take, as long as we’re willing to grow in it first. If you aren’t going to do it, please don’t teach it.

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.

The Good and Bad About Having a Multitude of Counselors

One of the great things about being a Christian today is the abundance of Bible study tools, commentaries, sermon audio, teaching videos, etc.

One of the worst things about being a Christian today is the abundance of Bible study tools, commentaries, sermon audio, teaching videos, etc.

I go back and forth on the greatness and worstness daily. Two verses come to mind:

Where no counsel is, the people fall: but in the multitude of counsellors there is safety.

This verse makes it clear that it is good to have people helping with advice. Without someone leading you into the light, we’d all be in darkness. Yet no one is sufficient of themselves to do all the directing. Everyone is fallible. We each have our blind spots that will lead the blind into ditches. Have a multitude of people who can help you.

Which brings up the next verse:

For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears

“Heap to themselves teachers” means, gathering teachers en masse. Heap them up. Get as many as possible. Keep looking, searching, collecting, and bandwagon jumping from one to the next while you remain largely the same. If this isn’t a description of modern Christianity, I don’t know what is.

So, which is it: a multitude of counselors is a good thing; or collecting counselors is a sign of doctrinal death?

It depends!

If you listen to counsel to be corrected, to find the truth, to be given sound information to build on, then by all means, seek a multitude of counselors.

If you listen to a multitude of counselors merely to keep searching for the guy that is going to tell you what you want to hear anyway, to get more exciting thrills, to have a new fandom to go buy new books for, then by all means, knock it off.

The question is this: do you want to know the truth?

If so, find people who can help you learn it.

If you don’t want to know the truth, and you’d rather just know what you already know just more so, then just stop.

Christianity is not a solo endeavor. The Body of Christ, the many members in one body, are there for your edification and for you to edify in return.

We don’t gather to encourage one another to persist in delusion. We gather to build each other into Christ. Seek teachers that help that, and be the kind of person who can help edify others.

Thoughts on Being Holy as God is Holy

“Be ye holy; for I am holy.”

The Bible quotes God saying this at least three times outright, twice in Deuteronomy and once in 1 Peter. The Bible has many other statements that drive at the same idea.

There are two parts to this verse. First, we are to be holy and second, our holiness is dependent on God being holy.

Therefore, it seems to me, our guideline for our holiness would be in line with how holy we think God is.

Holiness has to do with being sacred, morally blameless, ceremonially consecrated. Separate.

Holiness is best seen with the various utensils of the temple. They were made for a specific purpose and were only to be used for that purpose. Any other usage is off-limits.

There is a purity and a separation, it’s not for common use. Because God is holy, we are not to take His name in vain, to use it as if it were nothing.

God is holy and pure from all defilement. This is what we are to be.

However, as most people watching the American Church today see, it’s quite obvious holiness is fallen on hard times. There is very little holiness at work.

The “holiness” we see is usually mere separation from external things. A callous holiness that misses the internal reality. A holiness that leads to people being judgmental rather than loving.

Legalism is not biblical holiness. It may be separation from something, but it’s not separation to, or like, God.

Others tend to think our holiness is about being in Christ. “I’m saved. I’m in Christ. God doesn’t see me, He sees Christ. Therefore I am holy.”

Although there may be a grain of truth to this, we’re not talking about positional separation in Christ, we’re talking about a holy life. As the verse right before “Be holy as I am holy” says in 1 Peter, “as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct.”

There is to be a practical holiness, not just a mind-game holiness.

God has not called us for impurity, but in holiness.”

“You once presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness leading to holiness.

Holiness is separating from the world’s philosophy, wisdom, and ways of doing things, and coming alive to new life in Christ. Holiness is ultimately fulfilled with love, the love of the Gospel in action.

It doesn’t have to do with man-made dress codes, conformity to church rules, not playing cards, etc. You may decide to have some of that in your holiness, but if you have not love, it profits nothing.

God is love. Be separated to Him who is love. Don’t live for you; live for the edification of others. New life in Christ; not old life in your selfish flesh.

Be holy as God is holy, He loved you and gave His life for you. Be separated to that.