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Has everyone discovered by now that we’re pretty ‘lame’ excuses for living the Life that Christ describes for us? You know the one, a Faith/Life that’s so impressive it ‘inspires’ our Father into action on our behalf. After years of trying to be our own salvation, of running ‘the Race’ using only our own ability to relate to God has left us gasping for a breather. I’ve migrated a bit on the word Faith over the years. I’m not diminishing its necessity and importance for us individually. I’ve just grown a little more comfortable sharing in a partnership with Christ and His Faith playing a role in our learning to Trust in Him. I’m not trying to master my own Faith every minute of every day, but I recognize the partnership of Faith that’s available to believers. It’s Faith that has Christ as a constant companion. His Faith shores up my faith. A Faith mingled with the Faith of Christ (His part) and a Faith in Christ (my part).
For many years, my advice for new believers is to read the Bible starting with Paul’s New Testament letters. Read Colossians, Ephesians, Philippians, the two Timothy’s, and Galatians rather than starting in Genesis and reading straight through. I do not desire to diminish the Old Testament, not to do away with it in any way, but the finished work of Christ is found in Paul’s revelation of Christ in those later passages. Much of the time, we subject our teachings and Faith found in the New Testament to our findings in the Old. And, (while I’m aware of getting slammed here) I think the priority should be that we subject the Old Testament teachings in the Light of the New. In the New, we find that His Light has come and God’s plan and purpose is, for the first time, fully revealed. The New, and specifically, Paul’s discipleship, put a period at the end of the God’s Gospel sentence. Jesus came to reveal the hidden Gospel found in the Old Testament; Paul came to reveal Christ and His finished work in the New. Paul is the final paragraph of a long Testament of God working from Genesis through today. For 15 years Paul was taught by the Holy Spirit of God before ever opening his mouth about the Gospel, thunderously having been chosen by Christ and toppled from being the chief Hebrew and becoming the ‘chief’ spokesman for a risen Christ. Paul had the weight of expressing the Mystery of Christ to a new Church and the sanctification (being set apart) to do so by the witness of God, he having been empowered on the road to Damascus. (Saul, who was on his way to Damascus to gather up believers, was to bring them back to Jerusalem for imprisonment.)
If I could encourage you in one thing, it would be to relax and embrace the Love of God. Christ continues to reach out, to offer His Peace and Joy, His Rest. The world continues its thing, to reject that Reconciliation. That rejection is called the spirit of anti-Christ and has a universal presence around the world. It wears different masks to sell the Lie in order to hide itself and from being obvious. Sadly, many today continue to hope in a fleshly attempt at self righteousness to relate to The Father. Ravi Zacharias puts it this way (I paraphrase): many believe Christ came to make bad men good when in actuality Christ came to make men alive. We can easily convert our Faith into arguments of ethics and morality rather than a belief in Christ. All religions are caught up in making bad men good, determined by their unique definition of what is good and moral. How’s that working for us? However, believing in the Faithfulness and Trustworthiness of Christ brings us Peace and Rest, putting all our hope and faith in the life and actions of Jesus as a substitute for us, a victorious ransom for our ‘lameness’.
For the most part, doing this Gospel any other way than depending and coming to Christ as our source of Life dooms us, forces us to find some other way to fix our lameness ourselves. We try fixing our Faith by increasing our intensity in things that we do to please God. Doing so, trusting in our own ability to forge a relationship with Christ, only reflects back on our lack of Faith in Him to have already done that reconciliation. Doing so leaves us little choice but to spend our time mustering up our Faith through religious performances. That sentences us to a belief in ourselves, in our abilities, in what we do and in what we don’t do. That is, we rely on our own efforts and expression to relate to God. The Truth: Christ is our Sabbath; we will find Rest in Him, at least as much Rest as we will permit. The Fruit of the Spirit should be evident when the Spirit rules. We learn that our Righteousness comes from His Faith for all those that believe (Rom. 3:22). Gal. 2:16 says that a man is not justified by the works of the Law but through Faith of Christ Jesus, even we who have believed in Christ Jesus, that we may be justified by the Faith of Christ. (Check out Galatians 2:20 and 3:22, Ephesians 3:12 and Philippians 3:9)
I have one more limb to climb out on. I once heard a Bible teacher say that the Gospel is subtraction, not addition. I had to think about that a minute, well actually months. But I’ve become more comfortable with that idea. The world loads us down with pride, self-interest, and independence. Religion loads us down with performance and guilt. We need to subtract some of that from our lives if we are to live free. If we believe we’ve been given ‘the’ measure of Faith as a gift from God; believing (as Abraham did) is after all Faith! Scripture says that we are complete in Him. We can, if we’re not careful, create a great mystery out of the Gospel message. Assuming in our hearts that God intended only a few of us to figure it out, and He only finds pleasure when someone gets it. In actuality, we should know that God’s desire is that all would be saved and come to the knowledge of Christ. We can, if we are not careful, search and ‘never come to the knowledge’ of the Gospel. We can ever learn and never come to the Truth. Christ Jesus is Truth. The only Mystery to be found in the Gospel is Paul’s Christ. Hidden until the appropriate time and appropriate place; revealed at just the right time and place. It’s that knowledge, knowing Him for Who He is, that’s required. I think it’s appropriate to memorize Scripture, terrific to study day and night, but if those do not lead to a simple relationship with the character and heart of God’s Spirit they are in vain. I believe we should all live a righteous life and do the things of God, but unless our righteousness exceeds the righteousness of those found in Matthew Chapter 5, we stand condemned. We come to Christ with a child-like belief, that is, a simple trust in Him, a confidence in His relationship with the Father and Holy Spirit– a relationship that we have been adopted into in order to be a part of. Our confidence comes from believing that everything He said about that relationship is true. That we are Holy because He is Holy; we believe that He would never leave us, He does not condemn but saves, that the work we are to accomplish is to believe and be blessed by having believed in Him. The Gospel is not adding more and more to our lives to find a holy mountain top, that’s what all religions promise. Our God came down from the mountain and lives with us. Our Gospel is simply Christ, and our Faith in Him, and His Faith in the Covenant between Him and the Father and Spirit. Let me summarize with this short comparison:
Which is our Gospel?