CONDEMNATION: THE FAITH KILLER

I believe that one reason, if not the primary one, that believers fail to experience the abundant life and the victory that Jesus purchased for them is condemnation. More specifically, this is the condemnation that we feel from trying to live under law. Living under condemnation makes it nearly impossible to trust God and to walk in faith to experience His blessings. The Jews had a law. In fact, there were 613 laws that they needed to keep. Each law, though an expression of God’s love, became muddied through human tradition and sin nature. The law of God, which Paul said was holy, just, and good, became an instrument in the hand of Satan to afflict God’s children with feelings of guilt, condemnation, and unworthiness. It is still the weapon of choice in the hand of the Accuser today. Satan does not need to personally destroy you; he does not have the power to do that. He is a powerless tyrant without a throne and without a kingdom. So how does he do it? Satan is a master of deception. He takes God’s law and turns it on us. He uses it to accuse us of sin and inflict discouragement and condemnation.

To try to live under the law, whether it be the old covenant law, or any rule- based relationship, is to forfeit God’s grace from working in our lives and sentence ourselves to life through our own abilities.

The Apostle Paul made a startling discovery in the book of Romans, which I want to share with you. I believe that this will be a key that helps you walk out of condemnation and into the grace to live a victorious and fulfilled life. In chapter 4 he says:

 

“Therefore, by the deeds of the law no flesh will be justified in His sight, for the law is the knowledge of sin.” Romans 4:20

The Phillips translation makes this very clear:

“No man can justify himself before God by a perfect performance of the Law’s demands. Indeed, it is the straight edge of the Law that shows us how crooked we are. Romans 4:20  Phillips Translation

The straight edge of the law shows us how crooked we are; however, the law can never straighten us out. The more we look into the law to make us straight the more discouraged we will become, and the more introspective and self-condemned we will be. In that state of introspection, it is nearly impossible to operate in faith.

So, what is the cure? I’m glad you asked. Paul gives the answer in chapter 7. Using an example from marriage, he explains that as long as a woman is married, to marry another man would be adultery. But if the husband dies, she is free to remarry.

 

To quote again from The Passion Translation, he goes on to say.

“So, my dear brothers and sisters, the same principle applies to your relationship with God. For you died to your first husband, the law, by being co-crucified with the body of the Messiah. So, you are now free to “marry” another—the one who was raised from the dead so that you may now bear spiritual fruit for God.

When we were merely living natural lives, the law, through defining sin, actually awakened sinful desires within us, which resulted in bearing the fruit of death. ” Romans 6:4-5 TPT.

Living under law will sterilize you. You will experience no fruit, no joy, and no union. It is impossible to have a relationship with two pieces of stone. The 10 commandments, though the moral law of God, cannot in and of themselves make you moral and right, nor can they bring you into relationship with God. They do their job, which is to kill you. They kill your self-righteousness and condemn you as a law breaker.

But here is the Good News:

“But now that we have been fully released from the power of the law, we are dead to what once controlled us. And our lives are no longer motivated by the obsolete way of following the written code, so that now we may serve God by living in the freshness of a new life in the power of the Holy Spirit.”  Romans 7:6 TPT

Through Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection, the law’s condemnation of you was put to rest. The accusations that the enemy held over your head were cancelled and reversed. To live under law is to live under condemnation and to deny the reality of what Jesus did for you.

As a new covenant believer, we are set free from a written code and rule-based system. We are brought under a new government. We are empowered by the Holy Spirit and called to serve God in this new way of life in the Spirit. We are not lawless, but we now are free to live under the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus. Which sets us free from the law of sin and of death (Romans 8:20).

So, what’s the answer? Honor the law and see it for what is- holy, just, and good. But never, and I mean never, make it the basis for your relationship with God. Never think that your ability to keep the law makes you one bit more loved and accepted before your Father. Never look to your performance to validate you in His sight.

TRUST THE PROMISE MAKER

I’ll never forget a time, years ago, when God startled me with these words, “Son you don’t really understand the Gospel.” I found myself very upset by this. You have to understand why this offended me. I was an evangelist. Though young, I had already led thousands to the Lord. In my mind, I knew the Gospel, and to a degree I did. The truth was that I had a “but” Gospel. A “but” gospel goes something like this:

  • God is good, but…you have to balance His goodness with His wrath.
  • God loves you, but…. if you’re not careful to live a holy life He will punish you.
  • God forgives you, but… don’t mess up because your sin will cause Him to hide His face from you.
  • God heals, but…if He chooses not to, embrace it and learn what He wants to teach you.
  • God wants to prosper you, but…. He may choose for you to be poor for His glory. 

For many, God is good, but He is really not that good. Unintentionally, we have created a schizophrenic God with a schizophrenic Gospel. It’s impossible to trust someone that you don’t really believe loves you. This false concept of God has caused many to run from Him, instead of running to Him. So many sincere Christians going to church, Sunday after Sunday, have never heard the Gospel. 

Eugene Peterson’s Message paraphrase says it so beautifully: 

“But how can people call for help if they don’t know who to trust? And how can they know who to trust if they haven’t heard of the One who can be trusted? And how can they hear if nobody tells them?” Romans 10:12 

Sadly, not many Christians have heard the true gospel and therefore, have a difficult time operating in faith. Of course, you cannot have perfect trust in someone that you don’t think really loves you. But God does love us, He is always good, and even, actually especially, when we are not! 

How You View God Matters! 

Recently I came across this statistic: The average person has 70,000 thoughts come through his mind every single day. Out of those 70,000 thoughts, for most people, 75% of them are negative. Think about that- 57,000 negative thoughts violating your mind, influencing your beliefs and poisoning your perspective- every day. King Solomon was onto something when he wrote, “As a man thinks in his heart so is he (Proverbs 23:7).” 

The lies that we believe about ourselves that in turn contaminate and destroy our health, our emotions, and relationships, stem from the lies we believe about God. God created us in righteousness. This word carries with it the concept of being in harmony with our creator and experiencing life the way it was intended. In the Garden, when that trust was broken, all hell broke loose. This is what took place. 

“So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, that it was [a]pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate. She also gave to her husband with her, and he ate. 7 Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves [b]coverings. 

8 And they heard the [c]sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the [d]cool of the day, and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden.9 Then the Lord God called to Adam and said to him, “Where are you?”10 So he said, “I heard Your voice in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; and I hid myself.”11 And He said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you that you should not eat?” Genesis 3:6-11 

The primary word for sin in the New Testament is a word that means to miss the mark or fall short of the bullseye. But to properly understand sin, you have to define the bullseye that we fall short of. It is here that our religious brains take us into bondage. When I ask groups this question, it is common to hear the mark defined as “being perfect” or “keeping the law.” We have made sin simply about right and wrong and following the rules. But God is a heart God and keeping the rules alone will never bring us into relationship with God or earn His favor. 

For me, scripture is clear that the bullseye is having a relationship with God that leads us into the abundant life that we were created to experience. Therefore, sin is not a broken law, but it is a broken relationship. Sin is falling short and missing the mark of the relationship that you were created to have with God. This goes right along with how Jesus defined eternal life in John 17:3. 

“And this is eternal life that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.” John 17:3 

Eternal life is not only experienced when we die, eternal life is the quality of life we can have and experience through intimately knowing God here and now. It begins now and goes on into eternity. 

You also need to notice that this sin or missing of the mark started off with a lie about God, which led Adam and Eve into believing a lie about themselves. The lie was this: Satan implied that God is not as good as He says He is, and that He was holding something back from them. Satan in essence said, “You are not who God says you are, and God cannot be trusted.” The root of all sin goes back to believing a lie about God’s heart toward us. That lie caused Eve to question her identity as a daughter of God, as well as His love for her. You must understand, Eve was already like God; she was created in His image. The Devil brings the same accusation against God’s people today still, just as He did back then. He tries to get us to find fulfillment apart from our identity in Christ. The moment that Adam and Eve believed the lie, they were filled with a sense of emptiness, and that emptiness led them into open rebellion and disobedience against God and His word. 

The first emotion that they experienced after eating the fruit was not lust or rage or any other thing we commonly call sin. The first emotion that they felt was fear- specifically fear of God. For the first time they discovered that they were naked and became aware of something lacking. Instead of running towards their Creator who was calling for them, they ran away from Him and hid themselves.

Next, they sowed fig leaves together in a futile attempt to hide their nakedness. The KJV says that they “made aprons”. The problem with aprons is that they only cover your frontside but leave your backside shamefully exposed. This is much like self-righteous, man-made religion, which puts on a nice covering on the front, but leaves you exposed when you don’t live up to its self-imposed rules. 

God spoke to them, and after killing an innocent animal to make them clothing, they were forced to leave the garden. Notice that, although they were forced to leave the garden, God did not separate Himself from them or abandon them. In the next chapter you have God talking with Cain and Abel as a person talks to his friends. Their sin did cause separation from God, but the separation came from their end and not from God.

Our restoration back to Eden and back to God’s original plan starts with seeing God the way that He really is, the way Jesus portrayed and demonstrated Him. Only when our false view of God begins to change will our self-perception change. We will begin to view ourselves as loved by God. When this takes place, faith flows freely.

 

 

 

Does What You Believe About End Times Really Matter

Does it matter what you believe about end time events?

One of the most divisive doctrines in the church is end-time teaching, a.k.a. eschatology. Because of this many Christians have taken the approach that says, “it doesn’t really matter what you believe about eschatology” or as one well-known preacher used to say, “pre- trib?…post-trib? I am pan-trib….it will all pan-out in the end.” 

Though I can understand people’s dilemma, I believe with all my heart that what you believe about end time events not only matters, but it really matters! I would go so far as to say that much of the way you are living your life now is directly related to what you believe about the future. Certain things are not nonessential, but are necessary to see the church rise up in its God-given purpose on the earth.

Personally, I refuse to listen to end time preaching that pushes all the promises of God into the future, puts fear into the hearts of God‘s people, and creates an escapist mentality, turning this world over to death and destruction.

My goal in writing this is not to attack anyone’s theological position or put forth a verse by verse system with charts and graphs as to what will happen in the end. I do however, desire to challenge some of what has been commonly accepted over the last hundred years and hold it up to God ‘s big picture of a transformed world where King Jesus dwells.

Here are five reasons why I believe that much of our traditional end time views must be left behind if the church is going to arise in victory.  This view :

  • Strikes fear into the hearts of God ‘s people. Fear and faith don’t mix. He who fears has not been made perfect in love.
  • It destroys hope and causes Christians to take an ‘endure until heaven’ attitude instead of an attitude that says, “Let’s bring the kingdom to our cities and communities by preaching the Gospel and discipling nations”
  • It changes the nature of our loving Heavenly Father, creating a villain and empowering a devil that Jesus defeated on the cross.
  • It cripples creativity and stifles the influence of Christians in business, economics, media, the arts, and education. It carries the idea that Jesus could come back at any moment so why get an education and try to do something good in the world?
  • It flies contrary to the big picture of scripture which is not heaven when we die, but the new people of God living within a new creation where Jesus is King of Kings and Lord of Lords.

I do not claim to have all the answers and there are many things that are just not clear. But one thing is clear to me, Jesus came and established His kingdom on the earth and it has been growing in influence and power for the last 2000 years. The climax is not the devil and his minions ruling the earth but Jesus destroying all evil and ushering in the renewed earth.  This is the Gospel of the Kingdom! This is the message of redemption, God restoring His world back to the way it was created to be, and it starts with us being restored back to Him.