The way things are currently developing both within the country and around the world, I am compelled to address a series of topic over the next several weeks. A 40 day period Jews observe called Teshuva begins the evening of August 17, 2015, a period of time set aside for the purpose of repentance and preparation for Rosh Hashanah. Actually, the first 30 days is to prepare for Rosh Hashanah with the hope and prayer they will be resurrected up and not have to continue the following 10 days which they believe no one really wants to go through. Yes, those remaining 10 days are that bad. These 40 days are closely connected to the rapture, or the catching up, of the Church and the following 7 year tribulation period that will see the judgments of God poured out on the earth. So, over the next several weeks I hope to bring a series of blogs to helps us do just that, to re-evaluate our walk with Christ with the desire that we will make the necessary changes in our lives in preparation for when that trumpet sounds signaling our call home to be with Jesus.
Several weeks ago someone made some comments in Sunday school, an echo of what others have said to me over the years that concerns me. Some of the individuals that have made similar comments love God, and yet others their love for God could be questioned. Some have even voiced these comments more to justify their behavior than as a sincere belief they held, and I believe my dad could have possibly been one of those.
So, what are these comments that I’m referring to? Based on the idea that anything prior to Christ’s resurrection is of little or no relevance to us as we are now living in the dispensation of grace, this person in Sunday school commented that we are free from the law and rules, and that whenever one lives according to rules or commands they are really being legalistic. Is this truly the case, or is something missing with this way of thinking? If this way of thinking is wrong, is it really all that important? And if it is important, what is the danger in holding to such views?
Yes, we do live in a dispensation of grace. Yes, our salvation is not based or maintained by the keeping of rules and laws. And, yes, we are free from the bondage and the penalty of sin. So, where does that leave us? Does this mean that the keeping of any laws or rules is legalistic, or is our thinking off some in this area?
To begin with, some have mentioned the words of Jesus in John 8:36 as the basis for their reasoning that we are free from having to keep any laws or rules, but in context that is not what this passage is indicating. Jesus is talking about being free from sin, not laws and rules, yet some choose to use this as their reasoning for living free from having to keep laws and rules. Is this way of thinking consistent with all scripture, or for the most part after Christ’s resurrection for those who discount anything taught by Him before hand? No, it doesn’t.
As I mentioned before, some think that keeping or living according to any laws or rules is legalistic and should not be a part of a Christians walk with Christ. The fact that our salvation is by grace and not of works or in the keeping of the law confuses some into thinking rules and laws should not be a part of our lives, and this is a misconception held by many. Those who hold to such views fail to realize the presence of rules and commands throughout the New Testament in the lives of the early believers.
One of the first commands we see in the New Testament after Jesus’ resurrection, and just prior to His ascension, was a command in Matthew 28:19-20. In this passage Jesus is telling His followers to make disciples of all nations, teaching them to do all that He had commanded them. Did you catch that? Jesus is telling them, and us, to teach others to do ALL that He had commanded them?
In Acts 15:6-29 we read of the Jerusalem Council, headed by James the half-brother of Jesus and the disciples, how after much consulting among themselves and prayer presented a series of guidelines, or rules, by which gentile Christians were to live by. These were not rules they had to follow for salvation, but instead rules providing a set of guidelines by which they were to live by, guidelines that set them apart from non-believers, and the Holy Spirit approved of these.
We also have the Apostle Paul giving instructions on multiple occasions on how we are to live, a set of rules we are to follow. He tells children to always obey their parents, wives to be subject to their husbands, husbands to love their wives as Christ loves the Church. He also tells all of us to obey those in authority over us, to obey the laws of the land, and to grow in maturity in our faith, among others we can see throughout the New Testament. These are all commands that we are to live by as we become more like Jesus, commands that also work to separate us from looking or behaving like those who are not believers. Not only that, Jesus told us that if we truly love Him we will obey all His commandments, and He went further by stating that if we don’t follow all His commandments then we truly don’t love Him as we think we do.
Again, I am not talking about how to obtain or maintain ones salvation as that is another subject, but instead to refute the idea that there is no place in the life of a Christian for rules or guidelines by which we are to live by. After all, if that is the case, then why stop at stop signs, file taxes on April 15th, pay for items at a store, or drive on the right side of the road? When one embraces a mindset of a life free of rules and laws, they are attempting to distance themselves from any accountability for their decisions and behaviors, and that is bad. When my dad, an otherwise strict and to some extent a legalistic person, held to such views, he was using it merely as a means for justifying his decision to keep God’s tithe for himself to control and give as he wanted. He was less concerned about honoring God with all he had or to reflect the Lordship of Christ in his life than he was in his intent on keeping control of his money for himself. Motivation is key, and to have a motivation that doesn’t seek to please or honor God is a motivation that seeks the satisfaction and the gratification of self.
It is becoming more and more evident that the return of Christ is right around the corner, and if that is the case as I and many others believe, then it is important for us to make sure we are ready for that day when it comes. I’m not saying that holding to such views as I’ve been addressing will keep someone out of heaven, though it might, but to not carefully and prayerfully consider these things could be very dangerous to your soul and your salvation. It’s time for us to check and see if our thinking needs to be recalibrated to match up with the Bible, and if it doesn’t then we need to take steps to get them readjusted to match God’s word. It’s not worth playing Russian roulette with. Wouldn’t you agree? Think about it.