We've celebrated the 4th in fine style here...the family gathered 'round hamburgers and hotdogs, puppies barking, pocket parrots screeching, family laughing, and fireworks all over the entire neighborhood...
...and my thoughts are on two law-busting, liberty-loving Biblical passages. I refer to "law-busting" in the sense of the uneducated modern day Pharisee-ism we've all seen from time to time...possibly even seen in ourselves.
I call it "uneducated", because the apostle Peter did so, when he said, "our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given to him, has written to you, as also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which untaught and unstable people twist to their own destruction, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures."
I want to examine just two passages, two law-busting points. Just two. The first one being this passage in John 15 (and many thanks to Oscar Frias for preaching this at Harvest last week!):
"I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned."
The untaught (and the unstable, one lends itself to the other and back again) - the uneducated read that passage as proof text of their "Christian Perfection" doctrines. "There, see? If anyone doesn't abide in Christ, they are cast out, thrown into the fire and burned."
And so, these are perennially grumpy about someone else's salvation - not their own, since they themselves are fruit-bearing, virtue laden believers.
Context, context, context. So many misunderstandings of Scripture and of the doctrines of grace can be fixed if you simply read everything before, and after, and put what you read in proper context.
"You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain, that whatever you ask the Father in My name He may give you. These things I command you, that you love one another. "
End of story. Jesus said it, that settles it for me. I am in no danger of being hacked off and cast into the fire, not even on my worst day or worst year. No person who is in Christ Jesus is in that sort of danger.
And funny thing...loving others is fruit bearing. Loving. Not leaving.
(::cough:: I just wanted to make sure we all get the vowel straight...L-OH-V-E. Not L-E-A-V-E. Truly, love is not a place to come and go as we please.)
Next law-busting passage is found in Exodus 18, when Jethro advised Moses as to the quality of man to help him lead the people. These men should be:
~Strong men, of personal assets, and bravery
~men who hated covetousness
Wow. The perfect elders, huh? Wait. Keep reading.
Just...keep...reading. Moses found a few good men of sterling character to help him, and praise God for them!
But I ask you - how many of those men chose to meet personally with God, in the very next two chapters? How many of them inherited the promise?
Hear me: not one of them. Your disciplined character, important as it is, is no guarantee of the presence of God in your life. Your disciplined character is not The Blessing. Your inheritance is found in Christ Alone.
Now, lets put these two law-busting passages together in our theology, and make our theology affect our biography:
Any emphasis on character or self discipline that does not put relationships of a primary importance is not the full gospel, and could in fact possibly be legalism.
(note: thanks to Dr. Stephen Crosby for this truth from Exodus 18-20!)
Go. Mend your fences. Love people. Bear the sort of fruit God is actually looking for. Then show God your wonderful self disciplines.
...keep reading. Just...keep...reading.