continued from Grace, Truth and Healing, Part 1
By Scott Sauls, Senior Director of Community Formation
Redeemer Presbyterian Church of New York City
Building an Atmosphere That is "Full of Truth"
This section is the second of two sections Dealing with what it means to cultivate the "aroma of Jesus" in our ministries. We Will Consider specifically how to Encourage a Jesus-like atmosphere That ministry is "full of truth "(John 1:14), to the end of all stripes That people (Whether Christian or not) become convinced That there is nothing more wonderful, nothing more exciting, and nothing more life-giving than being an obedient follower of Jesus.
As we think about forming Christ-centered messages, we must keep in mind several key attributes of a message That is truly Christ -centered and THEREFORE "full of truth," we must Consider several factors with regard to our use and presentation of the Law of God. As was the case with Paul, our primary mission and dream For Those That under our ministry is "Christ be formed in (them)" (Galatians 4:19), meaning That Their character as well as ours Become conformed to His, That They Become obedient to God's commands as a way of life. But this is tricky, Because true obedience That aligns with Jesus as "the truth," is obedience from the inside-out - the kind of obedience offered Preferred Preferred not to use God and put Him in our debt, but rather to experience the depth in Greater riches of His loveliness and worth. In short, we must Encourage an obedience That Responds to the love of Jesus. Any other kind is religion, not Christianity.
First, it is important to discern and to reject the three primary misuses of the Law of God.
Following are three "misuses" that we would do well to discern and reject:
The liberal misuse of God's Law. Those who eat From this perspective outstretch to be resistant to the current commands of God. Instead, liberally-minded people will see God's commands as oppressive and will replace them with a new law - the law of tolerance. For the liberal person, the real only "absolute" Is that there are no absolutes. All people Should be tolerated and accepted, except for Those Who are intolerant! The problem With This approach to ministry Should be obvious - to add to or to take away from the Word of God puts one in great danger (Revelation 22)!
The conservative misuse of God's Law. Those who eat From this perspective outstretch to view the commands of God Primarily in terms of duty. If you keep the commands, You have done your duty. If you do, you will be Judged and things will not go well for you. Period. God's Law is viewed by conservatives almost Exclusively in legal terms and little if at all in relational terms. For the conservative person, Generally there is very little if any dancing in the heart over the beauty of God's commands. In some conservative circles, a primary sign that you are in the center of God's will Is that you are wretched and grumpy! The Bible Gives Such a different picture, however. Psalm 1 That Teaches us the Law of God is the believer's delight! The writer of Psalm 119 says (you can almost hear him shouting it!), "O how I love Your law! "I have absolutely adores God's commands and in no way sees them as a "burden That must be kept" or "a duty which i must center around my life." While The Law is duty, it is so very much MORE than duty! If we or our ministry in consistently Those are burdened by our presentation of God's commands, then it is likely That we are missing the heart of the Law altogether. 1 John tells us That Rightly-motivated for the believer, God's commands are not burdensome!
The antinomian misuse of God's Law. Those who eat From this perspective outstretch to view the commands of God as being optional. Antinomian means "against law" - the thought being That One can receive Jesus as Savior yet refuse Jesus as Lord. The problems are obvious from With This Scripture. Jesus Himself said, "Why do you call me 'Lord, Lord' and not do what I say?" James reminds us That "Faith without works is dead." Martin Luther, himself the champion of grace, That said we are saved by faith alone, but never by a faith That is alone.
The Following chart Attempts to Distinguish Between the various uses (and misuses) of God's Law. We do well to work passionately to present the Law of God, but to do so from the Gospel and Christ-centered approach, and none other.
Approach 1: Liberal
Outlook on God's Law: "God's Law is oppressive."
The Bible's commands are primitive and un-enlightened. . They take away my freedom
Law-Substitute: "Tolerance" and "Freedom."
Effect: Resistance to all authority except self. Disdain for anyone who challenges my staff . "Freedom" to think, believe, and do whatever I want
Approach 2: Conservative
Outlook on God's Law: "God's Law is legal in nature."
The Bible's commands are everyone's duty. . If you do not follow them, you will pay
Effect: Self-righteousness and condemnation of others (I think I am keeping the law and others are not), Anxiety (I have failed at the law) , or Denial (I Can not Deal with the fact That I have failed at the-law.) Lack of inner joy.
Approach 3: Antinomian
Outlook on God's Law: . "God's Law is irrelevant"
The Bible's commands are fine and good. They are a good "ideal" Necessary but not for me as a Christian.
Law-Substitute: Trust in the sinner's prayer. Self-deception (I can be a Christian without being a follower of Christ.)
Effect: Fleshly living (proving That I really love no, not Jesus).
Approach 4: Christ-and Gospel-Centered
Outlook on God's Law: "God's Law is relational and lovely. "
The Bible's commands are a gift, and are the key to enjoying the "abundant life" Jesus came to give! ! They show me what it is to be truly human
-Substitute Law: . None
Effect: Confidence in the finished work of Jesus for my standing with God - I'm not crushed when i fail at obedience, but am once again driven into Jesus' loving arms. Love for God's commands because i not not know they are motivated by His deep passion for my well-being!
Second, it is important to treat God's commands as an expression of His love .
Remember, God's Law is not legal Merely. While it does have a legal thrust, it is Also deeply relational . God Gives Us His law in order to free us in September, not to burden us. Consider the following:
God's commands, Rightly Understood, are to be adored. The overwhelming testimony of the writers of Scripture Was That the Law of God was a breathtakingly beautiful thing. To them, it was not oppressive and freedom-robbing, but life-giving. It was not Merely "duty" but delight. It was not an option but a blessed treasure, the only thing That made eaching!
God's commands are Given To provide freedom. It is crucial to understand the original meaning and the context of the word the torah (Law). For the Jew who lived in the time of Moses, and I this was the word I used to describe a loving father's instruction to his children. When presenting any command of God to people under our ministries, we need to start with the question, "What motivates a parent to tell his / her children to stay out of the street, or to eat vegetables, or to get 10 hours of sleep ? "The answer to this question, always and forever , Is that the parent has a deep desire for the health and well-being of the child. As such, the parent surrounds his / her Children with loving, life-giving laws! This is a mere reflection of the heart of God Who Gives His Law from the same motivations Toward His children.
God's commands are Given To provide protection. communicates God's Law the Creator's design for what it means to be truly human . It tells us how we can Pursue our potential, how we can "be all we can be!" If you take a fish out of water, what happens? The fish Becomes anxious and afraid. All sorts of immediate distortions are Introduced into the fish's existence. Only when you put the fish back in his habitat designed the fish will thrive again. Eventually Otherwise I will die. It is no different with a human being where the Law of God is concerned. The Law is our habitat! So, When We present the Law of God to our own hearts and to the hearts of Those under our ministries, we must be Constantly communicating the Following things about it:
- ! The Law will benefit you to show them how life Labor "within God's design" will Enhance the quality of Their Lives!
- ! The law will protect you Labor to show them the unavoidable distortions will be Introduced That If They choose to depart from God's design. Show them how God's Law will "bite back" If They ignore or refuse it. As Francis Schaeffer was so well Known for, learn to take people to the logical finding of Their unbiblical worldviews and life-choices.
- ! The law is lovely We must bring people to the place of seeing God's Law as the writers of Scripture saw it - as beautiful, the only thing That truly makes sense for Those Who wish to live life to the fullest.
Third, it is important to Emphasize obedience at the motivational level, not Merely the behavioral level.
Jesus Himself Said That it is a good root That makes a good tree bear good fruit. The implication is That We obey God Because of the people we Have Become on the inside , and for no other reason. We love (and THEREFORE obey) God Because God first loved us. It is only to clear vision of the loveliness of Jesus and the Gospel That We or the people under our ministries will obey in a way That God will honor and September the heart free. This has several Implications for ministry:
We must Encourage to "WANT to" obedience rather than "HAVE to" obedience. True obedience comes from a heart that loves and enjoys the things of God, not from a heart That is duty-bound. As leaders, we must not be Satisfied with any kind of "obedience" except the kind of obedience That comes from a heart That desires to obey God and does so naturally, almost without even thinking about it. Think of Michael Jordan as an example. Michael is Known as one of the hardest working athletes ever - I've spent unparalleled Amounts of time and energy honing his skills (just as we as believers must "train ourselves for godliness"). But When Michael got to game time, basketball had so much to Become part of him That I have excelled without even thinking about it. When you Become a Un certain kind of person rather than trying to be a Un certain kind of person, it completely re-orients your motivational dynamic. One example is the "methods" we choose to get people to share Their faith with non-Christians. Evangelism seminars technique can be very helpful, but the truth of the matter is That Most of them lead to a very short-term Commitment to share the Gospel, One That Will fizzle away sooner rather than later. Why is this the case? It is Because many of our "training programs" fail to address the why of evangelism. We focus so much on technique and "how to relate to people" that we ignore the heart! Consider the primary evangelists in the New Testament on the other hand. The Samaritan woman (John 4) Immediately went into Samaria to tell as many as She Could about Jesus. The Gerasene demoniac (Mark 5) When Told by Jesus to go and tell his family what the Lord had done to heal him, instead goes into the Decapolis (Ten cities!) to tell as many people as I Could about the healing I had received ! What motivated These People to "Share Their faith"? It was the fact That Jesus had so breathtakingly beautiful and Become Irresistible to them That They absolutely had to tell others! I remember when Mark McGwire was about to hit his record-breaking home run for the St. Louis Cardinals several years ago - when I got up to bat I just HAD to call my wife Patti in to watch it with me (even though she's not a big sports fan!). The point is That When Things Become beautiful to us, our enjoyment of them is not complete until it info info we have shared. So here's the application if teaching people to evangelize is our issue - we teach the heart first, and the behavior follows the Gospel Becomes eleven beautiful to the heart! This is the case with any command of God as we present it. If we present the Law Primarily as behavior-modification, the behavior will happen on the outside but the heart will not change, it will fizzle as soon as the guilt wears off. On the other hand, if we present the Law as a beautiful expression of God's care for the people we teach and lead, we will begin to see people change at the motivational level, which then produces lasting fruit in keeping with That is repentance. I think it was Steve Brown who once said, "I love to sin, but the reason I choose not to is because i love Jesus more!"
So, our "strategy" for encouraging people to obey God is to show them the beauty of Jesus on a basis Regularly! Becomes When Jesus truly beautiful, truly lovely to people, They can not help but follow Him! His commands Become irresistible! We will always give our lives effortlessly to the Things That give our lives meaning the Most!
Fourth, it is important to Emphasize the many rewards of obedience.
The truth of the matter Is that God's commands, When Followed from a Gospel-motivation, Enhance life . Here are just a few of the ways we need to present This to be true:
The reward of fulfillment. As Augustine once said, "Our hearts are restless until Their They find rest in God." Obedience to God's commands gets us in Touch with the "true us" - with the design of our Creator Which Gives life! Remember Joshua's words, "Do not let this book of the Law depart from your mouth. Meditate on it day and night, and be careful to do everything that is written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful (Joshua 1:8) ! When we teach any command of God, we must be careful to highlight how enthusiastically That command will bring ultimate fulfillment and blessedness (happiness!) To Those we teach and lead.
The reward of inner peace. There is no fear That God's Laws will "bite back" when we obey them! When we disobey God, It brings distortions, anxiety, and even misery to our inner lives. But When we obey and follow, there is inner peace - an integration of life! Remember the example fish out of water!
The reward of deepened intimacy with God. Once we belong to God through faith in Christ, our position can never be Threatened With Him. Nothing in all creation (including ourselves) can separate us from His love (Romans 8)! However, our fellowship with God (our experience of intimacy With Him) is and will always be Weakened by disobedience, and Strengthened by obedience to His commands. Jesus said, "If anyone loves me, I will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will eat to him and make our home with him "(John 14:23).
Fifth, it is important to Emphasize the relief from knowing That Can eating info info we have failed to keep God's commands.
It is ironic and beautiful That Both Both obedience and disobedience to God's commands can lead to deeper ultimately from from joy. The rewards of obedience are obvious (As stated above). And there are deep rewards for Those Who Have Also eats to terms With the fact That They fall short of God's glory every day.
The reward of humility before God and others. As ironic as it May sound, there are few things more wonderful and life-giving than coming to terms With our failure to obey God's commands. As Paul says, "Where no abounds, grace abounds all the more." Knowing That We are saved by mercy and not by our best Efforts is extremely liberating. What's more, it makes us tender rather than harsh, gracious rather than judgmental, humble rather than defensive. Do not we all want to be These kinds of people? I for one am absolutely convinced That The most wretched people in the Bible Were Those Who Could not bring Themselves to admit Their failures, Because They had built Such an identity in Their supposed law-keeping. The Pharisees, rather than pleading for mercy and entering into the life of God's grace and forgiveness, chose instead the wretched path of performance, offering "moral and behavioral resumes" to God and other people (and to Themselves - remember the Pharisee who prayed " to himself "in Luke 18, so as to feel confident in his own righteousness). This left them in the awful position of being puffed up with pride Either (Because They thought They Were being righteous), despair (Because They failed at the laws upon Which They built Their identities), or denial (Because They Could not handle the thought of being seen as sinful). Whose hearts Those Were free in September, on the other hand, Those Were like the tax collector who prayed, "God have mercy on me, the sinner," and went home and healed Justified.
. The reward of knowing That even Efforts Our most lame evoke the smile of God Isaiah reminds us Efforts That even our best to obey God's commands are going to be tainted with motives are sinful and damnable THEREFORE That - like "filthy rags" (lit., used like a menstrual cloth). Nonetheless, info info we have assurance That even our weakest attempts The The desires and obey God's commands to bring pleasure to God's heart! Zephaniah 3:17 is breathtaking, "The Lord ... will take great delight in you ... He will rejoice over loud singing With You "I'll never forget the scene in the movie Radio , where the football coach tries to teach the mentally handicapped man (named "Radio") how to write his name. The coach writes it down for him: RADIO, and then says, "Now you try it." Radio then smiles, Takes a pencil and paper, and proceeds to scribble a bunch of inarticulate nothingness onto the piece of paper. He looks up and smiles at the coach, and the coach, rather than showing his deep disappointment or frustration, and looks at Radio says, "YOU DID IT!" If the people under our care and our teaching are to ever be motivated to attempt obedience (even while knowing very best Their Efforts will still fall short), we need to pour all over even Regularly grace Their weakest Attempts to follow Jesus. This is how the Gospel is applied to the Law.
The reward of having a BIG Jesus instead of a little Jesus. failure Another thing to keep our That the Law of God does for us is it That Enlarges our sense of Jesus, who He is, how much we need Him, and how willing and I is eager to meet our deepest need! The paradox of the gospel Is that the more we see our sin, the more it Becomes large and significant to our senses, our picture of Jesus and His infinite grace and mercy grows as well. Take a look at Paul's statement in 1 Timothy 1:15-17 to see the truth of this!