So much of the church world has become as polarized as the secular world has. This ought not to be so. We have branches of denominations who argue that other branches of the same denomination are heretics because they take communion from multiple personal cups instead of all drinking from the same cup. There are others who say if you Baptize in any way except “In the Name of Jesus”, the Baptism is of no good and its affects are void. Still yet others who make it fine for their congregants to listen to any and all worldly music they wish, but condemn any psalm, hymn or spiritual song being sung with musical accompaniment. Oh, how we have fallen into patterns of works and put the works of the cross to an open shame! If it has ALL really been done already, in the works of the Son, if when He said it is finished, if we are truly dead buried and resurrected into Christ by this experience we call salvation; how then can we believe anything which we ourselves have pulled out of the intended context of scripture and consider it worth following?
I propose we approach this as Shaul (Paul) did in his reflecting upon all the knowledge of religion he'd garnered, as a master of Torah under the most resurrected Biblical Scholar of his time, Gamaliel. In Philippians 3:8 we find Shaul's personal thoughts on the accomplishments he'd made as a Bible Student of Pharisaic backing, as a Roman Citizen, a trained physician and teacher/scholar in his own right: “And doubtless I even count all things as loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ” (Jubilee Bible). In fact, in verse 7 he plainly and simply said that he counted all “LOSS” for Christ. A loss can be defined by many synonyms. One I found particularly fitting here is “reduction”. In essence Shaul was likely saying that all of this knowledge was “reduced” (in importance/relevance) by the knowledge he gained when coming to Christ!! It is such a simple prospect, that we just overlook it. It has been mirco-sized by the structural church body, in order to justify by laws that we expect church “members” to live by. It needs to be magnified so all can see the freedom available to them in Christ. Once, again, if it has all been done, and it has all been “finished” on the cross then we have need to do nothing but step into what has been provided. It is about a heart posture, not a lifestyle. The right heart posture will produce the right lifestyle. I cannot be anyone's Holy Spirit by speaking “words of encouragement” from the pulpit which tell them how to live; then expect that they respond from their spirit – and this is a spiritual matter. Ministry(ies) have gotten this backwards. While we are all spirit beings, we each have un-redeemed souls (to varying degrees) which must seek their own salvation from the seed of the enemy planted in it, in the garden. This is done by the renewing of the mind by the Word being made life to the soul. But when we preach or teach lifestyle ministry, the human soul will more quickly communicate, to another soulish being, the need for “self discipline”, “self control”, “self, self, self”. It is by, through, with, and in Christ (and this way alone) that anyone can truly be freed to live the Christ-life and again, THIS is a spirit matter. The only 'self' involved is that I myself must be willing to allow His will to work out salvation for my entire being - body, soul and spirit.
Galatians 2:20 - I am crucified with Christ; nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ lives in me, and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.
Galatians 5:24 - or those that are of the Christ have crucified the flesh with its affections and lusts
These two scriptures were being written to the same believers and follow a common theme, but if 5:24 were to be quoted without a proper break down of 2:20 AND linking them together, we could easily fall into an un-biblical pattern of works based living. In fact, we would probably begin to believe that the “works” we were doing would line up with James 2:18, 20 & 26 which all say something similar:
“But someone may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works; show me thy faith without thy works, and I will show thee my faith by my works.” (Jubliee Bible)
So what should we make of that? Why would Shaul seem to be saying that it is the Christ life in me which I live by faith and that Christ will live through me. James (Yakov) seems to say that I have to do works to prove my faith? On one hand we have Shaul seeming to point that without faith he could not live the life Christ bought on the Cross and on the other James (Yakov) is saying that faith cannot exist unless it is accompanied by works.
NOTE: I have found myself, over the years, taking scripture out of context without even realizing it. By isolating single scriptures without properly linking them to those in other areas of scripture, where a similar lesson is being presented, we can terribly misinterpret their meaning. This is why we must learn to run a common thread through the totality of scripture to ensure we do not misrepresent what the writer was saying to those whom they were addressing.
I think the best way to begin to understand this is to go back to the source of this concept. Yeshua/Jesus gave this lesson to his disciples in John 15:1-5. Let's focus specifically on the summation which is directly connected to this doctrine Shaul and James were actually in perfect agreement over; even though it seems otherwise. OR we can take the easy way and just say that works based theology is correct. I'd rather not. I've often found that the easy spiritual path is the deceiver's way, so I rarely follow the “take the path of least resistance” option. This doesn't mean God's way is always hard. Yeshua/Jesus did tell all those who are weary and heavy laden to come to Him to find rest. That is actually what we are talking about here. The labor we do is with our own souls. We must force our soul to get out of the way of our spirit. God is a spirit and those who come to Him must do so in spirit and understanding the truth (John 4:23 & 24). Back to John chapter 15 verses 4 & 5:
“Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me. I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing.”
So, then if we abide in Him then the things we do are with, for, through, and by Him. But how does that differ from James works? Because of heart positioning. We aren't to do things in order to gain favor or earn anything. We are to allow the works of God to flow from us naturally. It can't be worked up, prayed down, or pressed into. That would not require grace, and it would come from the soul. The work of God is simple: (John 6:29 – KJV) “Jesus answered and said unto them, This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent.” If we are to believe on Him whom God sent, then should we not also believe that when He said “It is finished” while hanging from the cross, it meant the cross had accomplished the final necessary thing to allow us to abide in Him and He in us? If so, it is also reasonable to believe that this means we have NOTHING to actually work out for our own salvation except letting the substitution of Yeshua/Jesus on the cross, for our sin, work from the inside and then out of us!
I know that to many, this is not new. But I feel compelled to point out that the church as a whole, probably without realizing it, has become works oriented. Even those who believe and teach these very things! But the words they teach on this conflict with the intention of scripture on the matter. They have been taught to use "theology" (the study of God) to form a way of thinking about God which contradicts sound doctrine – (what we do based on rightly dividing the Word of Truth). Let me take a very common example for us to examine – Church Membership. No where in scripture do we find believers “becoming” members of an assembly. We do find that when one is born again they are accepted into the local body as a member of that “family” or “household”. There were no prerequisites. No membership classes, no tithing records checked, no mandatory volunteerism. No anything except, now that you're a believer you'll need to be shown how to live the life Christ paid for on the Cross. Yeshua/Jesus put it this way:
“And he said to them all, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me." ( Luke 9:23 - KJV - emphasis mine)
What cross? Does everyone have to be crucified to follow Him? NOPE, of course not! This is about His cross. His cross did all the work. His cross took the shattered, broken, impoverished and diseased condition of humanity and paid the substitutionary price required to seal the deal once and for all. You just have to accept that and let the cross change you from the inside out. The old self (habits, attitudes, ways of thinking, etc) will begin to fall away the more you submit to the grace which has been given to you. Grace is not about the permission to do things which are not acceptable to God. Grace is an empowerment to do the things which are acceptable to God! Now, don't start thinking that part about denying yourself is about denying yourself of things.....that would be works again. It is about denying that you can do anything to be made worthy of following God in Christ. That is the gift of God so no one can boast that they earned it (Ephesians 2:8-10) Once again, the Word supports a simple fact. God did it, In Christ, so we can be partakers of His death, burial, resurrection and ascention – and by that work we can be partakers of all the goodness and blessings which scripture promises. Note that Ephesians 2:10 says something about good works....now don't run back to thinking we can work anything out for ourselves. This is another part of the thread pointing out His good work in us!!
So you see, going back to Galations 5:24; it is not about being self controlled, or having self discipline. It is about the Cross of Christ having provided that for you. It's about letting that live in you, through you, for you, and with you! May I ask, if it really started to happen and you really saw things from your old life just begin to “fall off of you” would you believe that it really is “FINISHED”? Would you believe that someone who the “Son sets free is free indeed” (John 8:36 paraphrased) really is totally freed? Well, it's true and there is a great number of scriptures which follow this thread and they will fill you to the fullest with freedom from the self life and move you straight into the Kingdom of Liberty - if you'll just learn to let go and let God do it. A good pace to start is Philemon verse 6 - “that the fellowship of your faith may begin working in the full knowledge of every good thing that is in you in Christ Jesus;” (Young's literal translation and KJV combined). Notice that your faith can become your “works” - so the work of God really is to “believe” on Him whom God sent, to trust that He completed the work for you and the that He has already placed all good things He paid for, on the cross, inside you. Case closed.
I don't want to leave this topic with anyone thinking that Church Membership, tithes as they are typically taught, a pastor led church, or soul driven believers will necessarily take anyone from their salvation by causing them to backslide. Man-made religious traditions are not necessarily sin, but they do keep us from entering into the fullness God has prepared for us. We have several articles, video and audio recordings on our Teaching Page which cover these topics more completely.
May we all learn to just rest in this assurance and let Him live from within us
to bring to completion everything He requires us to be for Him. May we stop
trying to be the Holy Spirit to others and let them let God work their salvation
from the inside of them out as He desires for them as individuals.
May we finally all be freed from the works oriented mess that organized
religion has left for us as an inheritance and as the writer of Hebrew said:
6:1a “We must try to become mature and start thinking about
more than just the basic things we were taught about Christ. (CEV)
6:1a “Therefore leaving the principles of the doctrine of
Christ, let us go on unto perfection;” (KJV)
More on this in coming posts...