Tag Archives: The Law

A Common Way People Miss Heaven

Most of us understand the investment idea of hedging your bets. It’s the old cliché about eggs and baskets. You don’t put all your money in one place. Financial gurus call this “diversification”. You diversify so that if one of your companies or stocks or mutual funds goes belly-up, you don’t lose it all. The importance of this has been sadly demonstrated in a negative way with people who have directed all their investments to the pension fund or stock of the company that employs them. When their company has fallen apart, not only did they lose their job, but because they were not diversified, they literally lost…everything.

But there is one place in life where diversification is actually the worst possible thing you can do, and yet people do it all the time. It’s in the area of the spiritual life. Here’s how it works: People come to understand the gospel, that eternal life comes through trusting in Christ’s work at the cross…but just in case, they make sure they do some other things. This is what the Galatians were doing with circumcision…

Look: I, Paul, say to you that if you accept circumcision, Christ will be of no advantage to you. Galatians 5:1-2 (ESV)

They were taught the gospel, that salvation comes by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone, but the “circumcision party” or the “Judaizers” came in and taught them that they also needed to be circumcised. And this led to Paul’s stern warning above.

Today, this sort of thinking is one of the main ways people misunderstand the gospel and miss eternal life. For instance, someone says, “Well, I believe in Jesus – that’s the main thing, but I’m hedging my bets. I’m covering all the angles. So I’m going to be sure to get baptized, and I’m going to make sure to have my babies baptized, because some people say you do need that, and maybe they’re right, maybe you do need to be baptized to get into heaven.”

The refrain of these folks is this: “Just in case…”

Now of course, everyone who is a follower of Christ should be baptized and if you claim Christ and you haven’t been baptized, then you should make plans to do so out of loving obedience to the Lord Jesus (Matthew 28:19, 20), but not because you think that faith alone in Christ just might not be enough.

Many people today also trust in the act of taking communion. “I believe in Jesus,” these people would say, “but I’m also going to take communion because I believe this will ‘help’ me into heaven.” And a huge number of people believe in doing general good works as an aid to merit eternal life.

Now, does God want us to celebrate the saving cross of Christ through the Lord’s Table? Absolutely He does. And does he want us to love others and be “good”. Sure. But if you take communion in order to get into heaven, or if you go to church, or give financially, or help an old widow across the street in order to secure eternal life…then God says that Christ will be of no value to you. Refuting this kind of false thinking is so important to Paul that he says it again even more forcefully and clearly:

I testify again to every man who accepts circumcision that he is obligated to keep the whole law. You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law; you have fallen away from grace. Galatians 5:3, 4 (ESV)

Here Paul explains why hedging your bets in Christianity is so deadly, because in God’s eyes, you are either trusting in yourself, or trusting in Christ. You cannot do both. If the Galatians were to choose to be circumcised, then they were choosing to trust in themselves, in their own obedience to the law, and by doing so they were rejecting the way of justification and faith in Christ. And they were therefore obligated to keep the whole law.

Every. Last. Command.

So Paul says, put ALL your “stock” in Christ and reject trying to be justified by the law in any way whatsoever.

He is the one “investment” that will never go south.

For Monday, June 22nd: Galatians 6


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Posted by on June 19, 2015 in Uncategorized


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Why More Rules Don’t Make You More Holy

Romans 724–25 [widescreen]In the early 1980’s, I attended a Bible seminar called Basic Youth Conflicts put on by a Bible teacher named Bill Gothard. Gothard was a Youth Pastor in the Chicago area for a number of years until he went into this traveling ministry of putting on these seminars.

There were many good and useful things that he taught: the importance of the Word of God and memorizing it, the value of accepting how God has made you, etc. On the other hand, some of the things he had to say were just a little whacky – like that everyone should memorize out of the King James Version because the poetry of it was better for your mind.

Anyway, because of his emphasis on the importance of the Word of God in the life of the believer, one of the things that Gothard encouraged his attendees to do was make a vow to read it 5 minutes every day for the rest of your life.

And he told us not to take the vow lightly as he quoted Solomon in the book of Ecclesiastes 5:4, 5, “When you make a vow to God, do not be late in paying it; for He takes no delight in fools. Pay what you vow! It is better that you should not vow than that you should vow and not pay.”

So with Bill Gothard’s encouragement, I made a vow.

Now I wouldn’t encourage anyone today to make such a vow, as this article will hopefully demonstrate, although I would definitely encourage everyone to read the Bible every day for at least five minutes. But that’s another blog.

Well, some years later, I thought I would expand on Gothard’s idea to bring life change to other areas of my life.

So I set up a system of vows. I didn’t talk about it a lot, and I don’t think very many other people knew about it outside of Diane. There were a few different areas where I made vows, but you can guess the usual suspects – eating right, exercise, etc.

I promise I won’t eat desserts after 6 PM. I promise to work out 3 times a week for a half an hour, etc.

I would make a vow for a week and then renew the vow at the beginning of the next week. And at first, it was great; at one point, I even thought I might write a book about this new vow plan I had developed, but it was not to be, because I eventually gave the system up. You see, while there were small gains, it was not producing the life change that I wanted it to produce, and it was probably having some unintended negative effects.

You see, the problem with what I had done is that I was simply creating a number of new laws, and my biggest problem was simple: I didn’t understand the power of the gospel, and I didn’t understand the purpose of the law.

It’s in Romans 7 that Paul wants us to understand the purpose of the Law, and it was really not to help us obey.  Instead, it was to show us why we needed a Savior.  It was to magnify our sin and make us run to Jesus.  In fact, though the law is righteous and good, it actually worked against us in making us holy, as Paul explained…

What then shall we say? That the law is sin? By no means! Yet if it had not been for the law, I would not have known sin. For I would not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said, “You shall not covet.” But sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, produced in me all kinds of covetousness. For apart from the law, sin lies dead. I was once alive apart from the law, but when the commandment came, sin came alive and I died. The very commandment that promised life proved to be death to me. Romans 7:7-10 (ESV)

Remember the assigned reading in high school English class that you didn’t want to do simply because it was assigned? In the same way, the Law has a way of working against you.  Paul said that when the law told him not to covet, the act of coveting became his main desire.  So what is the answer?  Well, it’s that we need to be set free from the Law through believing in Christ…

Likewise, my brothers, you also have died to the law through the body of Christ, so that you may belong to another, to him who has been raised from the dead, in order that we may bear fruit for God. Romans 7:4 (ESV)

Paul is saying that if we want to be fruitful for God, then we need to be set free from the Law of Moses. Because in the end, it’s not the Law of God that transforms us, but the Love of God.  We will not be changed by rules, but we will be changed by grace.  In fact, this is the larger point of Romans 7: Rules will not make you holy, because the flesh cannot observe God’s commandments – only the Spirit can help us do that, and He comes to us through the glorious gospel of God.

So I’m thankful for the good things I learned from Bill Gothard, and yet, as much as I love to tell people to read their Bibles, I would never encourage anyone to make a vow to do so.

Laws don’t make holy people.  The Spirit of God Who comes to us through believing in the Gospel – He is the key to holiness.


For Tuesday, March 31: Romans 8

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Posted by on March 30, 2015 in Uncategorized


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