Grace & Truth, by Jesus Christ (Joseph Prince @ 2012 Hillsong Conference)

“For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.” – (John 1:17 NIV)

As you may have noticed from earlier blogs, I have been really blessed lately by the teachings of Joseph Prince. I feel that he speaks very eloquently of Grace and, as a recovering legalist, it is a message I certainly need to hear! (start watching Grace, Joseph Prince @ HILLSONG at 2:50)

Here are a few notes and quotes from this teaching:

God is not about behavior modification, he is about heart transformation.

People worry that if you preach only grace, that people will have a license to sin. But have you noticed that people are sinning without a license? But this isn’t what Scripture says will happen if we preach grace:

“Sin is no longer your master, for you no longer live under the requirements of the law. Instead, you live under the freedom of God’s grace.” (Romans 6:14 NLT)

“For the grace of God has been revealed, bringing salvation to all people. And we are instructed (by this grace) to turn from godless living and sinful pleasures. We should live in this evil world with wisdom, righteousness, and devotion to God, while we look forward with hope to that wonderful day when the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, will be revealed.” (Titus 2:11-13)

No one in the church it seems teaches pure law, but a mixture of law and grace. But Jesus said you cannot put new wine (grace) in an old wineskin (law).

There has been a change in our relationship to the law since the cross.

The law condemns the best of us, but grace saves the worst of us.

God calls the law written in stone, the ministry of death. He is speaking of the ten commandments:

“Now if the ministry that brought death, which was engraved in letters on stone, came with glory, so that the Israelites could not look steadily at the face of Moses because of its glory, transitory though it was, will not the ministry of the Spirit be even more glorious?” (2 Corinthians 3:7-8 NIV)

Grace is the ministry of the Spirit!

You cannot be under water and not be wet any more than you can be under grace and not be holy.

Those who are loved best, love best. Those who know that are forgiven totally and completely, forgive others totally and completely.

Love is the fulfilling of the law. Grace is God’s unconditional love love for you completely independent of our performance. You can’t mess this up, for where sin abounds grace much more abounds.

“God’s law was given so that all people could see how sinful they were. But as people sinned more and more, God’s wonderful grace became more abundant.” (Romans 5:20 NLT)

We love because he first loved us. We love God, and we love each other, as we are loved by God – as we allow his love to permeate our hearts. Are you letting yourself be loved by God?

There is so much more and I highly recommend watching the whole video!

Response to Jim Staley’s Identity Crisis (Hebrew Roots Movement)

inception spinning top

What is it that grounds you to reality?

“What is the most resilient parasite? Bacteria? A virus? An intestinal worm? An idea… An idea can transform the world and rewrite all the rules. It is resilient… highly contagious. Once an idea has taken hold of the brain it’s almost impossible to eradicate… The smallest seed of an idea can grow. It can grow to define or destroy you.” (from the movie Inception)

An idea planted deep in a psyche is a very powerful thing, very difficult to remove, and it may cause untold damage and shape someone’s destiny. I know this because I’ve personally experienced it. Some ideas can liberate and give us great joy, while other ideas can put us in bondage. Consider that Communism started out as an idea for a utopian society. Evolution started as the idea that perhaps God didn’t create us after all. Plato and Aristotle had ideas that shaped how all future Western civilizations would function. All this to say that ideas have power.

I think we often fail to respect the power of ideas. After all, it is ideas that shape our worldview (paradigm, the lens through which we perceive reality). How we see the world, history, God, and Scripture depend on the ideas we let in and the authority we allow shape our worldview. We have a certain amount of responsibility as the gatekeepers of our worldview and thankfully we are not without guidance. If you are born again believer in Jesus Christ, you have the Holy Spirit to guide you. You also have God’s word. These two are the final authority for reality as it truly is. If we have a paradigm shaped by any other source than God’s Holy Spirit or a correct interpretation of God’s word, then our worldview gets bent and twisted and we are living some version of a lie.

Jim Staley in his message Identity Crisis is offering us a new paradigm for both God’s word and history. Should we bite? Will his ideas liberate or enslave? Should we allow this man (and the “Hebrew roots” movement he espouses) to be our shepherd and exert such power in our lives by implanting ideas (with untold amounts of assumptions that often go unchallenged) into our minds and redefine our reality and worldview?

Having an “open mind” to any ideas can be a dangerous thing and we must be careful about who or what we allow to shape our worldview. There is a right way and a wrong way to be open-minded:

“The people of Berea were more open-minded than those in Thessalonica, and they listened eagerly to Paul’s message. They searched the Scriptures day after day to see if Paul and Silas were teaching the truth.” – Acts 17:11

The Bereans would not just swallow anything Paul was saying, however exciting it sounded, but would test all that he said by the word of God. Jim Staley, who I’m sure believes every word of what he preaches, asks us to test him by the Scripture because he feels confident he is on to something. No doubt, Jim Staley has some beautiful insights. After all, no one is completely wrong about everything. In fact, there were times while listening to his message I was excited and praising God because of some of the true things Jim was talking about. But it’s the very nature of all the half-truths throughout his teaching that make it so compelling and so very dangerous.

There is a reason there are so many false religions and cults in the world and billions who adhere to them even though the truth is accessible and the facts are easily obtainable. One can easily prove any false religions and cults false by sound and reasonable arguments and by God’s revealed Word yet people still stubbornly cling to their false beliefs. Why do you think that is? What is it about us or in us that resists whatever contradicts our already held beliefs? (I do it too). Why are we, as humans, stubborn to correction, even when it is this correction that will set our hearts free?

I don’t pretend to be the corrector or have all the answers or to be free from error myself but I know someone who is who does, and I know his word is trustworthy. In fact in all the researching I was doing, my pride was humbled as I was challenged to truly live out the Gospel – the way of the Spirit of God, not as Jim Staley suggests, but as the apostle Paul wrote about in Romans 7:6:

“But now we are released from the law, having died to that which held us captive, so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit and not in the old way of the written code.” (ESV)

This blog is not just about pointing you away from something that I perceive as dangerous based on God’s word, but also about pointing you toward something exceedingly beautiful.

People are in search of answers and this is a good thing. How do we take our relationship with God to the next level? How do we properly love him and others? How do I overcome all that ails my current “Christian” experience? What is the secret to the Christian life? There must be something more!

I say, never stop asking and searching and praying and seeking God until you are filled with the fullness of Christ. Believe me, I have spent years asking these questions and I have found some answers along the way. As much as I would love to download all the wonderful things I have learned that have set my heart free, it just doesn’t work that way. We must all discover and experience these answers for ourselves. It’s between you and Jesus. He wants to walk that journey with you and me. We can only point people to Jesus (aka Yeshua). What is the secret to the Christian life? It is Christ! Keep seeking him and loving him!

I have examined Jim Staley’s message and his bottom line in light of the Scriptures and historical facts and have found him to be false. If you disagree, then please take the time to read on and if you find an error, correct me! Please don’t be scared off by all the words as I did have to wade through more than an hour long teaching. I spent well over a dozen hours of prayerful research and writing this blog over the course of three days and had lots of fun doing so. Perhaps “fun” isn’t the right word considering my heart is weighed down by the fact that Jim Staley has already gotten to thousands with his distortion of the Scripture and historical facts and has already implanted his ideas in their minds. I know how hard an “un-brainwashing” can be and how long it can take (from personal experience), but in the end I trust you will come to a greater appreciation of the Grace of God and the beauty of the Gospel. I have attempted to remove any of my responses that were initially resistant and sometimes snarky and to humbly ask, “Could this be true?” about everything Jim Staley presented.

I would ask you to prayerfully cross examine his teaching (and the Hebrew Roots Movement) for yourself. Ask questions. Question and research everything! Search the Scriptures! The discoveries you make for yourself are going to mean a great deal more than anything I have to tell you. Take it to Jesus, ask him about it, read your Bibles – preferably before you dive into any more brainwashing sessions with Jim.

The first to plead his case seems right,
Until another comes and examines him. (Proverbs 18:17 NASB)

JIM STALEY – “Identity Crisis

For those of you who aren’t interested and won’t read a point by point response to Jim Staley’s talk (below), I have tried to give a summary of his talk and a summary of my response:

SUMMARY OF HIS TALK:

According to Jim Staley, if you are a believer in Jesus, then you are Israel. Like, literally bloodline Israel. He “proves” this by referencing “the most important phrase in the Bible” in a blessing to Ephraim “you will become a multitude of nations” which Jim says actually means “fullness of the Gentiles”. The fact that you responded to the Good news about a Jewish Rabbi and Messiah named Yeshua proves that you are Israel in the bloodline of the lost ten tribes, the Northern kingdom (aka Ephraim), who were exiled by the Assyrians from the promised land and, according to Jim, never returned to their land and became essentially “Jewish Gentiles” spreading Israel’s bloodline to every area of the globe. (In his post talk he allows for converts to the “renewed covenant” from pagan Gentile population, just as there were with the Egyptians joining the community of faith in Exodus, but this is NOT the thrust of his entire message at all). And because you are Israel, you are beholden to keep the entirety of the law and the feasts right down to the ceremonial food laws – with the help of the Holy Spirit of course – and that the New Covenant is simply a renewed and empowered Old Covenant (according to other HRM sources you have a safety net in Jesus (Yeshua) when you do fail). Jim says that Jesus only came to save His Bride (Jews and Israel) and that we must make ourselves ready to bring about the return of Jesus by diligently following the law.

MY RESPONSE:

He’s wrong.

Jim tries to reshape your interpretation of the New Testament, and your identity in Christ. Instead of talking about our identity “in Christ” as Paul focused on (in whom the terms “Jew” and “Gentile” means absolutely nothing), and the freedom of the Gospel (literally “Good News”), Jim instead focuses on your identity “as Israel” and insists that you keep the law, Sabbaths, and feasts. He claims this is biblical mandate!

I am not advocating that we ignore the law of God. I am not saying that the law has no purpose. It serves as a mirror to show how dirty we really are and our desperate need for a Savior. It leads us to Christ! Can you think of a better purpose than this?

How would we have a standard for truth without God revealing it in the law? Sure, we all have a conscience and his laws are built into every human heart, but we can, and have, ignored, profaned, and desensitized our conscience since birth (with the help of our sinful culture and society). The law serves to reawaken our conscience to the holiness of God and the holy standards of righteousness, and makes us aware of the depths of our sinful brokenness.

But, just as we don’t wash our face with the mirror, we certainly don’t become righteous or maintain our righteousness by diligently following the law. I think that while Jim Staley will no doubt agree that we are justified by faith in Christ alone, could he be making the very same mistake that the Galatians made that prompted Paul’s stern letter and warning?:

“Are you so foolish? After beginning by means of the Spirit, are you now trying to finish by means of the flesh?” (Galatians 3:3 NIV)

(Of course I realize he has clever ways of denying this by saying the Holy Spirit empowers us and that we aren’t doing any of this by means of the flesh. But by saying that the law, feasts, and Jewish dietary law is mandate flies in the face of so many clear teachings of Paul.)

The Beauty Side Of Our Freedom In Christ

The freedom of the good news is that you get to observe the Sabbath… or not. You get to consider the advice of the dietary laws if you want to eat better and likely live longer… or not. (God tells us what’s best for us because he loves us! But he is not about to make what we eat into a sin issue! Imagine that, God breaking fellowship with you because you had a ham sandwich!). You get to explore the meaning of the feasts and discover Jesus in them… or not. You get to explore the significance of the sacrifices and find the beauty of Christ in them… or not. The point is, that there is no condemnation or mandate for any of these any longer for these are all a dim shadow of things to come… which, incidentally, has COME! (In case you missed it, I’m referring to Jesus Christ.):

“Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day. 17 These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ.” (Colossians 2:16-17 NIV)

“The law is only a shadow of the good things that are coming—not the realities themselves. For this reason it can never, by the same sacrifices repeated endlessly year after year, make perfect those who draw near to worship.” (Hebrews 10:1 NIV)

One of the questions I wrestled with as I studied was this: “Weren’t the Jews also being called into a New Covenant that freed them from the sacrificial system, dietary laws, and the “old way of the written code”? Are completed Jews (those who have received their Messiah) now free to eat pork and lobster? Free to observe the feasts and Sabbaths or not?”

Jim Staley’s message hinges on this assumption that Jewish believers are mandated to keep the law, feasts, Sabbaths, and kosher laws (I use the term “law” here loosely because we are all beholden to the law of Christ). But are they? We all assume that Jews must keep the law, the feasts, and kosher laws but the Scriptures from Colossians (above) were no doubt written to Jewish believers in Collossae as well as Gentile, and most certainly the book of Hebrews (above) was written to the Jews.

Jim teaches that by returning to the law, celebrating the feasts, and eating kosher that he is loving and serving Jesus better as God would have him do. He thinks he is earning God’s approval by doing all these things and mandating others to do so. After all Jesus said:

“Don’t misunderstand why I have come. I did not come to abolish the law of Moses or the writings of the prophets. No, I came to accomplish their purpose. 18 I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not even the smallest detail of God’s law will disappear until its purpose is achieved. 19 So if you ignore the least commandment and teach others to do the same, you will be called the least in the Kingdom of Heaven. But anyone who obeys God’s laws and teaches them will be called great in the Kingdom of Heaven.

20 “But I warn you—unless your righteousness is better than the righteousness of the teachers of religious law and the Pharisees, you will never enter the Kingdom of Heaven!” (Matthew 5:17-20 NLT)

This is Jesus talking so we must take every word he says seriously! It is good for us to wrestle with this and I wouldn’t dare interfere with what Jesus words are meant to effect for you in your life. But Paul, who knew and kept the law better than most anyone, warned us that if we try to find our salvation in keeping the law, we have fallen from grace:

“You who are trying to be justified by the law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace.” (Paul Galatians 5:4 NIV)

So, are we getting mixed messages? Jesus saying, “obey God’s laws and teach them”. And Paul saying if you are trying to be justified (made righteous) by the law then you have been alienated from Christ? What’s going on here?

(As you can see, this can become quite a complicated issue for some, as it was for me for most of my Christian life. It really comes back to humility. Your amount of pride will dictate how you read the Scripture and will actually skew your paradigm of Scripture. Humble yourself and receive grace or go another round in the ring with the law. Can you guess who will win? My money is on the law. It wins every time rendering us humbled and ready for grace. The law is good and a beautiful thing for it leads us to Christ! YEA! But, it was never intended to make us or to keep us righteous. Jesus does this.)

PLEASE don’t let Jim’s heresy rob you of the beauty and richness of the Old Testament, the true purpose and usefulness of the law, and the amazingly beautiful Hebrew and Jewish heritage of our faith. Yes, in many ways we do have Hebrew roots even as Gentile believers in Jesus. We are even refered to as “the Israel of God” in the New Testament. You and I didn’t need Jim Staley to tell us this. The Apostle Paul tells us this. Paul writes that Gentile believers are grafted into spiritual Israel as the wild olive branch (Jim will try to twist the meaning of this) into the olive tree of Jesus and the people of God (Israel):

“But some of these branches from Abraham’s tree–some of the people of Israel–have been broken off. And you Gentiles, who were branches from a wild olive tree, have been grafted in. So now you also receive the blessing God has promised Abraham and his children, sharing in the rich nourishment from the root of God’s special olive tree.” (Romans 11:17 NLT)

“But far be it from me to boast, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world hath been crucified unto me, and I unto the world. For neither is circumcision anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation. And as many as shall walk by this rule, peace be upon them, and mercy, and upon the Israel of God.” (Galatians 6:14-16 – see this for a wonderful exposition on this verse)

We are grafted in to the blessings and promises of Israel, the people of God! But, this doesn’t mean that we return to the law for not even the Jewish people were asked to do this but to “serve in the new way of the Spirit”! (Romans 7:6) And we have a new law, the law of Christ:

“So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other.” – John 13:34 (NLT)

Just because there is a spiritual Israel, comprised of believing born again Jews and Gentiles (and there is no difference because Jesus unites us in him), this doesn’t mean that the Jews, of the bloodline of Abraham, are not Israel anymore. God will continue to have dealings with and will always be faithful to all of his promises concerning the physical, natural, bloodline of Abraham, Jews. The Bible is clear on this.

One example of how Jim Staley twists Scripture to suit his purposes:

“Do you not know, brothers and sisters—for I am speaking to those who know the law—that the law has authority over someone only as long as that person lives? For example, by law a married woman is bound to her husband as long as he is alive, but if her husband dies, she is released from the law that binds her to him. So then, if she has sexual relations with another man while her husband is still alive, she is called an adulteress. But if her husband dies, she is released from that law and is not an adulteress if she marries another man.

So, my brothers and sisters, you also died to the law through the body of Christ, that you might belong to another, to him who was raised from the dead, in order that we might bear fruit for God.” (Romans 7:1-4 NIV)

He claims that this Scripture is addressed only to the “Jewish Gentiles” who are familiar with the law but are estranged from the covenant (the lost ten tribes of Israel) who were divorced by God (see Jeremiah 3:8) and who wern’t allowed back into covenant because of the law of remarriage (see Deuteronomy 24:1-4) that they are now back into the covenant because Jesus death reconciled them to the law. But this isn’t what the Scripture actually says at all is it? How did Jim miss verse 4?

Let’s remember that the New Testament was written by Jewish men about a Jewish Messiah to mostly Jewish listeners. It is important for us to understand the Jewish roots and heritage of our faith, but it is absolutely vital that we not leave Jesus (the one we now belong to) to return to placing ourselves under the law (the thing that we died to) as Jim Staley suggests.

Again, I am sure Jim sincerely believes everything he teaches as every deceived person does. I don’t believe he is knowingly lying to anyone which is why he comes across as so convincing. He is convincing because he is convinced. But as you will see, as we cross examine him in light of Scripture and historical facts, he is in fact deceived and sadly, deceiving others as well.

THE DANGER

Study for yourself in the New Testament the purpose of the law. Paul says it was a tutor to bring you to Christ (Galatians 3:24). Once you have found Christ, are born again and filled with the Spirit, you don’t then return to the tutor! You don’t need him anymore, you have Christ! Unless you don’t have Christ, in which case, go for it. If you want to spend a few or more miserable years under God’s curse (the law) then it is your choice. Maybe that’s exactly what is needed to break your pride to bring you to Christ. I mean it. Dive in. Try to keep the whole law. Why not raise some goats and sheep and do the sacrifices he requires too. But be sure to carry out it’s punishment. If you sin in such a way to exclude you from the community, then your out. If you sin in such a way as to merit the death penalty… (it would be unethical for me to suggest anything at this point).

This is what the law is: your condemnation. It’s purpose is to humble your pride and so make you poor in spirit (Matthew 5:3) and ready for the Savior. At it’s core, the law is good and loving. It is the good and loving instructions of a good and loving God. But you are not good and loving and you will find yourself judged as such and crushed under it’s weight. In the end you will be filled with utter horror and despair. If you need to find that out for yourself as I did, be my guest, though I don’t recommend it. I won’t judge you or love you any less and will welcome you back with open arms when you do return. I had to go that route myself as you can read about in many of my earlier blogs.

Jesus fulfilled the sacrifices and the whole of the law and took away all that condemns us (sigh of relief) IF (and only if) you trust in Jesus and him alone (not in the keeping of the law) for salvation and are born again by His Spirit! Then (and only then) do we become partakers of his New Covenant. Christ in us and we in Christ – the new and living way of abundant life – the Spirit of Jesus in you, fellowshipping with you and guiding you, washing you, making you holy and most of all, making you loving! This is the new covenant! Not a renewed strength and zeal to tackle the old covenant successfully down to each particular ceremonial food law, keeping to the letter of the law… this is way of death.

Please press on to fully embrace and explore this New Covenant. You will know you are living it when you love others as Christ has loved you and when you love Jesus with all your heart. Without love you are nothing (1 Corinthians 13).

As always, if there is something you disagree with or want to discuss, or find me in error, PLEASE correct me! Leave a message so that we can dialogue. I would be happy to correct any errors!

———–

POINT BY POINT THROUGH JIM STALEY’S IDENTITY CRISIS:

Jim Staley starts out his talk with five minutes of reporting on the deplorable condition of the church. No doubt Jim Staley has some solutions to fix what ails us. Lets dive in and examine what he has to say.

THREE COMMON MYTHS

Jim Staley says the following three statements are common myths:

1. He states that the Jewish people are not the chosen people. Are the Jewish people the chosen people?

While addressing the Jewish people God says this in Deuteronomy 14:1-2:

“Since you are the people of the Lord your God, never cut yourselves or shave the hair above your foreheads in mourning for the dead. 2 You have been set apart as holy to the Lord your God, and he has chosen you from all the nations of the earth to be his own special treasure.” New Living Translation (NLT)

(Do you need more than that? If so read below – if not, skip to point # 2.)

The Torah also says,

“Now therefore, if you will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then you shall be a peculiar treasure unto me from all the peoples, for all the earth is mine” (Exodus 19:5).

“And I will establish My covenant between Me and you and your descendants after you in their generations, for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and your descendants after you.” (Genesis 17:7).

“And you shall be unto me a kingdom of priests, and a holy nation” (Exodus 19:6).

“The Lord did not set his love upon you, nor choose you, because you were more in number than any people; for you were the fewest of all people; but because the Lord loved you, and because he would keep the oath which he had sworn unto your ancestors.” (Deuteronomy 7:7-8).

“You only have I singled out of all the families of the earth: therefore will I visit upon you all your iniquities.” (Amos 3:2)

2. Jim Staley states that the Torah and the law were not given to the Jews.

Was the Torah and the law given to the Jews? Yes, of course it was. Just read Exodus thru Deuteronomy.

Paul in his letter to the Romans remarked that this was one of the very things that made the Jews special – that they were entrusted with God’s word. Romans 3:1-2 “What advantage, then, is there in being a Jew, or what value is there in circumcision? 2 Much in every way! First of all, the Jews have been entrusted with the very words of God”

3. Was the Passover and other Feast days that Jesus and the disciples kept “Jewish” feast days or not? Jim Staley says they aren’t.

Bible answer: Yes. Every Feast day has it’s roots in God’s dealings with his chosen people the Jews. Here are a few websites that go over these:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jewish_holidays

http://revive-israel.org/2006/fall_feasts.htm

http://biblelight.net/feasts.htm

THE TWELVE TRIBES

Jim Staley said that only one tribe was “Jewish” of the 12 tribes gathered at mount Sinai? Why would he say this? Every tribe is Jewish, and every tribe was there at Mount Sinai. There is no explanation for this until later in his talk when he says that only Judah returned to the promised land and so, only Judah is Jewish. Which is ridiculous and not true as we will look at later on.

He then touches on the blessings Jacob gives to his sons. Jacob’s firstborn blessing goes to… (drumroll please)… (pause for effect)…

Judah! and Joseph? Of course Jacob’s spiritual firstborn blessing went to Judah. Later, Jacob gives a firstborn blessing to Ephraim, Joseph’s son:

“…he (Manasseh) also will become a people and he also will be great. However, his younger brother (Ephraim) shall be greater than he, and his descendants shall become a multitude of nations.” Genesis 48:19

Jim Staley says that “multitude of nations” in Ephraims blessing is THE most important phrase in the Bible. Then Jim redefines this phrase to mean “fullness of the Gentiles” – obviously to tie it to that phrase also found in the New Testament and so link it in peoples minds:

“I want you to understand this mystery, dear brothers and sisters, so that you will not feel proud about yourselves. Some of the people of Israel have hard hearts, but this will last only until the full number of Gentiles (some translations render this “fullness of the Gentiles”) comes to Christ.” – Romans 11:25 NLT

Later, Jim Staley redefines Gentile here and above in Ephraim’s blessing to mean “Jewish Gentile”. Which is nonsense. Gentile means any person who is not Jewish.

Jim Staley insists that the ten tribes of Israel became immersed into the surrounding nations at the time of their deportation and their bloodline would have mingled with the surrounding nations and become indistinguishable from any pagan Gentiles essentially losing their identity.

I would venture to say that most Jews know who they are even though they have been dispersed into most every nation around the world (and yes, becoming in essence, a multitude of nations). Ephraim (being the largest of the 10 tribes, and from which came both Joshua son of Nun, successor to Moses and Jeroboam, the first King of the Northern ten tribes) came to represent all of Israel, the Northern kingdom, who were first to be dispersed to all the Gentile nations at the Assyrian conquest of Israel.

It would be a fabrication to say that they don’t know who they are however. It’s just that we don’t know who and where they all are – that doesn’t mean that they are “lost” tribes at all. Lost tribe is NOT a biblical phrase or idea at all. And remember, Hitler had little trouble identifying more than 6 million of them to murder throughout Europe.

Do you honestly think that being a Jew is easy to forget? Just think about what would have to happen for people to lose their identity and forget who they are. Parents, grandparents and great grand parents would have to willfully not tell their kids, grandkids, great grand kids that they were Jewish. The truth would get out. Can you even imagine a people group trying to deceive their children and hide their identity from them? Talk about a conspiracy theory!

What does Scripture say about the lost tribes of Israel?

Paul verifies that the 10 tribes were not lost at all in Acts 26:7: “This is the promise our twelve tribes are hoping to see fulfilled as they earnestly serve God day and night. O king, it is because of this hope that the Jews are accusing me.”

Jesus affirms the existence of all 12 tribes in Matthew 19:28, “Jesus said to them, “I tell you the truth, at the renewal of all things, when the Son of Man sits on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.”

Dave Hunt says this at his website at www.thebereancall.org regarding this notion of the lost 10 tribes: “James wrote his epistle to the 12 tribes scattered abroad, so I guess he didn’t know that 10 of them were lost… God has promised that He would preserve them, and in the last days would bring them back into their land (which incidentally he has). And Jesus promised that his disciples would sit on 12 thrones judging the 12 tribes of Israel. So, if 10 of them are lost, then the Bible isn’t true, and as you said, God must be 100% true, so this is very serious. So, if 10 tribes are really lost, then God’s a liar, and Jesus is a liar. Now, what about it? What does the Bible say? See, this is a myth, as you said, it comes out of the idea, well, because there were 10 tribes carried away by the Assyrians, that therefore they never came back. Now that’s a joke! Of course they came back.”

Indeed Biblical history records that a population from many if not all of the so called “lost tribes” stayed on in the land of Israel at the time of the Assyrian exile and intermarried with people groups that the Assyrians imported to the land of Israel and became the Samaritans.

It was interesting to look at the various people groups who do trace their lineage as Jewish and many know from which tribe they come as well: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ten_Lost_Tribes

Jim Staley says that northern Israel never came back? This is not true.

Who are the Jews today? Jim says just Judah. Is he right? No.

“Israel became as Gentiles and he will gather them all to the land again.” Jim says.

Why does Jim Staley seem to be ignorant of what occurred before and after 1948 when Israel became a nation again? Why does he ignore this? He keeps insisting there is a future calling back of the northern tribes to Israel. Isn’t he aware that the land of Israel is full of Jews from every tribe and has been since before 1948? And they keep coming. God has and is fulfilling his promise to regather his people, the Jews, to the land of the Jews.

THE BRIDE OF CHRIST

Jim said that the Bride must be spotless before he comes back to take her with him, he says Jesus will not take a spotted bride back with him. Insinuating what? It’s up to us to purify ourselves by keeping the law by the Spirit to usher in the coming of Jesus, rather than the good news of the Gospel that Christ actually accomplished our justification and sanctification at the cross.

I was immediately reminded of this Scripture:

“Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.” (Ephesians 5:25-27)

This shows that sanctification is something Jesus does for us, not what we do for him as Jim Staley insinuates. Jesus said at the cross, “It is finished”. Jim Staley says, wait just a minute, maybe not.

Which brings up a very important question:

Is salvation a God’s work or ours?

This question has plagued theologians for ages and prompted many arguments. This is what the Calvinism vs. Arminianism debate is all about. I believe the answer is less complicated than theologians make it. According to the following Scripture, the answer is both:

“Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.” (Philipians 2:12-13 NIV)

(Great article on this Scripture)

Salvation is Christ’s work from start to finish! He promises to complete what he has started:

“…being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus” – Philippians 1:6 NIV).

I don’t want to in any way diminish the fact that we have a responsibility to obey the Gospel of God. Our part is to work out this salvation with fear (reverence) and trembling, obey and follow Jesus and the Holy Spirits leading and impulses, REST in him, rejoice, and just be thankful as we love God and others and fulfill the law of Christ (to love)! Not what Jim in the end suggests that we do. Keep the law, observe your Sabbaths, keep the feasts, etc…

Jesus said that the abundant Christian life he has for us is easy and restful! Are you experiencing this?

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30 NIV)

His “yoke” refers to his teaching. As I read through the whole Bible in a few months time I was impacted by the overwhelming message of the New Testament: “Relax in Jesus! Rest in Him!”

“So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” (John 8:36 NIV)

THE BLOODLINE ISSUE

Why does Jim Staley build this entire case for Ephraim and the “lost ten tribes of Israel” and say that Jesus only came to save his Bride, He only came for Israel, and then suggest that the reason that you have responded to the Gospel is because you are a “Jewish Gentile” and must have the bloodline of Israel. He uses a foolish argument, “Why would pagans respond to the news that some Jewish rabbi named Jesus has now made it possible to be reconciled to God?” He says, “That’s because the apostle Paul and all the rest of the apostles were only reaching out to the lost tribes (Jewish Gentile). To say to those estranged from the covenant that you are received back into the covenant. He has made a way for those that God had divorced (Israel) to be remarried to Christ.”

There is an element of something beautiful here as well as a dangerous and blasphemous heresy. God did indeed want the Diaspora (the estranged Jews from the covenant and homeland – i.e.. “Ephraim”) to know that they were accepted and embraced back into the fold of the people of God by the sacrifice and death of Jesus, but not back into the Old Covenant but into something new. And this did not apply to only the Jews but also to everyone else.

THE GOSPEL TO THE JEW FIRST – THEN ALSO THE GENTILE

“For I am not ashamed of this Good News about Christ. It is the power of God at work, saving everyone who believes–the Jew first and also the Gentile.” (Romans 1:16)

Paul indeed went to synagogues to his fellow Jews (the Diaspora) first with this good news, but if they rejected it he said, “We had to speak the word of God to you first. Since you reject it and do not consider yourselves worthy of eternal life, we now turn to the Gentiles.” (Acts 13:46 NIV)

And again:

Acts 18:6 But when the Jews opposed Paul and became abusive, he shook out his clothes in protest and said to them, “Your blood be on your own heads! I am clear of my responsibility. From now on I will go to the Gentiles.”

Acts 22:21 “Then the Lord said to me, ‘Go; I will send you far away to the Gentiles.'”

Acts 28:28 “Therefore I want you to know that God’s salvation has been sent to the Gentiles, and they will listen!”

First of all, the Bible can’t say Gentile any other way than to say Gentile (meaning everyone who is not a Jew). How convenient then that Jim Staley invents the idea of  a “Jewish Gentile”. According to his view, how unfortunate it is for all who fail to have a drop of Jewish blood in them to be saved because Jesus didn’t come for you (Hey, it’s what is implied). It’s ridiculous!

Honestly, God does not need literal Abraham blood line to somehow make any of us special in God’s sight – to think that we somehow as believers have a literal blood tie to the so called “lost 10 tribes” is ridiculous. God knows who they are and most of them know who they are.

Just think. If you are human (and you are) then you have a blood line to God himself (see Luke 3) and all of us share part of Christ’s lineage back to God himself from Noah and back on up the line to Adam with whom he made his first promise of salvation by sending the seed of woman to crush the serpent and free us all (see Genesis 3).

THE MYSTERY OF THE GOSPEL

“Mystery”, in Biblical terms means “a spiritual truth heretofore hidden, incapable of discovery by mere reason, but now revealed.” (Fauset’s Bible Dictionary). The mystery of the Gospel is that everyone else besides the Jews (the Gentiles) are now welcome and accepted at the table of God’s grace to freely receive the blessings and promises of Abraham and the salvation that Jesus offers. You have already been reconciled to the Father through the sacrifice of Jesus. Accept it. Receive it. Believe it. Open the gift.

“Now to him who is able to establish you by my gospel and the proclamation of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery hidden for long ages past, but now revealed and made known through the prophetic writings by the command of the eternal God, so that all nations might believe and obey him.” – Romans 16:25-26

SCRIPTURE

Jim Staley asserts that when Paul wrote, “all Scripture was God breathed and useful for…” (2 Timothy 3:16) that he was only referring to the Old Testament. But, consider that when Peter writes his second letter he says that people were distorting Pauls letters as they do the other Scriptures (see this Scripture below), thus asserting that Pauls letters were Scripture! All the churches possessed these letters of Paul and Gospels (some really early Gospels by 50’s AD) which they copied and shared and copied and shared among each other to every community of believers on the planet at the time. Yes they had the Old Testament but they had the whole of the New Testament by AD 100 which was already considered Scripture!

“Bear in mind that our Lord’s patience means salvation, just as our dear brother Paul also wrote you with the wisdom that God gave him. He writes the same way in all his letters, speaking in them of these matters. His letters contain some things that are hard to understand, which ignorant and unstable people distort, as they do the other Scriptures, to their own destruction.” – 2 Peter 3:15-16 NIV

Jim redefines words and terms used in the New Testament by the Hebrew Scriptures? Which sounds like a good idea except that I have read that Greek is in fact a far more expressive and precise language than Hebrew is. It can define itself quite clearly as it is which is why God chose to deliver his most important message to the world in this language (I have heard that HRM have suggested that the New Testament was originally in Hebrew – there is no evidence to support this at all).

We must remember however, that the New Testament flows from the context of the Tanach (O.T.) and it is a thoroughly Jewish story from Genesis to Revelation. Certianly the New Testament can be best understood by being familiar with the Tanach. I was struck, when I read through the Bible in a few months time, of how Jewish the whole of the New Testament really is!

It has been said that the Old Testament is the New Testament concealed and the New Testament is the Old Testament revealed (Here is a great article about this). As believers in Jesus we understand the Old Testament in light of the New, AND vice versa.

WHO DID JESUS COME FOR?

Did Jesus come only for His people the Jews or Israel (lost tribes or otherwise)? Jim Staley insists that Jesus came only for his Bride, only for his people (Jews and Israel).

Jesus did in fact say, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel.” (Matthew 15:24 NIV)

For the sake of God’s plan and purpose for his people the Jews and their salvation, this was only right and ought to be a compelling reason that the Jews should (and some did) receive their own Messiah. But, they were hardened for the benefit of the rest of the world… but not forever. (See Romans 11)

Do you remember that some Greeks wished to see Jesus and Jesus response?

Some Greeks who had come to Jerusalem for the Passover celebration 21 paid a visit to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee. They said, “Sir, we want to meet Jesus.” 22 Philip told Andrew about it, and they went together to ask Jesus.

23 Jesus replied, “Now the time has come for the Son of Man to enter into his glory. 24 I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat is planted in the soil and dies, it remains alone. But its death will produce many new kernels—a plentiful harvest of new lives.” (John 12:20-24 NLT)

So you see, it was always God’s plan to reach the whole world. Have we forgotten what John 3:16 says:

“For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.”

The everyone who believes are one and the same as the scattered children of God (which Jim would say are only refering to out of covenant Jewish Gentiles):

“Then one of them, named Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, spoke up, “You know nothing at all! 50 You do not realize that it is better for you that one man die for the people than that the whole nation perish.”

51 He did not say this on his own, but as high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus would die for the Jewish nation, 52 and not only for that nation but also for the scattered children of God, to bring them together and make them one.” John 11:49-52 NIV

It is distressing that Jim hijacks and redefines all these passages with his “Gentile Jewish” paradigm. Of course he would interpret the “scattered children of God” as this.

Again Jesus says in John 10:16:

“I have other sheep (Gentiles) that are not of this sheep pen (12 tribes of Israel). I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd.”

No doubt Jim would interpret this through his paradigm of Jewish Gentile. But how does Jim ignore Jesus instructions to his disciples? After his resurrection, Jesus Christ commissioned his disciples to preach the message of the kingdom of God to all nations:

“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:19-20)

And then he told them, “Go into all the world and preach the Good News to everyone. Anyone who believes and is baptized will be saved. But anyone who refuses to believe will be condemned.” (Mark 16:15-16 NLT)

And he said, “Yes, it was written long ago that the Messiah would suffer and die and rise from the dead on the third day. 47 It was also written that this message would be proclaimed in the authority of his name to all the nations,[all peoples] beginning in Jerusalem: ‘There is forgiveness of sins for all who repent.’” (Luke 24:46-47 NLT)

So yes, while Jesus was sent to and for his Jewish brothers (“to his own”) he sends out his disciples to everyone else.

Once again, to delineate between “pagan Gentiles” and “Jewish Gentiles” is silly and is dangerous to anyone taking this seriously. He is suggesting that the pagan Gentiles are doomed and all the Jewish Gentiles will be saved. This is flat out heresy and is not what Paul was excited about or why he was appointed to be the missionary to the Gentiles – but only the Jewish Gentiles. “Sorry pagan gentiles, you are out.” WRONG!

There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

According to Jim, if we happen to be Gentiles we all better pray there is a drop of “Jewish Gentile” blood in us or we too are doomed. That is not what Gods heart is, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance. Not just all the Disporia or so called “Jewish Gentile”. Jim’s Gospel is not good news to any pagan gentile. This is fubar religious nonsense.

GOD WANTS EVERYONE TO BE SAVED!

“God our Savior, who wants everyone to be saved and to understand the truth.” 1 Timothy 2:3-4 NLT

2 Peter 3:9 The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.

Titus 2:11 For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men.

John 3:17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.

Jim Staley suggests that Cornelius was a “Gentile Jew” because he has to be to fit his theory. What shenanigans Jim is up to.

His 10 second treatise of predestination? What was that? Does he fully agree with Calvin? Would Calvin agree with him? I think not.

Peter and James were both ministers specifically to Jewish believers, so their letter intros make sense in light of this.

He redifines everything to insinuate that the “mystery” of the Gospel was not the inclusion of pagan Gentiles but the remarriage of God to the lost tribes (so called “Jewish Gentiles”).

Jim’s bottom line: “You are Israel!” Yes, spiritually we are Israel in so much as we are believers and are grafted into the vine of Jesus and depend on him fully for our salvation and not our own works or adherence to the law, Sabbaths, and feasts. But the Jews are Israel as well.

SHEEP IN NEED OF A SHEPHERD

At the start of this blog I asked if Jim was qualified to be a shepherd (i.e. “pastor”) to us. Jim says at the end of his talk that we are sheep and gullible. I can’t help but agree with him.

Paul says at the end of the book of Acts:

“I know that false teachers, like vicious wolves, will come in among you after I leave, not sparing the flock.” (Acts 20:29 NLT)

Yes, it’s true, we are all sheep which is precisely why we need a good Shepherd, and I’m sorry Jim, I already have one. The job has been filled. Tell him Donald!

trump-youre-fired

Jim’s Post TALK:

Jim trys to clear up the blood line question though you cannot deny that his teaching contradicts his supposed correction. In fact the blood line and the Ephraim blessing was the whole thrust of his message.

He clears up the replacement theology issue by simply denying it.

He keeps insisting that the Jewish people is just Judah and that the rest of Israel is dispersed and lost and has no idea who they are. Which is not true. They may not be aware of which specific tribe they are from but most have a knowledge of who they are. This was true in Jesus day (which even Jim draws attention to by mentioning Josephus and historical records of the time) and still true now.

God has regathered his people from all tribes into the nation of Israel – they are now the reconstituted nation of the dry bones prophecy of Ezekiel, and will be enlivened by the Holy Spirit in the last days. And they are temporarily excluded from the fullness of the covenant to the advantage of all who Jim refers to as the pagan Gentiles. But this won’t always be the case (Romans 11).

The Hebrew language had no other way to say Gentiles than to say Goyim which refers to nations as well. That is perfectly fine, but still there is the overriding implication of bloodline here which he tries to say isn’t important in his post talk but was central to the entire intitial teaching. You can’t just backpeddal like that trying to redefine what you initially and actually said. Unless you are Jim Staley and then you can. (Listen, Paul was kind of snarky to the Judaizers of his day, saying that he wished they would castrate themselves, so I think its ok to be a bit snarky to modern day Judaizers like Jim Staley.)

I must say that there were many aspects of the teaching that WERE true and exciting and caused me to praise God and worship God and get really excited. BUT this doesn’t validate his teaching or his direction he is taking this, because he is taking this in a dangerous direction. The apostle Paul, whom Jim venerates and respects so highly, would punch him in the nose and say, “What are you doing? Haven’t you understood anything I was trying to say in all me letters? Why are you insisting on going back to the law when you have something so much better?” Is Jim Staley a modern Judaizer and an enemy to the true Gospel? I think he is.

If he is preaching a different Gospel then these warnings Paul wrote to the Galatians are true of him and also applies to anyone taken in by him:

“I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you to live in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— which is really no gospel (good news) at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let them be under God’s curse! As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let them be under God’s curse!” (Galatians 1:6-9)

JIM STALEYS BOTTOM LINE:

You, as a believer, are Israel, the lost Northern Kingdom, so you better learn the covenant our ancestors kept. He is saying, go back to the law, the renewed old covenant, keep the feasts, observe the ceremonial food laws, and keep the Sabbath.

Do Christians have to obey the Old Testament law?

I’m just going to end with many Scriptures that Jim Staley no doubt is scrambling to redefine for you before you read them for yourself. I did check at his website and saw that he already has teachings to redefine Romans and Galatians, both of which contain clear warnings of the likes of Jim Staley and his false teaching.

GOD’S BOTTOM LINE:

Romans 10:4 (ESV)
4 For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.

Galatians 3 (ESV)

23 Now before faith came, we were held captive under the law, imprisoned until the coming faith would be revealed. 24 So then, the law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith. 25 But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian, 26 for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. 27 For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise.

Ephesians 2:15 (ESV)
15 by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace,

Romans 7:7–9
The Law and Sin
7 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.” 8 But sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, produced in me all kinds of covetousness. For apart from the law, sin lies dead. 9 I was once alive apart from the law, but when the commandment came, sin came alive and I died.

Galatians 3:24 (ESV)
24 So then, the law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith.

Romans 6:15 (ESV)
15 What then? Are we to sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means!

Romans 7:6 (ESV)
“But now we are released from the law, having died to that which held us captive, so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit and not in the old way of the written code.”

Concerning keeping ceremonial food laws, feasts, Sabbath day:

In Colossians 2:16-17, the apostle Paul declares, “Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day. These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ.” Similarly, Romans 14:5 states, “One man considers one day more sacred than another; another man considers every day alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind.”

(Read more: http://www.gotquestions.org/Sabbath-keeping.html)

ACTS 15:

“Then some of the believers who belonged to the party of the Pharisees stood up and said, “The Gentiles must be circumcised and required to keep the law of Moses.”

6 The apostles and elders met to consider this question. 7 After much discussion, Peter got up and addressed them: “Brothers, you know that some time ago God made a choice among you that the Gentiles might hear from my lips the message of the gospel and believe. 8 God, who knows the heart, showed that he accepted them by giving the Holy Spirit to them, just as he did to us. 9 He did not discriminate between us and them, for he purified their hearts by faith. 10 Now then, why do you try to test God by putting on the necks of Gentiles a yoke that neither we nor our ancestors have been able to bear? 11 No! We believe it is through the grace of our Lord Jesus that we are saved, just as they are.”

12 The whole assembly became silent as they listened to Barnabas and Paul telling about the signs and wonders God had done among the Gentiles through them. 13 When they finished, James spoke up. “Brothers,” he said, “listen to me. 14 Simon has described to us how God first intervened to choose a people for his name from the Gentiles. 15 The words of the prophets are in agreement with this, as it is written:

16 “‘After this I will return
and rebuild David’s fallen tent.
Its ruins I will rebuild,
and I will restore it,
17 that the rest of mankind may seek the Lord,
even all the Gentiles who bear my name,
says the Lord, who does these things’—
18 things known from long ago.
19 “It is my judgment, therefore, that we should not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God. 20 Instead we should write to them, telling them to abstain from food polluted by idols, from sexual immorality, from the meat of strangled animals and from blood. 21 For the law of Moses has been preached in every city from the earliest times and is read in the synagogues on every Sabbath.” (Acts 15 NIV)

Are You Hearing the Right Gospel?

Great talk by Joseph Prince about the great exchange of Jesus righteousness (right relationship with God) for your sin!

The Bible teaches us that Jesus became sin so that sin could be once for all condemned and judged and done away with. What did Jesus do to “become sin”? He certainly didn’t sin but instead received our sin.

We become righteous in the same way Jesus became sin. What do we do to become righteous before God? Not because we did anything righteous (the Bible is clear on that point), but because we receive Christ’s righteousness.

Legalism, Just Another Form of Rejecting Christ?

Sometimes you have to wade through some bad news to get to the good news… or rather, to fully appreciate it. I would appreciate your feedback and would be delighted to have a discussion about this topic. Please share your thoughts and leave a comment.

Legalism. Self-righteousness. You could call it a “religious spirit” or a “spirit of religion”. Many today simply refer to it as “religion”. Jesus warned his disciples, calling it, “the leaven of the Pharisees”.

Paul refers to it in Romans 10:13:

“For they don’t understand God’s way of making people right with himself. Refusing to accept God’s way, they cling to their own way of getting right with God by trying to keep the law.” NLT

In a recent facebook status I posted, “It is my belief that legalism is and always has been the single greatest threat to the Christian faith. It is just another form of rejecting Christ.”

This blog post is elaborating on that premise. I also believe that this is a problem that is and always has been rampant in the church (and in the heart of every man) and needs to be addressed.

Paul writes the letter to the Galatians warning people of the false “gospel” of trying to attain righteousness by working for it. This is really no Gospel (or good news) at all. He writes:

“I tried keeping rules and working my head off to please God, and it didn’t work. So I quit being a “law man” so that I could be God’s man. Christ’s life showed me how, and enabled me to do it. I identified myself completely with him. Indeed, I have been crucified with Christ. My ego is no longer central. It is no longer important that I appear righteous before you or have your good opinion, and I am no longer driven to impress God. Christ lives in me. The life you see me living is not “mine,” but it is lived by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I am not going to go back on that.”

~ Galatians 2: 19-20 The Message

Did you notice that Paul says, “my ego is no longer central”? That’s what self-righteousness does. It makes it “all about me”.

Some of the marks, results, and warning signs of self-righteousness or legalism include:

  • Judgment – Harsh judgment of yourself and others becomes the modus operandi.
  • Perfectionism – Because you are desperate to avoid the harsh judgment of others.
  • Pride – Legalism is rooted in Pride. Legalism says, “I can make it on my own, I don’t need you Jesus.” (Though, as someone who read this pointed out to me, many people use legalism as a form to try to please or win God’s favor, to earn his grace, and are, in all sincerity, trying to please Christ by their own efforts. This reminds me of a verse from Eugene Petersons paraphrase, the Message, “Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him.” Romans 12:2)
  • Hypocrisy - Since you have no freedom to be yourself, you have to pose, pretend and hide.
  • Separation & Division – Paul confronts Peter to his face in front of everyone for his hypocrisy when he separated himself from the Gentile believers to save face with his Jewish friends from Jerusalem. (see Galatians 2)
  • Fear & Bullying – Peter caved to his fear of the disapproval and scowls of his Jewish friends. People are kept in line by fear of disapproval – perhaps of another Christian friend, perhaps even by a pastor.
  • Lack of Freedom – Galatians 5:1 “So Christ has truly set us free. Now make sure that you stay free, and don’t get tied up again in slavery to the law.” NLT
  • Insecurity - You are always second guessing where you stand with God if it is dependent on your performance.
  • Condemnation – Because without Christ, condemnation is all you have left. If we insist on standing in our own righteousness, in effect, we reject the righteousness God provides and so are doomed.
  • Depression – If you are under condemnation, you will certainly feel depression as well. That’s not to say that the saints of God don’t also from time to time experience forms of depression, but all depression has it’s roots in lies from the enemy.

Also, it is very encouraging to note that nothing need be permanent. If you’re on the wrong road, you can choose to turn around and find the right one.

“‘When people fall down, don’t they get up again?
When they discover they’re on the wrong road, don’t they turn back?” (Jeremiah 8:4 NLT)

You wouldn’t believe how much of the Bible is written just to correct this fatal error on the part of humanity. I am sure that this self-righteousness or legalism is in the heart of every man. C.S. Lewis refers to it as the “diabolical” pride of man. We just noted above how it was in Peter (see Galatians 2) – and this was after Pentecost. Jesus truly was the only exception, the only one immune to this hellish depraved disease of self-righteousness.

And now, I’m going to bring this whole discussion way closer to home. I am a recovering legalist. If I am an expert in anything, this would be it. I could write the book on legalism.  For the last few years, Jesus has been opening my eyes to it and I now have a whole new clarity about what has plagued me for so long.

I could identify with the whole ego thing that Paul mentioned. I was the center of my “Christian” faith. It was all about me. I experienced that list of things I mentioned earlier. I judged myself and others and I assumed that everyone judged me as well.  I experienced seven long years of severe depression as I experienced the results of being alienated from Christ.

“For if you are trying to make yourselves right with God by keeping the law, you have been cut off from Christ! You have fallen away from God’s grace.” (Galatians 5:4 )

There is a great deal more that I can and will write about in upcoming editions. But for now, please pray with me:

“Jesus, please set us free from our self-righteous ways, we need you to be our righteousness and so we trust you to be our righteousness and we thank you that you are our righteousness. Thank you for keeping your beautiful and holy law of love on our behalf, thank you for taking away our condemnation for our breaking your law when you died on the cross.

“Please teach us and lead us to the place of freedom that Paul found where he could say: “It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So I live in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.  I do not treat the grace of God as meaningless.” (Galatians 2:17 NIV)

“Thank you that because of your sacrifice, we don’t have to earn your grace or perform our way into your favor. May the grace of God become everything to us, and let us live free, for you came to set us free.” Amen

Fool’s Gold

June, 2010 – Raleigh, North Carolina

Catherine and I volunteered to house sit for Catherine’s uncle who was taking his wife on an anniversary trip to California. Our new baby girl Ellie was just 6 weeks old at the time and I was scheduled to preach a sermon in a church that coming Fathers day. My uncle, who is an elder at his church, had asked me to preach because both he and the pastor were out of town.

When he first asked me to preach, I felt how Hurley must have felt when Jack Shepherd told him that he believed in him. That reference may be lost on some of you but to the others of you, you know what I’m talking about.

I prayed a great deal about the sermon. I had shared a handful of sermons before, and some of them didn’t go so well. So needless to say I was worried.

“God, this could go a hundred different directions. What would you have me share?” I prayed.

His answer came the day before I was to preach. I woke up that morning inexplicably thinking about fool’s gold. I thought about the time when, as a boy at church camp, the leaders would make a treasure hunt for rocks painted gold. My mind wandered for a while about all the things I knew or ever heard about fool’s gold.

Later that day I was walking down a trail in a park and saw that the trail ended about 30 feet ahead of me at a street. I was about to turn around when I “heard” a whisper in my heart say, ‘just walk to the end’. And so I did. As I got to the end of the trail something reflecting the suns light caught my eye on the ground. I stooped and picked up a small piece of fool’s gold.

“Ok God, you have my attention. What are you trying to say to me?”

Immediately God spoke to my heart, “This represents your self-righteousness and your hands are full of it.”

I knew in my heart that my hands were indeed full of fool’s gold.  I knew also that God wanted to give me his pure gold (his righteousness) and that in order to receive his gold I needed to dump my hands of what it held. (There was another part of me that dismissed his words. “He must be talking figuratively or something. Surely he couldn’t mean me?” Don’t we have an amazing capacity to justify ourselves?)

A Scripture came to mind in that moment. Something Jesus said to one of the churches in Revelation.

That night I didn’t sleep much. I walked a path outside my uncle’s house for hours and prayed. I stayed up late into the night reading the Bible, and writing notes.

Just the previous week I had met with my pastor. I was terrified about the meeting actually. I was worried about the state of my heart. I didn’t want him to find out who I really was (or rather, who I thought I was), and what I was really like. But I also wanted to be completely transparent because I knew this was the path to freedom.

So I told him, “I often pose and posture myself to appear far better than I truly am.”  I gave him permission to call me out if he ever saw me playing the hypocrite.

In that moment it felt to me like that scene in Spiderman 3 when he was trying to pull the evil black slime off of him. I was a slippery little devil and I knew it. Exposing the truth of who I was felt like nailing jello to the wall.  So, best as I could, I told him exactly where I was at and what I was dealing with. And he prayed with me.

Self-righteousness is a poser, it is the hypocrite. This is the proverbial black slime that clings to the fiber of our very being and corrupts us. We hold up our little pieces of fool’s gold and say, “look how shiny I am.” And the more time we spend polishing up our fool’s gold, the harder it is to empty our hands. Self-righteousness is entirely impossible to remove on our own. Jesus must remove it for us. Thank God he does.

Jesus lovingly corrects us. For our good he tells us what’s wrong and provides the cure. His correction is gentle and merciful and perfect. He corrects because he loves. His correction takes us off the path of destruction and puts us on the path to life. Thank God for his correction.

That Sunday I shared from my heart about all of this and then read this Scripture from Revelation:

(Please try hearing it like this was the first time you ever heard it.)

“Write this letter to the angel of the church in Laodicea. This is a message from the one who is the Amen – the faithful and true witness, the beginning of God’s new creation:

“I know all the things that you do, that you are neither hot nor cold. I wish that you were one or the other! But since you are like lukewarm water, neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth! You say, ‘I am rich. I have everything I want. I don’t need a thing!’ And you don’t realize that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked.

“So I advise you to buy gold from me – gold that has been purified by fire. Then you will be rich. Also buy white garments from me so you will not be shamed by your nakedness, and ointment for your eyes so you will be able to see.

“I correct and discipline everyone I love. So be diligent and turn from your indifference. Look! I stand at the door and knock. If you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in, and we will share a meal together as friends. Those who are victorious will sit with me on my throne, just as I was victorious and sat with my Father on his throne.

“Anyone with ears to hear must listen to the Spirit and understand what he is saying to the churches.” (Revelation 3:14-22 NLT)

A few observations:

Gold is representing something of worth or worthiness. Untold spiritual riches of eternal value are ours through faith in Christ. He is the pure gold that has been refined in the fire.

Apparently Jesus seems to think that it is no small victory to turn from our indifference. And isn’t it awesome to think that we could share a meal together as friends with Jesus? How I want that!

Please take a moment to pray with me if you want that too!

Jesus, we want that deep abiding friendship with you! We open the door to you. Come in right now Jesus! Thank you for loving us. Thank you for wanting to be our friend. Thank you for extending your invitation to us.  We accept your invitation and repent of our indifference. Give us your gold, we empty our hands of our fools gold and trust only in your righteousness. May we never again have our confidence anywhere else but in you alone!

Adam’s Sin vs. Christ’s Righteousness

“What Jesus did on the cross to make you righteous will always be greater than what Adam did in the garden that made you a sinner! So which will you be conscious of today? Be blown away as Joseph Prince shows how the superior work of Christ has won for you an everlasting righteousness that cannot be undone by your failures and mistakes. Get the truth also on what “sin unto death” and “obedience unto righteousness” really mean. These revelatory truths will empower you to break free from the grip of sin and reign in life!” – From JospehPrince.com

Hebrew Roots Movement, So What?

I am reblogging a post I came across and would love to discuss it. Leave me a comment about how this article influenced you. Did you find anything you disagree with? Resonate with? The following excerpt was taken from: http://joyfullygrowingingrace.wordpress.com/2008/08/19/the-hebrew-roots-movement-so-what/:

“So what if Christians want to keep the Law?  What’s wrong with keeping the Sabbath and observing the Feasts?  Are those things wrong?  The dietary laws, purification rituals . . . after all, we are talking about the Law . . . God’s standard for righteousness here, not some weird pagan ritualistic stuff, right?

I’ve been thinking about this the past few days as I’ve been compiling an HRM glossary (coming soon) and going through (again) the Hebrew Roots Movement doctrine I’ve become familiar with in the past several months, and the question does periodically come to mind, “So what?”

Some of you may be thinking the same thing.  What is the big deal about those who want to keep the Law?  Simply celebrating the Sabbath and feasts, in my opinion, are fine.  There is much to be learned by doing such things.  It’s important to know, however, that that’s where the HRM gets its foot in the door of a lot of people’s hearts, because if you’re already doing part of the Law, shouldn’t you be doing it ALL?  In and of themselves, celebrating the Sabbath and the Feasts are not a bad thing.  But it is important to understand that they are not a required  thing.  Understanding the completed work of Jesus at the Cross and what the New Covenant is – it’s so important to understand the freedom that was purchased there at so great a cost.

There is this impression put forth in the HRM that …” Read More Here!

The Bricks and the Scale, Will My Good Deeds Outweigh the Bad?

WILL MY GOOD DEEDS OUTWEIGH THE BAD?

Several years ago, I had an epiphany – an insight into something that was ingrained in my thinking patterns. I know that I had learned this same lesson on several occasions before, but a dialogue I had with my wife drilled it home once again. Here is how that went down:

My wife and I were visiting with my sister-in-law Stacy. During our visit, Stacy told us that she had felt ill for the past few months and after many visits to the doctor she was just told that she has cancer. The doctor had given her about a year to live. Of course this news was a blow to my wife and I. We couldn’t imagine how they were handling the fact that she was facing imminent death.

The thing that amazed me the most was that she was more worried about her husband having to raise the kids by himself than the fact that she was going to die. During our visit I did not sympathize as I should have. Instead I said something like, “Well, we all are going to die.” I went on to philosophize about death and how we are all living on borrowed time anyway and how fragile life really is and what a miracle it is that any of us are breathing. It was very eloquent.

On the way home my wife confronted me about my lack of compassion. I became instantly defensive, and then went into a tirade of how I must be condemned because I have no love in my heart and where is the activity of God in my life anyway that I should be such a heartless jerk? I was being slightly facetious because, in fact, I really did love myself and thought very well of me. I must humbly admit in retrospect however, that I was very wrong. Anyway, most of what spewed from my mouth left me feeling terrible and alienated from God.

The next day I started once again in the new mercies of God, but I had to ask myself why did I react in this way? Then this thought hit me:

“Will my good deeds outweigh my bad?”

I realized then that I had been carrying around this idea of a “scale” that weighed and measured my good deeds against my bad deeds. My worth depended on how well I performed and how well that scale was balanced.

This mentality was so deep-seated in me that I reacted badly when anyone dared to confront me with a fault. It was as if they were adding one more brick to the ‘bad deeds’ side of the scale. For this reason, I hated taking responsibility. In fact, I hated words such as “responsible” and “accountable”. I didn’t want to face the punishment for my own sins, much less be held responsible for someone else and have their blood on my head. This was why I, in the past, I didn’t function so well as a worship leader in “church leadership”. I felt that I was responsible for people’s souls and I could not cope with that. I would even wish for sickness or a broken down car at times to escape the constant pressure. Of course this is just one of the many ungodly beliefs that over my lifetime have become embedded in the gray matter.

I began to recognize that I was not alone. Many people operate out of this mentality in which they “hope” that their good deeds will outweigh their bad in the end. Whole religious systems of thought are based on this idea. As I thought this way it led me to try to seek approval through doing good and performing well. I thought that by just adding more good bricks to the good side of the scale that things will all work out in the end, and in the meantime, I will feel better about myself and be accepted.

My good bricks were my good deeds. For instance, if I played spiritual concerts for the elderly at nursing homes, then I would finally be accepted and approved by God. Each “successful” concert left me feeling much better. In fact I only considered a concert a success if it left me feeling better about me. I had to feel good.

It was thrilling for me when I preached my first sermon, because in my mind this was a good and heavy brick. I would definitely be in God’s favor now! I called my mother and left a message for her, “The most exciting thing had happened to me! I just preached my first sermon!” A few days later she called me back and told me how proud of me she was. As she was telling me that, I had a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach. As I reflected on my initial reaction to “my first sermon” and how excited I was about it, I realized that yes, I could be excited about it, but not for the reasons that I was. I now see that the Lord is just as offended by the good bricks as he is by the bad ones. Trying to earn God’s favor is an insult to his grace.

Radical New Perspective

I have come to see that God doesn’t want us burdened with any bricks (good or bad) that weigh us down and keep us from following him. Besides, the constant balancing act is no way to live. Jesus wants to liberate us and he invites us to drop all of our “bricks” at his feet and learn to walk with him and live for him as we are meant to.

At one point after about nine months of playing hymns for the old folks in nursing homes several times a week the Lord asked me, “So when are you going to start doing these concerts for me?” Wow. His question cut me to the heart.

I was playing these concerts for me. It is true that I became free from a long seven year stretch of chronic depression when I first began to bless the elderly with music. How could I not be changed by a constant interaction with, not only the liberating truth that is in so many classic hymns, but also the love and support of so many of my elders? How could I not be blessed when I have a hundred year old lady shake my hand and say, “God bless you”?

In spite of all the good things that came from all my good deeds, my performance mentality still stood in the way of the relationship that the Lord desired to have with me.

In his letter to the Romans, Paul comments about his Jewish brothers. He says, “I can testify about them that they are zealous for God, but their zeal is not based on knowledge. Since they did not know the righteousness that comes from God and sought to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness. Christ is the end of the law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes.” (Romans 10:2-4 NIV)

I could identify with this Scripture but I didn’t know how to change. Ever since I became a “Christian” I was always trying to establish my own righteousness. It’s not even that I was raised to think this way, but perhaps this is just a universal human default mentality to want to (or feel like you have to) earn God’s favor. I even once caught myself praying, “Lord, make me worthy of your grace.” I was missing the point of grace altogether.

My own grandfather was once presented with the good news of Jesus by my parents. At the time he told them, “If I can’t have a part in my own salvation, I am not interested.” He has since passed away, and it burdens me now more than ever to think where he might be.

Why is it so ingrained in human nature to want to earn our own way? Why is it so difficult for us to receive God’s saving grace – his unmerited favor and blessing? Our own pride is the enemy of our own salvation.

“God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” (James 4:6 NIV)

We must humbly admit that we cannot do a thing to save ourselves (to be “poor in spirit”). We must humbly admit that we cannot even add an ounce of our own righteousness to the scales that will somehow make us acceptable to God. On our own, the scales will always be out of balance and never in our favor. Thank God that he does not leave us on our own.

Of course the Lord knows our desperate situation and has given Jesus as his answer. I believe he is telling us to abandon our scales and bricks once and for all and then simply come and follow him. Jesus will teach us how to truly live. He will teach us the “unforced rhythms of grace”. See Matthew 11:28.

THE EXAMPLE OF THE APOSTLE PAUL

The apostle Paul had a pile of good bricks. He was a pure blooded Israelite. He was able to say that he kept the law faultlessly. He was a Pharisee, the most zealous and strictest sect of the Jewish spiritual leaders. By all appearances he was a model example of spirituality. Yet he says, “Whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ – the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith” (Philippians 3:7-9 NIV emphasis mine).

Paul abandoned his bricks for a new approach to spirituality. A spirituality based on and flowing out of an affirming unconditional love of God that is entirely separate from any good deeds.

Think about it. Before Jesus had even begun his ministry, his Father spoke from heaven affirming him with his love saying, “This is my Son, chosen and marked by my love, delight of my life.” (Matthew 3:17)

As you trust in Jesus, the Father will speak those same words over you. You become the delight of his life. As you trust in Jesus, you become his beloved. As you trust in Jesus, you become a member of Christ’s body – part of Christ himself! As you trust in Jesus, the Father says that he loves you as much as he loves Jesus! Because you are one with Christ and in Him!

This is the ‘mystery’ that Paul keeps referring to throughout his letters. This is what Paul was so excited about that even imprisonment, beatings, persecutions, and all the other sufferings and hardships that Paul experienced did nothing to dampen this flame of Christ within him! This was Paul’s cause to live and to die for – Christ, the one new man – “in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Colossians 2:3 NIV).

———–

O God, thank you for Jesus. Thank you that we no longer need to sweat about our own efforts and our lack of “measuring up”. Thank you for Jesus, your gift to us, who did all the measuring up for us on our behalf. Thank that as we simply trust Jesus, we are included in all that you have planned – all of the wondrous and beautiful and glorious blessings that you delighted so much in planning for us to experience.

We trust you. We trust in you our kind Creator and our Good shepherd. We trust your good intentions for us and in your salvation which runs far deeper than we can even or ever imagine. We thank you that every bit of our ongoing salvation is not depended on our own efforts, but that you have freely given salvation to us all who least deserve such a gift. Help us to receive your grace well and learn to, once and for all, lay down the scale and the bricks at your feet… at the cross.

“Nothing at All”

“I have done nothing at all in my life, to earn your favor
I have done nothing at all in my life, to earn your love
I have been broken and bruised by my sin and my folly
But you have been broken for me redeeming me with your blood

And how is it that I am accepted?
How is it that I am made clean?
Why should you even care for a wretch like me?
And how is it that I am made righteous?
And how is it that you have saved me?
Why would you choose to die for a wretch like me?

You have been longsuffering, as I have tested your patience
You have been calling to me, as I have wandered from you
But you go to great lengths to prove that you still care
And you went to great lengths to woo my heart back to you

Your blood cries out Father forgive them
Your blood cries out Father I love them”

(Lyrics to “Nothing at All” – a song by Daniel & Catherine Lovett which appears on their latest album, “I Will Bring You Peace” – visit: www.reflectworship.com)

Here is a video of this song on Youtube:

Jesus Plus Nothing Equals Everything!

This might be the most important message many of us will ever hear!

For the first post of this blog, I thought I would start with this teaching by Billy Graham’s grandson,  Tullian Tchividjian. It is one of the few messages that really changed my life and I trust will change your life as well. You may download the audio and the video for this teaching at the website: www.desiringgod.org

Notes from the above website:

The following are notes taken during the session.

This comes from 22 sermons on the book of Colossians in 2009. Everything I’m going to say is based in Colossians.

I grew up in churches where I believed the gospel was only for people outside the church. I saw it as synonymous with evangelism. But evangelism is only a part of the gospel. The gospel is for Christians. It doesn’t just ignite the Christian life. It is the fuel that keeps Christians going each and every day.

Some think that once we’re saved and justified by the gospel, we should move on to deeper theological matters. But the truth is that we don’t move on from the gospel, we move further into the gospel. All of the Christian life, and all of the Bible is about Jesus. I count myself as one who is on mission with other men to help the church recognize again the power of the gospel.

This topic addresses 3 issues that are important to grasp if we are to see a revival in the church regarding the gospel:

  1. Motivation
  2. Identity
  3. Idolatry

1) Motivation

For all the talk of the gospel we hear in the church today, there is still some fear and trepidation regarding the radical nature of grace. There is still talk about two equal dangers Christians must avoid: legalism and lawlessness. Too much focus on grace leads to lawlessness, so in order to remain balanced, we need to keep some grace and some law.

Framing the issue this way prevents us from really understanding the gospel of grace for all of its radical depth and beauty. It’s more theologically accurate to say there is one primary enemy of the gospel, mainly legalism. But it comes in two forms: some people avoid the gospel and try to save themselves via rules. This is front door legalism, which we can easily detect.

But some people avoid the gospel and try to save themselves by breaking the rules, doing whatever they want. This is back door legalism, and is less obvious.

So there are two laws that keep us from Christ. A law that tries to keep the rules to stay free from Christ, and a law that tries to find freedom from Christ by becoming a law unto yourself. Either way, you’re still trying to save yourself. You’re still legalistic.

So in my opinion it is a huge mistake to frame the issue as two ditches, one on each side. There aren’t two ways to fall off the Christian life. It’s one way, with two forms. The biggest lie about grace is that it is dangerous and therefore needs to be kept in check. The devil does not want us to believe in the radical nature of grace. The biggest lie he wants us to believe is that grace is dangerous, unruly, and that we need to balance it out with a healthy dose of law.

Believing this violates gospel advancement. This “Yes grace, but…” is the kind of disposition that keeps moralism swirling around in our hearts.

At times every parent or pastor faces the problem of children or congregants who are acting out, in various ways and for various reasons. And all too often they conclude that the best way to deal with it is to give more rules. The goal is that we want licentious people to take God seriously and obey his commands. But the only way licentious people start to obey is when they get a taste of God’s radical, unconditional acceptance of sinners.

The irony of gospel growth is that those who end up obeying more are those who increasingly realize that their standing with God is not based on their obedience but on Christ’s. Those who end up performing better are those who understand that their standing isn’t based on their performance but on Christ’s.

We see people acting up, and our instinctive action is to drop the hammer. But we make a huge mistake when we believe that the thing that is going to transform the human heart is more rules and standards. The only way the change happens is when the sinner gets a taste deep down in their heart of the radical grace of God through Jesus.

This means people need to hear less about what we need to do for God and hear more about what he has done for us.

Imperatives minus indicatives = impossibility. When we give commands without saying what God has done for us, we create impossibly scenarios for people to live a long obedience in the same direction. And if you are powered by any engine smaller than the gospel, you’re train is eventually going to conk out.

Long term, sustained, gospel-motivated obedience can only come from faith in what Christ has already done, not fear in what we must do. Any other kind is unsustainable.

The Bible is clear that God is not concerned with any kind of obedience. He wants a certain kind. Just consider Cain and Abel. Both offered sacrifices, but God only received one. Work done by any obedience other than the gospel is not acceptable to God. It does not honor, glorify or show his worth. God doesn’t want that kind of obedience. God wants obedience that is motivated by love for what he has done for us.

That’s the way it is in parenting. I can get my kids to obey me for fear of what the consequences are, but that won’t last in the long run. In order to win true obedience, I have to go deeper than fear or guilt.

2) Identity

The world spends a lot of money trying to tempt us to locate our identity in someone or something smaller than Jesus. We are strongly tempted to tie it to human approval, or personal accomplishments. But the gospel liberates us by showing us that our identity is not located in someone we must become or something we must do. It locates it in Christ.

We don’t need to spend our lives trying the earn the approval and acceptance and affection of other people. Most of us are enslaved to that pursuit. We need to get those things from Christ through the gospel. That is what we are looking for in a thousand things apart from Jesus.

Rediscovering the gospel enabled me to see that, because Jesus was strong for me, I was free to be weak. Because Jesus won for me, I was free to lose. And it is only when you are free to lose that you are free to live with unbounded courage and risk and sacrifice.

Life cannot beat a man who doesn’t care if he loses. When you are afraid to lose, circumstances will kill your joy and make you slave. But if you are in Christ, your identity is secure and you are free to give everything you have. You have nothing to prove or protect.

3) Idolatry

The greatest threats to gospel advancement are not the idols outside the church but those inside the church. We spend so much time trying to identify idols in the culture, but the most dangerous ones are those in the church.

Joylessness in suffering happens not because of bad circumstances but because of idolatry. Idolatry is very subtle. It infects even our spiritual issues.

The idolatry issue and the identity issue are interconnected, because the idolatry issue involves us looking to other things—idols—to give us what we want. It’s “Jesus and . . .” It’s not just a non-Christian problem. It’s a serious Christian problem too, and the gospel is the answer to it.

What is the one thing or the main thing that, if you lost it or had to part with it, would devastate you? What is your non-negotiable? Who or what are you depending on most to make you feel that life is worth living? If it’s anything other than Jesus, it’s your idol. Doesn’t mean it’s a bad thing. It could be your children or your wife. But it’s a good thing that goes wrong because we make it an ultimate thing.

The pain you may be experiencing is God trying to open your grasp on the good things you have fallen more in love with than him.

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