You have two identities: your ‘self’ and your spirit. You have two choices: feed yourself or feed your spirit. There are two master’s to choose between: you and God.
The difference is easier to describe when you use a before and after picture of a new Christian. However, the choice still remains after you become a Christian. The holes in the religious system continue to go unaccounted for.
Your flesh is the identity who seeks personal achievement and control. When sin is taught in churches, it’s usually about lying, stealing, cheating, etc… This creates a land mine of unanswered questions in the faith system. Sin is never taught as being hidden under the cloak of achievement or laced within the fabric of religious conduct. In fact, moral sweat and self-sacrifice put you on the fast track to religious popularity.
When a ‘righteous’ person stands in judgement over a ‘sinner’, they are applauded for their stance against immorality and opposition to the rules of Christian conduct. Those on the outside of the sub-culture of Christianity have a simple understanding of scripture and even less of an understanding of the way things go within the church walls. They know that scripture teaches against judging others, yet they see an insider clearly judging others. It doesn’t matter to the simple that the judgment may be superficially warranted.
The ‘simple’ have a childlike faith that is never exercised to the extent of being seen as it should be. They are the one’s who won’t come to church because of the mess that the humans within it have made of the simpleness.
Whoever becomes simple and elemental again, like this child, will rank high in God’s kingdom. -Matthew 18:3
Maybe there is something to be learned from those who don’t play in the religious drama.
Whether you admit it or not, humans will always seek their own benefit. It’s easy to see self-centered choices when they are outside of the Christian sub-culture. It’s harder to argue this point with someone who uses God or faith as their motivation. This is why hoards of people want nothing to do with Christianity and the blatant double standards that seem to define it.
When you set a standard of what a Christian looks and behaves like, you give them an alternate ‘god’. If you serve these standards, you will be accepted. How many students have to sign a contract of behavioral conduct in order to go to the Christian school? How many employees have to sign a contract saying they won’t participate in certain behaviors? Self-control, in its scripturally intended meaning, is not the question or enemy. Self-control in the mutilated puppet show in the religious arena is the question and the challenge.
“Just to be clear before I sign this, if I adhere to these rules, then I’m qualified to be part of this Christian organization? You mean, I don’t have to actually be a believer….just look and act like one?”
I am emphatic about this. The moment any one of you submits to circumcision or any other rule-keeping system, at that same moment Christ’s hard-won gift of freedom is squandered. I repeat my warning: The person who accepts the ways of circumcision trades all the advantages of the free life in Christ for the obligations of the slave life of the law. I suspect you would never intend this, but this is what happens. When you attempt to live by your own religious plans and projects, you are cut off from Christ, you fall out of grace. Meanwhile we expectantly wait for a satisfying relationship with the Spirit. -Galatians 5: 2-5
The reason you are not taught this in church is because it’s terrifying to set you free in such a way that gives you no rules to live by. If they don’t give you a way to control yourselves then how can they control you? A leader who does not acknowledge the freedom for which Jesus died, is one who does not have the faith it takes to let God be God and mold his children into the very person your leader wants you to be.
We are free, not to be selfish, but to be selfless. We are set free to love others. How many times have you wanted to show love to someone, but were afraid of what your ‘Christian’ friends would think?
It is absolutely clear that God has called you to a free life. Just make sure that you don’t use this freedom as an excuse to do whatever you want to do and destroy your freedom. Rather, use your freedom to serve one another in love; that’s how freedom grows. For everything we know about God’s Word is summed up in a single sentence: Love others as you love yourself. That’s an act of true freedom. -Galatians 5:14
Setting yourself up with a code of conduct and a map to stay on the Christian side of town may keep you looking clean, but not clean enough. Jesus came to die for us because we are absolutely incapable of keeping the Law that God laid out for us. If you live by the Law, then you must follow it in it’s entirety…even the part about death. If you want to be free from those chains and want to avoid death by escaping through the gate that is Jesus, then all you have to do is embrace the completion of what he did. Following a set of external rules for internal purity sets your life up to not need Jesus. You reject Jesus by trying to do it without him.
Do you think for a minute that this blessing is only pronounced over those of us who keep our religious ways and are circumcised? Or do you think it possible that the blessing could be given to those who never even heard of our ways, who were never brought up in the disciplines of God? -Romans 4:10
We are declared ‘fit’ by embracing what Jesus did for us.
I have one last thought, if a person is excited about these scriptures simply because now they can do whatever they want, you can’t really do anything about it. If someone is sinning with the hope of grace in mind, you can’t suck the truth out of the message of grace. However, let me say, as someone who has sinned immeasurably, God is real and he is involved. When God deals with a person who thinks they can take advantage of the His system, there is a place He lets them go that sears all of that selfish immaturity out of them. I have been there and you don’t have to worry about it. Do you want to know what I would say to someone in that position? ‘Try it.’ Because, I know they’ll never try it again.