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Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Righteous Sumission vs Zealous Obedience to Principle

The following thoughts came to me after meditating upon Rom 10, particularly v1-4:

1 Brethren, my heart desire and prayer to God for Israel, is that they might be saved. 2 For I bear them record, that they have a zeal of God, but not according to knoweldge 3 For they, being ignorant of God's righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves to the righteousness of God. 4 For, Christ is the end of the Law for righteousness, unto every body that believeth.

To set the scene for my train of thought, I'll include a number of assumptions that can be made.

Paul, being a pharisee, knew what Isreal considered to be righteous.

Paul had not given up on Israel.

Israel, as a people, were particularly zealous for God.

Rather than trying to find the heart of God, they distilled all the statements of Moses and the Prophets into a detailed list of "dos and don'ts".

Christ's purpose is that people would cease to follow these letter of the Law, and being to operate out of a heart for God.

This is really, baby christian stuff, however, it seems to me that often times, this truth is agreed to with mental assent, but not with lifestyles.

Let me explain. As finite beings, life seems impossible without knowing what we are doing at anytime. We need to know that our deeds are in agreement with a prescribed principle, rather than acting out of the nature that God has placed within us, being cultivated through perpetual communion with God, emanating from regular and consistant quiet times with God.

This "nessesity for principle" can appear to one to be righteousness, while to another, the absense of this "safety net" can appear to be a licence to commit any kind of immoral behaviour. Please understand that I am in no way trying to promote a kind of "until God 'convicts' you of a specific sin, you can disobey scripture". What I am essentially saying is that "obedience" that is spawned from a bregudged heart, is in fact disobedience.

A pass over the Sermon on the Mount (Mat 5-7), particularly the beatitudes (Mat 5:3-12), will reveal the priority of the heart attitude over the action. This is not to say that actions are irrelevant, but that internal agreement with God is of higher importance.

Consider Jesus explaining obedience of heart (particularly Mat 5:17,21-22,27-28). We can see this as a "raising of the bar" - It's not enough to control your actions, but you need to control your thoughts. Could it be, that like Israel listening to Moses, in coming to this assumption we are "establishing our own righteousness", rather than coming to a greater dimension of the knowledge of God?

I believe that Christ is saying to us, "The problem isn't that your killing and adultering, but that you want to be a murderer and adulterer." After all, you're not going to do something you really don't want to do. How many are fighting an urge to go out and buy drug and get high while reading this? The next question would be, how many of those that answered "No" to the last question, have ever had a desire to do drugs? Hopefully, the people who answer an ashamed "Yes" to the second question, answer an indignant "No!!"to the first.

For me, being a reformed addict, drugs are no longer an issue, and not their temptation is even on the proverbial menu of sins for my flesh to select. Sure it appears periodically as a "special of the day", but not with the regularity of things like lying, lustful thoughts, anger, and laziness, which are "specialties of the house". To be honest, the only struggle I have with drugs is fighting the urge to look down on addicts as second class citizens.

Does this mean that I desire to be angry, lustfull...etc? Of course not, but reality is, is have not quite developed the desgust with my behaviour that will lead to complusive obedience in these areas. Does that give me licence to fulfill these lust? Of course not. Am I ashamed of my "ever present sin"? Of course. Then why is it there? Mmmmm...can I answer that honestly. Probably not. Is it I don't pray enough? Is it that I don't spend enough time in the Word? These are "real life" issues to be confronted. Do I have the answers? To be honest, not really. I may be able to present alot of hypotheticals, but answers...if I had them, I wouldn't have the problems.

Before people accuse me of absolving people from their God given responsability, let me point toward Eph 2:8-10.

8 For by grace are we saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: 9 Not of works, lest any man should boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.

From this, we can see a progression:

  1. Salvation is by grace alone.
  2. The mechanism for receiving this grace is trusting God (faith) as the only one "rich enough" (Rom 10:12) offer this saving grace.
  3. Even the actual faith isn't our doing, as it can only be given to us, as God Himself reveals His truth to us (Rom 10:17).
  4. Becuse of all this, we can take no credit for our salvation as coming about by our own doing.
  5. Once the salvation issue is settled, we display our salvation, by fulfilling His righteous requirements, and obeying His directions.

While this can sound like a "I have faith, you have works" kind of thing, the truth of the matter is, that "good works" are the only logical option for a person. After all, a man who has been made aware of the seriousness of his rebellion against God, by the convicting light of the Holy Spirit, could not in good conscience wilfully rebel against Him again (Mat 18:23-35). Surely it would break his heart at the very thought of dispointing his Saviour that "...loved (him) and gave himself for (him)" (Gal 2:20b).

My one and only point is that there is little point splitting hairs over details of our rebellion against Deity. In the end, it is all disobedience from dishonesty to genocide. Albeit, we commit our sins one at a time, so therefore we must confess them likewise. My heart in explaining the whole obedience to "Principle" vs "Deity", is that splitting hairs over the principles, will inevitably lead to excusing sin.

If we consider ourselves to be "spiritually and morally bankrupt", and that leading to our "mourning" over our personal lack, we will begin to comprehend "meekness", and develope a true "hunger and thirst for righteousness". If after all that, we are not "merciful" toward others, then perhaps the love of God isn't in us. This mercifulness that eminates from an earnest desire for righteousness, is true "purity of heart". Who else would be qualified to be a pure motived "peacemaker", between God and man? Who else will be able to "rejoice and be glad" in the midst of "persecution", but them that have "seen God"?

Am I declaring a "cheap grace" or "legalistic" message here? I'll leave that for you to decide.

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