Saturday, July 25, 2015

Who Needs the Law?

A dear sister in Christ asked me a great question: Because Jesus died for my sins, and we no longer have to offer sacrifices for the forgiveness of our sins, does that mean we no longer have to live by the commandments that God gave Moses?

Jesus was the perfect, complete sacrifice. He said "It is finished" (John 19:30) because His completed, perfect work on the cross was sufficient to pay for all the sins of all mankind, past, present and future (Romans 3:25; 1 John 2:2). When God looks at the born-again believer (John 3:3-8), He no longer sees our sins, but the perfect righteousness of His Son (Romans 3:22,25;5:18).

Jesus Christ has forever removed us from the penalty of sin, which is death (Romans 3:25. Animal sacrifices (Numbers 15:1-13), which only temporarily covered sins and did not remove them, had to be repeated often, but His perfect sacrifice only needed to be made once (Hebrews 7:26-28; 9; 1 Peter 3:18).

So we no longer have to offer animal sacrifices -- instead, we offer our bodies as a living sacrifice (Romans 12:1). We know that we cannot perfectly keep the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:1-17; Romans 3:23), but even when we do sin, we cannot lose our salvation (Romans 8:35-39).

But Jesus expects us to refrain from sin by yielding to the Holy Spirit within us, Who cannot sin (1 John 3:9). When we do sin, breaking the commandments in thought or in deed (Matthew 5:28), as we do nearly daily by having a covetous or lustful thought, getting angry, etc., it is because the sin nature that we still have to deal with has momentarily won out over the Spirit (Romans 7:14-25).

Jesus said, "If you love me, keep my commandments." (John 14:15,21). He also summarized the Ten Commandments by saying "Love God (the first four commandments) and love one another" (the last six commandments; Matthew 22:36-40).

So what about all of the law that God gave Moses? To understand which laws still apply to us today, we must rightly divide the word of truth (2 Timothy 2:15). Some of those laws were intended specifically for His chosen people at that time in Bible history, like keeping menstruating women outside the camp (Leviticus 15:19).

Many of these laws preserved the lives of His people. In an age when “physicians” in Egypt “treated” open wounds by rubbing animal dung in them, the laws God gave Moses at the same period in history contain the elements of modern day germ theory. In essence, avoid and cleanse yourself after contact with sick people, dead bodies, unclean animals, and human waste, and you’ll live longer (Leviticus 11; Exodus 15:26). Only through the Holy Spirit could Moses record these laws long before mankind even had the first clue that bacteria existed and caused disease.

Some of the laws, such as not mixing two kinds of fiber in the same garment, are never mentioned in the New Testament, and I think it's safe to assume that those are not intended for God's children in the Church Age where we are now. Other laws, such as those dealing with circumcision (Leviticus 12:3) and diet (not eating shellfish, pork, and other unclean animals; Leviticus 11) have health benefits even today, although clearly we do not need to follow these laws to be saved.

The early church argued about some of the laws, with Peter and others even insisting wrongly that Gentile Christians should be circumcised before they could be truly saved. But Paul explained that we are saved by grace alone (Ephesians 2:8-9) through faith alone, and the church then specifically concluded that these Jewish laws did not apply to Gentiles who were engrafted into God’s family by their faith (Romans 11:5-25; Acts 15:1-11).

Adding a practice like circumcision to God’s perfect plan of salvation through faith in the atoning sacrifice of His Son to pay for all our sins is like a slap in God’s face, for it implies that the ransom price Christ paid for us was not sufficient or complete (Romans 4:1-16).

However, other laws that God gave Moses, such as laws prohibiting homosexual acts, are repeated in the New Testament. Jesus reiterates Adam’s statement (Genesis 2:22-24) that one man and one woman unite as one flesh in the sacrament of marriage (Matthew 19:4-6), and Paul specifically states that homosexuality is a sin (Romans 1:26-30).

We are saved by grace, not by works, and Jesus Christ has freed us from bondage to sin. Given our liberty in Him (Luke 4:18), are we not freed from the law? (Romans 7:4-6). When asked if we can sin freely so that God’s grace can much more abound, Paul replied, “God forbid!” (Romans 3:31; 6:1-15).

We should yield to the Holy Spirit, Who empowers us to keep the law that is still our standard of conduct, namely the Ten Commandments and any commandment repeated in the New Testament. But praise God, even when we do sin, we cannot lose our salvation, and we no longer face the penalty of sin, which is physical, spiritual, and eternal death (Romans 6:23).

Similarly, we can't earn our salvation by being "good" or by not breaking the law (Romans 3:10-12) If we are guilty of breaking even a single point in the law, whether in deed or even in thought, we are considered guilty of breaking the whole law (James 2:10-13). .Only One Person could keep the law perfectly, and that is Jesus, Who died and rose again so that we could be freed from sin and death (Hebrews 9:14-15).

We still need the law, not for salvation (Romans 3:19-21; Hebrews 7:19), but as a mirror to show us our sin and our need for a Savior (James 1:22-25). May we daily die to our “old man” – our flesh that still wants to sin – put on the whole armor of God (Ephesians 6:11-13), and yield to the Holy Spirit Who cannot sin and Who will lead us in the path of righteousness! 

© 2015 Laurie Collett
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Saturday, July 18, 2015

Shining Light in Dark Places

How is God’s Word like laparoscopic gall bladder surgery?

A friend of ours had her gall bladder full of small stones removed last month. She showed up at the office surgery suite early in the morning and had the surgery done by laparoscopy, in which a tiny incision allowed insertion of a fiber optics light source, cutting tool, and cautery device. After she slept off the short-acting anesthetic, she went home the same afternoon as the surgery, rested at home for a day, and returned to work and full activities the following day.

Back when I was a medical intern, gall bladder removal was major surgery requiring a full incision, cutting through the abdominal muscles, opening the abdominal cavity, removing the gall bladder, and complete repair of the cut muscles and skin. The gastrointestinal tract would often shut down temporarily from the trauma; bleeding could be significant; and infection could occur. The patient could expect several days or even a week in hospital, followed by recovery at home for several weeks.

Now, thanks to fiber optic and laparoscopic technology, surgeons can achieve the same result safely and effectively in a day. The focused light illuminates the darkness within the body to visualize the internal organs, and the same flexible instrument allows cutting and cauterization to remove the diseased tissue and seal off damaged blood vessels.

Of course, laparoscopic gall bladder removal is possible only if done once the problem of gall stones is first detected. If left too long, infection or blockage of the bile duct may occur, and the patient is too sick for laparoscopy to be done safely. Then the patient requires the major trauma of open surgery to clean out the pockets of infection, blockage and decay.

It reminded me that God has two main strategies for removing spiritual sickness from the lives of His children (Mark 2:17), and for saving those who are still dead in sin (Ephesians 2:1,5; Colossians 2:13). Both strategies ultimately achieve the same result, but one is relatively painless, simple and efficient, whereas the other is a long, arduous process involving considerable pain, suffering and complications.

God’s Word is designed to shine His light into the darkest recesses of our heart and soul (2 Peter 1:19). It is a lamp to our feet and a light to our path, showing us what we should do to fulfill His perfect will for our lives (Psalm 119:105,130). It is sharper than a two-edged sword, cutting out the dead tissue from the very core of our being, even our soul and spirit, and the thoughts and intentions of our heart (Hebrews 4:12).

When we trust God’s Word to save us by placing our faith in the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 15:1-4) as the only Way to Heaven (John 14:6), He seals us with the Holy Spirit of promise (2 Corinthians 1:22; Ephesians 1:13; 4:30). No longer can we fall prey to powers of spiritual darkness or disease that would threaten our salvation (Romans 8:38-39).

We are blessed to have God’s Word readily available to us to reflect His light into our lives so that we can do a spiritual checkup (James 1:23-25) and examine the condition of our heart (Psalm 139:23-24). We hear it preached from the pulpit; we can listen to it on the radio or TV; and most of us have more than one Bible in our homes. But do we allow it to penetrate into our being and do its healing work (Matthew 8:8,16; Isaiah 53:5; 1 Peter 2:24), or do we just let it roll off like the proverbial water off a duck’s back?

Having a medicine cabinet full of remedies for our ills does us no good unless we take them as directed. If we take God’s prescription of daily preventive use of His Word (Acts 17:11), we will recognize and confess our sins (1 John 1:9), and ask for and receive His forgiveness (Psalm 25:18; 32:1; Matthew 9:6; Acts 26:18). We will be better able to hear His still, small voice (1 Kings 19:12) directing us to good spiritual health and restoration in Him (Proverbs 3:5-8; Matthew 12:13; Mark 8:25).

But if we ignore His Word, God resorts to more drastic measures to convict us of our sins, chastise us to get us right with Him (Hebrews 12:5-8), and grab our attention with heart-stopping crises.

The same principle applies to those who are not yet saved. How much better it is to hear and accept the Gospel as a small child (Matthew 18:3-4), before our “grown-up” pride and disbelief have hardened us! That is why we must begin teaching God's Word to our children at an early age, at home as well as in church. If we are not saved as children, God may need to allow catastrophe into our adult lives so that we fall to our knees and realize that we are sinners desperately needing a Savior!

My husband and I have an unsaved friend whom we have known for years, to whom we have witnessed many times whenever God has opened the door. But his eyes always glaze over and he changes the subject. The message is simple, yet he has repeatedly refused to hear. He often complains that he is living under a dark cloud, as one disaster after another has threatened his relationships, family, livelihood and health. But he still doesn’t realize that God may be resorting to extreme tactics to get his attention.

As I like to ask my ladies’ Bible study class, would you rather listen for and obey God’s still, small voice right away, or would you rather wait until He smacks you on the side of the head with a 2 x 4?  The choice is ours – we can meditate on Scripture daily and be doers, not just hearers, of the Word, or we can wait until our soul-sickness is so severe that we need radical surgery. May we offer ourselves to the illuminating, healing laser light of God’s Word today and every day!

© 2015 Laurie Collett
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