Since I was a young, I have always been a curious child. Stripping things apart to see how they work and then putting them back together (with some spare parts left) and it still worked! Haha. That curiosity has been with me my whole life. In my professional career I am a Business Analyst. In this job I have to solve problems using a skill known as the 5 Whys. It is a remarkably simple skill: when a problem occurs, you drill down to its root cause by asking “Why?” five times.
“Something that is unquestionably true. For example, every word he uttered was the gospel truth. The word gospel, which comes from the Old English god spel, “good news”, has been used to describe something that is thought to be as true as the biblical gospel (that is, undeniably true!) since the 13th century. The current idiom originated in the 1600s, when it referred to biblical truths and has been applied to truth of a more general nature since the late 1800s.”
A lot of people today, whether they are new Christians or have been Christians their whole lives, are missing out on the freedom the Gospel truth offers. That’s because they don’t realise that the real Gospel is so much better than any rule-driven religion can give them. I want to take you to the foot of the cross of Christ and to the door of the tomb – and lead you closer to the essential, powerful central core of the Christian faith!
A New Covenant
Our standing as children of God is found in the New Covenant. The first or Old Covenant had to be set aside because it made no one perfect. It was purely based on an individuals performance and quite frankly, there was no one capable of performing or meeting those standards.
To them it must have felt like walking on eggshells all the time trying to do everything written in the law. It must’ve have been incredibly overwhelming! For that reason, the Old Covenant is now discontinued.
It had to be set aside because they were unable to meet it’s impossible demands:
“By calling this covenant “new,” he has made the first one obsolete; and what is obsolete and outdated will soon disappear.” — Hebrews 8:13
“The former regulation is set aside because it was weak and useless 19 for the law made nothing perfect), and a better hope is introduced, by which we draw near to God.” — Hebrews 7:18–19
It’s clear what these scriptures are telling us – The Old is “weak and useless” in its attempts to perfect us. Today, we have a better option – the New Covenant!
The New Covenant introduced through the death of Jesus Christ works perfectly. It places us and keeps us in perfect standing even though we sin and do not perform perfectly. Only through the New Covenant can we genuinely draw near to God.
When I feel distant from God, it’s because I’ve measured myself against the law or against the ways of man, measured myself to the standards at which I see others perform, and I come up short. Somehow this makes me think that God must be measuring me by that same standard and so I draw false conclusions that He is distant from me.
This human logic would never allow me to get close to Him again. My only option would be to achieve it in a way that I hadn’t achieved previously.
The Scriptures are clear: the only way to get close to God is through the New Covenant. There just is no other way. I have written before about we plant seeds, it is God who does the rest. Any other way is a fake that is rooted in beyond all reasonable correlations with human relationships and driven by moment-to-moment emotions.
Forgiveness for all, for always
Try see the picture – several thousand years ago, in an Israelite camp in the desert, is the tabernacle, erected on top of a hill in the center of the camp. Finally, a spotless perfect lamb is found and the high priest comes shouting to all the people this perfect spotless lamb, will be sacrificed on behalf of all the people, taking care of their sins for the rest of their lives.
How exciting! After that final sacrifice, all the men of Israel gather to begin tearing down the tabernacle. Then they move on with a whole new way of life. No longer do they have to worry about sacrifices to clean up their track record. Instead, they can live guilt-free, knowing that a perfect lamb has done away with their sins once and for all.
But, this didn’t happen. Instead, these animal sacrifices are performed over and over and over throughout their history. Why? Because these sacrficies were not enough to cleanse them. Besides that, these sacrifices had become just acts of religion and their meaning had been lost. Hebrews clearly explains this:
“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. 2 Otherwise, would they not have stopped being offered? For the worshipers would have been cleansed once for all, and would no longer have felt guilty for their sins.” — Hebrews 10:1–2
There is no mention in the Old Testament of a priest finding the perfect lamb, this announcement was, in fact, made. But when was it made? Not long before the sacrifice that would begin the New Covenant, when John the Baptist declares, upon seeing Jesus, John the Baptist declared, “The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” John 1:29.
The perfect Lamb we sought is found in the person of Jesus Christ. The temples ineffective, religious and sacrificial ceremonies became useless. No longer is there a need for the tabernacle, the temple, or the daily sacrifices.
Jesus Christ’s sacrifice cleansed us once and for all!!! It was not repeated over and over, there’s nothing we can do, nothing required for us to remain forgiven. We’re invited to depend on the onetime sacrifice as the means to lifelong forgiveness, without any strings attached: “For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive in the Spirit.” 1 Peter 3:18.
One thing that would never be found inside the tabernacle or the temple and that was a chair. The priests were not aloud to sit down or lounge about. Imagine how poor that would have looked to the average Israelite. What would this portray to you? He must have nothing to do! To avoid this, God forbid such a scene to take place. He forbade Levitical priests to sit down on the job, so that the image of unfinished business would be imprinted on their consciences.
The book of Hebrews contrasts the standing and ongoing religious acts of the Old priests with our now seated High Priest, who never ever has to offer another sacrifice for our sins:
“11 Day after day every priest stands and performs his religious duties; again and again he offers the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. 12 But when this priest had offered for all time one sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God,” — Hebrews 10:11–12
“3 The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven.” — Hebrews 1:3
This Gospel truth is revolutionary to our understanding of how pure and clean we are seen before God. We’re invited to recognise our High Priest as seated at the right hand of the Father, with nothing left to do about our sins. The work is completed! We’re forgiven for all time.
Our past, present, and future sins were all forgiven at the foot of the cross. God didn’t differentiate with when our sins were, are been or would occur. Jesus looked down the entire timeline of human existence and took away all sins. When Jesus finished wiping out all record of our sins, he took a seat. And He has been seated at God’s right hand ever since.
What position are you in with regard to your sins? Are you standing up, running around, and trying to make up for them? Attempting to get forgiven, to get cleansed? Or are you seated with Jesus Christ? Do you realise that your Saviour has taken them away once and for all?
What becomes our moral guide if Scriptures tells us the law has no place in a Christian’s life? Our desire for our behaviour to turn out right and moral as Christians is hardwired inside us. There are some that desire to please God so much that they are driven to embrace the error of living by the law. Fortunately, God hasn’t taken us out from under the law and left us with nothing. When we believe, the Holy Spirit then He lives in us. The Holy Spirit produces fruit through us as we depend on Him. We must, however, recognise how the Holy Spirit works in place of the law.
He operates through grace. Recognising the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives requires a solid understanding of grace. The trouble is, our idea of grace is taken lightly and viewed merely as mercy. This leaves us with a distorted definition of grace like this: “Grace is what happens when a punishment is lessened or waived after someone has done wrong.”
Grace is far greater than this. This is what grace does for Christians:
“11 For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. 12 It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age,” — Titus 2:11–12
This concern is normal, but it contradicts what the Scriptures say about the effects of grace. Grace isn’t just a treatment for sin; it’s actually the cure for sin!
Grace is the way that the Holy Spirit uses to counsel and teach us on a every day basis. Grace is in place, whether or not we’ve sinned recently.
Many religions claim we’re obligated to keep the law or portions of it, but Paul is very insistent on this point:
“4 Christ is the culmination of the law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes” — Romans 10:4
But substituting rules for the work of the Spirit is nothing new. Paul was outraged at believers whom he had personally taught. They were straying from the simple message of “Jesus plus nothing.” Filled with emotion, he begged them to reconsider their position:
“You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? Before your very eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed as crucified. 2 I would like to learn just one thing from you: Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by believing what you heard? 3 Are you so foolish? After beginning by means of the Spirit, are you now trying to finish by means of the flesh?” — Galatians 3:1-3
Later in the same chapter, Paul clarifies the believer’s relationship to the law:
“24 So the law was our guardian until Christ came that we might be justified by faith. 25 Now that this faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian.” — Galatians 3:24–25
The law led us to Christ by acting as a barometer against which we measured our morality. We came up short. By Christ’s work, God declares us righteous.
So Paul asks us two things: 1 – How did we receive the Spirit, through believing or through the law? 2 – What should supervise our actions now?
In Galatians, the apostle is asking his readers under his teaching. He takes it easy on them by giving them multiple-choice options.
If Paul were to rewrite this portion of his letter in test format, it might look like the following:
Question 1: How were you saved?
- by observing the law?
2. by believing what I heard?
Question 2: How do you expect to grow?
- by my human effort?
- by the Holy Spirit?
With this line of questioning, they started by believing and by opening themselves to the Holy Spirit’s work. Salvation had nothing to do with the law. Likewise, maturity in Christ isn’t achieved through human effort either.
Your new identity
There is often more than meets the eye. Take an iceberg for example. What you see on the surface of the water is only a small part of what lies beneath the surface of the water.
This image of the iceberg helps me understand what it means to be in Christ. The Bible tells us that we’re “3 For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.” Colossians 3:3. I imagine most of us don’t think much about what it means to be hidden in God. Who we are on the outside pales in comparison to who we are in Christ.
God wants us to grasp an important truth – Scriptures tells more often that we are in Christ than the fact that Christ is in us. Paul tells the Corinthians and the Colossians of this spiritual transfer of ourselves into Christ:
“30 It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption.” — 1 Corinthians 1:30
“13 For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves,” — Colossians 1:13
God changed our spiritual position. He transported us from a position in Adam to a place in Christ. Because of our sinful nature like Adam, we were Adam. Through our new position in Christ, we become like Christ. We are spiritually alive and righteous!
Our minds are mostly messy, filled with thoughts, alternate thoughts, and even more thoughts. Imagine a sinful thought traveling down the hallway of your mind. If your mind is messy, then why not just add one more piece of trash to the pile? You’re messy anyway, so it doesn’t really matter. Now imagine your mind is pure, of clear thoughts always, would that same piece of trash fit there? No, it would be out of place.
Our standing as completely forgiven, righteous saints is given to us, before heaven, for a reason. It has everything to do with daily living. In the moment we’re offered a sinful thought, how do we perceive ourselves? As messy or clean? As sinful or righteous? As sinners or saints?
If we’re messy sinners, then why not just place one more sin on the pile? But if our slate has been wiped clean and we’re now righteous like Christ, then sin just doesn’t fit. It’s out of place.
Jesus is in You and works through you
In the world of science there are contrasting experiments around research the behaviour of light and determining it’s nature. Some have concluded light is a wave when shone through narrow slits – it produces patterns like what we see in ocean water. Others have concluded light is a particle when shone at protons or electrons – it collides with these particles and bounces off. (Side note, Science is mostly theory, in my opinion).
Despite these conflicts, the answer is that light is a particle and a wave. From one perspective, it’s a particle. At the same time it’s also wave.
The outworking of our spiritual life can be equally puzzling. Is it supposed to be Christ in me working through me? Or is it me – who I am in Christ – working out my daily life? The answer, again, is yes, it’s both Christ in us and our own selves who live in Christ, the Christian life.
Instead, it’s a spiritual union – a mystery that was hidden and has now been revealed. We’re united together with Christ. He’s our source of strength, and we’re new, righteous, and compatible with him as our resource.
Is it him, or is it us? It’s both.