The gospel of the grace of God we discuss weekly in this blog is audacious, scandalous, and even licentious to typical, unknowingly legalistic Christians, still alive and well in today’s church, just as they were in Paul’s day. “What shall we say then? (“Paul, it sounds like this is what you are saying”). Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound” (Romans 6:1)? Wherever the gospel of the grace of God is preached, this same question is asked today, just as in Paul’s day, in every denomination and by preachers of every theological persuasion. “Is (obedience to) the law sin? (Romans 7:7). “It sounds like you are saying that it’s a bad thing to keep the law.”
These legalists are unmasked as such by their constant allusions, innuendos and direct references to trying to live disciplined, organized lives in obedience to God’s Law, rather than obedience being only and always the natural, spontaneous, and unconscious result of walking by faith. We ourselves have nothing to do with it. Obedience to God’s law is His job, and He wants us to take our hands off of His job!
Living this way, by faith in God to produce obedience in me, not by me. along with the love, joy and peace that make life meaningful, is completely counter intuitive to us all, because we all have eaten of the fruit of the Obedience Tree (Knowledge of Good and Evil) in Adam in the Garden of Eden. So, we must learn a brand new way to live, a way that seems stupid, antinomian, and totally unproductive when we first hear it.
If we don’t live by “following the list,” questions remain. “How do we live, practically, each day? If we can’t follow the rules and be obedient, what do we do? Practically, in real life, what does ‘living by faith’ mean? How can I know what God wants me to do if I don’t try to obey what He has asked me to do in the Bible?”
Initially, there seems to be no answer to these questions. How can I live without rules to follow? He doesn’t direct me by His audible, external voice as he evidently did Adam and Eve in the Garden. Without His written law, how can He guide me?
The answer is that we have something Adam and Eve never had that changes everything. Since Pentecost, God actually lives inside His people by His Holy Spirit. This fact sets the stage for me to proclaim the biggest heresy you will read on “The Two Edges of the Sword” blog? Here it is.
The Holy Spirit within me changes my “want to’s” to conform to His “want me to’s,” so I follow Him by doing just what I want to do. This is “walking by faith:” having faith that the Holy Spirit is actually doing that job, right now, and my wants correspond to God’s wants for me! This is ultimate freedom: to live by doing just what I want to do, with no regard for living by ought to’s, need to’s and should’s—the law—for I am dead to it (Romans 7:6).
The basis of this truth is Philippians 2:13, and it is a beautiful description of this life of faith: “For it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure.“ Remember from last week that faith is the “substantiating,” or the experience of what God has promised and will be visible for all to “see” in the future, but faith makes it reality in my experience right now.
So, when I am walking by faith, this verse tells me that God is changing my will, my “want to,” to conform to His “want me to” and then giving me the power to do it, just as this verse says. Therefore, what I want to do, right now, must be what He wants me to do, right now! Is that not what this verse says? Can I not believe, by faith, that this hope for the future is a reality right now? Does not Psalm 37:4 tell me to “Delight yourself also in the LORD, (walk by faith, right now) and He shall give you the desires of your heart (right now)?”
Jesus said, “And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:32). I cannot be free from the prison of self when I are constantly trapped in the self-absorbed doubts of, “Am I being obedient, am I maturing, am I pleasing God?” Real freedom is living by doing what I want to do and knowing that God is, right now, directing my desires.
How can that be? I have responsibilities in the world I must fulfill, in my family, job, finances, education, etc. How can I just do what I want to do? Here’s how.
If I am late to work every day, thinking, “God loves me, has forgiven me fully and I can sleep in and be late if I want to,” I will be right, but I will also be fired and have to find a new job. If I buy whatever I want with no financial planning or restraint, telling myself, “God will provide for us because He loves us,” I will be right, but I may go bankrupt in the process and my family has to live in a tent. If I neglect to diligently train my children, based on the law of God in the Bible, thinking “I love them too much to discipline them. God will take care of them,” I will be right, but they will suffer the struggles that children whose rebellion was never broken must face later in life.
However, as I learn to walk by faith and not excuse my sin as I face these responsibilities, He convicts me of my tardiness, extravagance, and sloth and brings me to repentance and produces in me, by His power, the desire to be punctual, frugal and diligent. Ironically and counter-intuitively, this obedience-producing faith always is born and then flourishes out of facing and embracing my sin, weakness and failure rather than my strength and success.
I am free! Free to obey God’s law or to disobey it, and I know His love and forgiveness for me never, ever wavers. Free to have an affair whenever I want to, to indulge in pornography whenever I want to, to lie, steal and cheat whenever I want to.
Is that shocking? Yes, but the real shock comes when I find I have a waning desire to commit those sins as I walk by faith. Philippians 2:13 proves to be true. He is changing my “want to’s.” If I am involved in sin, there will be consequences here on the earth in my life, but not in my relationship with God. The cross took care of all that.
This is the true gospel, and as soon as we see this in our hearts, we are a threat to the enemy. The gates of Hell—arrayed around the government, the education system, the church, the arts, the trades, Wall Street, entertainment, athletics and every human endeavor—cannot stop our attack. By just being on site, wherever we go, the kingdom comes! We become dangerous, and Satan’s weakening hold on our culture is diminished.