Saturday, December 10, 2011

No such thing as free

This subject has been weighing on my heart for a long time. I have prayed and prayed and prayed for clarity from the Holy Spirit for longer than I can remember. And God has honored my pleas. I know that the initial reaction to this for most will be to reject it. But I plead with you ask the Lord to open your eyes, ears, and mind. This a foundational concept. More and more are starting to see that there is something inherently wrong with the Church but have a very hard time pinning down exactly what it is. It is because these spiritual foundation stones that we have laid down in our hearts were either not the proper stone or they were laid improperly and so everything built upon them was skewed and wrong even though the materials with which we built on top of the foundation were good. Not everything is as it seems. Sometimes this is because Jesus used double meanings for the things He taught and other times it is because wolves in sheep's clothing presented preconceived notions before presenting the Word and so altered the understanding for the listeners. Here is an example of the first type of double meaning:

1) "Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days."

Though the pharisees scoffed at this claim, we now know that Jesus was not talking about the physical temple, but His body and His coming resurrection. This is an example of the second kind:

2) "And the free gift is not like the result of that one man’s sin. For the judgment following one trespass brought condemnation, but the free gift following many trespasses brought justification."

I don't know who had the idea to translate this Greek word as free, but it is grossly misrepresented and has lead to an entire generation standing upon a falsehood. The Greek word here is χάρισμα or charisma. It is the same word we use today that means:
  1. Compelling attractiveness or charm that can inspire devotion in others.
  2. A divinely conferred power or talent.
The literal definition of the Greek word from a theological standpoint is:

           A gift of grace, an undeserved favor.

The pharisees didn't want to understand Jesus, I am sure, but I am also sure that when He said He would rebuild the temple in three days His disciples didn't dismiss Him. They probably thought He was about to either do something mind blowing or He must have meant something else and they just were not getting it, as happened often. It is here that the idea of the free gift of God has always left me scratching my head because it doesn't match the very clear things that Jesus also said such as:

"For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it?...In the same way, any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple."

This doesn't sound free does it? This sounds costly, very costly! And what about the series of parables that Jesus told about the Pearl of Great Price, The Hidden Treasure, The Lost Coin? These all speak of people recklessly abandoning their lives and giving everything so that they could possess this infinity more valuable treasure. It was at this point that I did the word study on this word free or charisma.

This is a case of mistranslation, many translations do not even include the word free in the verse from Romans, but simply render it: gift. But I think gift doesn't adequately describe what it is Jesus did for us and gave us. I believe the word should not be translated without price or price-less, but priceless or incalculable or may favorite that the thesaurus brought up: worth a king's ransom. I don't think it could be said any better!

It seems the Church has thought that Jesus was too hard of a man and that we shouldn't make it so hard on people. To all the disciples He asked them to leave their business, wives, and probably children without even looking back. The rich young ruler apparently had lived a very good and moral life. But what did Jesus say that he had to do to receive eternal life? Did He say be charitable? Did He say give 10%? 20%? 50%? No, he said give everything you own away, come follow me and you will have eternal life. We have betrayed the people and have become the perverse and adulterous generation by allowing people to simply sit before a well groomed speech set to moving music and to simply come forward, ask Jesus to forgive their sins, come into their heart, be baptized and so be saved. Have we so easily forgotten what Peter said when asked what we had to be saved?

"Repent and be baptized..."

or Jesus and John the Baptists message while they walked the Earth

"Repent! For the kingdom of Heaven is near!"

How have we so recklessly forgotten the words of the prophet Jeremiah?

"No one repents of his wickedness, saying, "What have I done?" Each pursues his own course like a horse charging into battle."

or Moses' charge in Deuteronomy

"When such a person person hears the words of this convent, he invokes a blessing on himself and therefore thinks, "I will be safe, even though I persist in going my own way... The Lord will never be willing to forgive him; his wrath and zeal will burn against that man."

I have heard some speak of the New Covenant as if it were a one sided promise. That Jesus will forgive all our sins and let us share in His inheritance if we just do the simple Billy Graham dance. Doesn't matter what happens between here and death, that's what grace is for. That is a lie. How worthless we have made Jesus' sacrifice if we think that the God of all creation who gave everything to be with us would trade it for nothing.

The Old Covenant wasn't flawed or evil. It was simply a typology, symbolic so that when the real thing came we would recognize it. The New Covenant is actually the same as the Old Covenant except that the symbolic parts were replaced by reality. There were three parts to the Old Covenant or Law

1)Laws of Cleansing
2)Laws of Ceremony or Sacrifice
3)Laws of Righteousness

The first two were replace by real cleansing and real sacrifice the third Law still remains. Remember at this point Moses' words when reading the Law to the Israelites,

"Now what I am commanding you today is not too difficult for you or beyond your reach."

When Jesus was asked what the greatest commandment was He replied,

 “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’  This is the first and greatest commandment.  And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’  

And this where most people stop, but Jesus goes on:

All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

Obviously, Jesus abolished the Laws of Sacrifice and Cleansing. So what are these laws that describe what it means to love God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength and to love your neighbor as yourself? The Laws of Righteousness. And, Jesus gave us a definition of the word love in John 14,

“If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching...He who does not love me will not obey my teaching."

Love is not an emotion, it is an action. And with Jesus, love equals obedience. But as Paul tells us the Law or obedience cannot save you. And yet, it is still a requirement. The deal was always the same, "You give me everything you have got and I will give you everything I have got."

Our righteousness is rags before the Lord and so He has said, "Trade me you rags for my fine linen."
Our spiritual treasure is filth and manure and so He has said, "Trade me your filth for my fine gold."

Remember this, we have no rights before Jesus. We have no right to march into the judgement room and demand payment, our inheritance. This is what Jesus had to say about our walk with Him,

"So you also, when you have done everything you were told to do, should say, 'We are unworthy servants; we have only done our duty.'"

The starting point is doing everything He asks and then we beg for mercy. His gift is not cost-less, it is costly. It is not without price, it is priceless. We must trade Him everything for the gift. No such thing as free.

Feel free to comment or ask questions! 

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