Galatians 5:4 – “You have been severed from Christ, you who are seeking to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace.” NASB
Contrary to the opinion of some, you cannot earn your salvation. I appreciate the desire to live holy, it is my desire as well. The Bible makes it clear that holiness is God’s desire too. Well, it is more than a desire it is His requirement. (1 Peter 1:16; Leviticus 11:45, etc.). In Hebrews 12:14 we read, “Pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the LORD.”
Purity is a big deal to God because He is Pure and has made the provision to enable us to live lives of consecration to Him. Jesus made a statement in Matthew 5 that always causes me to meditate upon and examine my own heart and life. He said in Matthew 5:20, “For I say to you that unless your righteousness far surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter the Kingdom of Heaven.”
I am concerned that sometimes, we believers, gravitate to legalism, and as did the Pharisees and develop our list of rules to demonstrate our holiness, righteousness, and purity through what we do. If we trust our rules, our lists, and our prescribed way of living avoiding all the listed taboos and doing all the prescribed things we will move outside of God’s Grace to our own strength. That will prove to be a colossal failure and incredible disappointment.
I was once a Pharisee of Pharisees! I was not that way when I first became a Christian, but after a few years of ministry and the influence of some sectarian legalists, I became one. I was miserable and made people around me miserable. I judged everyone by their outward appearance and actions more than I sought to know their hearts. I hung out the clothesline and took in the wash in many of my sermons. I became quite adept at identifying all the wrongs and failed to mention all the right. I saw few saved and had one church member tell me, “Pastor, nobody here today was lost but you made us all feel like the vilest of sinners.”
I am not shy about calling sin what it is, but many years ago, the Lord took me to the spiritual woodshed and changed my way of thinking about many things. No, I did not abandon my core convictions and foundational beliefs. Let me give you one example of my legalism and hypocrisy that the LORD spanked me good over. I preached that it was a sin to work on Sunday. Imagine that! Yet, I would go out to lunch after service. The Holy Spirit challenged me and asked, “If you believe it is a sin to work on Sunday, why do you create a need for someone to engage in what you are calling a sin?” He then called me a hypocrite and I realized that I was.
I had a list of things that a Christian could not do. I had a non-churchgoing man in my community invite me to do several things that were on my list and I told him no because it would violate my faith. After he attempted to include me about a dozen times and I refused each time, he said, “What can you do other than eat and sleep?” I had attempted to witness to him, and he visited the church on a couple of occasions. After one service he asked, “Preacher, I have been here a couple of times and I know what you don’t believe, what do you believe?” That was all the Holy Spirit needed to get my attention.
I believe, as the declaration of 2 Corinthians 6:17 states, we are to come out from among them and be separate. However, I believe that does not mean isolation from the world it means to become insulated by the peace of God and live in such a manner that God’s love is demonstrated. Jesus said that we are to be the light of the world. He said that we are to be salt and light. I am convinced that God intends for believers to influence their surroundings and world rather than to be influenced by the world. We are to be agents of change and advocates for the Kingdom of God.
For years, my focus has been on the Love, Grace, Mercy, and Peace of God. I am a strong advocate of Covenant Relationships and believe that God is a Covenant making and Covenant keeping God. I have ceased trying to clean the fish before I catch them. I have learned that God can change behavior to His liking in a moment whereas I may coerce the desired behavior, but the heart has not been changed.
Holiness and Righteousness are not a list of rules kept but a condition of the heart. The Pharisees kept the rules, but their hearts were far from God. God’s desire is for us to love Him with all our heart, mind, soul, and strength. If our hearts are right our behavior will become right and we will not need a list of rules.
Someone asked what can you do? I usually say, “Anything I want, but there are some things I don’t want to do because I know they would not reflect properly on God and would disappoint Him.” I want the words of my mouth and the mediation of my heart to be pleasing and acceptable to the Father. I want to be light that draws to Him!
God bless you as you walk in His peace and allow Him to be Who He is through you!