Monday, August 11, 2008

Rules or Relationship

I have thought a lot about sin and forgiveness, and recently have been challenged because of the title of this blog. I might say here that if you have a problem with an addiction to alcohol, I would tell you not to drink, and if you were in my house, I would not tempt you or encourage alcohol use. I might even keep it in the fridge and drink water instead. But that's your issue, not mine, and I respect your abstinence. For me, a cold beer on a hot day is a treat, not an addiction or stumbling block to my walk with Christ.
In fact, I'm training for the Hotter N Hell Hundred ride right now, and have not been drinking anything for the last 4 weeks. You can bet, though, there will be a celebratory cold one waiting for me at the finish line. And it won't be a cheap or light beer either.
When it comes to grace, how far does God’s mercy reach? Does God love us for who we are, or for our performance? Does He turn His back on me because (or when) I drink beer? If I have a beer on the back porch with someone and we discuss spiritual things, are they of none effect? What if it's my pastor having a beer with me? Does God hear me if I pray after drinking a beer? Exactly WHAT separates us from the love of God and His mercy? What does Romans 8:1 mean?
Is God offended when I sin? Does He love me any less, or does He turn His back on me? Am I in danger of hell? If that is the case, then do we really ever have a chance? And if that’s the way it is, what good was Jesus’ work when He said, “It is finished?” Am I in sin if the work is finished? I thought when I confessed my sin, and accepted Jesus, he forgave me and cleansed me from ALL unrighteousness. Was Paul lying when he said, “All things are permissible, but not all things are profitable?”
I was reading Galatians 5:1 this morning, and I got another understanding of grace through this. Here’s the Amplified version: IN [this] freedom Christ has made us free [and completely liberated us]; stand fast then, and do not be hampered and held ensnared and submit again to a yoke of slavery [which you have once put off]. What “freedom” (liberty, license, etc.) is Paul speaking of? Are we free, or are we in bondage or servitude to the law? The end of that scripture tells us to not be ensnared (entangled, held in bondage or servitude, trapped, enslaved) again by the yokes of bondage. Another version, NLT, says “…tied up again in slavery to the law.” Did Jesus set us free from the law? If He did, how can I be in sin? He forgave me, just as He has you, and He doesn’t want us in bondage to the law. My concern is being in bondage to legalism.
How is your relationship with the Holy Spirit? Are you walking closely with Him? Or is your relationship only with a book? Many years ago, my only understanding of Jesus was through a list of what I could, should, couldn’t or shouldn’t do. It had little to do with grace.
Has Christ set us free? Are our sins forgiven - all of them, according to scripture? I could argue using the bible but that’s not my intention. It would serve little purpose, as in over 2 decades of this journey with Christ I have never won someone’s heart by beating them up with my knowledge of scripture. Have you? What’s this walk all about anyway? Is it about grace - or performance? Is it about mercy - or judgment? And has God forgiven me, or does He hold me accountable every time I violate the “law?” Why does the scripture say that we have been set free from the law? And what does it mean? Really, think about it – if we have to repent and ask forgiveness for every sin every time we sin, do we really even have a chance? Or could it be, that when Jesus said, “It is finished,” that it really was finished? If He completed the work, then why do I need to finish it?

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