You’re not Saved by Works: You’re Saved by Works, by Jerry MacDonald (11/17/2013)

savedbyworks

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The apostle Paul said that man is “justified by faith apart from works of the law” while James said that man is “justified by works and not by faith alone”. So, how do we make sense of this oxymoron?

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Faith without Works, by Mitch Davis (02/20/11)

Faith without Works

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Faith to Faith, by Mitch Davis (02/06/11)

Faith to Faith

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Jesus Can Save Us to the Uttermost

God established His covenant with the Jews, providing them with laws and Levites. They offered daily sacrifices to provide forgiveness and a limited access to God. Once a year the High Priest entered God’s presence, even if only metaphorically, in the Most Holy Place of the temple. The Jews did their best (sometimes) to keep the law God had established.

But it never worked. They vacillated between being failing strugglers to keep the law, hypocrites who only tried to keep the outward requirements of the law, and outright rebels against the law. Try as it might, the law couldn’t keep them in check. The Levites could not contain the people. In fact, the Levites themselves were sometimes leaders in the rebellion (cf. Nehemiah 13).

That was why something new was needed. “If perfection had been attainable through the Levitical priesthood…what further need would there have been for another priest to arise…” (Hebrews 7:11). Therefore, God set aside the former commandment because “the law made nothing perfect” (Hebrews 7:19). It was weak and useless, not because of God’s inability to make a good law, but because of man’s enslavement to sin. Over and again, we demonstrated that we would not keep a law.

Jesus was the only man who ever kept the law. However, God did not use Jesus as the great example that we could be perfect. He did not use Jesus as the example that we should be perfect. He did not use Jesus as the example that if we weren’t perfect, we only had one recourse: death. Instead, of demanding we step up to the plate and make ourselves perfect, He put Jesus to death that He might make us perfect by Jesus’ blood.

The blood of bulls and goats could never perfect the conscience of the worshiper (Hebrews 9:9). However, the blood of Jesus Christ can “purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God” (Hebrews 9:14). Therefore, God has made Jesus the mediator of His New Covenant so that we may receive our promised eternal inheritance.

The great comfort we can take is that while neither the law nor the Levites could save us, Jesus Christ “is able to save to the uttermost, those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them” (Hebrews 7:25). Here is the great thing. We don’t have to try to save ourselves (in this sense). We cannot. The law was given by which we could try to be our own savior. We could strive to follow its precepts and keep its rules. Maybe if we tried hard enough, we could be perfect and save ourselves. But we didn’t. We no longer have to rely on ourselves and our own strength. Jesus is our Savior. He is able to save us to the uttermost. We must simply strive to approach God through Him. Jesus will save us.

This week, let us simply lean on Jesus and let Him run our lives. He’ll lead us to our eternal inheritance if we’ll let Him.

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Overcome the Flesh by Following the Spirit, Not the Other Way Around

Galatians 5:16 really struck me in my personal Bible reading this week.

Walk by the Spirit and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.

Paul did not say, “If you don’t gratify the desires of the flesh, you will walk by the Spirit.” Rather, he says, “If you walk by the Spirit, you won’t gratify the lusts of the flesh.” Do you see the difference?

The first says if we quit doing fleshly things, we’ll start walking according to the Spirit. The second says if we walk according to the Spirit, we’ll stop doing fleshly things. The difference is subtle but powerful.

Sadly, I followed that first path for years. I wanted to walk by the Spirit so I tried everything I could to stop doing fleshly things. I had accountability partners. I talked to people. I came up with plans. I established tricks. I made commitments. I signed pledges with myself. Anything I could think of to motivate me to stop following fleshly desire, I did. But I kept coming up short, just like Paul in Romans 7:15-20. It was just like banging my head against a brick wall over and over again.

God’s promise is not if we stop desiring or doing fleshly things then we’ll have the Spirit and walk in the Spirit. Rather, His promise is if we start walking in the Spirit then we’ll overcome the fleshly desires.

Therefore, Galatians 5:19-21 is not provided to show us what we must not do if we want to walk in the Spirit. Rather, the list is provided to show us the kind of things we’ve been fighting against that God will overcome in us if we simply start walking according to the Spirit. We want to overcome these because if we continue in them, we’ll not inherit the kingdom of God.

Throughout Galatians, walking by the Spirit is connected with faith. Galatians 3:2 says, “Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith?” Galatians 3:11 says, “Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law, for ‘The righteous shall live by faith.’” Galatians 3:14 says, “…so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith.”

Herein is the struggle. It is possible to establish a set of rules but not really have faith. In that case, we try and try to live up to a checklist set of rules, but we find we never actually measure up to it. From this perspective, though we know God’s rules, we are actually relying on ourselves. Our faith isn’t in God, it’s in us. However, if instead we work on our faith in God’s word, God’s love, and God’s power, our faith will guide us to rely on Him, living according to the Spirit and the Spirit’s revelation. In turn, that will cause us to overcome the flesh and its desires.

So, don’t try to get to the Spirit by overcoming the flesh; overcome the flesh by following the Spirit.

 

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