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Tape No. I-4146Page
We will look at just a few scriptures to lay a foundation for what I am going to say. Romans 3:20–21 Paul says:
“Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin.” (KJV)
No one will ever achieve righteousness with God by keeping a law.
“But now the righteousness of God apart from law is revealed, being witnesses by the law and the prophets.”
The righteousness of God which the New Testament reveals is apart from law. And then Romans 6:14:
“For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace.” (KJV)
I pointed out there are two mutually exclusive alternatives. You are either under law or under grace; you cannot be under both at the same time. If you are under grace, sin will not have dominion over you. If you are under law, sin will have dominion over you. And then Romans 10:4:
“For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth.” (KJV)
Christ by his death on the cross finally and forever put an end to keeping the law as a means of achieving righteousness with God. It is ruled out from henceforth and forever that every one who believes, whether it’s Jew or Gentile, Catholic or Protestant, makes no difference.
Now the problem with the church historically is that we tend to be like a drunkard staggering down a road, we lurch to one side and fall into the ditch, get up out of the ditch and lurch across to the other side and fall into the opposite ditch. This is true in many areas. So many of us come into truth by reaction against error, and usually we overreact. So we go to the opposite extreme. For instance, some people believe in predestination, others believe in man’s free will. Some people are in one ditch, some are in the other. The truth of the matter is the truth is in the middle of the road. Some people believe in prosperity and some people believe in suffering for the gospel. And again, we have two opposites. The truth is in the middle of the road. It’s neither in one ditch nor the other.
And the same can apply to this. We can say, well, we renounce law as a means of achieving righteousness with God so we’re free to do whatever we like. Historically that alternative has been called Antinomianism which means being opposed to law. That is not God’s alternative. God has a way down the middle of the road which is neither legalism nor antinomianism. We are not free, because we have been set free from the law, to do anything we please or to practice lawlessness.
I want to give you two scriptures on lawlessness. 1John 3:4:
“Whoever commits sin also commits lawlessness, and sin is lawlessness.”
Obviously God is not directing us to lawlessness. If you have the Old King James Version it says whoever commits sin transgresses the law. That’s an unfortunate translation. The correct translation which you find in this New King James and in all the modern versions is “whoever commits sin commits lawlessness, for sin is lawlessness.” That’s the very essential nature of sin; is lawlessness. I want you to know this morning I am not recommending or endorsing lawlessness. Let’s not fall into that ditch.
I have to say however, that for every one person who is deceived by lawlessness or antinomianism, there are probably a million who are deceived by legalism. Legalism deceives the honest, the sincere, the dedicated. Lawlessness only attracts people who aren’t serious anyhow. So statistically, far a greater danger is legalism rather than lawlessness. And I would say, from my limited knowledge of church history, almost every major revival in the history of the church has foundered on the rock of legalism. And legalism has effectually quenched the work that God started.
Also let me read to you Matthew 7:21–23:
“Not every one that says to me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he who does the will of my Father in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in your name? And cast out demons in your name? And done many wonders in your name? And then I will declare to them, I never knew you, depart from me you who practice lawlessness.”
That’s a remarkable scripture. Personally, my belief is that those people who will stand before Jesus and say we have done miracles in your name and cast out demons in your name will be speaking the truth. That’s my personal impression. But they will have done it with the wrong attitude of heart. They will have never submitted themselves to God, they will never have embraced the cross and renounced their self-will. At least one thing is clear: no one who practices lawlessness will be accepted by Jesus.
Then the question arises, and this is my theme this morning, what should be the place of law in our lives? It has a place; an important place. We do not set it aside, we have to give it the right place.
Now here’s where you are going to need your minds. I’ve meditated on this theme for forty years or more. I’m the only contemporary preacher I know—and there may be many I don’t know—who has ever really been occupied with this theme. I’ve never heard any other preacher deal with it. To me, the failure to deal with this issue is the source of countless problems in the contemporary church. I suppose I was led to it because of my philosophic background because I immediately saw here’s an issue that’s got to be settled. And it’s taken me forty years to come to the understanding that I’m going to try to share with you this morning.
All right. What should be the place of law in our lives? Here’s my basic answer. Grace received through being made righteous by faith will enable us to keep those laws which are appropriate for us. But we’re not made righteous by keeping them. We have to be made righteous by faith first in order to be able to keep them. But keeping them never makes us righteous. Did you get that? Have I communicated that?
Now, what are the laws that are appropriate for us? I’m going to deal with three areas quickly. First of all, the laws of secular government. And unless these are directly contrary to God, we are obligated to keep them. And let’s add that includes the speed limit! And I personally admit I have a continual struggle with that one. Don’t drive behind me, I don’t want you to see me! However, the principle is there. 1 Peter 2:13–14:
“Therefore submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake: whether to the king of supreme, or to governors, or to them who are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers, for the praise of them that are good.”
There are many other such scriptures in Titus, in Romans. We are obligated as Christians to observe all secular law unless it’s directly contrary to the requirements of God. Where God’s requirements and secular law go against one another, then God’s requirements are the higher.
I have a friend who was a doctor in Denmark working for the State Social Medical Service, a Christian, and in that position he was obligated to perform abortions for ladies who wanted them. And he felt that was contrary to the law of God and he gave up his job as a doctor. There’s a simple example of where there’s a conflict. But most of the time, at least in the United States, there isn’t a conflict. Now if you’re living in an Islamic or a Communist country, Christians there are often faced with the choice of obeying the law of the government or the law of God. Wherever there is that clear cut issue, we have to do what Peter said, we are to obey God rather than men. However, that is a situation which doesn’t concern most of us in the United States as Christians most of the time. Thank God for the United States.
Second, there’s the law of any social group to which we are committed. And all of us have to be committed to some social group. Family, church, place of work, et cetera. Now if you are in a social group, part of being a part of that group is to observe its rules. You’re obligated to do so. If you’re a member of a family, you keep the rules of the family. The times of meals, the time to go to bed, there are places to put your dirty clothes, all sorts of things. But you’re obligated to observe those rules. If you’re a member of a church, every church has to have some rules. The times of meetings, the way its business is conducted, so on. We don’t need to go into detail. If you’re a member of a church, you’re obligated to observe the rules of that church. If you don’t like the rules of the church, you’re probably in the wrong church. But don’t be in a group and be a rebel, that’s not legitimate.
All right. Now I’m going to make an observation about rules in family and church. The rules, or the laws, should be simple, practical, in harmony with scripture and open to modification where necessary. Let’s not make laws of the Medes and Persians which never change. Let’s be flexible in these areas. Many churches have run into problems because they made laws in one generation which were not appropriate for the next generation. Like years back, in the Pentecostal movement in Denmark, ladies had to wear black stockings. Well, today for a lady to wear black stockings is rather avantgarde. I mean, things have changed. Do you understand? So some rules should be open to modification.
Now I’m not really concerned this morning with those two areas, I just want to point them out because they are relevant to all of us. The area of secular government and the area of social groups of which we are a part.
I want to come to the third area which is the one that really concerns us; the area of God’s word. Being obedient to the word of God. What are we expected to observe? The Bible is full of rules and commandments and regulations. What are we expected to do? What are we required to do? And you’ll find all sorts of people pick out the strangest rules from the strangest places and suddenly apply them. Like if a man has divorced a wife it’s wrong for him to take her back. Well that was a rule made in a specific social context for a specific group of people. I think it’s ridiculous to apply that to contemporary Christians in America. There are all sorts of rules about what women ought or ought not to wear. Some of which are very valid today and others of which don’t apply. Preachers tend to pick out the rules that suit them and emphasize them. And if they’re male preachers, the rules are usually directed against the females. I don’t think that’s the legitimate way to interpret the Bible.
I want to give you what I believe is the answer. Like I said last week, if you paid me a million dollars it wouldn’t be enough. But I didn’t pay anything for it so I’m not charging anything for it. Romans 8:3–4. I mean sincerely, we were talking about the place of the word of God, I believe what I’m sharing with you frankly are treasures of uncountable value.
“For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, [that’s through our carnal nature] God did sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin, he condemned sin in the flesh.”
Paul always points out there was never anything wrong with the law of Moses. The problem was us, not the law. We are incapable of keeping the law. Instead of bringing out good it brings out the rebel in us. Now, this is the key verse:
“That the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.”
So God has set aside the law but he wants us to fulfill the righteous requirement of the law. That’s the key.
Now we have to understand what is the righteous requirement of the law. This is absolutely the key issue. Let me say that that word occurs a number of different times, the word that’s translated righteous requirement is one single word in Greek. Interestingly, in Revelation l9:8, you don’t need to turn there, it describes the bride of Christ and says she was attired in fine linen, clean and bright. And it says the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints. It’s the same word. So you understand, when we come to the end of our earthly journey and appear before God, we will be attired in the righteous acts or the righteous requirement which God expects of us.
But here in Romans 8:4 it’s singular, the righteous requirement of the law. What is that? I believe it’s possible to answer it in one word. One short word of four letters. How many of you can guess? Love, that’s right. Now this is crucial. I am saying my conviction is the answer to that is that the righteous requirement of the law is love. I’ll give you a number of scriptures. Matthew 22:35–40:
“Then one of them, a lawyer, [but that would mean a teacher of the law, not an attorney] asked Jesus a question, testing him and say, Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law? [That’s a specific question and Jesus immediately gave a specific answer:] Jesus said to him, You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. [Notice that.] This is the first and great commandment. The second is like to it. You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
So those are the two great commandments of the law, each of them is love. The first is love for God, the second is love for your neighbor. And then Jesus continues:
“On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”
In other words, as I understand it, everything in the law and the prophets had one sole purpose: to produce love for God and love for our neighbors. This has not changed. It’s precisely the same in the New Testament. The objective is the same, the means of achieving it are different. Some Christians teach though, that somewhere in the middle of history, God has a sudden change of mind. He’s been demanding one thing of people under the Old Covenant, now he demands something completely new under the New Covenant. That’s not the least bit true. Always the one thing he will ask for first and foremost is love. Love for God and love for your neighbors. All that’s changed is the means by which we can obey that commandment. That’s the difference. John said we don’t write to you any new commandment. He said we write to you an old commandment, the one that you had from the beginning. But it’s new because now it works whereas before it didn’t.
Then let’s turn to 1Timothy 1:5–7:
“Now the purpose of the commandment [the NASB says, and this is excellent, the goal of our instruction is, What?] love.”
The thing we are aiming at in all our Christian ministry, in all our church activity is what? Love. When you see that, a lot of other things begin to fall into place. And then he says:
“From which some having strayed have turned aside to idle talk.”
In other words, anything that doesn’t produce love is just empty wasted words. How many empty wasted words do we have in our churches today? How many churches ever produce love? How many ministers today have even got a vision of the goal? The goal of our instruction is love. I examine my own ministry that way. I say to myself, Am I producing people who are loving? If I’m not, I’m wasting my time. And God’s time too. How much wasted time is there in the churches of America today? That’s up to you to answer.
“Owe no one anything...”
Now that’s not what I’m going to preach on but let me stop there for a moment. That is a commandment too. Don’t be in debt. Did you hear me? Don’t be in debt. A lot of you are going to have to change your lifestyle to keep that commandment. But it is a commandment.
“Owe no one anything, except to love one another: for he who loves another has fulfilled the law. For the commandments you shall not commit adultery, you shall not commit murder, you shall not steal, you shall not bear false witness, you shall not covet; and if there is any other commandment, are all summed up in this saying, namely, you shall love your neighbor as yourself. Love does no harm to a neighbor: therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.”
I think that answers exactly Romans 8:4, the righteous requirement of the law.
Then we could look also in Galatians 5:13–14:
“For you brethren have been called to liberty; only do not use liberty as an opportunity for the flesh, [the carnal nature], but through love serve one another.”
In other words, don’t stagger out of the ditch of legalism into the ditch of antinomianism and use your liberty as an occasion to indulge your fleshly nature. That’s not legitimate. What’s the alternative? Through love serve one another. Let me give you this advice. When in doubt, serve. It’s safe. You don’t know what to do? Serve.
“For all the law is fulfilled on one word [or one statement], even in this; you shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
I think the New Testament leaves absolutely no doubt as to what the righteous requirement of the law is.
Then let’s look in Galatians 5:6 for a moment since we’re in that chapter. Here’s another of those statements that would change almost every church in the nation if people would believe it.
“For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision availeth anything, [and another translation says means anything] but faith working through love.”
In the last resort there’s only one thing that matters. What is that? Faith working through love. Now we can’t leave out the faith. I’ll tell you why. It’s all well to say love is the only thing that matters, but faith is the only way to get that love. If you don’t have faith you won’t have the love. There’s no other way that love can come to our hearts and lives but through faith. So it’s faith working by love.
Now I want to point out that Paul there indicates the only kind of faith acceptable to God is faith that works through love. It’s not theological faith, it’s not doctrinal faith. People can have all sorts of theological and doctrinal faith which leaves them angry, bitter, contemptuous, unloving and unlovable. That has nothing to do with the faith of the New Testament. This faith comes only by a supernatural operation of the Holy Spirit. You cannot have this kind of life living on the plain of your natural ability, it is impossible. You’re incapable of it.
Let’s look in Romans 5:5. We won’t read the first part of the verse but only the second part.
“The love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who is given to us.”
Notice, not some love that we can work out or achieve by our own efforts, but the love of God has been poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit. But we can only receive it through faith. The moment we get off the basis of faith and back into our own works, the fountain is shut off and we’re back with the best we can do in our own carnal nature, and that is not good enough. Because what are the works of the flesh? They’re anything but love. They’re every kind of division, hatred and strife. I was in a conversation about lawyers recently in America. Somebody commented that one lawyer said there’s one type of case I stay out of, that’s church fights. He said they’re the worst. And I said, I agree. Absolutely. They are the worst. God’s people, when they are no longer living in the realm of faith and the supernatural, are the most cantankerous, unpleasant, unlovable people on the face of the earth. They’re just like the Pharisees. In fact, they are the lineal spiritual descendants of the Pharisees.
Now, love supplies a double motivation. We need to be very concerned with what are our motives because they’re really going to determine whether we do things right or not. If you outwardly conform with the wrong motives, your conformity won’t last. It won’t work. You’ll be like a child putting on her mother’s shoes. It just won’t stay on her feet very long. But love supplies a double motivation. First of all, for obedience to the Lord. And secondly, for right conduct toward men. And it’s the only motivation that works. Let’s look at the question of obedience to the Lord first in John 14:15. Jesus says to his disciples:
“If you love me, keep my commandments.”
What’s the reason for keeping my commandment? That you love me. And then he goes on to say and he puts two opposite cases side by side in verses 23–24:
“If anyone loves me, he will keep my words. My Father will love him, we will come to him and make our home with him.”
If anybody loves me, what will he do? He will keep my word. If you have difficulty in keeping God’s word, the problem is you don’t love him enough. Don’t go into agonies of self analysis. Ask the Lord to help you to love him more. Then he goes on to say:
“He who does not love me, does not keep my word.”
That’s as simple as can be. The one who loves me will keep my word. The one who does not love me will not keep my word. What’s the motivation for obeying the Lord? Love, not fear of punishment. Turn to 1John 4:18. John discusses this question. Again, you’re going to need the modern translations to get the clear meaning.
“There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear; because fear involves torment.”
That’s what this translations says, the New King James. But you’ll find all the other translations will say fear has to do with punishment. All right? We’re motivated by fear of punishment. If I don’t do the right thing, God’s going to judge me, he’s going to punish me. But John says he who fears, he who is motivated by fears has not been made perfect in love. That excites me because it shows me there is a possibility to be made perfect in love, and one of the ways I can measure my progress is determining my motivation. Why am I doing what I’m doing? Am I doing it because I’m afraid of being punished? Or am I doing it because I love the Lord? The Lord is very wise. He knows what the strongest motivation is. It’s love.
Many of us here are parents. Which kind of child would we rather have to deal with? The one to whom we have to say all the time, if you don’t do what I tell you, I’m going to punish you? We all know you can threaten and threaten and threaten. But sooner or later what’s in that child will come out. What about the other kind of child? I know you love me, this is what I want you to do. You’ll do it because you love me. See, God knows what works.
The only motivation that actually works for any length of time is love. That is our motivation for obeying the Lord. Many of us frankly have never really entered into that because we’ve grown up in church traditions where it was all a series of threats. If you don’t do this, something will happen to you. I never was in the Catholic Church but I’ve talked to many Catholics who say they were continually in a Catholic school threatened with the fear of hell. My observation was it didn’t keep them from doing wrong things. It doesn’t. That’s no attack on Catholics because the same type of motivation is found in different language in most churches. Most fundamentalist groups, that’s their motivation. God would accept it if it worked. The problem is it doesn’t work. That’s hard for the religious mind to concede, see? Making rules doesn’t make people righteous.
I was engaged in educational work in Kenya, East Africa. I was going around with one of the education officers of the government with whom I had to work. She was a good lady, probably a nominal Christian. She certainly wasn’t a burning Spirit filled Christian. We were talking about a certain Pentecostal girl’s school which was just full of rules. I mean, they couldn’t run around without having a rule to tell them what to do. And this lady said to me, Rules don’t make people good. It was so simple. I’ve never forgotten it. Rules don’t make people good. They may stop people from doing the wrong thing for a time, but they do not make people good. If you could grasp that and walk out of here this morning with the real clear realization, rules don’t make people good. They don’t change the inner nature.
I think it’s good to lobby for laws that stop people doing bad things. I think we should do that. But the best way to stop people from doing bad things is to turn bad people into good people. That’s what revival does. In a little island in the Hebrides called Louis, in l948, there was an island wide revival. And I happened to have met the man whom God used. I also had a lady in my church who had a sister in that island. So I heard first hand what was going on. And I’ll just relate it to you for a moment. This is a little interlude. There were two elderly ladies in this church in Louis who were praying for revival. One of them was blind. They prayed for years and God told them, “I’ll send a revival.” The man I’ll use is Duncan Campbell from Glasgow.
So they went to the minister of the church and they said, “God has told us that he’s going to send a revival but he wants you to invite Duncan Campbell.”
Well the minister wasn’t really convinced but just to keep them quiet he said, “I’ll invite him but I know he won’t come.” Because Duncan Campbell was a well known minister and this was a very small place.
So the minister of the church wrote to Duncan Campbell, got an answer back, “I’m afraid I can’t come for the dates you proposed, I have another commitment.”
So he showed the letter to the old ladies and said, “There you are, he’s not coming.”
They said, “Oh, yes, he’s coming.”
A little while later he wrote back and said, “My other commitment has been canceled and I can come.”
And they said to the minister, “We told you so!”
Well, by that time a few others had joined them in prayer, including a couple of deacons in church. So they had this first service in the church. Duncan Campbell was one of these people who preach about heaven and hell and being saved or lost and nothing much in between. And he preached that and nobody responded and the service ended, the people got up and began to walk out of the church. And the two ladies and the deacons dropped to their knees and said, “God, you’re a covenant-keeping God, you’ve made a covenant with us, we’re holding you to your covenant.” And in the streets of the city the people turned around, walked back, came back to the church and began to repent. And that started a revival that completely changed the whole of that island.
But what I want to say is this: There were a lot of people in the island who were heavy drinkers and used to go to the pub which we would call the saloon in America. And eventually the saloons all closed. You know why? Because everybody who used to be in the saloon was in the church. What’s the good of keeping a saloon open when nobody wants to go. That’s the best way to change human conduct. It’s not to make laws, it’s to change the heart. I’m not saying that we don’t need laws. Laws restrain evil but they don’t produce goodness.
All right. What about our motivation for people? Let’s go back to Romans 13:10. I didn’t live in the United States in the days of prohibition, but I think that’s a clear example that you can make good laws for bad people but it won’t change the people. And if people’s hearts are sufficiently set on doing evil they’ll break the laws. Romans 13:10, we read it once, we’ll read it again.
“Love does not harm to a neighbor, therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.”
There you are. Love will not harm a neighbor. You don’t need to make rules for people who have love because they’ll do the right thing anyhow. I’m not against the rules, I want to tell you they don’t produce the results.
And Paul said in Galatians 5 the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance. Against such there is no law. You don’t need laws for people who are producing the fruits of the Spirit.
Now just a few more statements and we’ll close. The next three statements are very important. Particularly the last one which changes everything. But we’ll go through them in order. New Testament love is progressive. The New Testament contains many different requirements. It tells us a whole lot of things we must do and must not do. I checked through the epistle of James yesterday. In James alone there are something like fifty regulations what you must do and what you must not do. It’s not that there are no requirements and no rules in the New Testament, the question is how do we come into them? And what I’m saying is New Testament love is progressive. You don’t do it all right the first time. How many of you would agree to that? Philippians 1:9–11. Paul says to the Philippians:
“I pray that your love may abound still more and more in knowledge and all discernment; that you may approve the things that are excellent, that you may be sincere and without offense till the day of Christ; being filled with the fruits of righteousness which are by Jesus Christ to the glory and praise of God.”
So Paul is saying it’s wonderful the love you have. But I pray that it will increase and that it will make you increasingly sensitive to the Lord’s requirements. That’s what love should do. I think it’s true even in a marriage. If a man and woman live together in love, the longer they live together the more sensitive they’ll be to each other’s requirements. They’ll know instinctively the things that hurt, the things that wound, and they’ll avoid them. But normally in a marriage it doesn’t start that way. You don’t need to put your hand up! We have to learn how love operates. Paul says the same. It’s wonderful that you love but I pray that you’ll become more and more sensitive as you go on to what pleases the Lord and what brings forth good fruit.
Take one area, an area that none of you have problems with, I’m the only one here. The area of the tongue. Now when I was saved I was a confirmed blasphemer. And God instantly stopped that and there was no struggle, it just terminated. Well I thought, that’s wonderful, now I’ve got it. Then God began to show me stage by stage all sorts of other areas; about being critical with my tongue and unkind, and then about making negative confessions and saying the wrong thing and giving utterances that were not utterances of faith. And then about making idle, empty remarks. Jesus said every idle word that men speak they shall give account thereof. Discovering what pleases the Lord with your tongue is progressive. You don’t get it all in one go. And that’s true of many, many other areas of the Christian life. So we go on.
Now under the law that’s not so. Under the law when you come under it, you’ve got to do it all right all the time or it doesn’t do you any good. There’s no question of progress in the law. Let’s look in James 2 for a moment. Verses 10–11:
“For whoever keep the whole law and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all.”
So it’s no good saying I keep 99.9 percent of the law. That won’t do. It’s completely different. You’ve got to keep the whole law all the time. That’s the righteousness of the Lord which none of us can achieve. The alternative righteousness of faith is different, it’s progressive. It’s step by step and stage by stage.
We can follow sometimes a system or a set of rules. Although, I’ve become more and more cautious about systems. I mean, I had systems for people to receive the Holy Spirit, I could tell you step by step. But I discovered people don’t always receive by the system. I discovered the Holy Spirit will not submit himself to a system. If we make the system lord, the Holy Spirit just waits for us to change. We may have a system, but listen, this is subtle. We must never rely on the system but only on the Holy Spirit. If the Holy Spirit says, now that’s a system to use in this situation, that’s fine. But never bypass the Holy Spirit and rely on the system. How many of us would agree we made that mistake? Both hands for me! I’m sorry Lord, really I am. I hope I won’t do it again. What an insult to the Holy Spirit really, to say I think I can do it by my system. You remember what I said the last time? As many as are regularly led by the Spirit of God, they and only they are sons of God.
Now here’s the good news. At the end of all this, and this is so simple you may not understand how good it is. But all the time we’re progressing in love and stumbling and making mistakes and doing the wrong thing—now I know that doesn’t apply to people here but there are some people like that—all that time our faith is being counted to us for righteousness. We’re never under condemnation. Did you get that? As long as we hold on to what? Our faith, that’s right. This is such a truism amongst evangelicals that none of them believe it. It’s the most amazing thing. They keep quoting it but they don’t believe it. For me it was a discovery. I can make mistakes. I don’t have to be perfect. But that doesn’t lead me to condemnation. My faith is counted to me for righteousness all the time. Twenty-four hours of every day, seven days of every week, twelve months of every year, my faith is being reckoned to me as righteousness. Oh, how we can relax. Thank you Lord. Thank you. I don’t have to sweat all the time. I don’t have to make all these mental rules and say did I do this or did I do that? Let’s see the scriptures for it. Romans 4. You notice how often we go to Romans or Galatians? They’re the two main sources for this. Romans 4:4–5:
“Now to him that works the wages are not counted as grace, but as debt.”
You understand that? If you work eight hours a day, five days a week, forty hours and you’re paid at ten dollars an hour, you get 400 dollars. That’s not grace, that’s wages. You’ve worked for it. You’ve earned it. If you can keep all the law all the time, you’ve earned it. But nobody ever did keep all the law all the time. So that’s ruled out.
What’s the alternative? Verse 5:
“But to him who does not work...”
That’s an amazing statement. You know the first thing you have to do? Is stop doing anything. Stop trying because your trying won’t get it.
“But to him who does not work, but believes in him who justified [or makes righteous, or reckons righteous] the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness.”
That’s quoted about Abraham. It’s stated about Abraham in Genesis 15:16. After that Abraham did a number of things he ought not to have done. He allowed his wife to be taken into a Gentile harem and lied about her. And he went and had a son by his slave girl that he was not entitled to have. He made mistakes. But all the time, even when he made mistakes, his faith was being counted to him as righteousness. Oh, that is good news. Oh, that’s wonderful. If you can just grasp it. That doesn’t leave you any room for indifference or casualness but it lifts that awful burden of pressure, I’ve got to. Stop working and let God reckon your faith to you as righteousness.
Let me give you just one example from the history of the New Testament. Luke 22, at the last supper, Luke 22:31–34:
“And the Lord said, Simon, Simon, indeed Satan has asked for you that he may sift you as wheat.”
Now the you there is plural. It’s you apostles. It’s an amazing thought that Satan actually applied to God and said let me get those apostles. We don’t understand some of the things that go on in the unseen realm, but Satan asked for permission to scatter the apostles. Then Jesus said to Peter:
“But I have prayed for you...”
You, singular. Now if you have the Old King James you’ll find it’s ye and thee. That’s the difference. Ye is plural, thou is singular. That doesn’t come out in the modern translation.
“But I have prayed for you [Peter, individually] that your faith should not fail... [let’s leave out the rest of it. Peter said to him,] Lord, I am ready to go with you, both to prison, and to death. Jesus said to him, I tell you, Peter, the rooster will not crow this day, before you will deny three times that you know me.”
That’s amazing. Peter, you’re going to deny me three times in this night but I’ve prayed for you. What? That you will not deny me? No. But what? That your faith will not fail. Peter, if you can keep on believing, no matter what happens, it will get you through. See? What a different picture. Remember, faith is the channel by which the Holy Spirit releases the love of God into our life. In Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything, but only faith that works by love.
Let me give you three applications of this, suggestions for how you should operate and then I’ll close. Number one, maintain and build up your faith. But check that it is biblical faith, a channel for God’s love. Not doctrinal faith, theological faith, Baptist faith or Pentecostal faith, but biblical faith that makes you love people.
Number two, work out that love by serving. You’re safe when you serve. Paul said, by love, do what? Serve one another.
Number three. Through prayer and Bible study become more and more sensitive to the way love applies in every situation.
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