Faith is a difficult concept to fully grasp, isn’t it? I find that I often feel like a pendulum, swaying back and forth, in and out of faith. Sometimes my faith even falls into the wrong things, such as faith in my prayers instead of faith in God, or faith in my obedience instead of faith in the Cross. I’m not sure how common this is, but I feel I’m not the only person who battles these things. I’m pretty sure most of us fall victim to placing our faith in our obedience (or lack of obedience) than believing the Cross and grace. For example, I’ve found myself believing that my desire to do what God wants often pales when compared to what I actually do, and this brings guilt and condemnation of my failures. When I was reading my bible this week, I came across a single verse in 1 Corinthians which seemed to jump off the page and open my eyes to some truth.
1 Corinthians 15:56- “The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law.”
Did you see it? The Law empowers sin! It hit me like a ton of bricks. There it was, written in black and white, for all to see, but I had never realized it before. The Law empowers sin. Some of you may know me pretty well, and so you know I often preach how we are no longer under the Law. I often quote the passages that say this truth in Romans and Galatians, and try to teach that a relationship with God is not about obedience- a list of do’s and don’ts. But this single verse is pretty clear- sin gets its power from the Law.
Immediately, upon reading this verse and thinking a bit, my mind was taken to Galatians 2:16, which says, “Know that a man is not justified by observing the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by observing the law, because by observing the law no one will be justified.”
I’ve read (and seen) this many times, but when I read it beside 1 Corinthians 15:56, it just had bigger impact in my life. My first thought after reading them together was, “If our faith in Jesus justifies us, and not our obedience, then why do we as Christians insist on teaching behavior through obedience?” Why is that we as Christians spend so much time in churches learning how to be good, how to obey, how to prove ourselves, instead of focusing on Faith in Christ? Why have we watered down this faith to simply a prayer of, “I’m sorry for my sins, Jesus. Forgive me. I want to be better. I want to do better. I will do better. Come into my life and be my savior and lord.”? How is it possible that Christianity has watered down the main teaching of the Gospel, and instead used that same “prayer of faith” to refocus back on obedience?? Does no one see the problem? Have we been so misguided that we are now blind to the truth in which sets us free?
The flip side to this would be living like the Pharisees did. For example, Jesus told a story about a Pharisee and a tax collector both going to the Temple and praying… The Pharisee prayed allowed, “God, I thank you that I am not like other men. I fast twice a week and tithe my 10 percent.” The tax collector stood at a distance, bowed his head and beat his chest as he prayed, “God, have mercy on me. I am a sinner.” Which one is focused on their ability to obey, and which is focused on the grace of God? Jesus went on to explain that the tax collector left justified, while the Pharisee left condemned by God. You see? When we focus on our own ability to obey, it will either condemn us in our guilt, or it will condemn us from our pride. The more we focus on obedience to the Law, the more sin will abound.
So my prayer for you this week is that you will slow down and focus on the grace of Jesus, displayed on the Cross. The man beside Jesus, a known criminal and bad man, was promised Heaven. He didn’t have time to obey. He didn’t tithe. He didn’t do anything “right.” He simply believed in what Jesus was doing on that cross. I hope you do too. God bless you…
Written by a few for the many.