Thursday, April 25, 2013

Freed from the Law, Bound to Grace

     It's what most of us resented when we were kids.  It's what we can't live without now.  It's what many think that Christianity is based upon, but others think Christianity freed us from.  What is it?  Rules.

     In the Bible, these "rules" were written in the form of the Law.  The Law, in our modern Christian culture, seems like an outdated and even slightly cynical concept.  I mean, Christ came to save us from legalism, right?  True.  But if we don't view the Law in the right perspective, we'll miss God's timeless plan.  The Law did (and still does) have a purpose.  God didn't create something just because He wanted to free us from it.  He wanted to free us from sin, and the Law was simply a part of His plan to do so.

     Our perspective of the Law starts all the way at the beginning.  Just after God creates humanity, He tells them, "You shall not".  He establishes obedience by... guess what?  A rule.  Had He not given them this commandment, how would they know what was wrong and what was right?  This was the role of the Law.  Romans 5:13 says "for sin indeed was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not counted where there is no law."  Before the law, nothing was officially established as right or wrong.  The King James Version explains it like this: "Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith." (Galatians 3:24, emphasis added).  The Law was our teacher.  It taught us right from wrong.  Because before God could free us from sin, we had to know what it was we were being freed from!  If we hadn't had the law, Christ's death would have been in vain, because we wouldn't have known the reason.  

     Now that we see the relevance of the Law, what is its relevance today?  Since we're freed from the Law, we don't need to follow it, right?  So we don't have to worry about getting tattoos (Leviticus 19:28) or sacrificing lambs (Leviticus 4, 23, Numbers 7, etc)?  Not exactly.  You see, God's law wasn't just a list of do's and don't's.  It was His will.  The Law showed the deepest desires of the Lord: to be glorified, to be worshiped  and for us to sacrifice to Him.  God's desires have never changed.  We aren't required to keep the law because Christ has set us free.  We live in grace.  But still, the concepts of the law show what God desires.  You can do what you like, but God has already given us His will.  As 1 Corinthians 10:23 says, "'All things are lawful,' but not all things are helpful. 'All things are lawful,' but not all things build up."  

     Because of God's grace, we can always be forgiven.  But that does not mean we should live in sin.  "What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it?" (Romans 6:1-2).  Live in the grace of Christ, but keep His Word ever close to your heart.  

     Next time you talk to God, thank Him for the Law.  Thank Him for showing us what sin is.  But thank Him all the more for His saving grace.  Thank Him that we are no longer held to the Law; that He accepts us just as we are.  And thank Him for His awe-inspiring plan of salvation.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

More than a Set of Pews

     What is your concept of the church?  What value does it have to you?  Many of these kinds of questions have been left unanswered by today's youth; and if they have been answered, too often the answers are shaped by a worldly view.  The topic of whether or not the church is necessary in Christian life is becoming increasingly controversial in our culture.  Teens, even at young ages, are leaving the church in hoards.  Some argue that the church is only meant to convert non-believers and isn't required for those who are Christians, or that it's too judgmental, legalistic, or simply that they "aren't supposed to be there."  While the reasons for youth leaving the church vary quite a bit, I believe it is our mindset that first needs to change.

     If you think the church is simply an organization or a spiritual recharge station, you're wrong.  The church is not an organization, it was instituted by God.  If He commanded and established the church, how could we possibly brush it off as a mere formality?  Ephesians 5:25-30 tells us of God's incredible passion for the church.  He gave Himself for her, He cleansed her, and most of all He cherishes her.  Knowing this, how could we possibly think the church is just another organization?

     More than this, the church is much more than a spiritual recharge station.  Now you might say, "But that's basically what the church is, isn't it?  We come to get filled up, right?"  Well, yes and no.  The church is certainly a place where we can (or at least should) be able to get encouragement and get pumped up to pursue righteousness in our lives.  But if we come just for this, we're missing the entire point.  A "spiritual recharge station" implies that it's all about what we're getting.

     The early church is the greatest example of what our modern churches should look like.  In the entire book of Acts, every Christian was so fired up for Christ that they met in people's homes, gave everything they could to the ministry, and spread the news like a raging wildfire.  Unfortunately, it seems that we have lost this passion.

     It's not our job to sit in the pews and just hear the Word, it's our job to go out and do it.  Christ intends for the church to lead the ministry, but how can it if no one steps up?  Even as young people (especially as young people), we need to step into the ministries of the church.  Our generation needs to see youth who are passionate about the role of the church, and who are right there fulfilling their calling, not just sitting in the pews.

     What do you think is wrong with the church today?  What can you do in your own church that will inspire other youth to step up?  I'd love to hear your comments!