Monday, July 9, 2007

God-Made or Man-Made?

I was thinking just now about Jesus' saying "And because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold."

I used to think this lawlessness was sin. But now I realize that thing that makes love grow cold, in my experience is law. The idea that the gospel is grace balanced with works is a subtle heresy that appears innocent and well meaning can turn into a dislike for God and can steal someones joy in an instant. A little leaven leavens the whole lump. If you stray at all from grace, you have fallen from it. I don't mean you have lost your salvation, I simply mean you've fallen from grace. Once you introduce works into grace, it is no longer grace, just as Paul said. So why do people teach this seemingly innocent doctrine? My guess is misinterpreting scripture and the pressure to perform.

A lot of people say today "Faith produces works." I agree with that 100%. What I don't agree with is saying faith is works. Faith for the Christian, can be either. Some Christians can show their faith in Christ by being still and waiting. Others show their faith in Him by their love. The love comes from faith. Faith comes from accepting God's grace.

What I'm saying is, the church today doesn't even give people time to grow in God's grace and love. We think the core issue is works, when works are nothing more than an expression of their love for God. Works are not more important than getting to know God and being with Him. Works are the fruit of that. We do not experience spiritual growth by good works. We experience growth through building on the foundation of Jesus Christ and His gospel. Apart from grace, there is no other fertile soil. The hearers in the good soil, hold the gospel in an honest and good heart and bear fruit with patience. They rest in the fact that good works are not the issue. Receiving God's love and grace is the issue. The life of God being received in us by faith is the issue. You cannot mingle grace and works. You cannot force fruitfulness. We all, I think, show our faith at first by resting, digging our roots deep into the gospel of grace. We take time to establish our hearts in His unconditional love. And the fruit comes when God has appointed it to come. You cannot rush the process. We wait on the Lord for our strength, resting in the fact that even if fruit never came, it wouldn't matter because Jesus has done it all. But life will come as we abide in that Life. It will not come by force.

I'll say this...if fruit means good works, then why are there going to be many in that day who say to Jesus "Lord, Lord", but will not enter the kingdom of heaven? These guys had what we think is fruit. They had good works. But it's obvious these guys never do the will of the Father. What is the will of the Father? To trust in the one whom He has sent.

But what is fruit? Fruit comes out from branches, but the fruits life source is the vine. These "good works" are the kind of fruit you see in the middle of a dining room table. You know, the ones made of plastic. The classic man made fruit. If fruit doesn't originate from the life of the vine, it is no fruit at all. So the only conclusion is that we go to the vine if we would bear fruit for God. In other words, don't focus on fruit, focus on the Vine. Absorb His life into yourself.

Remember Cain? He probably worked hard in his garden, in the heat, to produce his offering for God. But Abel waited for his lamb to be born. That lamb was not made by Abel's hand, but God's. You see, God does not need anything from us. He could preach the gospel to everyone in the world simultaneously, feed all the poor, heal all the sick, and clothe all the naked. So He obviously desires something deeper than a life dedicated to Him. He wants people to love Him and trust Him. We do that by first receiving His love and His grace. "We love Him because He first loved us." But if you don't get around to resting in that love and accepting it even when you're not busy, you will never be able to receive His love, so then you will not be able to love Him. Then you will never have any love to give anyone else. How stupid is it to live a life independent from God or say "He helps me". God does it all or He doesn't do it. He is not a helper; He is Life Himself.

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