As you know, I’m just an average guy with no theological training or bible college background. I just write what I observe as plainly as I can, sometimes wandering in verbal circles as I do. This might span into a two or three-parter as we tip over a few sacred cows. Let’s see where this takes us, shall we? As always, if it’s helpful or insightful, great, if not, discard it and move on.
A Story As Old As The Bible
The story goes something like this: God provides a better way for his kids to live and they insist on going back to the old ways or bringing parts of the old ways back into the new, like they could improve on what God had intended for them.
Take the Exodus as an example: God brings them out of slavery, out from under the hand of Pharoah and they want to go back! They thought it would have been better to die a slave than die free? Seriously, WTF is that all about?
Travel ahead now through space and time to Jesus. The Lord comes, fulfills the Law and having fulfilled it, he abolishes it and establishes the New Covenant, a Covenant of Life, Love, Freedom and Grace. A Covenant that He, God Himself, foretold and promised (over and over again) would be coming; nullifying the older Covenant of death, condemnation and never-ending obedience to Laws that they would never be able to fulfill perfectly in the first place.
Time and time again, over the last two-thousand plus years, from the first believers to now… people try to “add-on” things of the Old Covenant to the New. Throughout the last two millenia, we encounter people who insist that we must follow and obey the Old Covenant! This is exactly what Jesus was talking about regarding old wine in new wine skins! It’s not supposed to work that way, and eventually something will burst and fail. Paul encountered this problem over and over again and thankfully we have record of it in the New Testament.
Why Does This Happen?
Through conversations that I have had with a number of people who come from different walks of life and schools of thought, and have come to hold a good understanding of Grace and the New Covenant, there seems to be a common thread in the answers given to the question in the title of this blog. So, that’s exactly what we will be talking about!
- It’s easy, or, it seems easier to follow.
- They don’t know any better.
- It is all that they know.
- They don’t understand Grace.
- Modern churches could not function or work without it.
#1 – It’s Easy.
Now, why would it seem easier to follow the written code of the Old Covenant?
Well, because there are written rules to follow, of course!
The initial heart behind the issue is pure enough: I want to please God, so what should I do? Well, let’s consult the Good Book! (another good motive since we have something to refer back to) While we are at it, let’s go back to the commandments! We can start by following the two greatest commandments: Love God and Love everyone else. Why those? Well, because the Lord said that upon these two hang all the Law AND the prophets. After that, let’s go back and make sure to observe “The 10” (which we should be anyways if we are following the top two… but still) after all, it is always good to have something to remind us of what we should be doing. These twelve will help us to gauge our spirituality and walk with Christ by how well we can follow them and then we can move on to other commandments that our pastor deems important to follow, like tithing and not having tattoos. And then we can make sure to look at the New Testament and see the list of the fruits of the Spirit and make sure to produce those. And then it branches out from there. There isn’t any guess-work involved. We can see it in the text, we can frame it and put it on display in our home and churches and on our front lawns for everyone to see!
Okay, maybe the sarcasm was a little too heavy in the previous paragraph. But still, having something to look at, something tangible can give you the impression that the Old Covenant would be easy to follow. Again, it starts off well enough but just goes downhill from there.
We should focus on what Christ says and pay careful attention to how the whole thing is playing out before our eyes in the Gospels and then in the rest of the New Testament. People don’t like to hear this, but there is a clear and cut line between the Old Covenant and the New – it’s called the Cross. The Old Covenant and The Law should be there as a history lesson, as an example of how things go when we try to become justified through our actions or try to “prove” we are “god’s chosen” because we observe these things. The Law should show us that we can’t do it, bring us to the end of our own dead works and point to Christ and his Grace not be our instructions for living in Christ!
It is absolutely impossible to follow the two greatest commands, much less the “Big 10” or the other 600. And when you break it down, nobody, nobody follows and obeys the Old Covenant law, period.
Can you honestly say that you have been able to love God with all your heart, mind, soul, spirit, resources, strength, etc. With everything? Can you honestly say that you have been able to love every person you’ve come into contact with just as you love yourself? Not lip service, not just actions that “pose” as such, but truly love God and everyone else. Really?
If so, you are a far, far better person than I am. I haven’t been able to live up to that standard, I would like to think I do, but that would just be a delusion. But some might say, “That’s why we have Grace!”, yes and Grace has no place in the Old Covenant, you can’t have it both ways! The Old Covenant brings you to the end of yourself so that Grace may bring you into something better!
As Paul said, the Law was our tutor to bring us to Christ, but when we are in Christ, we have no more need for an external tutor. If you look at the promises God makes about the New Covenant, and you look at what Jesus says about when His Holy Spirit comes and even look at the writings of Paul and then connect the dots, it’s pretty clear that we aren’t meant to follow after a written code, but something, no, Someone better. You know, that whole leading you into all truth by the Spirit thing that he promised?
One last thing about the “easier” path and I will try to use my experience to illustrate what I am trying to say here.
I used to get “prayed up”, “read up”, “worshipped up” “churched up” and every other christian-esed “up” that helped me gauge my spiritual level and trajectory. I used to tithe (10% gross PLUS bonuses and tax refunds) and try to observe the “Big 2” to the best of my ability. Then I realized that there does not exist a level where all my doing is enough. I couldn’t pray, read the bible, worship, attend church enough to please God. There was always more to do! When I came to this understanding, I further realized that all that “stuff” was part of the point and problem. I wasn’t meant to do all that stuff and I didn’t need to anymore, I was relieved of my “duty” and given Grace to live. In Christ you find everything. When I finally left the institutional church, I realized that it is, in fact, much “harder” living in Grace. Why? Because it is hard to gauge my “level” of spirituality without looking at how many church services I attended, how many messages I preached or lessons I taught, how many people I prayed for, how much worship I got in daily and weekly, how much bible chapters I read to tell me how close to God I was, how faithful I was in tithing or dwelling on the commandments, etc. When you can’t use all these external things to gauge your spirituality or relationship with God, it does seem much harder. But that is only because you are using all that unnecessary garbage to gauge your relationship with God instead of relying on what Christ has done for you and in you. If he was interested, at all, in all that stuff adding up for your “righteousness account”, Christ wouldn’t have come because the Law would’ve justified you…but it couldn’t.
Living in Grace requires something more from you than mere actions can prove or supply.
It requires Faith. It requires Trust.
It requires trusting His promise to teach you and lead you and guide you.
It requires having faith that He, not you, is the Author and Finisher of your Faith.
It requires you dropping everything you are doing and trust that what He has done is sufficient for your salvation.
It requires trusting that He, not you, will help naturally bring forth the fruits and works that you were trying to bring forth on your own. And when he brings them out of you naturally, they are pure, they are incorruptible.
That’s when I learned to trust and it became easier, the yoke became easier, the burden became lighter.
I still have bouts with condemnation; things that I am not “doing”. I’m no better than anyone, really, I’m just doing what I can to trust in Him, have Faith and allow His Grace to have way in my life. And if I think back to all the things I used to do in the institution and try to compare… yeah, it is easy for me to feel like I am not “doing” much “for the Kingdom”, it is easy to get wrapped up in condemnation and it is tempting to want to go back to it.
Which brings me to points 2 & 3, since they pretty much go hand in hand.
#2 They Don’t Know Any Better, #3 It’s All That They Know
With having something tangible to follow, a lot of us don’t know any better than to keep doing what we’ve been doing and follow the Old Covenant. I really don’t have the answers here (gasp!) and I know there are people more qualified than I to talk about all this stuff, however, I can give an “educated guess” that the reason we don’t know any better and the reason that the Old Covenant is all we know is because: it is all that has ever been taught. There isn’t much emphasis on the New Covenant, let alone the New Testament, and so we revert back to #1. Either that is the way we have been instructed ever since coming to Christ, or, it’s the way we have been brought up since we were young. We don’t know any better because it’s all that we know. We focus so much on all that other stuff that all the beauty and freedom of the New Covenant gets glazed over and foggy. We’ve never been told what really falling from Grace is!
I hear time and time again, “Well you know, Jesus said Himself that He didn’t come to break or abolish the Law, but to fulfill it! So, we see there that if Jesus did it, we are bound to follow in the Master’s steps!”
Umm… we follow Him on this side of the Cross. What part of “fulfilled” or “It is Finished” don’t you understand? Most of you reading this would be considered Gentiles anyways, which means that the Law really wasn’t yours to obey in the first place. Hard pill to swallow, but true. Regardless of that, the old covenant was fulfilled, now we live in a new covenant, a better one, and it’s not a covenant of laziness as those who are against Grace would have you believe.
There is this insistence that if we do not follow the Law, then Christians (and then the rest of the world) will just fall into sin and all Hell will literally break loose around us. The picture is painted that we’ll be having orgies in our Sunday morning services with men, women, children and beasts because, after all, how would we know what is right without the Law?
Ummmmm… it’s called Christ IN You. You know, THE Hope of Glory? It’s, you know, that “little” promise Christ made about His Spirit leading you into all truth. What? You don’t think God is strong enough and faithful enough to fulfill his promise about leading us? Or do you not trust the regenerative work of Christ in us to keep us from having orgies on Sunday morning?
Besides, the world is pretty good “falling” into sin all on their own, with and without biblical instruction, including christians who preach the Law! How many times have we seen “men of God” with high morals and huge ministries fall into the very things they preach against? So, that argument isn’t really the best one to present, now, is it?
Seriously, think about it, which is greater: The Spirit of God or the “power” of sin? Here, let me lean in close and give you a hint:
God is way more powerful than sin could ever be…why not trust in that?
I find that I am tempted to believe, based on the words, sermons and actions of those who would have you obey the Law and add everything plus the kitchen sink to living in Christ, that those same people possess absolutely NO faith in the Finished Work of the Cross! NO faith in the regenerative power of God’s Holy Spirit and being made a new creation with a new heart. NO faith in Him being the Author and Finisher of our Faith. In so many words, they basically paint a gloomy picture that we are “on our own” in our salvation, we must prove to God our worthiness and do, do, do, do so we can make sure we get our Rapture bus-ticket. Or they will make a formula up which usually goes like this: grace + law = salvation. I say its absolute Godlessness.
If there is no faith in what God has done for you and in you, what God is doing in you now, and what He has planned for you as one of His finished masterpieces, then, where is your faith placed?
I think I’ll wrap this up here and continue points 4 and 5 in a second post.
Who’s up for a two-parter? Can I get a Stone Cold Steve Austin, “Hell yeah!”?