Monday, November 8, 2010

The Holy Spirit and Obedience.

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven." (Matthew 7:21 NIV)

Someone tried to use this verse to tell me that the person who will be saved and go to heaven has to "do the will" of God.  They denied justification by faith, and taught justification by works.  How do we respond to verses like this?

Yes, the one who "does the will" of God will enter into the kingdom. What does it mean to "do the will" of God?

What is this will of God? I let Jesus answer:

"For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day" (John 6:40 NIV)

It is not those who simply say, "Lord, Lord," but those who actually do the will of the Father, who are admitted into Heaven. In verse 21, Jesus seems to be making the same distinction that James makes in 2:14: "What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them?" Also, further in verse 18 "Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds."

If it is claimed that we are not saved by faith alone, Jesus would be saying we are saved by legalism, by obeying the law. That interpretation of the phrase cannot be correct, because of what verse 22 says.

Verse 22: Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’

Notice, Jesus reports that many people will appear before him at the Judgment and will talk about their works, not their faith. These people-the ones who present works-will be excluded from the Kingdom of Heaven. Far from teaching a message of works, Jesus warns us that anyone who comes before him at the Judgment and offers their works, their covenant faithfulness, or their life as his defense will be condemned. Far from teaching that our works are necessary for our salvation, Jesus here teaches that all our works contribute not one whit to our salvation.

Why will many people not be admitted into the Kingdom of Heaven? What is wrong with their defense? Jesus tells us plainly: They will plead their own lives and Christian works. Jesus tells us that many people at the Judgment will argue that they deserve Heaven, that they have a right to Heaven because they have done many wonderful works in the name of Jesus. They will not acknowledge their depravity, for they think they are good men. They will not acknowledge the Satisfaction and Atonement of Jesus, because they do not believe it. Their prayer will not be, God, be merciful to me a sinner, but, Jesus, I did many wonderful works in your name, and now you ought to reward me with Heaven.

It's quite clear obedience is the evidence of faith. If you lack obedience, you lack faith. "Everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him" "does the will of" his Father. Romans 6 makes this point by saying you were once slaves to sin, now you're slaves to righteousness. Jesus said, "If you love me, you will keep my commandments." (John 14:15). If you love Christ, if you believe in him, you will keep his commandments.

Notice the promise of the New Covenant:

“The days are coming,” declares the LORD, “when I will make a new covenant with the people of Israel and with the people of Judah. It will not be like the covenant I made with their ancestors[/b] when I took them by the hand to lead them out of Egypt, because they broke my covenant, though I was a husband to them,” declares the LORD. “This is the covenant I will make with the people of Israel after that time,” declares the LORD. “I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. No longer will they teach their neighbor, or say to one another, ‘Know the LORD,’ because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest,” declares the LORD. “For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.” (Jeremiah 31:31-34 NIV)

Notice the main difference between the Old and New Covenant is that members of the New Covenant have the law written on their heart. What does that mean? Well the contrast is between the Old Covenant which was broken. God's law written on the heart would make sure that the New Covenant would never be broken. Notice also that in the New Covenant "they all will know" the Lord. But those who are condemned in Matthew 7:23 are told, "I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!". They obviously were never part of the New Covenant, thus they never had the law written on their hearts and continued to not obey their Lord.

Notice also how Ezekiel describes this writing of the Law upon the heart:

"I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from all your idols. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws." (Ezekiel 36:25-27 NIV)

God promises to those who are part of the New Covenant to put his Spirit in us. Jesus himself talks about the gift and promise of the Spirit. The Spirit will "move us to follow his decrees and be careful to keep his laws."

Jesus also says the same thing in Chapter 7 of Matthew:

"Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. 8 For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened. Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him! So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets." (Matthew 7:7-12 NIV)

Luke puts it this way:

"If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!" (Luke 11:13 NIV)

Notice how Paul describes the same thing:

"As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath. But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved." (Ephesians 2:1-5 NIV)

Did you see how Paul describes us outside of Christ? But Jesus says in the same Sermon on the Mount: "Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect." (Matthew 5:48 NIV)

Are you perfect? Jesus commands your obedience to be perfect.

"For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it." (James 2:10 NIV)

Have you ever stumbled in just one point in everything that Jesus commanded you? Ever? I know you have. So you are already guilty of breaking it all!

"Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law." (Galatians 3:10 and Deuteronomy 27:26)

Do you continue to do everything that Christ commanded you? All the time perfectly? No you haven't. Therefore you are cursed.

You can't keep the law. You can't obey Christ as you ought. You can't be perfect and Jesus commands you to be perfect. Obeying Christ perfectly is part of those things which Christ says you need to do for your house to be built on a rock and you can't do it. You lack the ability.

"There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands; there is no one who seeks God. All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one." (Romans 3:10-12 NIV)

You are not righteous. You don't understand. You don't seek God. You've turned away. You have become worthless. You have not done good.

"The mind governed by the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. Those who are in the realm of the flesh cannot please God." (Romans 8:7-8 NIV)

You are hostile to God. You don't submit to God's law, and you can't submit to it. You cannot please God.

In fact, Genesis tells us "that every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart was only evil all the time." (Genesis 6:5 NIV) God himself declared it to be thus, saying, "Every inclination of the human heart is evil from childhood." (Genesis 8:21 NIV) That includes everyone. Every inclination of the thoughts of your heart is only evil all the time. It's been that way since you were a kid.


"As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath." (Ephesians 2:1-3 NIV)

You are dead in your transgressions and sins. You follow the way of this world. The spirit of the Ruler of this world rules in your heart. You spend all your time gratifying the cravings of your flesh and following its desires and thoughts. You deserve wrath.

Have you ever even managed to keep one of the Ten Commandments perfectly? Those who teach that we are justified by what we do are placing upon people a burden of helplessness and hopelessness. You can never obey enough to satisfy what God demands and God demands perfection. Not only that, we are corrupt, and evil at heart. Humanity hates God and wants nothing to do with him. Not only do we stand condemned by our own evil deeds and thoughts, but we also stand condemned because of the transgression of Adam. There is no hope for us whatsoever through obedience.

Do you know what God thinks of your obedience? "All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away." (Isaiah 64:6 NIV)

If you teach that we are saved by obedience, then you are putting people under the Law. God placed humanity in a covenant with Adam as the representative for the human race. The terms of this covenant were perfect obedience to the Law. God promised life upon the fulfillment and threatened death upon the slightest infraction. Adam willfully broke that covenant and condemned us all by his transgression. He also passed on his own corrupt nature. God's covenant still stands. He commands perfect obedience and we can't give it to him. He still requires it and he will not lessen or lighten his standards. We can't give it to him because we don't want to.

Some might be thinking, "MAN. Matt, that was severe." I know. The law is severe. It brings death and the curse. But it also points to Christ because it points outside of ourselves for the answer:

God is merciful, and he has offered a New Covenant. The conditions of the first covenant were Man's obedience. The condition of the New Covenant is faith alone. The first covenant said "Obey and you will live". The New Covenant says "God has granted you life, therefore obey". In the first Covenant God commands you do it it and doesn't help you at all. In the New Covenant God gives what he commands through the Holy Spirit.

In the New Covenant God fulfills the terms of the first Covenant made with Adam by his Son, Christ Jesus. Jesus lived a perfect life and was perfectly obedient. That perfect life and obedience is credited to our bankrupt account upon trusting in Christ. Christ then takes the obligation of our covenantal debt to God. He also grants believers the Holy Spirit, empowering them and motivating them to obey Christ. Where once they loved their sin now they hate the sin they love. They now desire to obey Christ because the Holy Spirit is living in them. Their obedience is not perfect, because the flesh still kicks around and needs to daily be put to death. It's a struggle and a battle. But because we are justified by faith upon the basis of the obedience of Christ, God can see our imperfect obedience as if it were Christs. We were disobedient because we followed the ways of this world and were under the influence and work of the spirit of disobedience. We gratified the cravings of our flesh. But now God has made us alive. The Holy Spirit now dwells inside of us. He will write the Law on our hearts. He will move us to follow God's decrees and help us to be careful to keep God's laws.

Why do we need this work of the Holy Spirit? Paul mentions it here in Ephesians 2, but he also mentions it else where:

"There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands; there is no one who seeks God. All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one." (Romans 3:10-12 NIV)

Notice what Paul says in Romans 8 about what we can't do, and notice what he says is the only way we are able to do it....

"Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace. The mind governed by the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. Those who are in the realm of the flesh cannot please God. You, however, are not in the realm of the flesh but are in the realm of the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God lives in you." (Romans 8:5-9 NIV)

But Jesus says in the same Sermon on the Mount: "Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect." (Matthew 5:48 NIV)

Paul says that we are not perfect, nor can perfect obedience be expected. But it is a daily battle:

"I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it. So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord! (Romans 7:15-25 NIV)

Did you see Paul's only hope? It wasn't his good works, but Jesus Christ. The only reason God can accept our obedience and good works, which to him look like used menstrual rags (Isaiah 64:6), is because we have been Justified by faith and cleansed by the blood of Jesus.


If obedience is the result of the work of the Holy Spirit, and not what saves us, then what saves us?

"The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?" (John 11:25-26 NIV)

This kinda says that it's not about obedience, but about faith. It also says that a person who has believed in Christ will live their Christian life not by works, but by believing in Christ.

What does Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.” Now to the one who works, wages are not credited as a gift but as an obligation. However, to the one who does not work but trusts God who justifies the ungodly, their faith is credited as righteousness. David says the same thing when he speaks of the blessedness of the one to whom God credits righteousness apart from works: “Blessed are those whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered. Blessed is the one whose sin the Lord will never count against them.” (Romans 4:3-8 NIV)

Then they asked him, “What must we do to do the works God requires?” Jesus answered, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.” (John 6:28-29 NIV)

For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day. (John 6:40 NIV)

We don't... do.... anything. Simply place our trust in Christ. That's it.

He saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit. (Titus 3:5 NIV)


For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed beginning and ending in faith, as it is written, "The one who by faith is righteous shall live." (Romans 1:16-17 ESV)


Grace and peace,
Matt

2 comments:

Michelle said...

We must remember that we are to emulate our Savior Jesus Christ. We are to be obedient. Jesus says "If ye love me keep my commandments" (John14:15)We rely solely on the merits and atonement of Jesus Christ but we are not to continue in our sins. God wants us to repent and strive to live a righteous life. Faith without works is dead.
God Bless,
Michelle

Matthew said...

Thanks Michelle. Yes I agree with you completely. We are to be obedient and obedience to Christ's commandments must be taught explicitly. We are not to continue in our sins because as Paul says, "We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?" (Romans 6:2 NIV). However, my emphasis is going to be that such obedience righteous living is not what saves us. Faith saves us. The kind or type of faith that saves us is the kind that will always produce obedience, righteous living, and good works. These things are the fruit not the root. Otherwise, Christ died in vain.

Thanks,

Matt