Saturday, February 12, 2011
Laying Down the Law - The Road Less Traveled
There are two main paths, or doctrinal positions, embraced by the majority of Christians today. One path promotes keeping the Law of Moses, or a body of laws endorsed by their group. These laws are used as the chief instrument to guide believers in their daily lives and various decisions. The other path teaches that Christians are free from the Law, and they are to do what their conscience tells them is right. Both of these doctrinal positions may allow for the Holy Spirit to guide the saint, however, this guidance is exceptional rather than the norm.
In actual practice, these two positions have some overlap. For example, groups who teach that the Law of Moses is still in effect do not practice all of the Law. Some make a show of keeping the Law, but the soul ultimately finds some application of the Law that satisfies self.
Some years back I had correspondence with a man who was a lawyer by profession. His occupation appeared to be symbolic of his life, for his doctrinal position was that all Christians must keep the Law of Moses. I observed this man handle one particularly difficult situation in a very disingenuous manner.
This man was married and had a wife and young children. The family had a dog, a golden retriever. This was the family pet and it was allowed in the home. Some friends came to visit the family and the dog got excited and bit one of them. Later, another family came over who had a small daughter and the dog bit her as well. This man was now faced with a crisis. The animal in his care was known to bite, and after this was revealed the dog had caused injury to another person. This man wanted to do the righteous thing, and he began to consider what the Law of Moses required in such an instance. He focused on the following:
If an ox gores a man or a woman to death, then the ox shall surely be stoned, and its flesh shall not be eaten; but the owner of the ox shall be acquitted. But if the ox tended to thrust with its horn in times past, and it has been made known to his owner, and he has not kept it confined, so that it has killed a man or a woman, the ox shall be stoned and its owner also shall be put to death. If there is imposed on him a sum of money, then he shall pay to redeem his life, whatever is imposed on him. Whether it has gored a son or gored a daughter, according to this judgment it shall be done to him. If the ox gores a male or female servant, he shall give to their master thirty shekels of silver, and the ox shall be stoned.
Although this animal was not an ox, this man discerned that the principle was the same. The Law taught that people were responsible for the actions of their animals and must prevent injury from occurring to others. This lawyer considered that his dog had bitten someone before, so this second event was very serious. He arrived at the conclusion that he must kill the dog in order to prevent it from biting another person. He told me he intended to take the dog outside and shoot it. He made this known to his family, and they greatly protested. This was the beloved family pet, and they were exceedingly grieved to have to carry out the requirement of the Law on Rover.
(I do not say that this man rightly applied this law, for the dog did not kill anyone.)
Looking for a way to quell the uprising among his family, the man told me later that he had determined that the family dog did not actually bite the young girl. He wrote to me that the dog merely “pushed her with his teeth.” This line of reasoning provided him with an out so that he did not have to kill the dog. This was truly a lawyer’s solution. He found a way to make the Law arrive at the judgment he desired.
Although this may appear to be an extreme example, it reveals a pattern that occurs with great regularity among those who are led by Laws and creeds. The soul of man has a proclivity toward arriving at interpretations of the Law that deliver it from undesired sacrifice and suffering. When men are led by a code of conduct, the soul serves as the arbiter and judge of how that code should be applied. It stands to reason that the soul is not going to voluntarily choose crucifixion.
A concomitant consequence of looking to the soul as arbiter and judge is that the man or woman fails to look to the Holy Spirit to reveal God’s judgment. This man, in looking to the Law to reveal to him the righteousness of God, failed to walk by the Spirit. In effect, he had become “severed from Christ.” Paul warned the Galatian believers this would be the consequence of those who sought to be justified by the Law.
You have been severed from Christ, you who are seeking to be justified by law...
This lawyer’s approach to the Christian life was very different from that of the apostle Paul.
"For through the Law I died to the Law, so that I might live to God. I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me...”
The Law was given to man PRIOR to the Spirit of Christ being sent to indwell mankind. Those who have been born again of the Spirit of Christ have that same Spirit resident in them to guide them into the way that is pleasing to the Father. Christians are to “walk by the Spirit.”
It does not matter whether one adopts the Law of Moses as their guide, or some code of laws developed by their church or denomination. If Christians are looking to a body of laws to guide them, they will fail to look to the Spirit to perform this vital function.
As I wrote in an earlier chapter, the moral Law contained only a shadow of the righteousness found in Christ. The Law required man to give a tithe of his increase, but Christ said no man could be His disciple unless he gave up ALL his possessions. Consequently, those guided by the law often consider themselves to have performed the will of God when they have only embraced a shadow of His will and not the very substance of it.
There is a second group, very large in number, among the body of Christ today, who have cast away the Law. Like Abraham, they have sent away the bondwoman and her son. Yet, unlike the promised Seed who came 2,000 years ago, they have not come fully into subjection to the rule of the Father through the Spirit. The main source of guidance for this group is the same as the first group. They are directed by the soul. Like Israel in the days of the judges, “everyone did what was right in his own eyes” (Judges 17:6).
This group has focused on the Scriptures that declare the saint to have died to the Law, but they have neglected the inseparable counterpart to this truth. They have not come into a fulness of union with Christ through the indwelling Spirit. Rather than being directed and empowered by the Spirit, they are led by the soul.
Therefore, my brethren, you also were made to die to the Law through the body of Christ, so that you might be joined to another, to Him who was raised from the dead, in order that we might bear fruit for God.
There is some admixture here with those of the other path. Many have adopted the practice of rejecting certain parts of the Law their soul finds unattractive, while keeping the parts that hold some allure. For example, many who proclaim a message of liberty and grace teach that tithing should be practiced. Indeed, among those who set aside the Law of Moses, a great many continue to hold to this one aspect of the Law. The reason is not hard to discern. Many ministers want freedom from the rule of the Law, but they still like to get paid. They fear that if they were to leave the matter of giving to the individual, telling them to be led of the Spirit, giving would drop off precipitously.
If the saints were to be led of the Spirit, I have no doubt that the vast majority of ministers and ministries today would find that their money tree has become barren. This would actually have a very positive effect of culling out that which is of the soul, while giving renewed supply to that which is of the Spirit.
One common denominator between the two paths mentioned is that they both permit the Christian to operate out of the soul. There is no wholesale surrender to be led of the Spirit in all things. There is no conformity to Christ who testified, “I do nothing of My own initiative. I only do those things my Father commands Me to do.”
There is a third path, however. It is the path least chosen. Of this path Christ testified, “Few there are who find it” (Matthew 7:14). This is the path of the Spirit-led life. This was the path Christ followed, as well as the apostles. It is this path that I have been led to embrace and teach.
The reason this path is the least traveled is that it is by far the most costly to the soul of man. A man must take up his cross daily and follow Christ if he is to walk this path. It is a path where the soul’s desires must be laid upon the altar. The soul itself is subjected to crushing, for the path God would lead His sons down is one of suffering and loss in this world.
For to you it has been granted on behalf of Christ, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake...
The firstborn Son of God was perfected by suffering, and by a similar path must all the sons of God be brought to spiritual maturity. No man needs to go seeking a way to suffer for Christ. All that is required is that they surrender to be led of the Spirit in all things. Yahweh has an afflicted path perfectly designed for every son and daughter whom He receives.
"Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and afflicted is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.”
The above words of Christ contain one of the themes Yahweh directed me to share with His people as I traveled across the country this past year. Many translations render the last verse “narrow is the way which leads to life.” This is an entirely different word from that of the first sentence where we read “Enter by the narrow gate.” A literal and more accurate translation of the words of Christ would declare that the gate is narrow and the way is afflicted that leads to life. Because Yahweh will ALWAYS lead His saints down an afflicted path when they yield to be led of His Spirit, most eschew this way.
It is far easier to adopt a moral code than to surrender one’s entire life to another. Your dreams, your plans, your possessions, your very life must be given over into the hands of God if you are to follow the path that Yahshua walked. This is why Yahshua testified that a man must hate even his own life (psuche - soul) to be His disciple (Luke 14:26).
Though the way be exceedingly difficult, it is the only path that leads to life. Only by surrendering our lives to Yahweh to be lived according to His desire and will; only by embracing a Spirit-led life, may the saints find themselves being led into those experiences necessary for their perfecting as sons.
As we saw in previous chapters, the Law was given to the people of God in their immaturity. The Spirit will lead the people of God to their adoption as sons and to an inheritance imperishable in the heavens. There is a prize set before the body of Christ. Only a few will attain to it. The saying is true that “Many are called, but few are chosen.”
Will you choose one of the popular paths of Christianity today, knowing that they will not lead to perfection? Or will you accept the invitation Christ presented to the rich, young ruler; “If you would be perfect... take up your cross and follow Me”? There is only one way to follow Christ. We must surrender our lives to the Father as He did. We must not live for our own will and pleasure. We must follow the Holy Spirit wherever He leads. We find a description of these perfected sons in the last book of the Bible.
Then I looked, and behold, a Lamb standing on Mount Zion, and with Him one hundred and forty-four thousand, having His Father's name written on their foreheads... These are the ones who follow the Lamb wherever He goes. These were redeemed from among men, being firstfruits to God and to the Lamb. And in their mouth was found no deceit, for they are without fault before the throne of God.
How did these overcomers arrive at Mount Zion? They followed the Lamb WHEREVER He led them. Lamb’s go to a sacrifice. They are meek and easily led. They are not like Ishmael, having the nature of a wild ass, stubborn and rebellious.
In Gethsemane Christ was not wrangling with the Law’s will for His life. He was speaking to His Father.
"Father, if it is Your will, take this cup away from Me; nevertheless not My will, but Yours, be done."
People of God, be of good courage. Will not God provide all grace and strength needed for those sons who will yield to accept the path of His choosing? Indeed, He will. There is a fellowship in His sufferings to be found no other way. Nothing can separate us from His love.
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