Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Two Ways To Go

"It is freedom that Christ has set us free.  Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.  Mark my words!  I, Paul, tell you that if you let yourselves be circumcised, Christ will be of no value to you at all" (Galatians 5:1-2 NIV).

During the 2000 Summer Olympic Games, the International Olympic Committee stripped Romanian gymnast Andreea Raducan of her Olympic gold medal because she took cold medication that contained a banned substance.  Although acknowledging Raducan was unaware of what was in the medication and that it in no way enhanced her performance, the Committee said she violated the rules and thus, must be punished.

The law provides no mercy.  Judges, perhaps, but not the law.  You either follow it to the letter or you break it.  When I am driving 71 mph on the interstate in a 70 mph zone, I have broken the law.  The speed limit is not 70-75; it is 70.  If a state trooper wants to ignore my violation, that is his prerogative, but I have broken the law, regardless.

The Jews of the First Century believed the way to be in good with God was to follow the Mosaic Law.  The first converts to Christianity were Jews and many found it difficult to give up this idea.  They wanted to follow Jesus, but they also did not want to discard their old ways.  Many proclaimed to the Gentiles (non-Jews) that following Jesus meant keeping the Law, of which circumcision had become a sign.  A Gentile wanting to become a Jew was circumcised.  So, Gentile Christians in Galatia were being pressured to be circumcised.  Paul saw the trap.

The message of the gospel is that we are saved by the work of Jesus on the Cross, not by our own work.  If we accept the view that we can get in good with God on our own merit, then we discount the significance of what Jesus did.  We place our fate back in the hands of the Law, by which we are sure to be condemned because we are lawbreakers, whether by a little or a lot.  And our fate is assured—we will be condemned and punished.

It is so tempting to want to go the way of the law instead of the way of grace.  It seems fairer—you get what you deserve.  But as breakers of God's law, we deserve death (Romans 3:23; 6:23 ) and with the law, there is no mercy.  There is no other option if we forsake Christ's work in favor of our own.  We fall short; He doesn't.  

Today, if you somehow think you can make it to God on your own, give it up and recognize Jesus is the only way to God.  And that way is paved with mercy, not condemnation and punishment.

© Jim Musser 2013

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