High Way

Romans 8: 2

For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death.

The first phrase of the above sentence is just glorious good news. You have been set free. The Holy Spirit, who is the Spirit of life, has set you free from all bondage by the power of love and life in Christ Jesus. Hallelujah! Whatever has bound you in the past no longer has power over you.

Taking the whole sentence together gives us another perspective. In Jesus we were set free from the law of sin and death. Do you see there are two paths here? The Holy Spirit, through Jesus, has set us free so that we can walk in the law of the Spirit of life rather than walking in the law of sin and death. So, there is a path of life and a path of sin and death. Formerly we were trapped on the path of sin and death. We had no choice, no escape. But then Jesus came and broke all the chains that bound us so that we could be free indeed.

Here is the point that we need to understand though. When Jesus broke all those chains that held us captive, we were no longer bound to the path of sin and death. We, however, no longer being slaves but rather free people in Christ have a choice. While Jesus paid the price of your ransom and set you free, He did not make your choice for you. That would only be another form of slavery. The scripture says that whomever the Son shall set free shall be free indeed (John 8: 36). In other words, Jesus did not trade your bondage for another form of slavery when He ransomed you. He didn’t buy you as a slave that is bartered and traded. He ransomed you out of the hands of the oppressor so that you can live as a truly free person with all the rights and responsibilities that inure thereto. Therein lies the rub. Where there is freedom and rights, there is responsibility.

Jesus didn’t redeem you so that you can run around in the darkness, a slave to the law of sin and death. Rather He shed His blood so that you would have the right to choose. He is not going to pick you up and put you on the path of life. He is not going to chain you to the correct road so that you don’t go wandering off like a lost sheep and fall back into the pit. He has purchased your complete freedom and is not going to take it away from you even if you make an absolute mess of your freedom.

You must choose. Are you going to walk on the path that is paved with the law of liberty in Christ Jesus, the path that love bought? Are you going to live the way of the path of life? Or are you going to keep dancing along the path of good intentions fallen short, the path of compromised ethics? Are you absently mindedly or even intentionally going to stay on the low path that leads ultimately to death and destruction? Look, you don’t walk the High Way without purpose and intent. You must make conscious decisions every day to come up higher. The road leading to life and liberty is one of choice and deep commitment. Your right to walk on it was guaranteed by Jesus but you must still choose to come up to the higher life. Little compromises along the way are going to create potholes in your road. Do not let inattention to the details of life damage your path. And do not forsake your values for convenience or benefit. Choose to walk on higher ground. It is the best and safest path.

Life and Law

Philippians 3: 9

[That I] may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith.

Here is where things get hard. This verse perfectly positions us if, and when, we comprehend within us, what Paul intended to convey. It is easy to read with our intellect and assign it to the theological part of our minds. We need, though, to bring it to the forefront of our brains and consider each of the parts.

The truth is that we like the law. In law school students always wanted to be taught “the black letter law.” Just give us the “do this/ don’t do this” rules. That is not the way law school works. Instructors don’t just give you a list. You have to think and that, we did not want to do. Just tell me the answers! We didn’t want to have to arrive at them on our own. Why? First, it’s too much work. Secondly, we might get it wrong. Therefore, if we could just get Jesus to give us all the rules and let those rules guide us then, we think it will be much easier.

As you know, that is not the system Jesus instituted for us. Jesus sent us the Holy Spirit to be our guide. Jesus’ “made us adequate as servants of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life,” (2 Corinthians 3: 6). “For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death,” (Romans 8: 2). Jesus said it this way, “It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing; the words that I have spoken to you are spirit and are life,” (John 6: 3). All these verses point to the same thing, we cannot walk by the law and have life. The letter of the law kills but it is so much easier for the human mind to focus on.

Instead, Paul tells us, righteousness comes by faith. You can’t do anything without faith! Anytime we point out our righteousness, it is repugnant to God because it denies and rejects the sacrifice of Christ. There is no righteousness in the law, and we cannot be justified by the law, but we are like law students, “Don’t make me have to attain righteousness by exerting myself to walk, live, breathe, act and speak in faith. Whoa! That is too hard.” Righteousness comes from God and it comes on the basis of faith.

The God’s Word Translation reads that Paul’s goal was, “to have a relationship with him. This means that I didn’t receive God’s approval by obeying his laws. The opposite is true! I have God’s approval through faith in Christ. This is the approval that comes from God and is based on faith.” I like the use of the word approval in this reading because I think it makes more sense to the modern reader. Essentially, it means that we are not relying on anything we do or say to gain the favor or approval of the Father. Our worthiness and right standing come through Jesus, but not only Jesus, not only his faithfulness, but also in our faith in what he accomplished. One version uses “based on trust,” (CJB). In other words, our righteousness or approval comes out of our trust in God. It is His faithfulness we rely upon rather than our works.

Two other quick mentions. First, Paul points out another significant part of this. The first part of the verse shows that righteousness is in being found “in Christ” or in relationship with him. The Passion Translation reads, “My passion is to be consumed with him and not clinging to my own righteousness.” Paul’s deep desire was to be consumed with Jesus rather than obsessed with himself. If we meditate on that alone, I think a new paradigm for living righteous emerges.

Secondly, we must begin our reflections on the application of the law and righteousness as they affect us. Contemplation on this passage is not complete, however, until we understand that other people do not have to earn their righteousness either. We want grace, and need it, but then tend to apply the law to others. It is so easy to do, natural even, but faith in the faithfulness of the Messiah ultimately leads us to trust and grace for ourselves and others. Now, that is where we should desire to land.

Jesus gave us the Holy Spirit so that we could live by revelation rather than by law. This lifestyle should lift us higher and help us to see through the divine perspective. Life in the Spirit will always be a life of righteousness. Life lived by willpower, will always lead to failure.

Stain and Stench

John 16: 11

I will send Him to you. And He, when He comes, will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment; concerning sin, because they do not believe in Me; and concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father and you no longer see Me; and concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world has been judged.

We are staying with the same Biblical text as the last two days but today examining what Jesus meant when he said the Holy Spirit would convict the world concerning judgment. This is another topic which we have turned on its head so let’s upright it.

Many people are concerned with judgment, especially people who do not understand the goodness of God. In this passage, Jesus tells us that the Holy Spirit convicts the world concerning judgment because the ruler of this world has already been judged. So, we all know by now, that Jesus was referring to Satan. Satan will meet his final judgment after Jesus comes back but the truth is, he has already been judged. We already even know his sentence, so what is going on here?

Guess what, you have already been judged too. If not, then why did God send Jesus to earth? He would not have had to send Jesus to be the sacrificial lamb if there was not already sin condemning us to hell. Now, however, the judgment which is upon you is the judgement of righteousness. If you are in Christ and have been bathed with the blood of his martyrdom, then you are clean, and you are judged pure and holy in the sight of God. Hallelujah! Jesus’ blood has washed us clean from the stain and stench of sin.

Consider this simple analogy. Let’s say I literally draw a line in the sand and tell you that everyone who steps across this line shall be considered innocent of all crime. Anyone who remains on the other side of the line shall be deemed to have committed a crime. Now, in truth the judgment has already been made. I judge that anyone who steps across this line is innocent and thus free. The judgment is in the law.

Okay, here is another example. You may be watching the winter Olympics. Let’s say that in a particular event, the rule is that you may not cross a specific line without incurring a penalty. The judgment is, “Whoever crosses this line will incur the penalty.” That is the judgment. All the judge does is collect the data. The person, who will decide what judgment you receive, is you. All the judge does is recognize your actions and then sentence you according to the previously determined penalty.

It is the rule which judges; it is the law which is judgmental. Thank God that Jesus freed us from the condemnation of the law. “For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death,” (Romans 8: 2). I think this is a clear statement. You have been set free from the law of sin and death and the inherent judgment which accompanied it. “Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, (Romans 8: 1). You have been set free from the curse of the law and the unfavorable judgment which was upon you.

There are three crucial words, however, in the two quotes from Romans. Those three words are, “in Christ Jesus.” Everyone who chooses to cross the line and live “in Christ” has a favorable judgment on them. The have been granted the keys to the Kingdom of God and eternal life with His Majesty. Your sentence has been levied. You are free. Christ has set you free and whom the Son has set free is free indeed, or as the Names of God translation says it, “So if the Son sets you free, you will be absolutely free,” (John 8: 36).

So, God has already judged you as His own righteousness in Christ Jesus (there is that crucial language again). You no longer need worry about judgment. Your only task is to step across the line and into Jesus. When you do, his blood is your judgment and his blood is perfect. You are redeemed and set free in the name and glory of Jesus.

Overcoming Praise

Psalm 107: 8                (Amplified)

Oh, that men would praise [and confess to] the Lord for His goodness and loving-kindness and His wonderful works to the children of men!

We have plenty we can celebrate about the goodness of God. He has freed us from every burden and sin and has set us up on the high places with Him. Now let us boldly praise His name and tell of his goodness. Also, confess the victories of the Lord. Confess his victories in your life and over all the works of the devil. Confess His healing in the face of the devil’s sickness. Proclaim your liberty. Say it aloud. “My God has overcome every evil thing in this and in the age to come. He has set me free from the law of sin and death (Romans 8: 2) and I praise you Lord that you have. I praise your name and glorify you because you are worthy of all praise.”

It’s that easy, though I admit that it sometimes takes practice. Confess His word. Let it come out of your mouth. Thank Him from the bottom of your heart. Give Him praise. It all works together for your overcoming in His name.