There are two approaches to a walk with God....First to look it as a set of rules ('legalism')....and Second is to live out of the Spirit ('relationship')
The temptation in the Garden Eden was to believe that if we had knowledge (and walked according to the knowledge) we would be like God. God's unspoken offer was to say 'try the tree of LIFE'....'walk with me trusting that out of our relationship I will supply all your needs and that I will adopt you as one of my children'
To read the spirit of the Bible we must look at the heart of God, reaching out to man through His Son....passionately wanting the relationship with us.
Those who read the 'letter' see only the rules which we must keep....and the consequences of failure.
11 He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him. (religion and legalism blinded them 2 Cor 3:15) 12 But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God , to those who believe in His name: 13 who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. NKJV
23 But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him. 24 God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth."
63 It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing. The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life.
Jesus here distinguishes between the religious self which relishes in external observances and ritualistic worship like that of Judaism (under the Old Covenant) and the spirit based and Holy Spirit led worship from the heart of believers who follow him (under the New Covenant)
God is telling us that we can be real with Him and He accepts that we are human. All he asks of is that we genuinely want to walk with Him and open our lives to Him.
Religion has as its focus the outward behavior of the person ….ie what we do. Christianity is about our hearts and putting our trust in Jesus.....which brings us into relationship with God. It is out of this NEW life...when we are 'born again' of the Spirit of God .... that new behavior patterns WILL emerge. (2 Cor 5:17).
The Law only brings us to a place where we see that we cannot please God by our behavior....and feel condemned.
19 Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God. 20 Therefore by the deeds of the law no flesh will be justified in His sight, for by the law is the knowledge of sin.
Today much of Christianity is preaching a message which is best described as ‘legalism gone mad’
The focus is primarily on behavior modification rather than heart regeneration and transformation. (John 3:1-10) …not realizing that if we are not ‘born again’ we cannot even see the kingdom of God.
The message fails to acknowledge that the Jews could not keep the Law. ...ALL of it....and ALL the time (Mat 11:28-30, Acts 15:5, 10-11, Gal 3:10-11, James 2:10, Deut 28:1 & 15)
It says that Jesus preached a much higher standard than the Law (Mat 5:29-30) (overlooking that this was mainly to the self-righteous Pharisees to humble them). It then says…because I have the Holy Spirit in me …and the grace of God to ‘empower me’….I will show you how holy a man can be!…and other people who don’t obey as I do are at best carnal but quite probably going to HELL!
If you think I am exaggerating the following passage is an extract from the ‘worshipping God in spirit & truth’ website…..the same nonsense is espoused in many churches….and on much of Christian TV
“For us to worship God in spirit and in truth we must make sure we obey all of His commandments as given by Him in the Bible on how He is to be worshipped. If we fail to follow God’s instructions it becomes sin, we will be lost and be punished along with Satan in eternal torment.”
(as far as I know only Jesus ever achieved this)
Surely there must be those among the legalists who understand that we are under a NEW covenant….and that the gospel is GOOD NEWS…..about God’s grace extending to a fallen mankind…not His wrath. Surely the epistles of Romans and Galatians and Ephesians are still in all versions of the bible telling us salvation is NOT of WORKS….but of grace by faith.
Gods response to this sanctimonious self-righteousness nonsense is the same as it has always been:-
6 But we are all like an unclean thing,
And all our righteousnesses are like filthy rags;
3 For they being ignorant of God's righteousness, and seeking to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted to the righteousness of God.
If anyone else thinks he may have confidence in the flesh, I more so: 5 circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of the Hebrews; concerning the law, a Pharisee; 6 concerning zeal, persecuting the church; concerning the righteousness which is in the law, blameless.
7 But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ. 8 Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith;
The only righteousness which will save us is that which is from God!…and is received by FAITH
33 But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.
But now the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, 22 even the righteousness of God, through faith in Jesus Christ, to all and on all who believe.
26 to demonstrate at the present time His righteousness, that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.
6 And he believed in the LORD, and He accounted it to him for righteousness.
Note God gave it to him…it is imputed or counted to mankind ...he did not earn it!....and FAITH alone is the way to get it!
6 just as David also describes the blessedness of the man to whom God imputes righteousness apart from works:
For we say that faith was accounted to Abraham for righteousness
11 And he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had while still uncircumcised, that he might be the father of all those who believe, though they are uncircumcised, that righteousness might be imputed to them also,
17 For if by the one man's offense death reigned through the one, much more those who receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ.)
What shall we say then? That Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, have attained to righteousness, even the righteousness of faith; 31 but Israel, pursuing the law of righteousness, has not attained to the law of righteousness. 32 Why? Because they did not seek it by faith, but as it were, by the works of the law.
3 For they being ignorant of God's righteousness, and seeking to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted to the righteousness of God. 4 For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.
10 For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, (not works) and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. 11 For the Scripture says, "Whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame."
2 Cor 5:21
21 For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.
What is it that God really wants from us?……He wants us to TRUST HIM….TO BELIEVE IN JESUS AS OUR SAVIOUR….to PUT OUR FAITH IN HIM…..and then just to follow Him and walk with Him and let the Holy Spirit lead us.
RATHER THAN (in PRIDE) RELYING ON OUR WORKS AND OBEDIENCE TO COMMANDMENTS AS THE BASIS OF OUR HOLINESS!
Also He spoke this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others: 10 "Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, 'God, I thank You that I am not like other men — extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I possess.' 13 And the tax collector, standing afar off, would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, 'God, be merciful to me a sinner!' 14 I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted."
4 But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, 5 even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), 6 and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, 9 not of works, lest anyone should boast.
6 Jesus said to him, "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.
I can hear the legalists chirping… ‘what about holiness?’… ‘what about obedience?’…. ‘what about sanctification?’… ‘what about those who keep sinning?’
The bible's answer is simple
4 Who are you to judge another's servant? To his own master he stands or falls. Indeed, he will be made to stand, for God is able to make him stand.
Let God look after HIS children….(unless you are in leadership and HE leads you by the spirit to HELP)
Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; 13 for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure.
6 being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ;
"Judge not, and you shall not be judged. Condemn not, and you shall not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. 38 Give, and it will be given to you: good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over will be put into your bosom. For with the same measure that you use, it will be measured back to you."
24 Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment.
6:1 Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted. 2 Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.
A great illustration is the difference between a piglet and a lamb. The piglet could be made to stay clean by its owner by putting him in a cage……but as soon as he is free he reverts to form and goes to play in the mud where he is as happy as. The lamb however does not have to be restrained…..he wants to keep his white fleece clean himself….and should he ever fall in the mud he would be very unhappy and want to be cleaned up.
The piglet is the one who is happy in the mud!
28 For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh; 29 but he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the Spirit, not in the letter; whose praise is not from men but from God.
God wants us to come to Him …admitting that we cannot live up to His standards…..TRUSTING IN JESUS AND HIS RIGHTEOUSNES for us …..and ask for His help to walk with Him…..and let Him fill us with His Spirit and transform us
Religion deceives people to focusing on their works rather than their relationship….the Spirit says trust and walk with God
Religion tries to control people and demands ‘submission and obedience’ …the Spirit sets people free of chains (Gal 5:1)
Religion condemns….the Spirit lifts up (Rom 8:1)
Religion boasts of what it does…..the Spirit reveals what Christ has done for us
Religion threatens and controls with fear….The Spirit releases us to God’s love
Religion leaves you feeling that you are on a performance treadmill and saying to yourself ‘I can do this’ until you fall off...in a heap and exhausted...and condemned! The Spirit brings us to a place of rest where we say ‘thank you Jesus…you did it for me’
Aren't you tired of religion…wouldn't you like to get to know the REAL Jesus?
2 Cor 3:5-6
our sufficiency is from God, 6 who also made us sufficient as ministers of the new covenant, not of the letter (this is clearly includes the N/T letter) but of the Spirit; for the letter kills (is what you are preaching doing this?), but the Spirit gives life (test for that which is of the spirit).
Most legalists who preach say… ‘the bible says you must…or you will be ….’
The Gospel of Gods grace says … ‘God has done…and He will do this in you’
The first test of what is ‘spirit’ is that it gives LIFE…rather than condemning and judging.
2 For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death.
9 But you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His. 10 And if Christ is in you, the body is dead because of sin, but the Spirit is life because of righteousness. 11 But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you.
The second test of something being of the Spirit is that it brings liberty to God’s people……..a test religion fails horrendously.
2 Cor 3:17
17 Now the Lord is the Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty
1 Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage.
The yoke is the LAW!
10 Now therefore, why do you test God by putting a yoke on the neck of the disciples which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear? 11 But we believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved in the same manner as they."
18 "The Spirit of the LORD is upon Me,
Because He has anointed Me
To preach the gospel to the poor;
He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted,
To proclaim liberty to the captives
And recovery of sight to the blind,
To set at liberty those who are oppressed;
19 To proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD."
28 Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden , and I will give you rest. 29 Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For My yoke is easy and My burden is light."
The next test of the spirit is that it is TRUTH…..ie does this teaching sound like it comes from Jesus…..or is being preached out of context. If it is about judgment and condemnation please explain why Jesus did not condemn sinners…only the self-righteous pharisees…and why were so many sinners were attracted to Him.
Most sinners would not be found dead in churches today!
Instead many of our churches today are filled with religious, sanctimonious, judgmental and self-righteous ‘saints’
17 For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.
12 When Jesus heard that, He said to them, "Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. 13 But go and learn what this means: 'I desire mercy and not sacrifice.' For I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance
THE TRUTH IS NOT ONLY IN THE LETTER ....ie The Word (John 17:17)…it is also in the Spirit of Truth
6 And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever — 17 the Spirit of truth , whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you.
But when the Helper comes, whom I shall send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, He will testify of Me.
13 However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come. 14 He will glorify Me,
If a teaching is ‘in spirit and truth’….it is a teaching which glorifies Jesus….and His completed work!…and NEVER man’s work or his responsibilities!
Another of the New Testament proofs that a message is true is the presence of the Spirit of God and the working of miracles to confirm the word
17 And these signs will follow those who believe: In My name they will cast out demons; they will speak with new tongues; 18 they will take up serpents; and if they drink anything deadly, it will by no means hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover."
19 So then, after the Lord had spoken to them, He was received up into heaven, and sat down at the right hand of God. 20 And they went out and preached everywhere, the Lord working with them and confirming the word through the accompanying signs. Amen.
3 Therefore they stayed there a long time, speaking boldly in the Lord, who was bearing witness to the word of His grace, granting signs and wonders to be done by their hands.
There was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. 2 This man came to Jesus by night and said to Him, "Rabbi, we know that You are a teacher come from God; for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him."
Do you make the same acknowledgement?
When the gospel you hear and/or preach is devoid of signs……do you find it easier to judge others?
When you see Gods word and the Gospel being preached and being accompanied with signs and wonders and you don’t like their way of preaching it……do you say ‘they must be ‘false prophets”
Matt 7:22-23 (context is false prophets)
22 Many will say to Me in that day, 'Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?' 23 And then I will declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!'
22 For false christs and false prophets will rise and show signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect. .
The difference is that FALSE prophets don’t preach Jesus Christ as the risen Son of God…..they promote themselves! And deny Christ!
2 Peter 2:1
1 But there were also false prophets among the people, even as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Lord who bought them
1 John 4:1-3
Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world. 2 By this you know the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is of God, 3 and every spirit that does not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is not of God. And this is the spirit of the Antichrist, which you have heard was coming, and is now already in the world.
Is this really the problem of those who God uses to minister healings.......or do you just prefer to judge others who God uses because you disagree with their doctrine?
28 But if I cast out demons by the Spirit of God, surely the kingdom of God has come upon you. 29 Or how can one enter a strong man's house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man? And then he will plunder his house. 30 He who is not with Me is against Me, and he who does not gather with Me scatters abroad.
31 "Therefore I say to you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven men. 32 Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man, it will be forgiven him; but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit, it will not be forgiven him, either in this age or in the age to come.
How close are you prepared to go to this SIN….to deny miracles that the Spirit of God is doing through others…just because you disagree with their doctrine?
Are you prepared to set yourself against Jesus because you don’t like some of the people God is using?