Revealing the SIMPLICITY that’s in Christ

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"Religion versus grace, part 1"

Because I’m using Gal 5 as the backdrop to this lesson, let’s start by looking at v.1 from the NASB — “It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery.” I like those words, “It was for freedom”! Those 2 words are worth our endless praise to our Lord! Those 2 words show purpose and they also answer 2 important questions. 

Question: “Why did God give you Jesus?” 

Answer: It was for your freedom!

Question: “Why did Jesus willingly lay down His life for you?” 

Answer: It was for your freedom!

Your freedom came to you, not as a result of your obedience to God (works), but as a result of Jesus’ obedience to Him (grace) — “Christ set you free”. Another equally important factor of this verse is the word THEREFORE — “therefore keep standing firm”. The word THEREFORE means “consequently”. Meaning that as you realize God’s grace in bringing you freedom through Christ, you’ll keep standing firm in your freedom and won’t be deceptively pulled back into a yoke of slavery!

Now look at what he said in v.6 (NASB) — “For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything, but faith working through love.” What does that verse mean to us who live a modern world? That it’s not about anyone WORKING to obtain something (This is what religion teaches), but it’s about his BELIEVING to receive what Jesus has already done (This is what grace teaches)! And Paul said that this kind of believing is inspired as one embraces the reality of God’s unconditional love! 

Understand, just like the picture says above, religion says, “Get to work”! But grace says, “It is finished”! Meaning that Jesus did all of the work FOR you and then deposited its results IN you, so that as you believe, He’ll work it THROUGH you! 

Religion versus Grace

Since this lesson is about RELIGION and GRACE, let me give you some simple descriptions of both. 

Religion refers to one’s beliefs, cultures, and teachings and is centered around his devotion to those 3 things in becoming better (behavior modification). Grace, on the other hand, refers to God’s love and His free gifts that are freely given and is centered around Jesus and the work that He’s done for us (behavior transformation)! 

Simply put, religion focuses on man, as grace focuses on God and the Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, religion promotes selfishness (of course, in ignorance), as grace promotes God’s unconditional love for you through Christ. 

So going back to Gal 5, in this chapter, Paul makes a clear distinction between the works of one’s flesh (religion) and the fruit of the Spirit (grace). Paul compared 17 works of the flesh that religion produces to 9 characteristics of fruit that the Spirit produces (Of course the works of the flesh are more numerous than the 17 that Paul gives, just like there are more than 9 characteristics of the fruit that he mentioned). I also want to also provide for you a different kind of a list that compares what religion produces in one’s life through fleshly works and what grace produces in one’s life by the Spirit. 

1) condemnation vs comfort. Religion produces condemnation, as grace produces God’s comfort. When one is caught up in the religious circles of man-made traditions and cultures, he’ll be more focused on sin and falling short of God, then he’ll be focused on Jesus and what He’s done for him (They tend to stick to Rom 3:23, instead of living in the reality of v.24). 

The main reason for this is that religion has rules and regulations as its basis for self-improvement, as grace has relationship as its basis for becoming like Christ.

I like what Paul said about this in Rom 8:1 — “There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.” I know that many modern translations forfeit the words, “who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit”, but I like them in that verse. Paul does eventually get to those same words in v.4, but here in v.1, we see a very valuable truth regarding condemnation. Number 1: for those in Christ — that is every believer — condemnation (the CONDITION of being worthless) has been dealt with by Jesus on the cross! Number 2: for those who walk according to the Spirit and not according to the flesh (governed by the 5 physical senses), condemnation (the SENSE of being worthless) has been dealt with by Jesus’ unfolding His grace to you! Both cases of condemnation were mentioned in chapter 7 — the condition of condemnation because of a sin-nature and the sense of condemnation because of being trapped in sin, thinking that working the law was going to rid him of that feeling. Even today when one seems to be trapped by sin, he keeps working to get free from it — even though through Christ, he has died to law-keeping, see Rom 7:4 and 6. Religion causes people to be like the hamster on the hamster wheel that keeps running and running, not going anywhere.

Contrary to this spiritual scenario, here’s what the dynamic teaching of grace is (2 Cor 1:3) — “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort”. Grace shows you plainly that God is now your Father of mercies and your God of ALL comfort. This means that any message that’s outside the scope of the Father’s mercies and if it’s not a message of comfort, then it’s safe to “bet” that it’s not from God but from religion. Only the revelation of grace can unfold this to you about your Father, causing you to bask in His comfort!

2) confusion vs composure. Religion produces one’s spiritual confusion, as grace produces his spiritual composure! We just saw the words in Gal 5:1, “keep standing firm in your freedom” and as I showed you that this can ONLY be done by grace through faith. I like the prophetic words of Isa 33:6 — “Wisdom and knowledge (of God’s Righteousness) will be the stability of your times, And the strength of (your) salvation”. Look at those 2 words again, “stability… strength”. These 2 important qualities for a believer’s life comes from the grace of God’s wisdom and knowledge. 

Notice how this lines up with Paul’s prayer in Eph 1:17-19 — “(17) that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give (grace) to you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him, (18) the eyes of your (heart that produces your) understanding being enlightened; that you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, (19) and what is the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe. It’s not just God’s wisdom and revealed knowledge of knowing Him, but it’s the SPIRIT of those dynamic things. The word “spirit”, refers to the “flow” of God’s wisdom and revelation knowledge in knowing Him and that, my friends, can only come from His grace toward those who BELIEVE, it’s not toward those who DO. 

Religion declares that you have to get to work — you know, in things like prayer, Bible study and fasting — to get God’s wisdom and knowledge in knowing more about Him (As if He’s not already eager to reveal Himself to someone). But grace instructs that God gives you those 2 important things of grace as you believe

The greater that grace works in you as you believe, the greater the flow of God’s wisdom and knowledge will be in knowing Him! 

Do you see where the confusion comes in? If we’re trying to obtain these things that only come from believing these things, then we’ll end up frustrated and confused. One’s composure comes from his confidence in knowing God’s unconditional love and endless grace, see Heb 10:35!

3) compromise vs contentment. Religion produces one’s compromise, as grace produces his contentment. And here’s another thing to note about this. Compromise cancels out contentment, as contentment cancels out compromise. The word COMPROMISE is a compound word, coming from COM- “together” and of course, the word PROMISE. Compromise is taking 2 or more promises in trying to reconcile differences. That may work in our human relationships, but it never works in our spiritual relationship with God. For instance, Paul said in 2 Cor 1:20 — “For all the promises of God in Him are Yes, and in Him Amen, to the glory of God through us.” These promises are from God and they are all YES and AMEN. The problem comes when we try to mix those “YES and AMEN” promises with someone else’s promises of religion. This is spiritual compromise. Religion says, “Get to work”, as grace instructs, “It is finished”. So if I take the “It is finished” promises of God and try to mix them with the “Get to work” promises of religion, I’ll never be content, but on the contrary, trying to get the next “project” done! Contentment comes from being satisfied and our satisfaction is completely in knowing that “It is finished”! 

Here’s a great example of what I mean. Let’s take what Jesus said in Matt 5:6 — “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, For they shall be filled.” So if I believe that I’m not yet filled (or “satisfied”) with Righteousness, then I’ll always be hungering and thirsting, working and laboring, for my satisfaction (no contentment). However, if I know that I am filled with God’s Righteousness in Christ because He did the work, then I’m content (my hunger and thirst have been met). There’s a lot of examples like this one. 

Bottom line is that only grace can bring contentment in my life. Notice what we read in Heb 13:5 — “Let your conduct be without covetousness; be content with such things as you have. For He Himself has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you.’” Be “content with such things as I have”.

“What do I have Lord?” 

“You have Me and My continual presence!” 

That’s where my contentment comes from! And if I’m content, then I’m satisfied and I want be coveting anything else! Only grace can give one this kind of enjoyment. That’s why we read a few verses later in Heb 13 — “For it is good that the heart be established by grace”.

4) cheated vs cherished. Religion causes one to be cheated from what’s his in Christ, as grace causes one to see how much he’s cherished by the Lord and to use an old cliché, “If you seek His face, you will get His hand also!” (This was Peter’s point in 1 Pet 3:12 — that God’s face isn’t against you!) Notice what Paul said in Col 2:8 — Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy (religion) and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ.” Religion, according to Paul here, is “empty deceit”, that’s past down from “the tradition of men” and has its basis in “the basic principles of the world” — that which appeals to the 5 physical senses of sight, hearing, smelling, touching and tasting. I like the way that he boiled it all down with the words, “and not according to Christ”. Anything outside the scope of Christ's Redemptive work is prone to becoming religious. Why is this so? Because it inspires one to work and not to believe in Christ’s work!

Here’s a great example of what grace instructs (1 John 3:1) — “Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God! Therefore the world does not know us, because it did not know Him.” Grace instructs us to behold God’s unconditional love seen in Christ Jesus! Grace shows us how cherished we are to the heart of the Father! I like the last phrase of that verse, “Therefore the world does not know us, because it did not know Him.” It’s impossible for a believer to see how cherished he is by the Father by being caught up in the things of this world (Just like Paul said above, “according to the basic principles of the world”). The world and the things of this world are diametrically opposite of God’s unconditional love and forgiveness. This is why believers have a tough time at believing that God has completely, irrevocably and unconditionally forgiven them of sin. Without the love-revelation of grace, one tends to see God’s forgiveness as comparison to men’s forgiveness (which has to be repeatedly done).     -    13120 Three Rivers Road Apt 3004  

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