I have had SO many conversations lately about what makes something right and wrong and who defines it. You might think it’s an easy answer but many people are doubting scripture as an actual basis for understanding sin and morality, thinking it portrays God as unmerciful and harsh. Until we yield our own definitions of good and evil and release that burden back to God, we will be completely confused. What we find when we do that is that our issues are not with other people’s morality, it is with our own sin.

Morality means we have a clear understanding of what constitutes sin.

Which we don’t. Not anymore.

It also means we can understand grace.

Which we don’t. Not anymore.

Because love given without an acknowledgement and repentance of sin is not grace. It is just mercy, which is beautiful, it’s just not the same thing. It takes a heart fully aware of their sinfulness to fully be ready to receive mercy and forgiveness (baptism of repentance) along with empowering grace through the Holy Spirit (baptism of fire and Living Water), which makes you love Jesus and want to obey God’s moral law which gives life! A “baptism of repentance” (Acts 19:1-5) without a “baptism of fire” results in weak Christians who have no power over sin. They have a form of godliness but deny its power. You’re not really receiving anything but forgiveness, and you may keep making excuses for your sin to continue-you begin to abuse God’s grace. But an experience of fire without a baptism of true repentance is even harder to bear. These are Christians that know the power of worship but have not entered through the door of repentance. Mercy allows us as sinners to be forgiven and to stand in the presence of God because of Jesus. But grace will not allow sin to continue because it is the love of God poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit. Grace empowers us to obey the moral law of God from a place of love and gratefulness.

“You did not give me any water for my feet, but she wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. 45 You did not give me a kiss, but this woman, from the time I entered, has not stopped kissing my feet. 46 You did not put oil on my head, but she has poured perfume on my feet. 47 Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven—as her great love has shown. But whoever has been forgiven little loves little.” Luke 7:44-47

I can tell you this. Before God rescued me, I loved Him as a little child loves a parent; because you were given so much, sacrificed for, provided for. But I was not childlike in my trust. I argued with Him a lot. I debated scripture in my heart. I doubted His sovereignty. I questioned His love. If I really thought about it, I did not think it was that important to follow the Ten Commandments or obey Christ’s teachings because I thought Jesus “covered me” and released me from following “the law” which I thought was bad (after all it was the law of sin and death). But I always wondered about those rarely-preached statements of Jesus about my righteousness needing to surpass that of the Pharisees. How not one letter of the law would disappear until all had been fulfilled. These things confused me. But the reality was that Jesus was teaching the moral law! Surely the law of the Spirit is not contrary to the moral law of God or Jesus would not have taught it! To obey Christ means to obey the law of Moses; not the ceremonial law, for Jesus broke the temple and we (the church) are now the dwelling place of God; and not the judicial law, for that was finished in the the theocratic nation of Israel (which is no longer in existence), but we are called to obey God’s moral law and we are empowered by the Holy Spirit to do so.

I did not come upon this truth by theological debate or sermon. I came across this truth by encountering my own rebellion in my own heart, which my bad theology had kept hidden until about the Fall of 2016. Until then, I was a very capable, very Jesus-loving, Christian wife, mother, and professor.

Many of you know my story. Panic attacks and anxiety took me to a place where I had never been…completely out of options to fix things myself. It was then that God showed me my sin and what I needed to be rescued from. And once I saw my sin for what it was, then I knew I needed a savior.

Try to teach a good girl who is raised loving and serving Jesus that she needs a savior. She will agree with you all day long, but never experience it because she’s been living LIKE a Christian but still caught up in concern for reputation and earning approval (which is nothing more than self-love). Tell a young lady who sins quietly behind closed doors in “privacy” that God desires holiness from her and she will flop down in a puddle of tears and cry and tell you she knows but she can’t kick this habit (which is nothing more than demonic self-pity). Jesus isn’t enough for her? No. It is that she has not come to the realization of the depth of her sin and she has not renounced it to the place of putting it to death by the power of the Spirit. She thinks what she is doing is just not that bad. It’s not hurting anyone but her. Tell a young man that he is to obey Jesus and disciple the nations, teaching them to obey Christ and do what He commanded. What makes Him choose obedience over idleness and apathy? It is love for God empowered by grace, given upon the baptism of repentance and fire, and the confidence that God’s moral law still stands to be obeyed.

Our will is not enough to break our bad habits and make us obey God.

But love is. And here is the kicker…

Love is generated by grace. And grace is generated by living according the to Spirit in a lived out repentance that puts sin to death. Repentance is needed to really experience grace. And what I mean by that is that you must see your sin clearly enough, your rebellion against God with such striking clarity, in order to see see the exorbitant kindness of God in the gift of Christ so that that you genuinely repent and choose to live by the Spirit, obeying the moral law of God, which has not changed. Your gratefulness for your rescue drives your love for God, which drives your obedience, which is empowered by walking aligned with the Spirit/Word of God. This is not a “how-to” article. This is a description of how one comes into a life of grace. You must be rescued first.

Read this passage:

When the teachers of the law who were Pharisees saw him eating with the sinners and tax collectors, they asked his disciples: “Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?” On hearing this, Jesus said to them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” Mark 2:15-16

The irony of this passage is that the Pharisees were completely oblivious to their own need for rescue, so much so that they called others “sinners.” Jesus came to heal and save all people and no one would come to the father except through Him. They were too close to righteousness to see their need for rescue.

That’s where many Christians are today. They have been eased into church with a true message of the love and acceptance of God but they have been done a disservice because the power of righteous living is not being preached. Some have come in through the gate of Christ’s blood as a payment for their sin, but they have not mourned their sin, not really. They have not hated it to the point of putting it to death by the power of the Spirit. Or do you think you can live in the presence of God while He tolerates your apathy? Nope. You will not be close to Him. You may have spiritual experiences, but you will always wonder why some other people have this thing you do not have.

You will resent them.

You will think them fanatics or self-righteous.

Let me tell you this, friend.

No one who has truly encountered the grace of God in rescuing them can ever be self-righteous. Self-righteousness belongs to those trying to live a life of grace without being rescued first. But we who remember our rescue will not judge you. We may warn you, but we know our own hearts are only judged clean by the grace of God, not our own behavior. Nevertheless we do begin to live righteously, not for the sake of justification before God or being better than others, but as an extension of God’s rescue for others.

What has Jesus rescued you from? If you’re racking your brain to find it then just consider that your sin is hiding from you and is still there. If you feel far from God as a believer in Christ, it is your need to repent that has you in that place.

Be honest with yourself for a minute.

Ask God to show you your rebellion.

Stop blaming God for having you in a season of darkness and separation from His voice. That is a lie of the enemy. You were meant to live as a child of the light in conversational fellowship with the Father. You may mourn, and that is for a season. That’s not what I am talking about. I am talking about those who walk in a convinced state that their soul darkness and distance from God is permanent and allowed by God or just a drawback of their personality. No.

You were meant to know God. To walk with Him. To hear His voice. If that is not what you are experiencing you have missed out and you need to be healed (spiritually, I mean, physical healing may come later). And your spiritual healing will come when you acknowledge your sin.

Be honest. On what points have you been arguing with God? In what ways have you been challenging His sovereignty and His word? In what ways have you made allowances for your prejudices and private sins? Don’t you know He sees and judges at the heart level? I do not say this to condemn you but to save you! Take an honest assessment of your heart. Stop lying to yourself.

I have been a lot of places in the world. The most “lost” people I have ever met are “churched” Christians. Do you think because you prayed a prayer once that you are fine and forgiven and all your sin is allowable? Do you ever wonder what killed your love for God? It is trying to hold sin and the presence of God in the same body. Not only will you become spiritual and mentally ill, but you will be almost completely desensitized to the beauty of the gospel.

In what ways are you protecting evil-doers and immoral people in your heart, justifying them by sympathetic rationales that Jesus never would? Call them out like Jesus did. Be brave, church. Warn your friends. Be willing to be hated, cancelled, unfriended, etc. In showing them their sin, you may save them from death!

And you “churched” Christians who do hold to high personal morality, are you any better? Do you not ignore the injustice in our land? The racial hurt? The poor? The hurt being expressed from the LGBTQ community? Do you curse the ones that need compassion the most? Don’t you know it is the sick who need a doctor? Don’t you know that you can warn of sin and still be compassionate?

Some of you should be ashamed of yourselves, because you have spurred your children and your churches into a political war with far more fervor than you ever discipled anyone to Christ and with far more fire than you ever sent those entrusted to you out to preach Christ to the nations. In what quiet ways are you sitting in self-righteous judgment of your brothers and sisters, blind to your own sin? Wake up, Bride of Christ!

Have you been caught up in politics more than His presence? Did Jesus ever emphasize politics in His ministry? Stop getting entangled in civilian affairs and instead, seek to please the Father and join me in suffering for the actual gospel of Jesus (2 Timothy 2:4). Can someone please take personal responsibility for teaching about the Kingdom of God the way Jesus taught it? It is not complicated, it’s just extremely unpopular. But it’s fine. You will be offering real salvation and freedom to people who are missing it all around you every single day. You will be hated for it but you will save some.

Are you going to spend your time telling your children to take a stand for a political candidate, or masks, or vaccines? None of those things have eternal importance. There are people dying a terrible spiritual death. Right in front of you. And you are talking about masks? Put a mask on for the person who wants you to and stop complaining. Instead preach Christ. We are not to see ourselves entitled to civil and social or even basic human rights. We are of those who have been killed, enslaved, and imprisoned for Christ! Come under that heritage brothers and sisters and fight the right battles! We are in a war for the soul of humanity, not the outcome of a single nation. Nations will rise and fall. We are of another citizenship. Fight the battle on the ground, on the front lines. It is fought at a micro level. What is God saying about your heart–stay pure before Him? What does He want to say and do today? Where is He moving? Go there. The person in front of you…what is God saying to them today? That will take all your attention. Just these things.

Offer a return to Jesus, a return to trust. Actual salvation. Teach morality according to the fulfillment of the moral law that Jesus taught. It is the law of Moses taken to the heart level. It has not been changed or thrown away because of Christ. It has been fulfilled in Him! And we can live righteous lives empowered by His Spirit! Anything less than this is not real Christianity. And this is not the kind of righteousness that sits apart and removed from the lost, judging them from afar. This is the kind that pursues the lost, not to condemn but to make their sin known to them, confirm their guilt (which they already suspect), and offer a lifeline of repentance through the blood of Jesus.

You may lose all your friends. They may think you are a religious nutcase.

Who cares?! You will save some.

Some will be rescued. Jesus says the gate is narrow and few find it.

Those who follow Jesus from this place of being rescued are not normal, but we do not care anymore. We post the Ten Commandments on the doorposts of our houses and start teaching those to our children the way Jesus taught them (in Matthew 5-7). They may not do them all but they know what they are and that means when they sin, they know it! These are not our rules, they are God’s rules! We reject every idol of media and do not seek platform or the approval of man, but God. We love the Lord our God with our heart, soul, mind and strength. We keep Sabbath as if it were a gift made for humankind to rest. We stop lying to our self and others. We stop coveting other peoples things or their people, even in our hearts. We do not murder or injure with our hands, or with words of hatred. We turn the other cheek. We speak words of life and unveil sin with grace and truth. We cut and loose chains by the Sword of the Spirit which is the very Word of God. We bind principalities and powers.

So we who love Jesus from this place of being rescued also live by a moral law. This is what we teach to our children. A moral law we can actually obey empowered by the Spirit of God. Each of my children will have to walk out their road of salvation for themselves. I cannot give that to them, but I can model it and talk about it and apologize when I fall short. So they see that I need rescuing too. Almost daily.

The moral law is not to just be on the walls of our houses (though we did literally put the ten commandments by our door), but in our hearts, in our friendships, in our marriages, at such a deep level that you are the righteousness of Christ from the inside out–out of love for God. And that love will not coexist with sin. We ask God to search our hearts for sin and we read the law and the prophets to realign ourselves with God’s nature and character.

If you are not experiencing the love of God AND operating out of love for God, ask God to show you your sin. Because HE is not withholding from you. You are withholding from Him. Maybe it is as simple as you withholding trust or control or understanding. Maybe it is withholding your repentance because you are (in some weird way) still enjoying sin. Maybe it is withholding your personality or career because it is too precious to you. Jesus said:

“Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 25 For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it. 26 What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul? 27 For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father’s glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what they have done. Matthew 16:25

When is the last time you heard THAT preached. He will reward you according to what you have done, according to the life you have lost.

How many stay in their sin because they have no idea they are withholding these things from Him. Get some good friends around you who will warn you and love you enough to tell you the truth. Are you staying in sin or rationalizing it? Be careful. You will become blind to it and calloused to the gentle reminders of God. You’re not fine. You are in need of help. Acknowledge your need and your sinfulness and you will be rescued.

Those who see themselves as “fine” have no need for a rescuer.

Only those who fully experienced grace can fully offer mercy. Mercy is offered to the sinner, but grace is what the sinner finds when they are honest with their sin. If mercy is offered, but fear of rejection remains, then you do not know the power of forgiveness yet. Where God is there is no fear because perfect love casts out all fear and enables us to obey the moral law of God.

And now for a quote from a much better writer than I am that probably sums up this very long post in only a few words, as great writers are known to do:

There is nothing more fatal than to regard holiness and sanctification as experiences to be received. No; holiness means being righteous, and being righteous means keeping the law. Therefore, if your so-called grace {which you say you have received) does not make you keep the law, you have not received grace. You may have received a psychological experience, but you have never received the grace of God.

What is grace? It is that marvelous gift of God, which, having delivered a man from the curse of the law, enables him to keep it. And to be righteous as Christ was righteous, for he kept the law perfectly. Grace is that which brings me to love God; and if I love God, I long to keep His commands. “He that hath my commandments and keepeth them, Christ said, “He it is that loveth me.”

We must never separate these two things. Grace is not sentimental: holiness is not an experience. We must have this new mind and disposition which leads us to love the law and to desire to keep it; and by His power He enables us to fulfill the law. That is why our Lrod goes on to say in verse 19 “whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.” That was not spoken only to the disciples, for the three short years they were to be with Christ until He died; it is permanent and everlasting. He enforces it again in Matthew 7, where He says, “Not everyone that saith unto me, Lord Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he who doeth the will of my Father in heaven.”

What is the will of the Father? The Ten Commandments and the moral law. They have never been abrogated. He “gave Himself for us” says Paul to Titus, “that he might: purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works…Yea, except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the Scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter into the Kingdom of Heaven.”

Studies on the Sermon on the Mount, Martin Lloyd-Jones

book on a white wooden table



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