I am confused because the Bible shows clearly that God requires His people to keep His commandments and yet, I know in my heart that I am completely sold out to certain sins. anonymous
I understand your confusion ... I really do. As a matter of fact, I would not understand it if you were NOT confused. Did that make sense? You understand grace versus law more than you think! You have described the basic problem VERY WELL: How can a sinful heart KEEP God's commandments?
Many preachers have simply given into the idea that people just need to TRY ... even though the sincerity isn't there. You have FAR surpassed their understanding of law and grace since they think to balance the two. But your letter tells me that you understand all too well the inability of the old covenant (law) to bring about any kind of true obedience. You want to please God, but you have discovered that you cannot do it, right? The only thing the law is doing for you is convincing you how bad you are.
For example, my pastor teaches tithing based on Malachi: 10% is taught. If I don't bring the tithe I am under a curse. But on reading Leviticus I understand the "all the tithes" in Malachi refers to about 23% of income - 3 different types of tithes. I cannot give 23% and pay my bills. In the past I have short changed God by giving less than even the 10% that is required, therefore I have to add another 20% to make up the difference according to the chapter on redemption at the end of Leviticus. Where does grace come into this if I have to obey Malachi 3 correctly, ie. 43%. anonymous
As you are reading Matthew, Mark, Luke and John notice how often Jesus is talking to or about the religious leaders (scribes and Pharisees). His words are not meant to condemn you, but to show how faulty their teachings were. What did they teach? They had actually given up on God's law, and instead were teaching their interpretations of God's law (called the Traditions) because Israel's long history only proved that they kept on breaking the law. They found righteousness in following a system. It's much the same today. It's how your pastor has come to the same conclusion as most with the figure of 10% which seems reasonable while 23% does not seem possible.
Even if you were to keep the commandments as you have come to understand them, you would not be keeping them, because keeping has to do with something REAL, something SINCERE, something ALIVE ... and not an OUTWARD thing at all. But this is what Jesus came for! He came to create a new heart within us. This He has done. It is finished.
Do you really want to know why you are confused? Because Christ has forgiven you, called you righteous, made you alive, made you pleasing to Himself, created a new heart within you and put His Holy Spirit in you (among other realities) ... and yet you are still TRYING to get forgiven, TRYING to be righteous, TRYING to be alive, TRYING to please Him, BEGGING Him to cleanse your heart, and PRAYING to get His Spirit. This is akin to serious schizophrenia. It's no wonder you are confused.
As I said, I understand this.! I know personally what it is to suffer from this confusion. It happens to me in the blink of an eye when someone calls attention to my own personal failures and I begin to think that my value is based on how well I am doing or not doing. But my worth and my value is not found in what I do, but in what God has done in Christ on my behalf. He is right now working miraculously in me ... and in you.
To me, it is very obvious that God is doing a miraculous work in you ... for He has made known to you what many NEVER see. Your desperation is a work of God. Why do I say that? Because when I read your letter I heard this desperation crying out for something other than law. It is crying out for Christ Himself! You are sick of the message of DEATH, it has beat you to a pulp ... you are asking for the message of LIFE. Jesus is this life.
Jim Minker :)