1 Jan 1999

How can a sinful heart keep God's commandments?

Submitted by theshovel
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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 :)


Your comment above: "the inability of the old covenant (law) to bring about any kind of true obedience." shows that you DO NOT understand the bible. The bible plainly shows that the "inability" is our flesh not the law. Read Rom. 8:7-9 The carnal mind is enmity against and is not subject to the law of God but we, when we have God's spirit we are not in the flesh but in the spirit and should be subject to the law of God. This includes his Sabbath day.

If you are not subject to the law of God and if you don't keep his Sabbath day then you are still in the flesh whether you like it or not.

Kevin McMillen

theshovel's picture

Hello Kevin.

I see that your quest to prove yourself to be a keeper of the Law, as well as a Biblical scholar, has led you to the far corners of the world wide web. You seem to be confident in your handle on the scriptures, especially in your ability to use certain Bible verses to support your scrutiny and judgment of Sabbath-day offenders. Of course as being a New Testament scholar, I’m sure you wouldn’t imagine yourself as being just like the short-sighted judges who condemned Jesus for having broken the Sabbath on many occasions, for even though they were the top-notch Scriptural scholars of the day, they did not understand the Scriptures or the power of God.

My friend, one might convince himself that he is a keeper of the Sabbath and therefore also assure himself that by so doing he is not in the flesh, but the truth of the Sabbath is of the heart and not subject to outward observation. A man’s struggle to keep the Sabbath only reveals that he has not found the rest of God that is the very essence of the Sabbath. Those who have found rest in Christ are the only ones who actually “keep” the Sabbath.


Jim that was amazing.

I like what you had to say here Jim.


Consider the Pharisees response in this passage here:

“They answered Him, “We are Abraham's descendants and have never yet been enslaved to anyone; how is it that You say, 'You will become free '?” Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is the slave of sin.…”


If all the deliverance we needed could be summed up in following some good principles, rules or in this case Sabbath requirements, then Jesus did not even need to appear to the world.


Just because our deliverance is unseen by outward appearances and any evidence is discredited based on an unbelieving view of it doesn't mean it isn't the only true salvation that ever mattered.




Jim, your comment was so clear and well put. Thanks

the gospel of Christ!  sooooo full of His rest and freedom!  sighhhhh … deep deep breath of such relief concerning that heavy burden of bondage that is convinced that it is under law and must and can 'keep' it!! 

wonderful words of Life from you, dear James, that i always appreciate and thank GOD sooo much for!!  :)

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