Friday, October 10, 2014

The Risk of Release

I believe I've been taught that I am saved by grace, through faith in Jesus Christ alone, not by works lest the wealthy and able alone could boast of their great exploits.  Thank God for that fact – I think.

But when it’s all shaken down and I begin to peel back the layers of my personal theology and my church experiences, the reality of Ephesians 2:8-9 is somewhat clouded.

I was 23 years old before I learned and even began to understand that verse.  I was a young adult Christian man, full of pride, anger, lust, fear and vengeance.  I had become a product of a works culture where I was rarely if ever a straight A Christian; let alone a straight A student.

All of which ultimately gave a graceless power to those in authority over me; power to manipulate and control me and my behavior.  Because God forbid a church full of free people actually led by the Spirit and the Word; versus being led by traditions and autocratic leaders.  That wouldn't look good.  It might look like the religious leaders weren't doing their job correctly.  That is, if the church folks were not piously different from the rest of the world – at least on the outside.

Rules, regulations, principles extrapolated from Jewish law and holiness traditions left over from the post-Civil war era taught me I was nothing more than a “sinner” in the hands of an angry God.  And rarely if ever a saint called out of darkness by the voice of grace.

Fast forward to the present and what the Lord is continuing to do in my life and my heart.

I have carried the traditions of men and religion that had little to no basis on New Testament (new covenant) teachings.  But they were definitely what we've always done, so we must continue to do them or else there would be hell to pay.

While driving home today, I was discussing with my dear and wise wife, all of the thoughtful responses to my Facebook question regarding tithing as a New Testament mandate or not, and I came to a marked conclusion.  Although in word we teach we are no longer under the law – we practice something altogether different.

Nowhere in the New Testament is tithing mentioned as a mandate or protocol for salvation or even blessing.  Giving and generosity are encouraged, but why is it that Paul the Apostle never cited Malachi chapter 3 when he often cited other Old Testament references?

Could it be like many other things we've carried over from the Old Testament, that biblical knowledge in the wrong hands can become a devilish lever to alter the behavior of fearful and ignorant constituents?

There are many principles and even precepts that are carried over from the Old Testament that are good and beneficial – but as I recall the only Law’s that Jesus commanded us to obey were to love God with our entire lives and to love others as if they were ourselves.  Now granted there are a lot of things that we can do that are stupid and could ultimately end in loss or total destruction of self or others, but isn't the Holy Spirit powerful enough to reveal those foolish behaviors?

Could it be possible that The Risk of Release is too scary for us to teach and preach?  Could it be that The Risk of Release to live our lives by grace through faith would tend to decentralizes power and control over church folks?

There are plenty of clear cut mandates in scripture that we must follow.  Forgive if we are to be forgiven.  Do not lie or steal.  Do not lust and thereby become an adulterer.  Just read the Sermon on the Mount to see the Lord’s keen delineation of the Law.

But I do believe there is a mandate to “tithe” in the New Testament, but it is couched in the language of generosity and cheerful giving.  I believe it is hidden in the law of sowing and reaping.  In other words, people who desire to truly obey the Lord in all matters will most often surpass any percentages, and find power and joy in the law of reciprocity.  As a matter of fact I believe that law can be seized and used by even the unredeemed; because it’s a law that transcends the saint or the sinner.

So what’s my point?  Can we stop using words and references that don’t fit into God’s current plan?

Living by grace will always create The Risk of Release.  I desire to live by grace, and to teach others the same.  And that will mean a great risk to me, because I will NOT be able to control others.  I must leave that up to God.  Oh I must disseminate the truth of God to the best of my ability as led by the Spirit, but never to be overshadowed by the traditions of men and religion.

I’m not a rebel in my heart.  But I will NOT be a slave again to man-made religion.  I WILL be a slave and bond-servant to the Christ who rescued me and saved me that I might live in truth and freedom.  There alone will any of us ever truly find the blessings and favor of the God who deeply and eternally loves us.  Trying to love and obey Him out of compulsion is not true love.  As a matter of fact it might just be a grotesque example of some religious Stockholm syndrome.

I believe in The Risk of Release.  Eventually we all have to grow up – right?