the Church on the Hill
by D. Eric Williams
Pastor, Cottonwood Community Church
What are the primary obstacles to the task of bringing our arena of activity under the lordship of Jesus Christ? We are called to be a city set on the hill, a lamp shining in the darkness, yet, on the whole, we aren't doing so well. Why?
One reason we fail to be that “shinning city full of burning lamps” is a belief that obedience to God's Law is not incumbent upon Christians. “We are not under Law but grace” exclaim those who turn their back on the Law, not realizing that failure to live in obedience to God's Word results in enslavement to sin.
In Christ, the Law is no longer a whip in the clutch of a cruel master (sin) but a shepherd's staff in the gentle hand of our Savior. You see, the Law came, so that the full power of sin could be seen (Romans 5:20). Thus, the Law intensified the mastery of sin over man. Although the Law is holy and righteous and good (Romans 7:12), it does not provide the ability to do what is right. Instead, it points the way to righteous behavior and brings condemnation when right behavior is not realized. So, to be under Law (as Paul means it) is to be enslaved to sin and condemned by the Law. Now here is the incongruity; those who ignore God's Law as a means of walking even as Jesus walked (1 John 2:6) eventually find themselves enslaved to sin and censured by the very Law they reject. They claim the Holy Spirit guides their behavior but have no criteria for testing their assertion. Lacking knowledge of what God's word says about life, they are driven by emotion (“if it feels right it can't be wrong”) and end up conforming to the world rather than being transformed by the renewing of their mind.
To be “not under Law but under grace” means we enjoy Christ's gracious guidance through the Word and the Spirit. It means, 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. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin: He condemned sin in the flesh, that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit (Romans 8:1-4). The just condemnation of God's Law fell upon Jesus rather than us. He has redeemed us from sin and death. He has made us able to live a life pleasing to God. We are given the Law to guide us in pleasing God. Therefore, this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome (1 John 5:3).
A second reason our our lamps burn with subdued light is that we do not have a vital relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ. Some compensate by attempting a godly life in their own strength (thus placing themselves under the lash of the law). Others mask the lack of relationship with emotion and experience based “Christianity.” In either case it is impossible to bring your arena of activity under the lordship of Jesus Christ. So how does one develop a life-sustaining kinship with God in Christ?
In the first place, only God can create life. This is true in the physical and spiritual realms alike. It doesn't work to try and whip up something that will pass for a living relationship with Jesus. So, the first thing you need to do is to settle the question: am I born again or am I still in my sins? Pastor Dan has recently provided an excellent list of “new creation indicators.” If these are not in evidence you need to seek Yahweh while He may be found, Call upon Him while He is near (Isaiah 55:6). So, a new creation will have: 1. a new awareness of right and wrong; 2. a hunger for God's Word; 3. a desire for a changed life; 4. an increase in testing; 5. a genuine love for other Christians; 6. a desire to tell others about Christ. If these things are missing in your life, you know why the world has not come knocking at your door asking “how do you do it?”