I’ve been preaching through two chapters in Romans, chapters 6 and 7, and have been learning tons. Perhaps foremost is how Paul defends radical grace, not only in initial justification, but in the ongoing process of sanctification. We have died to sin, says Romans 6. We have died to the law, says Romans 7. Our relationship with Jesus, being “in Christ” is the basis for both salvation and ongoing holy living. The same type of faith that occurs for redemption is what needs to continue to occur in our lives on a daily basis. We need to keep going back to the cross.
During this study I have been impressed as perhaps never before how immersed I am in a culture of religiosity. In Mexico we swim in a general culture dominated by the Roman Catholic pursuit of God’s grace through all manner of sacraments. Papal edicts prescribing means to divine grace combine with local customs and superstitions to create a metaphysical mixture of folk religion, fatalism, traditionalism and occultism. The man on the street is never sure which saint might be his personal quasi-divine rabbit’s foot. So he prays to all of them. Cross the street and cross yourself whenever you see a virgin. You will see them everywhere.
Evangelical church culture often is little better. Leaders have keyed into this cultural and religious psychosis, and have often substituted a works-based faith for the gospel. Yes, normally justification is taught biblically (although I’ve heard some questionable presentations of that), but once one is “saved,” the jumping through hoops begins. Jesus might be able to save you from hell, but apparently he is not able to save you from the guilt-oriented oppression present in some of his churches. The message, sometimes subtle, sometimes pronounced quite plainly is: you may be saved by grace, but your standing in grace is dependent upon your obedience to God. Remember the ten commandments. Oh, and here are another twenty to keep in mind. The good news is you are not condemned by God, but you may not escape being condemned by your new family. Don’t get too wrapped up in the goodness of God’s grace. That is way too dangerous.
Some churches have seen the need to refine the law of God. Old is better, or so it would seem. Why enjoy the new covenant when we can go back to the old one? The law is now written on our hearts, but we like the one written on a poster on the back of the church. So much more defined. I know some friends (although less friendly now) who follow the “Royal Code,” a rabbinical interpretation of the gospels, the Bible translated from Aramaic (??). They believe they are Jews (albeit short little ones). Their new church culture includes a model ark of the Covenant (apparently without the shekinahglory) and without all the cool special effects of the “Raiders of the Lost Ark.” They dance around the ark, to the beat of messianic music. This saddens me, because they were once very good friends, discipled by the same man who taught me so much. Now I don’t know who they are.
Photo below…hanging out after a community clean-up effort this past Saturday morning.