Romans 4: 1-8, “What then shall we say that Abraham, our forefather according to the flesh, has found? For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. For what does the Scripture say? ‘ABRAHAM BELIEVED GOD, AND IT WAS CREDITED TO HIM AS RIGHTEOUSNESS.’ Now to the one who works, his wage is not credited as a favor, but as what is due. But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is credited as righteousness, just as David also speaks of the blessing on the man to whom God credits righteousness apart from works: ‘BLESSED ARE THOSE WHOSE LAWLESS DEEDS HAVE BEEN FORGIVEN, AND WHOSE SINS HAVE BEEN COVERED. BLESSED IS THE MAN WHOSE SIN THE LORD WILL NOT TAKE INTO ACCOUNT.’”
Man can never obligate God; the Sovereign can never oblige Himself to the thing He has created (save out of love). He cannot do that and remain true to His character. Paul makes it clear that what makes the Law appalling is the attitude that can accompany it. As always, it is not what you do but why you do it. When the Law is kept with an attitude that the Creator is now indebted and obligated to the Law keeper, that Law keeper has now become the enemy of God. I have watched this attitude covertly manifest itself over the years, usually revealed in a hint of frustration. First, do you believe that if your sin, behavior, or flaw were to leave you, God would then do something for you? Rather, do you believe that God would actually owe you something? Why do Christians say things like this? “I did everything the Scriptures said and my unwed daughter got pregnant.” “I went through premarital counseling and prayed, yet my marriage fell apart.” “I have served God my whole life, and yet my mate died and I am left alone.” “I followed the advice in all the books on financial responsibility, and still I lost my house!” “I have done all this myself” goes the assertion, and a close listen reveals there is a hint of the “God owes me” attitude, the attitude of keeping the Law, obligating God, and becoming an enemy of Christ. There are many religious programs that feed this attitude: prayer programs, child-rearing programs, and relationship and church-growth programs. Do this or do that, pray all night every night, and God will owe you a blessing. As we have mentioned, there is a big difference between religion and faith. Religion is man-based, gives man activities, and then asserts that this earns for man the “right” to ask (require) something from God. Faith recognizes and values the activity of God, whose action toward us is what is important, and it is not based on our behavior. Faith is based in our response to His activity. Many wonder why keeping the religious law (whatever flavor that takes today) leaves them depleted, feeling hopeless, and somehow unacceptable. The explanation is simple; the attitude of doing in order to get is anti-Christ. God will never become anyone’s debtor. “God so loved the world that He gave.” God is the initiator; He loves and He gives. There was no arm-twisting by man to get the Father to give His Son, and to think that a created being could do that kind of arm-twisting is error. Remember, if man could twist His arm at one point by keeping the Law, he could twist it at another. Hence, Abraham was accepted by faith; he was not receiving what was worked for. Abraham’s life played out for us that which is in line with the character of God. Well, I have never been known for rededication services, for asking people to bow their heads and raise their hands. I am not known to motivate people to surrender to the ministry or the mission field. I do not ask that people choose tonight never to have another fight in their marriage, never to take another drink, or never to look at porno. Why? Those activities do not work. However, there is something I would ask the reader to do. There is a wonderful story of Jacob’s encounter with God in Genesis 28. To paraphrase, God met Jacob in a dream, and Jacob realized that he was dealing with the one true God. Acting on that revelation, Jacob in effect said, “I want to make a deal with You. I see that You are God. I am going on a journey, and if You keep me safe, give me food, clothe me, and make me wealthy, I will do two things for You. I will let You be my God and give you back a fraction of what You give to me.” Wow, what an offer! I can just see God talking to an angel in heaven and saying, “My, how do I pass up that offer?” Jacob was offering nothing for everything! God’s response was, “OK!” Jacob was living in faith, not by the Law. He was not offering something as a bargaining chip and then obligating God. He simply recognized God and let God give freely to him. I wonder if what went through Jacob’s head in the following days went something like this: “My God will not accept anything from a man and yet gives everything. My God does not want anything from me except my recognition. He is a God that loves and gives. This God is not like a man; He is the one true God.” Jacob was justified by his faith. Before he departed, he put a stone in that place and called it, “God is in this place.” He had an encounter with the true and living God who is so outside the box of all the false gods that are claimed to demand activity before they are even reputed to listen. Remember that all false gods live in a contract relationship with man. When man does, then they do. The one, true, living God establishes a covenant relationship with man. He does, period. Back to what I would ask you to do today, I would like you to make an exchange with God, make the deal that I made with Him. One day I said to Him, “I will give you nothing if You will give me everything.” He said, “OK,” and since that day I have received, received, and received the revelation of Christ in me, the hope of glory. Can you offer Him your nothing? Is there anyone too weak to have a “nothing” to trade? Do it and you will move into faith and an experience of God that is so precious that all other things will be counted as rubbish. Do it and you, too, will say, “God is in this place.” “There you go again, talking about all that God does and leaving us with nothing to do!” Well, I must give you something to do: rest and receive. You will receive not because you kept the program but because God loves and gives. Until the above happens all attempts to keep the Law will end in disaster. He did not give to you because you obligated Him through the keeping of the Law, but because you gave Him your nothing, so what is left in which to boast? “If anyone boasts, let Him boast in the Lord.”
Psalm 34 1 I will bless the LORD at all times; His praise shall continually be in my mouth. 2 My soul will make its boast in the LORD; The humble will hear it and rejoice. 3 O magnify the LORD with me, And let us exalt His name together. 4 I sought the LORD, and He answered me, And delivered me from all my fears. 5 They looked to Him and were radiant, And their faces will never be ashamed. 6 This poor man cried, and the LORD heard him And saved him out of all his troubles. 7 The angel of the LORD encamps around those who fear Him, And rescues them. 8 O taste and see that the LORD is good; How blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him!