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Freely Received and Freely Given
By David A. DePra
Freely you have received, freely give. (Mat 10:8)
He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things? (Rom 8:32)
Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God. (1 Cor 2:12)
I will freely sacrifice unto thee: I will praise thy name, O LORD; for it is good. (Ps. 54:6)
That one verse, "Freely you have received, freely give," is really a summary of the entire gospel of Jesus Christ, and the impact that the Truth ought to have upon us. God has given us all things freely in Christ. The result ought to be that we freely give of ourselves to God, and then to others.
But there is no possibility that any of us can receive freely from God, nor freely give to others – unless a miracle takes place in us through a revelation of the Truth.
What does it mean to freely receive? It means to receive from God without strings attached – meaning without consideration of MY merits or entitlement or works. In other words, I must receive from God solely by grace; solely upon the basis of His Son, Jesus Christ. And what does it mean to freely GIVE? It means that I will give to God and to others without strings attached. Indeed it means that I will give BECAUSE I have received.
It is a fact that unless we first receive from God -- solely by His grace – that we will not give solely by His grace. We will not because we cannot. It is likewise a fact that if we do receive from God solely by His grace that the result will be that we will GIVE solely by His grace. In short, HOW we receive will impact HOW we give. The Truth (or error) by which we receive will be the same Truth (or error) by which we give. Why? Because we are talking about the Truth or error that governs us. You cannot break it up into pieces. The Truth or error will govern us – whether we are receiving or giving.
The Truth states that we receive EVERYTHING that God has – freely in His Son. But the Truth also states that in order to receive EVERYTHING we must be brought to NOTHING. Then we can freely GIVE because we have freely RECEIVED. That is freedom and it is the Truth.
What Do We Have to Offer God?
The Truth on this matter runs contrary to almost everything about natural man. Indeed, it runs contrary to most everything in the church today. To listen to much Christian teaching, you would think that we are still under the OT system of offerings. So much that is taught is flavored with that system. We are told that if we want to receive from God, that we must give to God. We are told to give money, time, talents, and most anything else. Only then, we are told, will God give to us.
This is a lie. But it is impossible to see that it is a lie unless we see God Himself. If we would see God Himself we would see that He gives all things freely. And then we would give ourselves freely. But take out of the picture seeing God and what you end up with is LAW. You end up with natural thinking and inclination governing all that a Christian does. You end up with all of these teachings that state that only to the extent that you give to God will He give to you.
It is amazing how the God of most people looks exactly like THEM. WE won’t give unless we get. So we fashion a God who demands that we give to Him before He will give to us. It is amazing how many Christians who believe that God saves us by grace then move on into a Christian life that is governed by law. We say we believe the Truth of grace and then walk in the error of being under the law on most everything else. We repeat the error of the Galatian church.
But what can any of us offer to the Lord? Do we think that there is something in ourselves that we can offer to Him, or use to earn or repay Him? I realize that most of us would say that there is nothing we can offer Him. But we are not being true to Him in saying so. We prove that if we expect God to pay us back for what we do or give. It is a fact that to the extent that I expect God to reward me – it is to this extent that I place value upon what I have given Him. And yet this is contrary to the Truth of FREELY giving – because I know I have freely received.
For example, you hear much today in Christian teaching about offerings to the Lord. I am here talking about money – although offerings to the Lord could take many other forms. Not long ago I even heard a prominent Christian television preacher state that the NT tithes and offerings today replace the OT animal sacrifices. He presented this argument for the purpose of, "proving," that NT Christians are required to tithe and give offerings to the Lord. This is not only utter nonsense, but a very misleading and dangerous teaching. What could be more elementary to the gospel than to realize that in Christ are ALL the offerings satisfied, and that if that is the case, then there is no need for any more offerings?
Let’s be clear about something: The moment you say that tithing or offerings are REQUIRED by God you must then define how God responds if you give those offerings, and you must define how God responds if you don’t. Sure. Because the moment we use the word, "REQUIRED," we are talking about LAW – and you are saying that we are UNDER THAT LAW – and you are dealing with the God who puts us under it.
If there is one thing that characterizes any law it is that there is a reward for keeping it and a penalty for not keeping it – FROM GOD. That is LAW. But if you examine this, you will see that immediately we are faced with a definition of what God is like, what He is doing, what He requires and WHY, and most of all, we are faced with the very meaning of the Cross of Jesus Christ. For if you and I are required by God to keep any law for the purpose of staying righteous before God, or for the purpose of meriting ANYTHING – well, then we are touching upon the meaning of the Cross.
Most professing Christian people never examine why they do what they do, nor do they examine why they believe what they believe – especially in light of what it says about God Himself and the basic gospel Truth of the Cross. But the entire epistle to the Galatians is written to get us to do exactly that. As is the epistle to the Hebrews. Do most of us really have any idea what it means to be, "under the law?" I think not. Yet, according to the apostle Paul, to live as a Christian UNDER THE LAW – under ANY law – is to live under the error of, "another gospel."
Many Christian preachers today preach law because they have little understanding of the Cross or of the New Covenant. In fact, if you tell them that we are not under the law, their frame of reference for the Truth is so limited that they will accuse you of preaching license. Indeed, many churches today continue to preach law because they think it is the only way to keep people in line. They preach tithing because they think it is the only way to insure people will give. And they preach offerings because they think that tithing will not pay the bills. Someone once said that if you examine what someone teaches about money – tithing vs. giving – you will know what gospel they believe. I think there is something to that – although I would defer the judgment of a person’s heart to God.
We could, of course, write a ton of books on the New Covenant. We could examine the issues of law and grace at length. But for the purpose here, I want to focus in on one thing: Offerings unto the Lord. If you get right down to it, every presentation to God of my works, my attitude – every presentation to God of something that is OF ME – all of that is an offering to the Lord. In short, an offering to the Lord is something I GIVE TO HIM that belongs to me -- whether it be a material possession, or merely the dedication of my heart.
The NT does say that we ought to offer to the Lord. In fact, Romans 12:1 states:
I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. (Rom 12:1)
This is the ultimate OFFERING to the Lord – to give myself to Him for whatever it takes to bring to pass His will to His glory. So the question is not whether we are to offer ourselves to the Lord. No. The question is the motive behind it. The question is the nature of the offering.
In order to understand the Truth about offerings in the NT sense, we have to turn to Jesus Christ. Christ, was, of course, the fulfillment of all of the offerings of the Old Testament. They were all types and shadows of HIM. Thus, if we read the passages that speak of the real meaning of those OT offerings, it ought to settle things for us as NT Christians.
For Christ is not entered into the holy places made with hands….but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us: Nor should He offer himself often….but now once in the end of the world hath he appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself….So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many….For the law having a shadow of good things to come, and not the very image of the things, can never with those sacrifices which they offered year by year continually make the comers thereunto perfect. For then they would have ceased to be offered, because that the worshippers once purged should have had no more conscience of sins. But in those sacrifices there is a remembrance again made of sins every year. For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins. (Heb 9:24-10:4)
What we are being told in this passage is very clear and very simple: Christ offered Himself ONCE FOR ALL. And because His ONCE FOR ALL sacrifice of Himself was sufficient, there is no need for any other offering for sin. In fact, if I continue to try to offer to God to keep myself right with God, I am denying that the once for all sacrifice of Christ was sufficient. I am actually denying the finality of the Cross.
Now, note how the writer of Hebrews contrasts the once for all offering for sin of Christ to the animal sacrifices. He says that if the animal sacrifices could make the worshipper perfect then there would be no need to continue to sacrifice animals – because the worshipper would have already been made complete – and you cannot ADD to completion. Thus, the fact that animal sacrifices needed to be continually offered proved that they made no one complete. But in contrast, the sacrifice of Christ is ONCE FOR ALL – proving that in Christ we ARE complete. In short, the fact that Christ died ONCE FOR ALL – that fact alone proves that in Him we are made complete. It proves that His once for all sacrifice covers ALL. There is no need for any other sacrifice whatsoever.
Now, have we recognized the MEANING of this Truth? Do we grasp what it means, yes, that the once for all sacrifice of Christ is complete, but have we realized that this means that WE COMPLETE IN HIM? (Col. 2:9-10)
You will note the vital words, "IN HIM." We are COMPLETE IN HIM. We could just as easily paraphrase and say, "We are COMPLETED BY HIM – we are completed by His very presence IN US." (Col. 1:27) That is the Truth. For if you have come to Christ, you have been baptized INTO Him. (Rom. 6:3-4) You have been PLANTED together with Him into HIS death and resurrection. (Rom. 6:5) You have been made ONE WITH HIM in Spirit. (I Cor. 6:17) Christianity is CHRIST IN YOU, or, if you will, a matter of being IN CHRIST.
Now, compare this Truth to what most of us have thought: That Christianity, salvation, and all else, is something that God DOES TO US – or is a matter of some THING that God gives to us. No. We are complete solely IN HIM. We are completed BY HIM. Or, to put it another way, God does not give us any THING. Rather, He gives us Christ, in whom are ALL THINGS.
It is important to see this Truth because it explains why, despite the fact that we are complete IN HIM – it explains why we are certainly not complete otherwise. Christians continue to look for proof in their flesh and natural man of Christ. We examine our conduct and our attitudes and then we despair because we cannot imagine that our Christianity could be real if we are like that! Indeed, unwillingly, through force of habit and blindness to the Truth, we end up basing our faith upon ourselves. If we think we have found evidence in ourselves of Christ, well, then we believe. If we cannot find evidence, well, then we don’t believe. And we never realize what we are doing is error.
The NT continually teaches that, "there is no good thing in us, that is to say, in our flesh." (Rom. 7:18) In fact, the NT teaches that the more we go on with Christ, the greater will be our awareness of just that fact. But most of us continue to try to find good in ourselves, in our flesh, in our conduct, in our attitudes – we continue to base our Christian faith upon ourselves. Yet we are absolutely doomed to failure. We are never going to find any evidence of the new birth in Spirit in that which is born of flesh.
What is the problem here? The problem is that we do not know the Truth. Oh, we know the doctrinal Truth. But we haven’t come into the Truth by experience. We easily agree that there is no good in us, but we have not come to where we have experienced it. We would not put faith in ourselves otherwise. But more than that, we have not come to KNOW HIM. We have not had a inward revelation of Jesus Christ. Without knowing Him in that way, we won’t come to the end of ourselves. But likewise, we will not see that we are COMPLETE IN HIM.
Paul says, "But of him are you in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption. That, according as it is written, He that glories, let him glory in the Lord." (1 Cor. 1:31) Do we know Christ in these ways? Do we, for example, know Christ as our righteousness? Or are we still looking for our righteousness in ourselves? So many of us continue to think that these realities listed by Paul are THINGS that God has given us, or legal classifications that God has imputed to us. They are NOT. They are CHRIST IN US. All of what Paul mentions is found ONLY IN HIM.
We are COMPLETE IN CHRIST because in Christ – in the Person of Christ who is one with us in Spirit – is found everything that speaks of Redemption and it’s outworking. That means that all that could separate us from God is defeated because in Christ we are ONE WITH GOD. It means that, yes, in our flesh, we are utter unrighteous and filled with deceit, but that CHRIST IN US is the complete righteousness of God, and the Truth and the Light.
Of course, it requires a lifetime to come to know Him and experience Him – and even then we just get a foretaste. But we cannot even get STARTED until we believe it is FINISHED in Him. In effect, we must stop trying to finish what is already finished. We must stop trying to win the victory and being living from the victory. We must stop trying to complete ourselves before God when, in fact, in Christ we are complete.
Now, all of this was accomplished by the once for all finished work of Christ. But can we see what this means? It means that there is no longer any offering we can give to God to add to it! There is NOTHING we can do to add to, yes, what Christ has DONE, but there is NOTHING we can BE TO ADD TO WHO CHRIST IS.
We are COMPLETE IN HIM – completed BY Him; complete because of Him. So what do you think we bring to the table? Well, we bring an earthen vessel in which God wants to put The Treasure. We present ourselves – not to GIVE TO GOD – but we present ourselves in order to RECEIVE.
Here we come back to the idea of OFFERING to God. Christians by the thousands continue to define their Christianity by what they have to OFFER to God. In reality, Christianity is defined by what we have RECEIVED. But you see, until we are brought to where we see we have nothing to OFFER we are not going to be able to RECEIVE by faith what God desires to give us. Thus, we see the importance of seeing the Truth about these matters.
A Finished Work
The offerings of the OT were given to show how much the person needed the grace of God. When the person offered the animal he was, in effect, saying, "Lord, I am a dead sinner. My only hope is found in the death of a substitute." The Truth of the gospel of grace is wrapped up in the OT. It was all given in type and shadow to point to the PERSON yet to be revealed: Jesus Christ.
Thus, when we come to the New Covenant, it is all the more so. For example, when Paul says, "Present your bodies, a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God," (Rom. 12:1-2) he is NOT demanding this, lest we incur the wrath of God. No. In fact, he starts his words by saying, "I beseech you by the MERCIES of God." Paul does not say, "I beseech you by the WRATH of God."
We are to give our entire selves to God – without conditions attached. We are to say to Him, "Lord, do whatever it takes to bring me into the Truth, and for you to get your purpose and glory in my life." Why are we to do this? So that God won’t be mad at us? To keep some law? To insure God’s blessings? To avoid some punishment? Well, that is exactly why many Christian people do what they do before the Lord. And where that is the case, we are UNDER THE LAW. It may not be a law we can define point by point. But it is a law.
As mentioned earlier, to be, "under the law," always carries with it the meriting of a reward, or the avoiding of some punishment. This can take many forms. For some Christian people, it may not involve the question of their salvation, but may be nothing more than an attempt to keep in the grace or blessing of God. For others, it may be that they want to earn a greater heavenly reward. But the moment you make the finality of what Christ has done, and the reality of who Christ is, dependent upon YOUR conduct, you are under a law. It doesn’t matter what you call it. You are under it as a law. And THAT, according to scripture, is unbelief.
There are many ways to describe the same error. For example, if you are under a law you will not feel right with God unless you keep your law. You will question your standing before the Lord -- based on your conduct or attitude. This is faith in yourself; it is you trying to establish your own righteousness before God by your works. It is exactly that – even if you don’t know the theological terms.
Faith in yourself or your works is UNBELIEF because it is not faith that is solely in Christ. And this unbelief can be worked out in many religious patterns. For example, there are many people who give money to their church, through tithes and offerings, simply because they think it keeps them in God’s grace and blessing. There are sincere people who will look you straight in the eye and tell you that everything they possess is from God – but then they will add, "God honored His promise to bless me if I tithed." That is subtle but it is error. They are, unwittingly, saying that they earned the blessing of God by what they did. They are, unwittingly, saying that God was indebted to them because of the law they kept. And then they seem to give glory to God by saying, "And God paid me off exactly as He promised. He blessed me because I kept His law."
There are folks in churches today who would not dare to even consider that such thinking was error. Some are absolutely afraid to question such a pattern – they are afraid to even THINK because maybe God will be mad at them. Indeed, to actually come into the Truth, for some people, is unbelief. They don’t know God. But they do know, and practice, many religious principles.
The Bible says that God wants to purge our conscience from dead works so that we can actually serve the living God. (see Heb. 9:14) Well, based on this verse alone we see that there IS such a thing as DEAD WORKS – and that they hinder serving our living God. I think that dead works are works that emerge, not from our living union with Christ, but from our religious flesh. Many of us do what we do to FEEL GOOD about ourselves before the Lord. But this, again, is the law we are under – it is a law of whatever makes me think that God is pleased with me. Whether I am walking in the Truth or truly doing the will of God is secondary. How I feel about myself takes precedent. Some folks automatically think that however they feel about themselves is how God feels about them.
If you doubt that, then why do you think that people can be self-righteousness, through their own works, and not realize what they are doing? Those who are self-righteousness think that God approves of them – based on their works. Sure. But it is really THEY who approve of themselves. They are deceived. They have not seen the Truth and do not know Jesus Christ in a living way. So they continue on, doing what they do, approving of themselves, and think that as long as they feel good about themselves that God must feel the same. It is total blindness.
Well, let’s get to the core of this thing. The NT does talk about offering to God – central to which is that we offer OURSELVES to God. But can we see how easy it is to turn that whole thought into a LAW to follow – as something we do to merit from God, or to avoid some penalty? Can we see how easy it is to offer to God, thinking that doing so somehow INDEBTS God to us? The problem here is not merely a bad theology. The problem here is that we have not seen the Truth, and therefore do not believe. Instead of our lives emerging from faith in the once for all finished work of Christ, we have fashioned a life geared to finishing and completing ourselves in the eyes of God.
The real Truth is that it IS finished, and we ARE complete in Him. There is nothing we can do to finish it, and indeed, we must try to do nothing to finish it. Rather, we must live as those who ARE complete in Christ. In short, we must live solely by grace – instead to trying to offer to God, we need to receive from Him.
Yet all of this is impossible unless something happens that I mentioned earlier. In order to receive ALL from God, we must see we have NOTHING. In order to live in the reality of what Christ has done, we must see that we can do nothing. Or, to put it another away, and very simply: We have to see the Truth. This is not about finding the right religious principle to follow. It is about seeing the Truth and walking in it. It is about walking with Christ.
Doing the Right Thing
I spent a lot of years, and time and energy, trying to get God to bless me. Really, what I was trying to figure out was how to get God to GIVE me my life. I had not yet seen what it really meant to LOSE my life. Of course, this is really the same principle – I was trying to RECEIVE from God through my own merits. I was completely UNDER A LAW. I would do whatever I thought would earn a blessing and avoid God’s wrath. I would try to indebt God to myself. God was saying that I needed to be brought to NOTHING – and lose everything. Then I could receive. Then there would be no bargains.
It never occurred to me that to lose my life – in the way Jesus meant it (Matt. 16) – it never occurred to me that this would mean that I needed to lose my own righteousness. Of course, I really didn’t know I was self-righteous. But I was – I was self-righteous because instead of putting my faith in Christ who IS my righteousness, I was basing my standing before God upon what I was doing or not doing – including even my attitudes, whether they were good or bad. What a terrible pattern.
Paul clears this up in Philippians 3. He wrote:
I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ, And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith: That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death; If by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead. (Phil 3:8-11)
You will read here the foundational meaning of being FOUND IN CHRIST: It is that you do not have your own righteousness. You live out of HIS. But again, this is not a matter of finding the correct theological point to park on, or a matter of turning this into a religious principle. No. It is a matter of, "the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus." The point is, if you KNOW HIM, you will know you have NO righteousness. You just will. Why? Because it is the Truth.
But you see, this tells us something. It tells us what is supposed to be behind the offering of ourselves to Christ. It tells us what is supposed to be behind all Christian obedience. We have already seen that we must not obey God as the result of being under a law – our obedience must not be to keep in God’s grace, or to avoid His punishment. So why obey? Christians should obey God because it is THE TRUTH . In other words, I see Christ, I see the Truth – and obedience is the outcome.
If I am obeying God to indebt Him to me, I am not seeing the Truth. If I am obeying to earn, or to avoid loss, I am not seeing the Truth. If I think I am righteous because of my obedience, I am not seeing the Truth. If I am doing what I do to become complete in Christ, I am not seeing the Truth. No. The reason I obey God, and the reason I do what I do as a Christian, is supposed to be the outcome of seeing the Truth and embracing it by faith.
For example, Christians ask God for guidance. We ask, "What should I do in this situation, Lord?" Well, why do we ask? Is it because we are afraid of making a mistake? Is it because we want to insure God’s blessing, or want to avoid consequences from the Lord? So much of supposed Divine guidance is like that. It is little more than a matter of being under a law and asking God how to cut the best deal. But no. If we are asking God for guidance we are asking to know the TRUTH so that we can walk with Christ in it.
You see, once I take away the issue of rewards and punishments from my conduct, there has to be a reason to obey God. I should obey God because I love Him. But again, this is the Truth. I see God in Truth and it results in conduct.
Human beings have to live on some basis. That basis before God is never to be fear. It is never to be to earn merits. It is to be TRUTH.
This means that I am governed by a TRUE knowledge of God. I know Him. And it also means that I have been MADE TRUE. Add that all up and what you have is a TRUE relationship. You have what it means to, "walk in the Light as He is in the light."
Thus, when we encounter issues in life, the question is not so much, "What should I do?" No. The question is, "What is the Truth?" Find out the Truth and you WILL DO.
In order to walk in the Truth with the Truth Himself, I have to be MADE TRUE. All of this is really what John is talking about in I John 1:
This then is the message which we have heard of him, and declare unto you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth: But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us. (1 John 1:5-10)
Most of the time when this passage is discussed, the emphasis is about our need to walk in the light. We are told that if we do, then the Blood of Jesus will kick in for us. And if we don’t, well then it won’t. But this isn’t the focus of the passage. John tells us the focus. He says, "THIS is the message. GOD IS LIGHT." He might as well have said, "God is Truth."
The passage is telling us that since God is Light – then here are the ramifications. John says, "Because God is Light, then you can have fellowship with Him only to the extent that you are in the Light." Sure. Fellowship is, "a having in common." If God is Light then you can have in common with Him – fellowship with Him – only to the extent that Light is in you. Or, to put it another way, God is Truth and you must be made true to fellowship with Him.
John continues. He says that since God is light, then if you are in fellowship with Him, you are going to see what the Light exposes – that you have sin. To say otherwise is not only a lie, but it proves that the Truth is NOT in you. In short, if you want to fellowship with God you want to fellowship with Light. And Light will tell the Truth about you, and it will tell the Truth about Christ. And so if you embrace that Truth – if you are MADE TRUE -- you will confess the Truth. You WILL say that you have sin. But when you do confess your sin you will likewise confess the Truth about Christ -- you will know that the Blood of Jesus has, and continues, to cleanse you.
Can we see the difference between turning this passage into a religious pattern to follow, and what it really is: A description of what happens when we know God? I have heard so many religious patterns formed out of this passage – people jump through religious hoops and confess sin, even publicly, because they have been told it is necessary to clear their conscience and get right with God. I’ve even heard it said that you will lose your salvation if you die with any unconfessed sin. Nonsense. Read the passage again. In this passage you will NOT find one single command. None. Rather, all that is written is a statement of fact. We are told the results of seeing and knowing God, who is Light. And we are told the results of refusing, or of not seeing the Light.
It is entirely possible to stand up and confess every sin under heaven and for it to be the result, not of seeing the Truth, but of trying – yes, through the confession – to make oneself right with God. People try to make themselves right with God even through confession. They think that if they confess sin that their confession has made them right with God – their confession becomes a work they use to be right with God – when in fact you could do all of that and never even repent of the sin you are confessing. But this is not what this passage is teaching. It is not mandating a religious law to follow in order for us to be right with God. Rather, this passage is based upon the Truth that we are right with only by faith in Christ. It is saying, "God is Light. And if you know God and what is the Truth in Christ, you will confess – as the outcome. If you are in the Light you cannot live in darkness. If you are in fellowship with Christ the only possible outcome is that you will know the Truth, be MADE TRUE, and therefore confess the Truth."
There isn’t a single teaching in the Bible that we could not take and turn into a law to follow. People have done it. They have taken the letter of the Word and fashioned from it rules, laws, and principles to keep – and when this is done, rewards and punishments, in one form or another, are always attached. Christian teaching today is so void of the Truth of the New Covenant in Christ that the only frame of reference we have for obeying God is to make it PAY US TO OBEY. We do not SEE GOD or the TRUTH. Consequently, we are not MADE TRUE. We don’t have the LOVE of God in us. We therefore revert back to LAW.
I have even been in places where they have turned LOVE into a law. "Do this or that and you will fulfill the law of love." And doesn’t the Bible use the term, "the law of love?" Doesn’t it say, "This is the love of God that we keep His commandments?" But are we really understanding this according to the Truth? Do we seriously believe that if we keep laws and rules that this equals LOVE? You know as well as I do that some of the most judgmental, controlling, and AWFUL Christian environments are those that are under law. Indeed, if law keeping equaled love, then to be under the law would equal being filled with the love of God. Yet the opposite is usually the case.
The Truth is, if we divorce ANYTHING, including LOVE, from the Person of Christ, and try to make it real through the efforts of religious flesh, we will create a terrible god who is fashioned in OUR image. This is why Paul said that neither circumcision nor uncircumcision (law or no law) means anything – but what means everything is the new creation in Christ Jesus. We have to come into fellowship and communion with Christ and know Him or what will emerge is nothing but religious death.
The problem is that the church today has almost no frame of reference for knowing Jesus Christ – not in the way that the Bible means it. For example, Paul wrote:
(I) cease not to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers; That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him: The eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that ye may know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints, And what is the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe, according to the working of his mighty power, Which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places. (Eph 1:16-20)
Paul wrote more doctrinal teaching than any other writer in the NT – including much doctrinal teaching to this very church at Ephesus. Yet he said, "My prayer is that God would give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Himself." Well, why didn’t Paul simply tell them to read and study the doctrines that he wrote to them? Why didn’t he say, "Memorize my teaching, and turn that teaching into rules and laws and religious principles to keep, attach rewards and punishments, and you will experience real Christianity?" He did not write that because it is not the Truth. Nevertheless there have been people who have done that – even regarding the very teachings of Christ. There have been people who have even taken the Truth and reality of, "Christ in us, the hope of glory," and turn it into a TEACHING to follow, and in which to glory, and to discuss, but all the while haven’t come to know Christ Himself!
Paul knew that all the teaching of the Bible – the letter, in and of itself – was a dead thing. He said, as did Christ, "the letter kills." What does that mean? Well, it really means that if we divorce the letter of the Word from the Living Person and try to make it work apart from Him, we will accomplish nothing more than to expose ourselves as a dead sinner. No. All of the written Word is the written Truth, but it can be made alive only through communion with, and a knowledge of Jesus Christ.
One example. I used to read Bible teaching about forgiveness and I would cringe. I read how we must forgive others – in fact, I read how we must forgive others or we can’t be forgiven. To me – and I think I echo the thoughts of many Christians – to me this meant my salvation itself depended upon whether I forgave others. So I tried to forgive others. But I didn’t seem to be able to do it. This, in turn, brought upon me great condemnation.
Now, I wouldn’t have thought so at the time, but this was nothing more than an OFFERING for sin that I was making to God. The offering, in this case, was my forgiveness of others. If I offered forgiveness, then God would forgive me. Really, this kind of thinking governed my Christian life on so many issues – mostly due to bad teaching I’d heard. For example, I was told that only if I submitted to some authority in the church would God do His will in my life. I heard that only if I gave money to the church would God bless me. I heard that only if I jumped through this religious hoop would God act and keep His promises. In short, this kind of pattern was how I was taught, "to present myself to God as a living sacrifice." I should give to God – but only because it would keep me on His good side. I should obey God – if I wanted a good outcome. If I offered something out of myself -- any good work -- then this would somehow CONNECT me, or keep me CONNECTED, with Christ. And the desired result would be there. I never suspected that I was a poster boy for being under the law.
All of this is resolved if I see Jesus Christ. If I see Christ I will see the Truth. And I will see that I need not, indeed, cannot and must not, try to do anything to GET forgiven by God – except put my faith in Christ. And if I see the Truth that I am forgiven in Christ the result will be that I will forgiven. I just will. Why? Because I have seen the Person who is the Truth and because of that have been MADE TRUE. I will then confess the Truth and DO the Truth.
This is why Paul prayed that the Ephesian church would receive a revelation of Christ. He taught them lots about Christ. But they personally needed to SEE HIM. Otherwise, what Paul wrote would just be a list of religious principles, rather than the outcome of knowing Him.
So what is the key? That the prayer of Paul be answered in our case. That we might KNOW HIM. For if we know Him we will know the Truth – and will be MADE TRUE. And that will make it possible for us to walk and fellowship with the ONE who IS TRUE. And then the Christian life will be there – based upon HIM.
Offerings to God
If I see the Truth about Jesus Christ I am going to present myself as a living sacrifice to Him. I won’t be doing this as a religious principle to follow. I won’t do it as the MEANS of getting right with God. I’ll do it because I AM right with Him – and because I see that it is the only possible outcome of walking in the Truth.
One more example of this Truth: Jesus said, "Give and it shall be give unto you." This takes us back to the beginning of this article where I discussed the issues of tithing and giving offerings. How often in the Christian church has this verse, and a few others like it, been taken and used as a LAW that is imposed upon Christians? People are told, "You are to GIVE to God in order to GET from God. It says so right here!" Others say, "God will NOT give to you unless you give to Him!" And then there is this abominable teaching, "If you give to God a one hundred dollar seed, He will give to you an uncommon harvest of one hundred dollar harvest multiplied!" Others offer a more tempered version, "God will only bless you financially to the extent that you give to others." But however it is taught, this rational is behind most of the economic system that literally governs the church today. It is found in teaching on tithing and in teaching on giving offerings. It is also applied to many other issues. In short, God’s willingness to give to you is directly related to whether you give to Him. That is what is taught. And so Christians give. And we somehow never see that every bit of this is totally contrary to the Truth of grace!
But read again the promise that is given by Christ. He did say, "Give and it will be given unto you." (Luke 6:38) But while this IS a promise, can we see that it is more a statement of fact? In other words, it is not a LAW given that ought to motivate us to GIVE in order to GET. Neither is it a law given that we must follow AS a law. Rather, it is the outcome of a relationship with God. What I am saying is this: Jesus is not saying that we ought to GIVE to God in order to GET from God. Rather, He is promising a fact: That IF we give to God, God will give to us. It is not a law that Jesus is laying out. It is a simply a promise of fact.
Now, as is usually the case, we must include the rest of the verse. Jesus also added, "The measure with which you measure will be the measure that is measured unto you." If you look up the word translated, "measure," you will find that it means, "the method of calculation." Or, "the standard that is used to measure." So Jesus is not talking about the AMOUNT given. He is referring instead to motive behind our giving – He is talking about WHY we are giving and HOW we came to give.
So if we add all of this up we come down to this question: What is the Truth? Is the Truth that I am to GIVE to God in order to GET from God? Is the Truth that I must give to keep right with God? Is the Truth that I must give to God to be blessed by God, or to avoid some curse from God? Are any of these statements the Truth? No. So what is the Truth? That if I am in a relationship with God that is governed by the Truth – if I am walking in the Light with God – if I am being made true unto God – the Truth is that I WILL GIVE. And because of all of the above, God will give to me.
Another way to say it: Jesus said, "Freely you have received, and so freely give." What do we think it means to, "freely receive," or to, "freely give." It means that there are no strings attached. There is no thought of rewards or punishments. No. Rather, I give because giving is the only possible outcome of being in a true relationship with Jesus Christ. It is not a matter of following a law. It is not a matter of giving to get. It is not about earning, meriting, or losing a reward. It is about LOVE. It is about coming into the Truth and then, because of that, it is a matter of the Truth coming out of us.
I firmly believe that if we are in THE TRUE RELATIONSHIP with God through His Son, Jesus Christ, that there are outcomes – and that much of what we call Christian teaching from the Bible describes those outcomes. For example, Jesus said, "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven." So what does this mean, that we are to somehow become poor in spirit in order to earn the kingdom of heaven? Go ahead and try. You will fail. No. Rather, Jesus is stating a fact. He is saying that if you are in the true relationship with God you WILL BE poor in spirit. There is no other possible outcome of seeing the Truth and fellowshipping with God except that we will become poor in spirit. And then we can inherit the kingdom of God – because we are rightly related to God in the true relationship.
With regards to giving, it is not a matter of the right thing to do, or whether we will be rewarded, or whether God will bless us – it is a matter of being in fellowship with Christ. If we are in fellowship with Christ the only possible outcome is that we will want to give. And if we give out of that true relationship then God will give. It will be the result.
Most of us have no frame of reference for giving to God with no thought of reward or punishment attached. That is outside of the thinking of the natural mind. But it is exactly what it means to FREELY GIVE. It is exactly what Jesus meant when He said, "You have freely received, and so freely give." And the fact is, this is the METHOD OF CALCULATION, if you will, that Jesus was referencing in Luke 6. He was saying, "Freely give and it will be freely given unto you. But be aware that the reason you give, rather than the amount you give, will be the basis upon which God can give to you." In short, if we freely give to God – free of all motives except love – God will be free to give to us. That is a tremendous thing. It is what freedom is all about – that God can trust us enough to give to us.
So we see here the true nature of OFFERINGS to God – whether we are talking about money, or anything else. It is wrapped up in that one sentence, "Freely you have received. Freely give." (Matt. 10:8) If we have seen the Truth that God gives us all things freely in Christ (Rom. 8:32), then the outcome will be that we will freely give. Why? Because it is the TRUTH – and it is how we walk in that Truth. It will not be about law, rewards, or punishment. It will be about the TRUTH – and about faith that is based in the Truth, working through love.
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