Have You Carried Your Cross Lately?

If you’ve ever attended “Church Incorporated” for any length of time, at some point you were probably taught how you need to “count the cost” and “carry your cross.”  These words came from Jesus when He was speaking to certain Jewish followers and would-be disciples.  Most people have been taught to assume Jesus was also speaking to future generations of believers, including us today.

As we begin to shift our mindset to an entirely different paradigm, we begin to realize on many occasions that Jesus wasn’t providing instruction for us on how to achieve a higher spiritual stature, but He was attempting to show the Jewish people who were still under the Mosaic law how they would never be able to meet the required standard of perfection that the law demanded in that first covenant.  Jesus put it this way:

“Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple.  For which one of you, when he wants to build a tower, does not first sit down and calculate the cost to see if he has enough to complete it?  Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who observe it begin to ridicule him, saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish’” (Luke 14:27-30).

In the Greek language, a disciple is simply a pupil or student, nothing more.  It meant becoming exactly like the teacher (see Luke 6:40).  But unlike what we’ve been taught through religious doctrines, this would not be accomplished through a person’s effort of good works and dedication.  Jesus isn’t encouraging these Jewish people under the law to pay the price and carry a cross, He was revealing they wouldn’t be able to afford the cost that only He could pay.  He is stating they may be able to start the project, but they would need to count the cost and realize they would never be able to say the words, “it is finished.”  The cost was too much for us to pay!  Ultimately, He was attempting to show those under the law that they would need to look to Him instead of themselves.

“So then, none of you can be My disciple who does not give up all his own possessions” (Luke 14:33).  That’s a biggie.  If you want to identify yourself as a true follower and disciple of Jesus in order to become more like Him through what you do, have you sold everything and given it away?  Probably not.  Why?  Either because you are being selective about the teachings of Jesus, or … and I hope we can go with this: You know in your heart of hearts He wasn’t speaking directly to you, but to those He was with prior to His suffering on the cross.  If this is not the case, we’re in trouble … but that wouldn’t be the gospel … which is always good news.

Did these people have any clue as to what Jesus was talking about by carrying their own cross?  Of course not.  They couldn’t even wrap their minds around Jesus rising from the dead, even though he stated it quite plainly.  In fact, right before Jesus said they would need to carry their own cross, He told them he would need to suffer, die and would rise again on the third day (see Luke chapter 9).  He said whoever wishes to save their life would lose it.  Nobody should try to save themselves and there is no need for us to do what Jesus did by suffering with our own cross.  Whereas Jesus carried the cross once and for all, you and I would’ve been required to do it daily, much like the repeated animal sacrifices which could not take away sin.

Everyone is undeserving of the title of disciple when it comes to being like Jesus and following His lead—which is defined by doing everything perfectly and actually carrying a cross that brings redemption.  The work He completed at His cross was more than enough.  Ask one-hundred pastors what it means to count the cost and carry your cross, and you’ll receive just as many different answers.  Here is a radical thought … suppose Jesus was not using mysterious hyperbole, but meant exactly what He said.  The vantage point we have by being positioned in a New Covenant allows us to see that Jesus wasn’t really encouraging or expecting us to carry a cross that only He could successfully endure.  We might be better off counting the cross (one), and grasping that Jesus carried the cost (all of it).

Here is the clincher on why we know Jesus was not speaking directly to us: There is nothing in new covenant writings from the apostles about us carrying our own cross in order to be a disciple of Jesus.  There is “the” cross that only Jesus would be able to bear, and He did for us what the law of commandments could not do, nor what we could not do for ourselves.  In fact, the word disciple never appears again after the book of Acts.  If being a direct disciple of Jesus was an integral part of our identity as a believer, surely one of the apostles would’ve mentioned it at least once or twice.  Do we carry a cross?  No.  Count the cost?  Yes, by realizing Jesus paid it all and there is nothing we can do to add to it.  “The now and the not yet” is theological mumbo jumbo—we can’t improve upon what is already finished.

For more on the teachings of Jesus from a New Covenant perspective, and avoiding the trap of religious bondage, get the book: Clash of the Covenants: Escaping Religious Bondage Through The Grace Guarantee Find It Here On Amazon

Danger: Bible Verses Ahead

We know that Bible publishers added chapters and verses to Scripture for reference purposes, and it is a convenient way to aid us in searching for specific passages. It’s understandable that most of us have been taught to memorize Scripture using these individual verses, but there may be a certain type of danger in doing this if the surrounding context is not being considered. This not only applies to the context in terms of chapters and verses, but even the context of the gospel itself. When we begin to gain a greater understanding of what the gospel of grace truly is, we can begin filtering the verses and passages as we see them through the proper lens of the New Covenant. A wise person once said, “The Bible can be dangerous to read … if you don’t understand the gospel.”

There are too many examples to cover in this short post, but here is one sample of “the verse problem.” I’ve had religious legalists throw this one at me while they erroneously tried to make their case that the Mosaic law is meant to be a part of the Christian life: “For it is not the hearers of the law who are righteous before God, but the doers of the law who will be justified” (Romans 2:13).

Compare that to the following “verse” the Apostle Paul wrote just one chapter later: “For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law” (Romans 3:28).

Taken by themselves, these two verses appear to completely contradict one another. Which is it? Are we justified by our attempt at being a doer of the law, or is it by faith we are justified, apart from the works of the law? What may appear as a contradiction, is surrounded by the context of a landscape featuring beautiful scenery with a view that can be easily overlooked.

In the second chapter of Romans and most of the third chapter, Paul was exposing the hypocrisy of self-righteous people by explaining how the Mosaic law required those who were under it to obey everything without failing. Those (Jews) under the law would often judge others for the very things they didn’t uphold themselves, and it caused “God’s name to be blasphemed” among the (non-Jewish) Gentiles. The Jew was condemned by the law, and Gentiles without the law were also found guilty through their own conscience.

A “doer of the law” wasn’t a person giving it their best shot; it was someone who followed it to perfection. A doer of the law had never been found until Jesus came along, which is why Paul goes on to clarify the change found in the New Covenant … justification would have to arrive through a different source other than the law. All of us have fallen short of perfection, whether born from inside or outside of the Jewish race. Paul would take the rest of the book of Romans to reveal how deliverance from the law of works came through Jesus Christ, and brought us the gift of God’s righteousness. Let’s begin to see the magnitude of Paul’s explanation throughout the letter, instead of looking at verses as though they summed up an entire thought.

Many Christian religious doctrines are built upon the sandy foundation of “verse-ology”—the study of individual Bible verses that are frequently taken out of context and often jumbled together to fit a certain ideology or mindset they have assumed is based upon absolute truth. We can completely miss the bigger picture by falling back on the false assumption that all Scripture is meant to be applied directly to us as believers living under a new Covenant, who are in Christ Jesus. Even within the Psalms, we’ll read all kinds of things from those who were formerly under the old covenant law that do not apply to us today. Many of the passages from those writings are directly related to Christ Himself and are not always meant to be about us, but about Him.

The Bible is not one book, it’s made up of many books, and this Word of Truth should be rightly divided. Think of Bible verses as tiny little dots or pixels that make up a picture. If you get too close to the image, it will be blurry and distorted. As we step back for a clearer view, we’ll discover the entire Bible is really a picture of Jesus Christ. What are often considered as “topics” for discussion or sermon material in the religious realm, are actually things found and contained in the person of Jesus. Whether it be righteousness, grace, peace, life, forgiveness, the Word, the covenant, the kingdom … Jesus is the personification of these and much more. Any gospel discussion without the centerpiece of Christ and the finished work of the cross is just meaningless bloviating.

For more on avoiding the trap of religious bondage, and additional examples of Bible verses taken out of context, get the book: Clash of the Covenants: Escaping Religious Bondage Through The Grace Guarantee Purchase Here On Amazon

Selling Jesus To Earn A “Great Commission”

Have you ever felt guilty because you never entered the “mission field?” Were you made to feel as though you were an inferior Christian because others went on the special “missions” trip sponsored by your church denomination, but you stayed home?  You were told Jesus commanded you to go, and therefore, you experienced the sense of letting Him down.  Let’s take a moment to reconsider another piece of sacred ground as embraced by traditional Christianity … It’s called “The Great Commission.”

It’s another one of those phrases we hear so often, and without really stopping to think much about it, we assume it appears in Scripture.  But the phrase is nowhere to be found.  Of course, The Great Commission reference comes from the time and place where Jesus was giving some final instructions to the apostles, after His resurrection and before His ascension:

“And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.  Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age (Matthew 28:18-20).

Doctrinal assumptions are found throughout many church teachings which suppose that when Jesus was speaking to the disciples or apostles, He was always speaking directly to us.  If we truly believed that everything Jesus spoke was meant to be applied to all future believers, countless contradictions would have been the result of the Scriptures.

In the case of The Great Commission, Jesus was speaking to the eleven apostles, and what He said was specifically meant for them.  An apostle means “a messenger sent forth.”  Jesus commissioned this specific group of guys.  Why?  Because they were actual witnesses!  They saw with their own eyes the resurrected Christ, along with others who joined them on the day of Pentecost (because Jesus appeared to many after He rose).  Paul was also called as a witness after his encounter with Jesus on the road to Damascus.  You and I are not identified as witnesses because we didn’t behold or observe this resurrection event (see Acts 10:40-43).

When Jesus told them to make disciples (learners) of the good news, the real revelation here is that He was sending these Jews to proclaim the message of salvation to the (previously) unclean Gentiles.  That’s right, non-Jewish people from any nation could come to God by faith in Christ … Previously, this would’ve been an unheard-of notion, considering God had made a covenant only with Israel when the law was in effect, and it was unlawful for Jews to even associate with Gentiles during the first covenant.

Jesus told those to whom He was speaking to wait in Jerusalem for the promised Holy Spirit.  He told them to go to all nations.  How many of us have done either of those?  He said to baptize believers.  For the sake of argument, we’ll assume He is referring to water baptism … so how many of us have been actively baptizing people on a regular basis?  I challenge you to ask your pastor if it’s okay for “regular” parishioners without formal “ministry training” to begin baptizing people during Sunday morning service.  You see, the minister will claim the commission was for all believers with no exceptions … they’ll say it’s not optional, but should be considered a command for us.  Yet most ministers will consider water baptism as part of their job, and may view others as unqualified or needing to be spiritually approved to perform this task … at the very least, don’t do it outside of their supervision or jurisdiction!  Sometimes baptizing in the name of the Lord Jesus isn’t enough unless it’s done under the name of a specific church denomination.

By the way, if baptizing people in water is a necessary ingredient for salvation, and was a command for the entire church to perform, why did Paul say Christ did not send him to baptize, but to preach the gospel? (see 1 Corinthians 1:17).  Paul said he thanked God that he only baptized a few people in Corinth, in order to avoid people saying they were baptized under any other name except Jesus Christ.

Finally, how many times do apostles in New Covenant writings specifically refer back to “The Great Commission” as a reminder and command for all believers to follow?  I think you’ll have a hard time finding it.  Why?  Because it was meant for those apostles to whom Jesus was speaking.  Paul asked if all were meant to be apostles (those sent forth).  The answer is no, because the body is made up of many different parts and we have different callings and gifts (see 1 Corinthians 12: 27-31).  In Christ, we are simply prepared “to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect” (1 Peter 3:15).  Putting aside the old ministry of the written code, and living in the ministry of the Spirit in this New Covenant will cause people to come to us!

Bottom line: If each one of us as individuals are not “commanded” to preach the gospel to all nations, while baptizing people around the world, the religious crowd will wonder how in the world believers could be motivated to share the message of Jesus Christ.  From the legalistic paradigm where they abide, it’s difficult for them to understand the concept of living without the conditional command.  We now share the good news with those around us because it’s just that—good news.  We do it because of our love for others, and our love for God—Who first demonstrated His perfect and unconditional love for us.  We instinctively respond to that love in a routine, but unforced manner.  When people enter a relationship of the marriage covenant with another, usually they want to announce it to the world and have their friends and family celebrate with them.  It’s a natural thing to do, not a requirement.  If you are proclaiming a love for God, your spouse, or anyone else because you’re “commanded” to do so, that is not authentic love.

God bless those who feel called to share the gospel in different nations around the world, but remember this: Jesus did not commission the apostles to finish the job He started, He sent them to proclaim the work is finished.  This is the message of the New Covenant we should be proclaiming.  Simply encourage people to believe in this abundance of grace, wherever you live.

For more on avoiding the trap of religious bondage, get the book: Clash of the Covenants: Escaping Religious Bondage Through The Grace Guarantee Purchase Here on Amazon

Hey Holy Spirit! Come Back Here for A Minute?

As humans living in a fallen world, it’s more than likely we don’t fully realize the presence of God’s Spirit with us at all times. This has caused us to develop the dubious habit of thinking we need to invite God into our presence. Whether we’re praying solo or in a group setting, various catch phrases are used asking God to show up or to pour out a special anointing. It can practically become law for people. I understand some believe this is necessary in order for the Lord to manifest or fall in special ways, but once again religion has it backwards because we were the invitee—invited into His presence and He is always where you are. I believe as we become more aware of this reality, it may result in a greater outward manifestation of this power that already abides within us.

Although it provides a buffer while you are thinking about what to say, my exhortation is to stop asking God to come. This “invitation rule” can develop a frame of mind that leads one to think if God can come, He can also depart to some degree after the gathering is over. That’s not a good mindset to develop. Instead we should ask for a more significant realization that God has already provided his anointing that is not only upon us, but in us. In Philippians 1:6, Paul said that God has begun a good work in you—not upon you. The work “upon” you is a completed, perfected work. The work God will do “in” and through you isn’t to make you more righteous and holy than He has already made you to be through the blood of Christ, but to teach and guide you to live by faith … that is, trusting in Him instead of your own work.

For whatever reason, Christians often have a hard time digesting “Christ in you.” The King is already in our midst by his Spirit, He lives within us and He never leaves (see John 14:16). But an even more seemingly difficult concept to grasp is us being “in Christ.” In fact, there are far more references to us being in Christ in the New Testament. Why? Because God wants us to gain a greater understanding of how we’re always and fully enveloped by God’s presence, power, peace, and anointing. It’s an anointing that doesn’t land upon us from time to time, but always abides “in” us (1 John 2:27). The manifestation of ministry gifts will work through us “as the Spirit wills” (1 Corinthians 1:11). But don’t think for a minute that the anointing comes and goes.

Rather than looking for ten steps on how to invite the Holy Spirit into a room, first see if you can discover scriptural instruction on this practice from a New Covenant perspective. I think you’ll have a hard time finding it. God isn’t looking for a welcome mat at our doorstep, neither should we anxiously anticipate His RSVP every time we send out an invitation. Instead of telling God he is welcome to join us, we can simply say “thank you.” His response will be “you are welcome.”

As demonstrated through Jesus, God yearns to make the scene where religionists are less likely to be found. He has no boundaries and no limits. The notion that we need to create an acceptable atmosphere that is more conducive towards feeling the presence of the Holy Spirit is more of a mind game to convince ourselves of God’s response to us. Our intentions are good, but God’s presence won’t be found with any greater intensity in a prayer meeting taking place in a church building than it will in a bar down the street. The modern church world has us living in a mixed covenant culture, and empty religion has a way of creeping into our minds in the most unsuspecting ways. It becomes evident that our aim is off target when we are trying to do something to get a response from God, instead of resting in his response to us.

In the previous covenant, the Jews would go to the temple to seek more of God and His presence.  In this New Covenant, we are the temple!

For more on avoiding the trap of religious bondage, get the book: Clash of the Covenants: Escaping Religious Bondage Through The Grace Guarantee Purchase Here on Amazon

The Forgiveness Business: What They Haven’t Told You

You may be among the many who have been taught throughout their lifetime to continually be asking and seeking God for more forgiveness.  Let’s put this in perspective, while seriously considering the murky details the religious business has thrust upon us, thereby leaving us in a foggy uncertainty and a lack of assurance.  Religious entrepreneurs have developed a product we’ll call “frequent forgiveness” that hungry people are craving, and unfortunately, business is booming.

Under the Old Covenant, Israel had many requirements and instructions within the Mosaic law that guided them towards receiving a renewed forgiveness from God on a daily and even a yearly basis. Most of us know a significant part of this included the sacrifice of innocent animals, because as we see in Hebrews 9:22: … “without the shedding of blood, there is no forgiveness of sins.”

In the ninth and tenth chapters of Hebrews, the writer explains a significant contrast between the old way, with the blood of animals, compared to the new way through the sacrifice of Christ.  The cross is often referred to as a finished work, but man-made doctrines have nullified or at least weakened this truth of the gospel to a great extent. Whereas under the law, many sacrifices were required to cover the sins of the people, under the New Covenant, one sacrifice was required to completely take them away forever—not just cover them temporarily.  Our High Priest (Jesus) has an eternal ministry, unlike the priests under the law.

A key phrase in these two chapters of Hebrews is “once for all.”  This describes the work of Christ at the cross that removed the penalty of sin for all, through His one sacrifice.  It was impossible for the blood of animals to take away sins, and it left Israelites in a state of sin consciousness (guilt).  Unfortunately, many today are needlessly suffering with the same mindset.  Now for us who are “in Him,” we can live within a consciousness of righteousness, because this is how we are identified through the gift of life we’ve received.

Through the work of Jesus Christ, God has done all He is going to do about the need for forgiveness (for the whole world).  The package has been delivered once, on time, safe and sound, for all people.  All we do is receive it, and this is done by a simple act of the heart through believing.  Although it may be done out of ignorance and a lack of understanding, when we keep asking God to forgive us over and over, it’s a symptom of not trusting in what Jesus did on our behalf.  You and I can’t add to what He has already completed.

Must you forgive others in order to be forgiven?  No, Jesus said this to His disciples before the cross, while teaching the law with a message of hopelessness, meant to lead them towards seeking something better … Himself!  Only the blood of Christ could bring eternal forgiveness.  Coming to the understanding that you are already forgiven will now empower you to be able to forgive others, as the Apostle Paul explains after the cross: “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you” (Ephesians 4:32).  We forgive others, not to receive forgiveness, but because we’re forgiven.

If you believe it’s necessary to keep repeatedly asking God to forgive you for every wrong thought and action, then you’d better ask Him to send Jesus to die again, and then again after that.  If more forgiveness is needed, more blood would need to be spilled (see Hebrews 9:24-26).  But I suggest you go with option number 2: Trust in what Jesus did and that it was more than enough.  He brought to us what those crushing commandments and continuous confessions could not.  There are no more sacrifices on the way … It’s a finished work, you ARE forgiven.  Simply believe it, and walk in it.  Rest easy.

For more on avoiding the trap of religious bondage, get the book: Clash of the Covenants: Escaping Religious Bondage Through The Grace Guarantee By Michael C. Kapler. Purchase Here On Amazon

Escaping Religious Bondage

Those who have been born into captivity or have been held as slaves for most of their lives, may not be aware they are in bondage, because it is all they have ever known or remember.  Likewise, one who knows only physical blindness is unable to fully understand what it means to see.

The Jewish people were spiritually bound, blind, and bankrupt.  Early in His ministry, Jesus spoke to some of them who were abiding in their synagogue, as He referenced this prophecy from Isaiah: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor” (Luke 4:18-19).

The key to experiencing spiritual freedom is to first understand you’ve been a slave.  Although the Israelites were delivered by God from the slavery of Egypt, they agreed to a covenant of law, where they would be held in spiritual bondage for centuries.  The purpose of the law wasn’t designed to make them “better” or more acceptable to God.  The Mosaic law was meant to show them their inability to abide by the works of that law.  God wasn’t trying to achieve “better” people, He was looking for perfection, and this would be found only in the Person of Jesus Christ.  This is where He placed us … in Him.

In Galatians chapter 4, Paul explained how the Law and (ten) commandments given on Mount Sinai brought spiritual slavery or bondage to Israel under that first covenant.  The New (or second) covenant that is now in effect has brought freedom, not only to Israel, but also to those of us Gentiles not born of the Jewish race.

Many people sitting inside of Christian churches each week have been under teaching that they have assumed is built entirely upon truth and accuracy.  They are often blinded to anything that may vary or differ from all of the religious talking points they’ve heard over the years that frequently contradict themselves.  This is usually built upon a sandy foundation that mixes and blends the Old and New Covenants together.  Although it’s usually taught that many of the Jewish laws and commands no longer apply, it wrongly assumes there is still an element of law still in place.  Misleading doctrinal assumptions are built upon the premise that everything Jesus spoke was meant for all future believers, when in fact, Jesus said He came only to minister to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.

Jesus had to help Israel begin to see they were slaves to a system that would never bring them what was required—perfection and righteousness.  Until they understood their position of hopelessness through works, faith would remain out of their reach, because the law is not of faith (Galatians 3:12).  They needed to be redeemed from the curse of the law—abiding by all of it perfectly.

In Christ, we’re no longer called slaves, but are considered friends with God, children who are a part of the family of God’s household, and there is nothing that can separate us from His unconditional love.  The blood of Jesus Christ has torn down the wall that once brought separation, and what was that wall?  The law of commandments (Ephesians 2: 14-16).  Both Jew and Gentile now abide in a new and better covenant, under the ministry of God’s Spirit.  The former ministry of the written code that came through Moses brought death and condemnation, but the Spirit gives life.

For more on avoiding the trap of religious bondage, get the book: Clash of the Covenants: Escaping Religious Bondage Through The Grace Guarantee.  Purchase Here on Amazon

You Are Not A Witness

In the realm of religious tradition, Christians frequently want to identify themselves as “witnesses for Jesus.”  A witness is a noun, but we’ve embraced this witness identity so tightly, we’ve even turned it into a verb—so that sharing the gospel with others would mean we’re “going out witnessing.”  We also find where works-based individuals will worry that mistakes they’ve made will ruin their “witness for Christ.”

Jesus told His disciples they were His witnesses (Acts 1:8).  Being a witness in this instance means an eye-witness, an actual spectator; somebody who saw or heard what took place.  After Jesus departed, these apostles sought to replace Judas with another who had “witnessed” everything they had:

“So one of the men who have accompanied us during all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, beginning from the baptism of John until the day when he was taken up from us—one of these men must become with us a witness to his resurrection” (Acts 1:21-22).

Later in the book of Acts, God opened the door for Peter to bring the gospel message to non-Jewish people (Gentiles), and he explains to these new converts just exactly what a witness is:

“We are witnesses of everything he did in the country of the Jews and in Jerusalem. They killed him by hanging him on a tree, but God raised him from the dead on the third day and caused him to be seen. He was not seen by all the people, but by witnesses whom God had already chosen–by us who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead” (Acts 10:39-41).

We can clearly see witnesses were defined as those who were with Jesus and saw proof of life after he had risen.  In the age of the New Covenant, we can share the gospel and “bear witness” to the truth of Jesus Christ, much like the prophets from the Old Covenant looked ahead and did bear witness that everyone who believes in Christ receives forgiveness of sins through His name (see Acts 10:43).  But this doesn’t make us witnesses for Jesus.

A witness in Scripture is defined as someone who is a spectator and actually saw something happen.  You and I were not the spectators.  It’s strange how Christians exposed to legalism will identify themselves in this way, while struggling with the truth of who they are in Christ—a perfected, clean, forgiven, holy, righteous, and sanctified child of God.

You are not identified as His witness, He is your witness.  “The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God” (Romans 8:16). It’s not so much that we are representing Him, rather He represents us because He continues to make intercession for us (see Romans 8:34; Hebrews 7:25).

Take the pressure off of yourself and begin to realize you can learn from your mistakes, and that nothing is going to “ruin” your witness.  That’s because “your” witness is Jesus Christ, through the Spirit of the living God.  Can I get a witness?  I’ve already got one!

For more on avoiding the trap of religious bondage, get the book: Clash of the Covenants: Escaping Religious Bondage Through The Grace Guarantee Purchase Here On Amazon

The Old Covenant, Red-Letter Prayer

Have you ever wondered why we are never instructed in New Testament epistles to pray “The Lord’s Prayer?”  Not one single time.  Think about that … considering all of the emphasis that corporate Christianity has placed on us praying in this way, surely at least one of the apostles would’ve mentioned to “pray the prayer the Lord taught us.”  And yet, it’s nowhere to be found.  The reason we’re never instructed in New Covenant writings to pray in this manner is because the prayer was meant for those to whom Jesus was speaking—to His disciples who were stuck under a law of works that could not bring them the redemption they were seeking.

Prior to the prayer, Jesus had just revealed to His Jewish disciples the hopeless & desperate situation they were in under the law of the Old Covenant.  He had dropped a bombshell during this sermon that the required standard was for them to be perfect, just as their heavenly Father.  Therefore, since they could not acquire right-standing with God through the works of the law, Jesus told them how they should pray at that time.  In order for them to be delivered and redeemed, they needed God’s will to be done (the sacrifice of Christ).

Right before the prayer instruction, Jesus told these people not to repeat prayers over and over as the Gentiles do.  What is it we (non-Jewish) Gentiles have done with this prayer?  We do the same thing Gentiles did back then—the prayer gets repeated constantly, the very thing Jesus said not to do.  It wasn’t meant to be a model for us, but for those who were trapped in the ministry of condemnation under the law.

We make a serious error when assuming everything Jesus spoke was meant for us today.  We don’t have to mumble a memorized script as though we’re reciting the Pledge of Allegiance.  The good news for us in the New Covenant is that we have received what the prayer would’ve been seeking:

  • The presence of the Father is no longer quarantined or limited to a distant planet called heaven. We can interact intimately with the One who now abides in us by His Spirit.
  • The Kingdom has already come through Christ. Later, Jesus said the kingdom would not arrive in a way that is seen or observed, but would be within us. A kingdom does not exist without a king, and we have received a kingdom that cannot be shaken—He abides in us forever.
  • The will of God has been done on earth as it is in heaven (the sacrifice of Christ as described in Hebrews 9 &10).
  • Our daily bread (Christ) has been given—He is the bread from heaven that came to do God’s will (John 6:32-51). There is no need to ask for what God already given (His Son).
  • Under the Old Covenant, Jesus reminded them they could not acquire forgiveness unless they would first forgive (this left them in a place of despair). In a new and better covenant, we forgive others, but not in order to be forgiven, but because we’re already forgiven, through the blood of Jesus (Ephesians 4:32).
  • In Christ, God does not tempt us (James 1:13), and He has delivered us from evil (Colossians 1:13-14).

For those disciples who prayed this way prior to the cross, their prayers were answered … Jesus finished and fulfilled everything the prayer was seeking.

For more on avoiding the trap of religious bondage, get the book: Clash of the Covenants: Escaping Religious Bondage Through The Grace Guarantee Purchase Here On Amazon

 


The ERS (External Religious Service)

Lifeless legalism.  You’ve probably been exposed to it through a variety of religious teaching found in most churches.  Sadly, many Christians do not have a solid foundation of the gospel of grace, and have been easily persuaded by various forms of legalism being poured into them over a period of many years.  They have little or no idea they have been exposed to it, similar to asbestos poisoning hidden inside their own walls.  They are programmed to think a certain way about God and the Bible, and it’s a big challenge for people to change their thinking, especially when much of what they’ve been told has been held onto as a sacred and personal part of their belief system.

Grace seems too easy. It sounds too good to be true, right? There must be more to it!  Anyone who is caught in the quicksand of doing anything in order to attain right standing with God will persistently be haunted by the following questions: What must I do?  How much is enough?  What am I lacking?

Although the word legalism does not appear in Scripture, the concept is found extensively throughout.  It can be viewed as a works-based religion built upon rules, regulations, or dos and don’ts that are meant to lead to salvation or securing favor with God.  The actual results of legalism will lead to fear, accusation, disapproval of others, hypocrisy, a sense of worthlessness, despair, frustration, and guilt, just to name a few.

When church teaching begins to focus more on you and your dedication to God, based upon a modernized version of the Mosaic law, run the other way as fast as you can.  Legalists may think they are on the right road, but they are heading in the wrong direction.  The spotlight should always be on center stage—the Cross of Christ and His finished work.  This alone is what has already given you righteousness, salvation, unconditional love, acceptance and eternal forgiveness.  The gospel is not about you and what you do, it’s about Jesus Christ and what He has done.

If you think the tax code is complicated, just wait until the religious code is applied and someone from the ERS (External Religious Service) comes around to collect.  They’ll audit your records while searching for wrongdoing and will demand accountability for every mistake they can find (or that you’ll confess).  No matter how much you pay, you’ll never be debt-free, because the ERS will always demand more.  The Apostle Paul provided this example:

“Let no one cheat you of your reward, taking delight in false humility and worship of angels, intruding into those things which he has not seen, vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind. Therefore, if you died with Christ from the basic principles of the world, why, as though living in the world, do you subject yourselves to regulations—‘Do not touch, do not taste, do not handle,’ which all concern things which perish with the using—according to the commandments and doctrines of men? These things indeed have an appearance of wisdom in self-imposed religion, false humility, and neglect of the body, but are of no value against the indulgence of the flesh (Colossians 2:18, 20-23 NKJV).

God has rewarded you with the guarantee of grace in the person of Jesus Christ.  Believe it, and don’t let those controlling religious principalities and powers from the ERS defraud you of it.  He is your representative and the record shows your debt is non-existent … You owe nothing, because He paid everything.

For more on avoiding the trap of religious bondage, get the book: Clash of the Covenants: Escaping Religious Bondage Through The Grace Guarantee Purchase Here On Amazon

Will the Real Jesus Christ Please Sit Down

“To Tell the Truth” is an American television game show that has appeared in various formats over the years.  The show features a panel of four celebrities whose object is to correctly identify a described contestant who has an unusual occupation or has undergone an unusual experience.  This person is among two other people who acts as imposters.  The celebrities will ask questions of the group, and at the end of the show will try to surmise which of the three people is telling the truth.  The show climaxes after the celebrity votes are in, with the host saying, “Will the real (person’s name) please stand up.”

Let’s talk about a truth involving Jesus Christ that causes him to stand out among not just a small group, but among many who would appear to provide a similar form of ministry.  The book of Hebrews explains that, under the previous covenant God made with Israel, every high priest ministered with gifts and sacrifices according to the law given through Moses.  They stood and ministered daily, offering the same sacrifices that could never take away sins.  There wasn’t a labor union representing priests on this “assembly” line, therefore no lounge or coffee breaks were permitted in the temple, because the priests would not be allowed to sit, but had to keep standing.  Why?  It’s simple—the job was never finished:

“Every priest stands daily ministering and offering time after time the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins; but He, having offered one sacrifice for sins for all time, sat down at the right hand of God, waiting from that time onward until His enemies be made a footstool for his feet” (Hebrews 10:11-13 NASB).

Before the cross, as long as people kept sinning, priests would have to keep sacrificing for the atonement of those sins.  The atonement was a covering, but it did not remove the sin.  By the way, the priests also offered up sacrifices for their own sins as well as those of the people.  All of this brought a constant reminder of sins and burdened the people with a sin consciousness of guilt from which they couldn’t escape.

In order to be delivered from this dilemma, a change of priesthood would need to occur, and all of the old law had to be entirely replaced with something new, as confirmed in Hebrews 7:12: “For when there is a change in the priesthood, there is necessarily a change in the law as well.”  This is huge!  The word change in this instance means “change, transformation, removal, desert, transfer.”  In other words, the change of law that occurred wasn’t a revision of the existing law; it was withdrawn, removed and abandoned.  There would be an immediate transfer from one covenant to another, as something brand new was established.  If this is not the case, then Jesus could not claim the title of high priest.  Why?  Because Jesus descended from the tribe of Judah, which is not the required tribe the priests came from under the law (the Levites).

The former priests, many in number, kept standing.  They were prevented from continuing because they would die and be replaced by others.  Jesus holds the priesthood permanently because he continues to live forever, eternally making intercession for us.  Our High Priest didn’t just take a bow, He sat down. There will be no encore and no second act, so don’t expect a curtain call, because the temple’s curtain was torn in two after the final sacrifice for sin.  The Old Covenant with the law and commandments, were weak and useless, and were replaced with the guarantee of a better covenant…our one High Priest, Jesus Christ.

For more on avoiding the trap of religious bondage, get the book: Clash of the Covenants: Escaping Religious Bondage Through The Grace Guarantee Purchase Here On Amazon