Wednesday, May 5, 2010

ABANDONING THE OLD WINESKINS

A. Brother
©2009 Narrowgate Publishing



          “Does God give you His Spirit and work miracles among you because you observe the law, or because you believe what you heard?          --Gal 3:5

            Paul’s letter to the Galation churches needs to read in its entirety to our gatherings of believers in Christ over and over.  This is a basic training manual on what it means to be in Christ.  And what it means to have Christ in us.

            Most of us who claim Jesus as our Lord and Savior were born again within the context of the Protestant, evangelical, denominational movements of the past half century.  Some of us who are older may have become Christians in the 1930’s or 1940’s, but most of us are raised in the type of “Christian subculture” in America that is still with us today.
            We claim salvation by faith, not by works.  We trust only in Christ, supposedly, not in ourselves, or in our good deeds to save us and bring us to heaven.  The legacy of Luther is still strong in most of these churches we attend. 
            Some of the denominations have departed from Christ, and are now apostate in their thinking, not even accepting the inerrancy of Scripture, nor the deity of Christ,  but mainline evangelical Christianity still runs on OC current—“only Christ”.
           
            Yet, with sadness, I report that God is not pleased with our dependence upon religion, and the trappings of religion, among even those who sincerely believe they are Christians, and are part of modern evangelical movements.
            Paul fought the “wild beasts” of religion in Ephesus, Colosse, Thessalonica, Galatia, Rome, Jerusalem, and every place God took him across the ancient world.  Those who want to live in Christ today, and to have Christ live in them today--who want to live the true Christ-life—will struggle constantly against these beasts of prey who seek to steal all the creative power and joy of the Holy Spirit from their lives and replace it with our own righteousness through religious observance.  We have fallen into the same traps as those in the province of Galatia did in those early years!

            Here are some good questions to ask ourselves as we examine our lives:

·        Is God doing miracles in us by the power of the Holy Spirit?  (Gal 3:5)
·        Are we trying to achieve righteousness by our faithful religious attendance and adherence to certain rituals?  (Gal 4:9,10)
·        Are we free from the binding cords of religion?  (Gal 5:1)
·        Are we truly a new creation in Christ Jesus?  (Gal 6:15)
·        Do we live like slaves to God, or as Sons?  (Gal 4:6,7)
·        Do we ‘live by the Spirit’ and are we ‘led by the Spirit’?  (Gal 5:16,18)
·        Do we ‘keep in step with the Spirit’?  (Gal 5:25)
·        Is the fruit of our daily lives the Spirit’s fruit?  (Gal 5:22,23)
·        Is ‘faith expressing itself through love’ our main goal?  (Gal 5:6)

          Galations is all about freedom.  Freedom from religion, and empty religious observances.  Freedom from the ideas that Satan promotes in the world, the ‘weak and miserable principles’ (Gal 4:8-10) that make men think they are pleasing God in some way when they are actually just pleasing themselves or someone else they think they ought to please, like their religious brothers.
            The Word of God is explicit about how we are to live.  That it is not through our own power (the observances of certain outward religious forms) that we are saved and made new creations in Christ, but it is through the power of God.  We not only trust Christ as Savior and Lord, but we receive the Spirit, and are made true Sons of God like Jesus.  We now live life as Christ lives it, by the power of His Spirit, and are made new in Him. 
            Not one part of this is accomplished by our dead selves.  We are supposed to be dead, and now our life becomes God’s life to live in step with, and dependent on, and led by, His Spirit.  Our life becomes Christ, and like Paul, we can say:

            “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.”
                                                                                                              --Gal 2:20
          What power compels us today?  Like me, perhaps you have tried and tried to live the Christian life without a lot of success.  It may be that people think you’ve done just fine, at least outwardly.  Because that’s how most things are measured in the churches today.  How you look.  How you act.  How you dress and wear your hair.  Faithful attendance.  Knowing the lingo, the gestures, fitting into the framework of church society.  Knowing the latest songs, reading the latest popular spiritual books.  Having your children in all the right activities.  Trying, trying, trying to be that perfect “Christian”!
            You may even be that servant everyone admires.  Teaching classes, holding Bible studies, helping those in need, giving your tithe faithfully into the storehouse.  You may serve on this or that committee, or even as a Deacon or Elder or Presbyter or Priest or Minister.
            Yet you long for more.  Because you realize that all this we have mentioned here is just empty religious observance, and you feel in bondage, not free.

            Jesus came and blew up religious convention.  He declared that new wine couldn’t be held by old wineskins.  He lived and died and was resurrected by the power of the Holy Spirit, and flew in the face of the religious establishment during His entire life on earth among us.
            How can we do less, if we claim to follow Him?
            We must become like Jesus by the power of the Spirit He gives us.  We must live our lives like He lived His life.

          “This is how we know we are in Him:  Whoever claims to live in Him must walk as Jesus did.”                                                                                    --1 John 2:5,6

          Religious forms and man-made traditions hold God back from doing what He wants to do in His new creation.  We must abandon them.  We must go to Jesus “outside the city gate” (Heb 13:12-14) and suffer the rejection of the religious leaders, being crucified with Him to all the dead religious observances of the spiritually deceased.  We are crucified with Christ, and our life is hidden with Christ in God.
            The “empty way of life handed down to you by your forefathers” (1 Peter 1:18)
must be abandoned when you come to Christ.  The religious life, the churchy life, the  old wineskins that are carefully preserved by the winegrowers in their religious vaults, all must be abandoned.

            GOD’S CALL TODAY IS FOR MEN AND WOMEN WHO WILL BE WILLING TO DIE TO THEIR OWN COMFORTABLE RELIGIOUS LIVES, AND TO EMBARK ON THE BIG ADVENTURE OF TRUE DISCIPLESHIP WITH CHRIST.

            We must live the life of the Spirit, both individually and corporately, as the Body of Christ was meant to live.  In love, by the power of the Spirit within us, leaving the old man and his ways behind, becoming like Jesus more every day.
           

           
         
         
            

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