Tuesday, 31 May 2016

Law, Grace & Salvation

In the beginning, before Kings Saul, David and Solomon the presence of God travelled around with his people in the form of the Ark of the Covenant which carried the stone tablets and when they stopped the ark rested in a tent.
But after much controversy in Israel, when they became a settled people Solomon ended up building the Jerusalem Temple as a place for God’s presence to live.
Then when Jesus came, God’s presence was perceived by those who believed in him, to reside fully within Jesus Christ.
After Jesus ascended to Heaven he promised that God’s Spirit, his very presence, would be poured out on all believers.
The result over the three thousand year history since Solomon built the Temple in Jerusalem is that the Temple of the Holy Spirit, his very presence is no longer in a building made of stone but in a people. God’s very presence again travels with his people just as He did in the days before the Jerusalem Temple was built – not in a box but in our hearts.
We are the Temple, and we are made up of people of every race, nation and language in the world, so the prophesy made by Solomon in his dedication address found its fulfilment in the church – the people of God.
At the centre of the Temple lay the Ark of the Covenant containing the Ten Commandments representing the law of God. That law was fulfilled in Christ by the law of Love which is written on our hearts.
Now contrary to what some may think Jesus did not soften the demands of the written law, he actually tightened them up. The law of love is much harder to follow than the written law and is much more stringent and profound.
I think 99% of us can follow the command “Do not murder” or “Thou shall not kill” but Jesus says even if you are angry you have committed murder in your heart. How many of us genuinely love our enemies and pray for them from the bottom of our heart? Who amongst us if we have two of something will automatically give one of them away?
The law of love is much, much, harder to follow than the written law and goes so much deeper.
The law of love actually reveals to us just how far we are from perfection and it is the law of love that convinces us that we are all sinners in one way or another in that we all fall far short of the glory and the Holiness of God.
This new Temple of the Holy Spirit, the church community is a collection not of saints but  of forgiven sinners, who, knowing how far short we fall are filled with gratitude that God’s Grace and forgiveness have been showered upon us, whilst attempting always to reach to the heights all fulfil the demands of the law of love.
You know that we are forgiven and made right with God through faith in Christ, and not through fulfilling all of the law – either the written law or the law of love?
It is that gospel, that good news, that Paul is so angry about being smothered by people who are trying to water down and pervert the gospel in his letter to the Galatians.
The perverters of the good news were telling people that the only way they could be right with God is by obeying all the commands of the written law – in effect become Jews – before they could become Christian.
Paul was livid and tells them straight. There is no alternative gospel. The gospel he preaches comes direct from Jesus Christ himself, given to him in person on the road to Damascus.
It is your faith in Christ’s redeeming work on the cross that saves you, not adhering or fulfilling the law of either variety. It is God’s Grace, revealed on the cross, available to all that come to him that saves us. Limitless forgiveness and limitless love.
The result of Jesus revealing to us the depth and purpose of the law is to give us something glorious and perfect to aim for with the help and guidance of the Holy Spirit, but also to convince us that we need his saving grace because of our own efforts we just cannot do it.
The glory of God is that if we acknowledge our need of acceptance and forgiveness and his comfort he saves us and comes to live within us.
That is how the Temple of the Holy Spirit grows.  God’s perfection and holiness is set before us. We reach out to fulfil it as far as we are able, we fail, but have no fear, God will pick you up, dust you down and set you back on the narrow path, for another go.
We pray that when this happens we are being perfected as we try and fail, try and fail, and then try and try again. God is merciful but God is just. He needs us to keep looking towards the light.
God’s grace is Free but wasn’t cheap. To presume on God’s grace, to not even try, is what I think is meant by blaspheming the Holy Spirit and as Mark says in his gospel is the one sin that will never be forgiven (Mark 3:29).   
But we have no need to fear. Perfect Love casts out fear. Hear what Jesus says in John’s Gospel;

14 “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God;[a] believe also in me. In my Father's house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?[b] And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.

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