How Do You Like The Ring Our Father Gave You?

It’s Friday! Someday, the Lord may direct us to revisit the unpleasant topic of performance-based religion (legalism). From where I’m standing in the Kingdom today, I feel a change in the wind. I’ll be writing next time about Jesus—the One with whom we have a relationship!  Let’s conclude our examination of religion-versus-relationship and prepare ourselves to see new blessings flow as we remain hidden in Christ, our source of life!

Maybe you’ve been set free this week! The good news of the gospel lies in the new relationship we have with God as His sons and daughters through Christ. God sees us as His children, members of the family and heirs to the Kingdom. The Bible tells us we are “robed in the righteousness of Christ”.

When the prodigal son came home, his father didn’t say, “Good to see ya! Hope you learned your lesson. Now, if you want to stay here, there are certain things you have to do.”  When the son who was lost made his way home and threw himself on his father’s mercy, he even offered to work as servant in the household for the rest of his days. How did his father respond to that offer? With forgiveness, of course!  As for the offer of servanthood…well, to paraphrase, his response was “Are you kidding me? You’re my son! I’m so relieved and happy that you have returned to me! I didn’t know whether you were dead or alive and I was longing to see you! I am so overjoyed to have you rejoin the family!”  Then the father had a fine robe brought out for his son to wear. He put a ring of sonship on his finger! The father exclaimed “Everything I have is YOURS!” (Luke 15:11-31)

Please don’t think this parable applies to some poor lost sinner who finds personal salvation by turning to a forgiving father! This parable is your story! You are a son or a daughter and your place is at home with your Father, who will not even entertain the thought of treating you like a mere servant! You are a member of the household, with all the rights and privileges of a beloved child!

The prodigal son’s brother is a story for another time. But if you use your imagination, you can probably hear the disgruntled grumbling of a legalist caught up in performance-based religion: “But I was the one who did everything right! Why are you taking him back after the way he treated you? He messed up everything; He failed every step of the way at being a good son! My performance is better!”  

We can’t do anything to attain a better situation in His eyes. No matter how hard we try to “do better”, we can’t move ourselves any closer to Him than He has already moved us.  “In Christ” means IN Christ…not “If I can just do better I will deserve to be in Him because He will find me pleasing”.  We will only appear outwardly changed if we inwardly remain in the place of total dependence on Him!

If we find ourselves really “doing better” it won’t come from our own effort, but will instead be a natural outflow of His grace at work in us. The outward change in a believer’s life comes from the inward change from self-likeness to Christ-likeness.  He makes that change as we focus on Him and busy ourselves serving others under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. WE are powerless to change ourselves and that’s what makes legalism in any form a very deadly trap—a trap that tries to pull us back to our “pre-Gospel of Salvation” identity! Hello…isn’t that where we found out we can’t save ourselves and we need a Savior?

At the cross, where we throw ourselves upon the mercy of the Father and receive the gracious gift of salvation, He robes us in the righteousness of Christ and puts a ring of sonship on our finger (daughters get one too)! From that point on our “to do list” is “abide in Christ”. Through the Holy Spirit, He enables us to obey His commands. He transforms our attitudes and behaviors. He molds us into a likeness of Himself. Nothing from this point on depends on our ability to improve. We have no such ability. May He keep us hidden in that secret place of total dependence on Him! If we try “to do” anything apart from Him we’re just going to make the devil happy.

Now that you’ve abandoned performance-based religion, how do you like the ring our Father gave you?

For further reading: I recommend a wonderfully well-written book by my friend, Dr. Stephen Crosby:  The Silent Killers of Faith: Overcoming Legalism and Performance-Based Religion (available at the following link: http://drstevecrosby.wordpress.com/books-and-materials/).  Steve is as authentic and warm as he is qualified to undertake for us an in-depth study of performance-based religion and it’s harmful effects. These effects are a dire hindrance, not only for the believer, but also for the Church our Lord desires to build under His sovereign control. Steve covers all the bases and pulls no punches, with a mixture of wit and severity you’re sure to find far more readable than anything you’ll find here in Journal from Zarephath!  He’s “got the goods” on the devil and offers you sound doctrine with genuine authority and Spirit-led truthfulness. This book is a fine example of “speaking the truth in love.”

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Comments

  1. Thanks for great week of posts. Just downloaded Stephen’s book to my Nook (on your recommendation – you will be held accountable, LOL). God bless.

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