Paul F Pavao
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The goal of all teaching should be to produce love, a good conscience, and a faith that is real (1 Tim. 1:5). All of Scripture is for one purpose, that we would be thoroughly equipped for every good work (2 Tim. 3:16-17).
Unfortunately, many evangelicals have been taught that the sacrifice of Jesus is all they need before God despite dozens of New Testament passages that clearly state otherwise. The blood of Jesus instituted the New Covenant, and if you enter that covenant with God by sacrifice, you will be forgiven. Your whole past is wiped away, and it is as if you died. You enter a new life with the King.
Now that you have entered a new life and have been enabled by grace, God expects you to walk by the Spirit. The passages that say this are far too numerous to mention. In Galatians 5:24, he tells us that those who belong to the King have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. In Romans 8:13, he tells us that if we want to live, we must put to death the deeds of the body by the Spirit. In 1 Cor. 9:27, Paul tells us that he had to discipline his body daily so that he was not disqualified.
Paul expresses astonishment at the loose living of the Corinthians, asking them, "Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God?" (1 Cor. 6:9).
Tradition is a hard thing to break. Christians who have confidently believed that their works don't matter at all at the judgment are shocked to find out they do (Rev. 3:4-5; 2 Cor. 5:10; 1 Pet. 1:17; Matt. 25:31-46; Matt. 7:21). They are shocked that they have to do something to make their calling and election sure and to gain an entrance into the kingdom of Jesus (2 Pet. 1:8-11).
When an evangelical finally concedes to the Scriptures, a new problem arises, every bit as bad as the former problem.
Evangelicals have been trained by Reformation tradition into a false dichotomy. They believe there are only two ways:
Because this is true, when an evangelical begins to see that works are necessary (Jam. 2:14-26; Rom. 8:12-13), he slips into a performance mindset that can be debilitating.
We can do nothing apart from Jesus (Jn. 15:5). Trying to scratch our way to heaven with good works will wear us out and destroy us.
God spent centuries teaching us through the Israelites that we will never attain to the kingdom of God by our own power. Evangelicals get that. What they don't get is the solution to that problem.
Maybe you have seen one of the episodes of the new series called "Ninja Warriors." Various extremely fit people go through incredible obstacle courses, trying to make it to the end in the best time. Often, the obstacles are so difficult that no one or only one person makes it to the end.
If I were to try to tackle one of those courses, I would fail. To help me get to the end, the show's produces would have two options. They could change the course so that even someone as out of shape as me could conquer it, or they could train me and work me out until I was strong enough to make it to the end of the course.
God faced the same choice with the Israelites. He could lower the bar, or he could strengthen the Israelites.
Look at this passage and try to decide which option God chose:
"Behold, the days come," says the Lord, "when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah. It won't be like the covenant I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt. They broke that covenant, even though I was a husband to them," says the Lord. "But this will be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel. After those days," says the Lord, "I will put my law in their inward parts and write it in their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. They won't teach their neighbor anymore, 'Know the Lord,' because they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest of them." (Jer. 31:31-34a)
Read that, and you tell me. Is God saying that he is going to change his requirements, setting the bar lower so that the Israelites could keep his covenant without changing their ways? Or is he saying that he is going to do something to them under the New Covenant that will enable them to keep it, even though they cannot keep it now?