Monday, February 29, 2016

Confession Vs Admission

Reflections for this date are based on the following scripture passages:
2 Corinthians 12 2 Corinthians 13 Numbers 1 Psalms 51

David's sin of adultery with Bathsheba and the murder of her husband did not give him the outcome he had anticipated. In exchange for the short period of pleasure he had with Bathsheba, he experienced heartbreak, grief, and a total loss of joy. Was that what he expected when he succumbed to temptation? And what did he expect when he took measures to have Uriah, Bathsheba's husband, killed in battle? No doubt he expected to hide his sin. Along with multitudes of others both before him and since he lived, he thought that as long as his sin was hidden all was good.

We would say David did the honorable thing by marrying Bathsheba and giving a home to the child she conceived through their illicit sexual encounter. And so he did compared to abandoning her and the child. The honorable thing, of course, would have been to avoid the encounter with her all together. Only in hindsight do we see the cause and effect of our actions, both good and bad, and David's actions surrounding these events set in motion effects that plagued him for the duration of his life.

The effect that is the focus of Psalms 51 is that of dealing with the guilt of his sin and the loss of joy that resulted. We should never underestimate the affect guilt has on us, even when we do not admit to having done anything wrong. The primary effect of sin is a break in relationship with our Creator and impacts us in ways we cannot understand nor explain. We do not have to be a "religious" person or even admit there is a God for this break in relationship with our Creator to impact us.

In various ways we attempt to avoid our sin thinking it will not effect us. Most of all we try to avoid it by not admitting we have done anything wrong. Or, we may admit to ourselves that we have done something wrong but we think an act of penance or a good deed or voicing a prayer of "I'm sorry" to God will cover the wrong though no change of heart has occurred. David discovered these things didn't work. Instead, he discovered that God desires "integrity in the inner self." We have to be honest about our actions, both with ourselves and with God, call them what they are and look on them as does God. David could have gone to the temple priests and arranged to have offerings sacrificed for the forgiveness of his sin, and he may have done this, but he came to realize that it is not sacrifice that God wants, but a "broken spirit."

It is the uniting or reuniting of our spirit with God's that He truly desires, and this can occur only when we agree with God concerning our sin and place ourselves totally at His mercy to remove the guilt and the penalty of our sin. And then God can "restore the joy of (His) salvaion" to us.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Using Imperfect Patterns

Reflections for this date are based on the following scripture passages:
2 Corinthians 10 2 Corinthians 11 Leviticus 26 Leviticus 27 Psalms 50

Followers of Christ must be careful that it is Christ and His teaching that they follow and not imperfect patterns. Paul recognized the danger among the Corinthian Christians and addressed it with them in chapters 10 & 11 of 2 Corinthians. The danger evolved from a good intent, for he said they were seeking a "pure devotion to Christ." (2 Corinthians 11:3) Out of this devotion they sought to learn and grow by going to the wrong sources. False teachers were coming to them and they were accepting their teaching without question and being corrupted in the faith. Paul saw them being pulled away from the faith by these teachers and was jealous over the potential of losing them. He told them these false teachers were preaching another Jesus and a different gospel and the Corinthians "put up with it splendidly!"

Through the access of mass media and the internet we are easily exposed to an abundance of teaching regarding Christ and are even more susceptible to false teaching than were the Corinthians. While it is good to learn and grow in our faith we must be careful of the sources from which we learn. Our primary source must always be the Lord Himself. It is most dangerous if we are not spending time with the Lord in prayer and scripture reading but spending time reading or listening to various sources. This gives us no true pattern by which to measure what we read and hear. We become easily susceptible to false teaching.

We can be encouraged and challenged and enlightened by others, but our first and consistent source must be the Lord Himself. It is similar to making something from a pattern. If we keep reproducing whatever it is we are making by using the last one we made as the pattern, whatever we are making will soon be an imperfect representation of the original. We must keep using the original for each new reproduction. And so it is in following Jesus. It is Jesus we are to follow and from Whom we are to learn. Others can be an aid but must never be the primary source.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

The Blessing of Giving

Reflections for this date are based on the following scripture passages:
2 Corinthians 8 2 Corinthians 9 Leviticus 24 Leviticus 25 Psalms 49

In chapters 8 & 9 of 2 Corinthians Paul gives some principles for Christian giving. Though his instructions were given the Corinthians regarding a specific need, they provide us general principles for giving.

The first principle he gave is that Christian giving begins by giving ourselves to the Lord. Our giving flows out of that relationship and not from human compulsion. After all, the Lord is the source of what we have. Furthermore, our giving is a test of our love. Not toward church leaders who call upon us to give or to those who benefit by our giving, but a test of our love for the Lord. After all, how we use our money is a demonstration of what we value.

Another principle in giving Paul taught was proportionate giving. Because one is able to give a certain amount does not mean all should give that amount. We are to give in proportion to what God has provided us. This proportionate giving leads also to an equality of means. Paul pointed out that in giving to those in need, those giving should not be placed in hardship as a result. They were not to suffer in order for those in need to prosper. The giving is to come from our surplus. This is often where the rub comes, for few of us feel we have any surplus. Often the surplus is found after assessing what we really need and what we don't really need.

A further principle in giving Paul taught was the return on our giving. He compared it to sowing a crop with which we reap a harvest based on what we sow. If we sow sparingly we reap sparingly and if we sow generously we also reap generously. So it is with giving. What do we reap when we give financially? He does not say. It could mean that in return for generous giving God entrusts us with more finances. It could also refer to how we are blessed in our spirit, receiving a sense of satisfaction.

And our giving should also be done cheerfully. This goes back to the first principle - that our giving starts with giving ourselves to the Lord. Cheerful giving flows from that relationship and not from giving with compulsion because we feel we must or we should.

Paul concludes with a promise: "Now the One who provides seed for the sower and bread for food will provide and multiply your seed and increase the harvest of your righteousness,  as you are enriched in every way for all generosity, which produces thanksgiving to God through us." (2 Corinthians 9:10-11)

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Repentance VS Regret

Reflections for this date are based on the following scripture passages:
2 Corinthians 6 2 Corinthians 7 Leviticus 22 Leviticus 23

Paul speaks of the difference between repentance and regret in 2 Corinthians 7:10-16. The Corinthians had grieved over their immoral behavior and it had led to repentance which produced renewed joy. Had they simply regretted their behavior it would only have produced grief over their actions which Paul says could lead to death. In contrast to the repentance experienced by the Corinthians who were renewed in their faith and their joy, there is the example of Judas who betrayed Christ, then regretted his actions leading to a deep remorse and grief which led to suicide.

What is the difference between the Corinthians and Judas? Both admitted their wrong and yet the outcome for each was very different. The difference was repentance. Repentance is more than admitting or confessing one's wrong. Judas admitted his wrong but only regretted his actions. Repentance is also more than turning away from one's wrong or sin determining not to continue in it. Again, Judas no doubt also turned away from his wrong. Not that he could have betrayed Jesus again, but in his regret, had he the opportunity to do it over he would not have betrayed Jesus.

The key difference between repentance and regret is to whom we turn with our repentance. It is to God we take our repentance, agreeing with His will and His purpose for us and determining to turn away from our wrong actions. But even this is not the completion of repentance. Repentance is complete when God forgives us and our joy is restored and we are renewed in spirit and in relationship with our Maker. Only the believer who has experienced repentance and forgiveness can understand the full impact of receiving God's forgiveness and renewal of relationship. It is like walking out of a storm into the sunshine bringing with it a sense of freedom and joy nothing else can produce nor to which anything else can be compared.

Monday, February 22, 2016

What Am I Compelled by?

Reflections for this date are based on the following scripture passages:
2 Corinthians 4 2 Corinthians 5 Leviticus 20 Leviticus 21 Psalms 48

The death of Christ for the sins of the world makes no sense to those who have not come to the point of belief. Their minds have been blinded by the "god of this age." A reference to Satan made by Paul in 2 Corinthians 4:4. It is by faith that understanding takes place. An understanding that comes from God. So if one who does not believe is blinded by Satan, how do they ever come to the point of belief? It comes by taking one simple step of faith. As a man once said to Jesus, "I do believe! Help my unbelief." We open ourselves to accept what we don't understand. It is the simple step of choosing to believe and thus opening the door for God to do the rest.

Many are deterred from accepting that Christ died for them and through faith receiving the salvation made possible by His death because it doesn't make sense to them. They mistakenly equate faith and understanding. But if we understand, where is the faith? Scripture tells us we are saved through faith in Jesus, which acknowledges to us that we will not understand it, requiring us to accept what we don't understand. But once we accept it understanding comes. It is conveyed, not intellectually, but spiritually, through the Spirit of God who dwells in us as a believer.

But once we accept, by faith, Christ as our savior, understanding is not the only thing that changes. Our whole purpose in life changes. It is no longer our own desire that compels us and drives what we do. Instead, it is Christ's love that compels us. The apostle Paul said it this way, "For Christ's love compels us, since we have reached this conclusion: if One died for all, then all died." It was not Paul's love for Christ that motivated Paul's actions, though that was also present. But it was Christ's love for Paul that was his motivation. Christ loved him so much He died for Paul. This motivated Paul no longer to live for himself, but to live for Christ who died for him.

Here is the bottom line. Paul said, "Therefore if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation; old things have passed away, and look, new things have come." Beginning with a simple step of faith to say, "Lord, I don't understand, but I want to believe, help my unbelief," we are ushered into a new life. We become a new creation. Old things pass away and new things come to pass.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Free Indeed

Reflections for this date are based on the following scripture passages:
2 Corinthians 1 2 Corinthians 2 2 Corinthians 3 Leviticus 18 Leviticus 19 Psalms 47

Paul states in 2 Corinthians 3:16 that, "whenever a person turns to the Lord, the veil is removed." In verse 15 he said, "whenever Moses is read, a veil lies over their hearts." This veil Paul speaks of hides God's full glory from us, and it is "set aside only in Christ." (2 Cor. 3:14)

What was true of Judaism is true of any religious system by which a person tries to come to God through his own efforts. Even the most devout Jew had this veil between them and God as does anyone who attempts, no matter how religiously, to come to God through good works or acts of appeasment. But in Christ there is freedom from all this. The veil is removed, and not by anything we have done. Only by what Christ has done on our behalf. Our part is only to accept by faith what He has done for us, considering it to be for us and trusting in His suffering to gain access to God rather than anything we might do.

The Old Covenant, on which Judaism was based, was a covenant of works and bondage. One was ever offering sacrifices for atonement of sin, for the offerings only covered past sins and there were always new sins that needed to be atoned for. One was never in a continual state of being right with God. One was only in that state of being right with God for the short period between when they made offerings to atone for their sins and when they sinned once again.

In Christ, our sins are atoned for "once for all." As Hebrews 7:27 tells us, "He doesn't need to offer sacrifices every day, as high priests do--first for their own sins, then for those of the people. He did this once for all when He offered Himself."  Therefore, as we keep our eyes on Jesus as our sin offering, our sins, past, present, and future, are forgiven. We are forever free from the never-ending effort of trying to atone for our sins. Instead, we abide in Christ Jesus.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

In God Alone

Reflections for this date are based on the following scripture passages:
1 Corinthians 15 1 Corinthians 16 Leviticus 16 Leviticus 17 Psalms 46 Proverbs 15

Psalms 46, verses 1 & 2 reads, "God is our refuge and strength, a helper who is always found in times of trouble. Therefore we will not be afraid, though the earth trembles and the mountains topple into the depths of the seas." Many have found comfort in these words which inspired the hymn, "A Mighty Fortress is Our God," written by Martin Luther.

To find comfort in the words of this psalm, though, we must accept first that there is a God and He is almighty. And then, we must accept that this mighty God is a personal God who cares enough about each of us to comfort us in times of trouble. Accepting that God cares for us is the more difficult of the two for many people. It is especially difficult for those who have gone through trouble and felt God failed them. For us to conclude that God has failed us in anything, however, we must presume to know better than God what the outcome should have been.

It is at this point that many struggle with the existence of God, or at least the existence of a loving God. If God is capable of anything and if He is loving, they reason, then why wouldn't He keep something troubling from happening in the first place? Instead of finding comfort in God during times of trouble, they are troubled all the more. But the comfort in these words from Psalms 46 is not based on a desired outcome of a particular situation but on the assurance of a God who cares and who assures our eternal destiny regardless of the circumstances encountered in a life that is temporary.

The question becomes, is my happiness and joy based on temporary things or eternal things? Is my meaning in life found in God or in God plus something else?

Monday, February 15, 2016

Accentuating the Lesser

Reflections for this date are based on the following scripture passages:
1 Corinthians 13 1 Corinthians 14 Leviticus 14 Leviticus 15 Psalms 45

We humans are often inclined to accentuate things of lesser importance while giving little heed to the more important. Why is this? Because often the more important requires greater effort, is less entertaining, or brings little attention. As a general rule, though, the benefits we enjoy from these things of lesser importance to which we give our greater attention and effort have ever decreasing return. The benefits being, for the most part, temporary. The opposite could be said for the things of greater importance that we are inclined to ignore. The benefits are ever increasing and permanent.

In 1 Corinthians 13 and 14, Paul was making this point about spiritual gifts and also about spiritual gifts compared to fruit of the spirit. The Corinthians to whom he was writing were making a mockery of spiritual gifts which are intended to build the church. In their case, however, the use of the gifts was tearing down the church. They were focusing on the more exciting gifts and those that brought greater attention to themselves while ignoring those gifts that brought less personal glory or excitement but were of greater benefit to the church. Not only were they vying for attention by attempting to exercise the more attention-getting gifts, they were exercising these gifts all at once in an effort to be heard or noticed over others. It was a rather chaotic scene.

While Paul, in 1 Corinthians 12, pointed out that some of the less attractive gifts were often of greater benefit, in chapters 13 and 14 he emphasized that fruit of the Spirit is of greater importance than Spiritual gifts. If love, for example, is not present in the use of a gift, that gift loses its usefulness. Furthermore, there will come a time when all gifts will cease, but love and hope and other spiritual fruit will not.

Paul is saying to us in these passages, "Build up your use of the spiritual gifts you have been given, but don't ignore the fruit of the spirit we should all have." If we give greater attention to the spiritual fruit, that is, spiritual graces, spiritual gifts will be a natural outflow of those spiritual graces. As we exercise love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, etc, the natural channel through which they flow will be our spiritual gifts.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

The Disembodied Church

Reflections for this date are based on the following scripture passages:
1 Corinthians 10 1 Corinthians 11 1 Corinthians 12 Leviticus 12 Leviticus 13 Psalms 44 Proverbs 14

In 1 Corinthians 12, Paul discusses spiritual gifts and provides us a picture of how God intends for the church to function in fulfillment of His commission to it to be His witnesses throughout the world making disciples in every nation. It is these gifts with which we are endowed as Christians when we first receive Christ that empowers us to fulfill Christ's commission to the church. And it is these gifts which adds the spiritual dimension to what might otherwise be merely a human organization.

Paul used the metaphor of the human body to illustrate the function of spiritual gifts in the church, depicting how the body is healthy when all parts of the body are present and functioning as they are designed to do. Likewise, a church is healthy when all its members are utilizing their spiritual gifts in the manner and grace in which they are intended. Paul makes it clear that when members of the church try to function in ways for which they are not gifted the church becomes dysfunctional and when members fail to exercise the gifts God has given them the church is handicapped.

How is it even possible for a church to operate "in the Spirit" when it gives little attention to the gifts of the Spirit among its members? Few churches of which I have been a part have given more than lip service to the idea of spiritual gifts, and in some hardly even that. Little wonder such churches have no impact in their communities.

The church is the body of Christ. But a church that fails to recognize and function out of the spiritual gifts through which Christ empowers the church to accomplish His commission to it, is, in my mind, a disembodied church.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

The Mark of Christian Maturity

Reflections for this date are based on the following scripture passages:
1 Corinthians 7 1 Corinthians 8 1 Corinthians 9 Leviticus 10 Leviticus 11 Psalms 43

Am I a mature follower of Christ? If so, what is the mark of my maturity? Is it my knowledge of scripture? Is it my freedom from the legalism some try to place on our walk with Christ?

Paul, in chapters 8 and 9 of 1st Corinthians speaks indirectly to this question of Christian maturity. The issue he addressed directly was regarding meat offered to idols. There were new Christians in the church who had come out of idolatry and felt it improper for them any longer to eat meat that had been offered to idols. It was a matter of conscience for them. On the other hand, those in the church who had been Christians longer and were more aware of the teachings knew there was no command of the Lord forbidding them to eat this meat. Therefore they had no compulsion to refrain from eating this meat. Once the meat had been offered in idol worship it was then sold in the market at a lower price than other meat. Were these Christians who struggled financially to turn down meat that was more affordable just because less mature Christians thought it was wrong?

It is this question that comes to the point of Christian maturity. It is the same point Paul makes in chapter 13 of 1 Corinthians in which he said, "If I speak the languages of men and of angels, but do not have love, I am a sounding gong or a clanging cymbal." (1 Corinthians 13:1) In other words, anything that we might do as a Christian that is not motivated by love becomes ineffective. Though we might have liberty in Christ to do a certain thing but we exercise that liberty knowing that another Christian will be hurt by it, we are not demonstrating Christian maturity. Though we may have received a gift from the Lord to serve Him in a very effective way, but we do not exercise this gift in love, we are not demonstrating Christian maturity.

Any measure of spiritual maturity that does not include the fruit of the Spirit - love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faith, gentleness, self-control. - misses the mark.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

To Look Good or to Be Good?

Reflections for this date are based on the following scripture passages:
1 Corinthians 4 1 Corinthians 5 1 Corinthians 6 Leviticus 8 Leviticus 9

When taking stock of ourselves, what is our intent - to look good or to be good? If it is to look good, we will likely choose a standard against which to judge ourselves that will make us look good. However, if our intent is to be good we will compare ourselves to the true standard.

Paul addressed such a concern in 1 Corinthians 3 & 4. People in the Corinthian church were comparing themselves to various leaders saying they were followers of Paul or Apollos. But Paul told them "No one should boast in men" (1 Corinthians 3:21) He went on, in the first verses of chapter 4, to mention three standards we might use to compare ourselves:  that of other people, that of ourselves, or that of the Lord. The true standard, though, is the Lord. If we use other people as our standard we can always find someone with whom to compare ourselves that will make us look good even if we are not. If we use ourselves as the standard, Paul says, " I am not conscious of anything against myself." (1 Corthians 4:4) But the Lord, says Paul, "will both bring to light what is hidden in darkness and reveal the intentions of the hearts."

With the Lord, the intentions of our heart, that is, our motives, always trumps actions. We can do any number of things that make us look good, but what is our motive? Are we concerned about serving the Lord and being obedient or simply to make ourselves look good? If our motive is to look good, not only do we have the wrong intent, but our actions will not last. The question is whether we want to appear to be the person God intends us to be or if we want to actually be the person He wants us to be?

Monday, February 8, 2016

First the Heart and Then the Mind

Reflections for this date are based on the following scripture passages:
1 Corinthians 1 1 Corinthians 2 1 Corinthians 3 Leviticus 6 Leviticus 7 Psalms 42

Most of us know from experience the impact words can have. We have come to recognize the fallacy in the idiom, "Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me." Words can have quite an impact and actually be quite painful. The writer of James in the New Testament spoke of the power of the tongue saying it has the power to bless our Lord and also to curse men and is difficult to tame.

But when it comes to the things of God, the apostle Paul found that words had their limitations. While he was in Athens he engaged the philosophers using words to convey the wisdom of God and had limited success. Learning from that experience, when he went on to Corinth he did not depend on his words but on "a demonstration of the Spirit and power, so that your faith might not be based on men's wisdom but on God's power." (1 Corinthians 3:4-5) Though words must be used when conveying the things of God, they cannot be our primary tool in leading people to salvation through Christ, for God reveals the mystery of His salvation by the Spirit, not by the wisdom of man. So when we attempt to persuade one about the ways of God through words, "it is foolishness to him," for these things are "evaluated spiritually." (1 Corinthians 2:14)

Once the Corinthians came to God through the power of the Spirit and became more mature spiritually, then Paul could speak to them of the wisdom of God. It is important that the mind is engaged to the wisdom of God, but it is not the beginning point. First the heart needs to be engaged spiritually. With the heart engaged the mind can be ignited, and with both engaged the whole person can connect to the things of God.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Maintaining Unity

Reflections for this date are based on the following scripture passages:
Romans 13 Romans 14 Romans 15 Leviticus 5 Psalms 41

How do we handle differences of opinion within the church? Paul touched on this in Romans 14 as he addressed Christians from both Jewish and pagan backgrounds. There was much potential in this setting for conflict in the churches of Rome. The advise he gave them serves as good counsel for us as well.

Paul's words in chapter 14 seem to be addressed primarily to the more mature Christians. After all, the greater responsibility will be on the more mature Christian in any church to uphold unity, for they will be the more levelheaded and able to recognize the importance of adjusting their practice for the sake of unity. It will be the more mature who will have the grace in any setting to modify their conduct and their freedom to avoid conflict that might arise from the less mature who are tied to legalism.

Those who are more tied to rules than a relationship with Christ may think it a sign of maturity, but Paul refers to such people as those weak in the faith. They find security in the rules and lose their moorings when the rules are taken lightly by others. They criticize those who may take the rules more lightly as being less mature failing to recognize that the moorings of these people are founded in a mature relationship with Christ and therefore more secure than they are in their rules. So it is to the more mature who are well-founded in their relationship with Christ and less dependent on rules that Paul addresses his comments telling them to accept those who are weak in the faith and not to be drawn into arguments with them over doubtful issues. Both those who feel compelled to observe certain practices and those who do not are acting out of service to the Lord, doing what they do as unto the Lord.

In verses 10-12, though, Paul addresses both groups saying to those concerned about the rules, "why do you criticize your brother?" and to those less concerned, "why do you look down on your brother?" Both groups are accountable to God and not each other. Therefore, don't try to play god but rather recognize that "each of us will give an account of himself to God," and let God be the judge and not we ourselves. Also, recognize that "the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit."

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Christ Rather Than Religion

Reflections for this date are based on the following scripture passages:
Romans 10 Romans 11 Romans 12 Leviticus 3 Leviticus 4 Psalms 40 Proverbs 13

In the previous reflection I spoke of the failure of religion to make us right with God. Furthermore, it does not bring us the abundant life Christ came to give us.

In Romans 10 Paul stated that his "heart's desire and prayer to God" concerning his Jewish brothers was for their salvation. Yet they were very religious and Paul says of them that "they have a zeal for God." But their zeal was "not according to knowledge." He was telling them and us that misguided zeal for God, which is what simply being religious amounts to, is not sufficient.

David, in Psalms 40, spoke along similar lines saying, "You do not delight in sacrifice and offering . . . You do not ask for a whole burnt offering or a sin offering." Coming to this realization, David did the thing that God does delight in - he presented himself to the Lord with a heart willing to do God's will. And he turned to scripture finding what delights God. In verse 7 of the Psalm David said, "Then I said, "See, I have come; it is written about me in the volume of the scroll." Though the meaning of this verse in Psalms may seem a bit obscure, the writer of Hebrews gave it clarity quoting the words of Jesus, "You did not want sacrifice and offering, but You prepared a body for Me. You did not delight in whole burnt offerings and sin offerings. Then I said, "See, I have come--it is written about Me in the volume of the scroll--to do Your will, O God!" (Hebrews 10:5-7) What David read in scripture pointed him to Christ. God's delight is not in sacrifices and offerings, but in sending His Son to do what sacrifices and offerings could not do and for us to give ourselves to Him.

Returning to Romans 10, Paul brings this altogether saying, "This is the message of faith that we proclaim: if you confess with your mouth, "Jesus is Lord," and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. With the heart one believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth one confesses, resulting in salvation."

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

It Is Not About Religion

Reflections for this date are based on the following scripture passages:
Romans 7 Romans 8 Romans 9 Leviticus 1 Leviticus 2 Psalms 39

One of the biggest hindrances to people in their efforts to reach out to God is religion. Either a person bumps into the reality that religion won't do it and turns away, or they become satisfied by their religious efforts that they are doing what they need to do and never really come to understand what God truly desires from them. Those in this category find some comfort in the rituals of their religion but never question that there might be more to connecting with God than mere rituals.

Paul, in chapters 7-9 of Romans lays out the argument that being acceptable to God is not about religion and a system of works but about responding to God on His terms through faith. No other system will achieve acceptance by God: not good works, not any effort of atonement on our part, and not our family lineage. The Old Testament records for us the failure in all these ways to bring man to God. God appointed the man Abraham through whom to give His promise of Salvation through his descendants. But Paul points out in Romans that the true descendants of Abraham are not those in his bloodline but those who have his faith.

Using Abraham's descendants to be His models, God established a religious system for them to observe that illustrated through their efforts that man cannot be made right with God through a religious system. Paul, in his argument in Romans, explains why a religious system will not work, for it does nothing to fix our sin problem. He says, "For I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my flesh. For the desire to do what is good is with me, but there is no ability to do it." (Romans 7:18) Our religious rituals express our desire to agree with God, but they do not give us the ability to overcome sin in our lives.

So what is the solution? Paul tells us in Romans 8:1-2, "Therefore, no condemnation now exists for those in Christ Jesus, because the Spirit's law of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death." Through Christ's victory over sin and death, we are no longer prisoners to the law of sin, but are set free.