I was saved in 2002 when I believed in my heart that Jesus died and forgave my sins. I was filled with the joy of salvation and zeal for the things of God. But in the years after my salvation, I tried to have a personal relationship with Christ through the teachings in the 3 synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark and Luke). I took every word of Christ seriously in heart.
- I would recite the Lord’s Prayer sincerely trying to forgive others to attain God’s forgiveness otherwise I would not be forgiven according to Christ’s commandment (Matthew 6:6-15)
- I would try to be perfect like God as Christ commanded by avoiding sins in my thoughts, words, deeds, eyes, ears, etc to make sure I didn’t go to hell. (Matthew 5:20-48, Matthew 7:1-5)
- I would constantly confess my sins to receive forgiveness (Mark 1:5, 1 John 1:9)
- I tried to do restitution for all my past sins (Luke 19:1-10)
- I tried to seek God’s kingdom and Righteousness by giving up all attachment to worldly things like music, sports, hobbies, etc (Matthew 6:19-21).
- I tried to be a disciple of Christ by attempting to sell my possessions and forsake everything (Luke 12:29-34, Luke 14:25-35). (Thankfully I failed to obey this command!).
- I tried to carry the cross for Jesus by trying to stop sinning and preaching the gospel (Matthew 16:24-28, Mark 8:34-38).
- I tried to witness about Christ to others without denying His name so that He would not deny me in heaven (Mark 8:38, Matthew 10:32-33).
But after doing this for many years, I ended up in depression and confusion in my failed attempts to please God according to those teachings. I was constantly feeling short of the Biblical demands and was haunted by condemnation, self-introspection, fear, guilt, insecurity, etc. I felt distant from God with less assurance of salvation.
I realized that we CANNOT claim to have a relationship with Christ through the teachings of the 3 Gospels unless we SELL EVERYTHING and FOLLOW Him:
Luke 14 “26 “If anyone comes to me, and doesn’t disregard his own father, mother, wife, children, brothers, and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he can’t be my disciple. 27 Whoever doesn’t bear his own cross, and come after me, can’t be my disciple……33 So therefore whoever of you who doesn’t renounce ALL that he has, he can’t be my disciple. “
Matthew 19 “21 Jesus said to him, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell what you have, and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.”
Luke 12 “31 But seek God’s Kingdom, and all these things will be added to you. 32 Don’t be afraid, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the Kingdom. 33 Sell that which you have, and give gifts to the needy. Make for yourselves purses which don’t grow old, a treasure in the heavens that doesn’t fail, where no thief approaches, neither moth destroys. 34 For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.”
And we know that 99.9% Christians are NOT obeying this MAJOR commandment of Christ!
It’s much easier to try to love others, avoid anger or lust instead of selling everything! We choose the easy parts and ignore the EXTREME IMPOSSIBLE demands of Christ. We CANNOT water it down or spiritualize those words of Christ. We cannot judge others by obeying a few commandments. It’s because nobody obeys ALL of Christ’s commandments in the 3 Gospels.
So then what is the solution?
In 2009, the Lord finally showed me that He had already carried the cross for me so that I am saved by grace through faith without works.
- Jesus alone lived the perfect life that I could not do – I did nothing!
- Jesus alone carried the cross and died to forgive me eternally – I did nothing!
- Jesus rose from the dead to make me righteous freely by grace – I did nothing!
When I believed in Christ, I was already crucified and I’m no longer dead in sin but I’m alive and righteous by His grace and not my works.
Galatians 2 “19 For I, through the law, died to the law, that I might live to God. 20 I have been crucified with Christ, and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. That life which I now live in the flesh, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself up for me. 21 I don’t reject the grace of God. For if righteousness is through the law, then Christ died for nothing!”
So then WHY did Jesus require IMPOSSIBLE EXTREME commands in the 3 Gospels?
- It was because Jesus was preaching the LAW to Israel BEFORE the cross.
- His earthly ministry was ONLY to Israel under the Law (Matt 10:6, 15:24, Galatians 4:4-5).
- The Law demanded perfection from Israel and showed that they cannot be saved by their works (Romans 3:19-20, James 2:10)
- Jesus came to fulfill (perfect/complete) the Law for Israel (Matthew 5:17-20 ) being the ONLY MAN who is as PERFECT as GOD.
- Jesus used the Law to show Israel their sins so that they would stop trusting in their works and come to faith in Him (Galatians 3:19-25)
But how did Jesus deal with Gentiles not under the Law?
- He gave salvation to the Samaritan woman based on faith alone (John 4)
- He blessed the Canaanite woman based on faith alone (Matthew 15)
- He blessed the Centurion based on faith alone (Matthew 8)
We are Gentiles who were never under the Law of Israel. This is why Jesus never commands us to be perfect, sell everything, carry the cross!
Jesus only gave those impossible demands to the Jews because they were under the Law.
But the Law ended on the cross:
Hebrews 9 “15 For this reason he is the mediator of a new covenant, since a death has occurred for the redemption of the transgressions that were under the first covenant, that those who have been called may receive the promise of the eternal inheritance. 16 For where a last will and testament is, there must of necessity be the death of him who made it. 17 For a will is in force where there has been death, for it is never in force while he who made it lives.”
The New Covenant of Christ ONLY began on the CROSS.
The time during Christ’s birth and life on earth was STILL under the LAW.
Many things Jesus preached before the cross was actually the Law and NOT grace. (example: selling everything, being perfect, carrying the cross was required under law BUT is now not required under new covenant!). He did this to people who were trusting in their works. We also find that Jesus did reveal GRACE even before the cross mostly in the Gospel of John – it was because He gave grace to those who didn’t trust in their works.
But the Law was finally nailed to the cross (canceled) when Jesus died.
Colossians 2 “13 You were dead through your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh. He made you alive together with him, having FORGIVEN us ALL our trespasses, 14 WIPING OUT the HANDWRITING in ordinances which was against us. He has taken it out of the way, NAILING it to the CROSS.“
Ephesians 2 “3 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off are made near in the blood of Christ. 14 For he is our peace, who made both one, and broke down the middle wall of separation, 15 having ABOLISHED in his flesh the hostility, the law of commandments contained in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man of the two, making peace, 16 and might reconcile them both in one body to God through the cross, having killed the hostility through it. “
On the cross & after the resurrection, we see that Jesus FULLY REVEALS GRACE:
- Before the cross, Jesus commanded them to carry the cross to be saved.
- But ALL the 12 disciples ran away in fear when Jesus died on the cross.
- So when Jesus died on the cross, He gave salvation to the thief on the cross freely as a gift (Luke 23). The thief didn’t have to do anything but simply believe!
- Before the cross, Jesus told the Jews that if they denied Christ then He would deny them (Matthew 10:33).
- But after the cross, Jesus restored Peter even after he denied Him 3 times (John 21:13-21)
- On the CROSS, the law was abolished and now both Jew and Gentile can be saved by grace through faith in Christ without the works of law
- Ephesians 2:8-16
- Acts 15:6-11
- Jesus said that the WORK is FINISHED on the CROSS.
- There’s nothing for us to do because He already did it (John 19 “30 When Jesus therefore had received the vinegar, he said, “It is finished.” Then he bowed his head, and gave up his spirit.”)
So then how do believers have a relationship with Christ today AFTER the cross:
- We are not under law (10+603 commandments) but under GRACE (Romans 6:14)
- We are not under law but children of God by FAITH ALONE (Galatians 3:24)
- We are not asked to carry the cross because we were already crucified with Jesus and were raised with Him, seated in heavenly places (Galatians 2:15-21, Ephesians 2:4-8
- Ephesians 2:4-8 “4 But God, being rich in mercy, for his great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— 6 and raised us up with him, and made us to sit with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 that in the ages to come he might show the exceeding riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus; 8 for by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God,”
- We are not called to have a relationship with God based on the Law (Sermon on Mount and all those impossible extreme demands).
- We are called to have a relationship based on GRACE through FAITH and not our works.
- Jesus has already forgiven all our sins and made us righteous forever!
- Romans 4 ” 5 But to him who doesn’t work, but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness”
- 1 Corinthians 1 “30 Because of him, you are in Christ Jesus, who was made to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption:”
- We are called to REST in the FINISHED WORK of Jesus Christ.
- We believe in Christ to be saved by grace through faith without works
- The more we know His love, we love others in freedom, out of REST and not in compulsion (John 13:34, 1st John 4:10-11, 2nd Corinthians 9:7, Galatians 5:13-14).