There is a brand of Christianity that is always talking about the cross and the importance of dying to self. At best it is an imbalanced over-emphasis–a half-truth–and at worst, flat-out error. It promotes sin-conscious introspection, feelings of worthlessness, self-loathing, self-hatred, unworthiness, spiritual paralysis, and legalism. It promotes spiritual pride in a reverse sort of way—you are esteemed for how worthless you feel about yourself and how “humble” you have become in appearance to others who control access to power in the specific church culture.
This blog is submitted by my good friend, and fellow in passion for New Covenant truth, Mark Drake.
Am I holy enough? Do I obey enough? Am I enough like Jesus for God to be happy with me? Am I trying hard enough?
As sincere believers, these kinds of questions torment many of us. We know our weaknesses and so does our adversary. And he frequently uses them to make us afraid that we are not working hard enough, we are not serious enough or we just don’t love God enough.
Our enemy knows our sincere fears and he uses them against us. And he uses Bible verses to beat us over the head; or more accurately, beat us over the heart, and steal our confidence with God.
Sadly, sincere but misguided preachers and teachers help drive us deeper into the pit by misquoting verses or taking them out of context and pressing them to mean something other than their intended purpose; which, according to the very scripture we quote, is to give us hope. “…so that through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.” (Rom.15:4)
Most do not intentionally mishandle the Word, but the damage is done just the same, again and again. I know, because for many years I was one of those who, through lack of understanding of the true New Covenant, mishandled the Word…creating condemnation for myself and those to whom I ministered.
Context, Context, Context
The answer to our dilemma is relatively simple if we will learn to read Bible verses in context. Context simply means reading the verses before and after, and seeing how they influence the meaning of what we read.
And then we need to ask ourselves the simple questions we ask about anything we read; who is speaking, who are they speaking to, when and where were they speaking…and what might this mean in light of the death, resurrection and ascension of Christ.
Let’s look at John 14:15- “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.”
For many years, I read this verse as if it said, “If you love Me, you better keep My commandments.” That certainly sounds like a threat. It’s hard to have excited faith in a threat.
If this verse is a commandment which I am supposed to do by my human ability, then I must ask myself if the Scriptures teach that human beings actually can obey God, perfectly, by their own effort. Most, I think, would answer correctly and say the Scripture does not teach that humans can act like God, by their own best effort.
At other times, I have read this passage as saying, “If you love Me, you will prove it by keeping My commandments.” That certainly sounds like a demand; a demand which none of us can live up to all the time. It’s hard to have enthusiastic faith in a demand I know I can’t live up to perfectly, all the time.
So when we fall short (and we do), we question our love for God. The thinking goes like this. “Well, if I really loved God as I say I do, I wouldn’t have acted that way. So I must not love Him like I thought I did.” When we question our love for God based on our imperfect behavior, we open the flood gates to fear, shame and condemnation.
Faith In A Promise Comes Alive
I can only put my faith and hope in a promise; not in a demand or a threat. Our adversary has succeeded in getting us to misunderstand some of the most basic, simple and important scriptures by twisting God’s promises into threats and our hopes into His demands.
But when God gives me a promise, when He promises to do something in me and for me that I cannot do for myself; now that’s something I can confidently and joyfully put my faith and hope in.
This Is The Good News
John 14:15 is not a threat or a demand; it is an awesome promise! An amazing promise that is fulfilled when I come to understand the true New Covenant.
Taken in context, Jesus actually said:
“If you love Me, you will be enabled to keep My commandments.”
“If you love Me, I will empower you to keep My commandments.”
Think about it in light of how we speak. “If you love me, you will obey Me.” He is speaking about the result that comes from loving Him.
This is like a good doctor saying, “If you take this medicine, you will get well.” The result of taking the right medicine is getting well. We don’t make ourselves well. Getting well is the result of taking the right medicine. Jesus’ words are about action and result, cause and affect.
See The Promise
When we read Jesus’ statement this way, we see it is a promise, not a threat. His promise is this: If we will choose to love Him, He will do something for us, in us and through us; something we cannot do for ourselves. He will empower us from within to obey Him in ways we never could by our own effort.
This is the promise of the New Covenant. Christ will come to live inside of us by His Spirit. Then He begins to empower and change us from the inside out.
Jesus said, “If you will choose to love Me, My love will empower you to obey Me!”
But How Can We Be Sure This Is What He Said?
This is all great, great news…if it’s true.
So how do we know if this is true? Is this really what Jesus said? How do we know Jesus was actually giving us a promise we can put our faith and hope in? By the context we find when we simply read the next verse.
“I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever.” (John 14:16)
These are His next words. The Father will give you a Helper.
So we ask, “What is the Helper going to help us do?” And the answer is simple.
The context is love and obedience. We choose to love Him and the Helper is going to help us obey.
How is the Helper going to help us obey?
By living His life in and though us and empowering us from within.
And how do we know this is true? By reading the next verse.
John 14:17 “…and you know Him for He has been with you, but He shall be in you.”
The promise of the New Covenant is that the Spirit of Jesus will come to live in and through us, and make us holy from within. And John 14:15 is one of the greatest promises of this New Covenant. His promise is to make us holy from the inside out by living His holy life in and through us.
In and through. In and through. In and through.
This is the promise of how we are “being made holy.”
But we can only truly put our faith and hope in this great promise of “being made holy” when we learn to read the Bible in context.
“If you choose to love Me, I will empower you to obey Me.
The Father will send you the Helper to help you obey.
He will help you by living His holy life in and through you.”
Copyright © 2012 by Mark Drake of Mark Drake Ministries, author of God’s Brilliant Plan, searching for the easy and light life Jesus promised.
Permission to copy, forward, or distribute this article is granted as long as this copyright byline is maintained in all duplications, copies, and link references.
The “revival” industry is a guilt and shame-based, obedience avoidance mechanism, that puts on to God responsibility for some great future day “if only” certain conditions are met by us. It fosters a do nothing (other than our meetings), hyper-spirituality that allows one to feel good about one’s self as being “spiritual” for begging, moaning, and pleading for “revival” in the future while doing nothing practical for humanity today. The problem is, the “if only” list is never ending, conditions are never met, or some blame shifting mechanism is developed to explain away why “revival” never happens, in spite of all our spiritual gymnastics. Hucksters leverage the guilt to keep the meetings full and the cash flowing.