Saturday, February 6, 2016

When Should is a four letter word

I've been spending a lot of time in the book of Leviticus.  I know, awe inspiring and comforting place to rest my soul, right?

I used to scan over it quickly in the early days of my Bible reading.  The Levitical laws don't apply to the post resurrection Christian, no need to spend a lot of time here....let's hurry up and get to Numbers.... Oh wait, that's kind of boring too, hmmm, when does it get exciting?

I'm amazed (and kinda shudder with the thought, "you're such a nerd!) when I realize I don't think that way anymore, because truthfully, Leviticus is pretty exciting.  But it's only exciting looking through the lens of - "I don't have to worry about doing any of this anymore!"

I don't have to keep a herd of sheep or goats or even a flock of pigeons on standby for every thought, word and action I knowingly or unknowingly did or didn't or might do.

The only reason I don't is because of one person - JESUS!  If it weren't for him, those required sacrifices and cleanses may still be a requirement, not just for Jews, but maybe even for the Gentiles like me.

It's really hard to grasp all Jesus has set us free from, but a good reminder is to just look at Leviticus to catch a big eye-full of freedom.

The tangible things, those things we are no longer required to do because Jesus was the perfect substitute for our sins, are a fairly easily understood grasp of what His sacrifice means not only for the Jews, but for the Gentiles like me who get to tag along and be grafted into his promise and reward.

Imagine for a second if the Levitical laws were still in place?  (You have to read Leviticus to get the point of this, so take a few minutes and just scan the headlines in the book - Go ahead, I'll wait and I'll look too.)

The grain offering

The burnt offering

Eating Fat and Blood Forbidden

Clean and Unclean food

Purification after childbirth

Regulations about Infections Skin Disease

Pick any or all of them and say to yourself:  This no longer applies to me.  I no longer am required to fulfill any of these things.

Next, ask yourself this:  But what if I did?

What if Jesus' sacrifice was not enough?  What if God turned his head at the beatings, the torture, the flogging, the mocking, the nailing to the cross, the hanging there in pain, the dying naked and alone.....what if none of that mattered?  What if none of that counted?

Sometimes I still live like it didn't matter.  I still live under my own quasi Levitical, I mean New Testament Christian, "guidelines."  I agree wholeheartedly with my mouth, Jesus did it all, yet in my thoughts and actions and even my beliefs, the law slips out.

I should read my Bible everyday.

I should be kinder.

I should not swear or think bad thoughts.

I should not get mad at idiots.

I should be more patient with idiots.

I should follow the demands and regulations of a religious denomination.

I should condemn those who do not see Jesus' Words in the exact same way the Holy Spirit has shown me.

I should.

I should.

I really, really, really should.

Here's the deal Weak believer, strong believer, waffling believer, hope on a string believer:

Whenever you put the word SHOULD in front of any of your thoughts, practices, or judgments in regards to anything required of you because you are a believer in are putting yourself and the person, thing or behavior under Levitical law.

Jesus freed us from everything!

Should you go to church every Sunday?  If the Holy Spirit leads you to.

Is going to church every Sunday a requirement for keeping my salvation?

Last I checked, Romans 10:9-13 is still included in the Bible.

Should I give 10% of my income to the church?  If the Holy Spirit leads you to.

Should I baptize my baby?  If the Holy Spirit leads you to.

Should I..............?  Fill in the blank.  The answer should always be, and I really mean, I hope the answer always is:  If the Holy Spirit leads you to.  Because if the (un)holy should is leading you, it may be harder to hear what the Holy Spirit wants you to do.  Jesus took care of the shoulds for us.  That curse word should can now be permanently deleted from your spiritual vocabulary.

Anything that you are placing on yourself or another person and saying that it is a requirement for salvation or a fear that it may hinder your salvation beyond simple belief and trust in the work of Jesus Christ is......a work.

If you're still not sure, it's time to see if Ephesians 2:8-10 applies.

Good works are just that....Good.  If you feel (and I hate to use that word but I'm going to) if you feel good doing the work God created in advance for you to do, then by all means, do the work.  But don't do it if you have the icky feeling, or the thought "what will happen to me if I don't do this work?"  When we do God's good works with the slightest hint of fear of punishment or losing our salvation or just being unsure if we're really saved, that's not God.

That work is not from God.

There is nothing anyone can do, practice, avoid, pretend to agree with, or disagree with that is going to save you or keep you saved except believing in the One and Only Son of the Creator and Sustainer of the universe.

You cannot do, practice, stop doing, start doing, resume doing anything to keep you out of heaven or send you to heaven - except believe in Jesus Christ the Savior of the world.

That's it.

We are no longer under the Levitical law nor are we under any self-imposed or religious imposed practice to assure us of our salvation.

Jesus' work has done it all.

Anything else that follows the word S H O U L D . . . . should go to H E double toothpicks.

You can practice them, but don't depend on them for your salvation.  If you have joy practicing them, by all means practice them with joy.  But if you don't have joy and peace, then step back for a minute or two and ask yourself:  Am I doing, saying, believing this out of fear or uncertainty or am I full of joy when I am doing, saying or believing this?

If you want to read your Bible everyday, read your Bible everyday.  But don't read it out of fear or in keeping with an imagined taskmaster.

Do you like going to church every Sunday?  By all means go.  But if you are going because you "SHOULD" go because that's what "good" Christians do, then maybe you need to examine your motives.

What do you believe is the requirement for salvation?  Faith alone or faith and a whole bunch of my self imposed or my denomination's practices?  It can't be both.  You can practice the others, but if you are saying "SHOULD" to any of them, then there's a bit of a problem.  You, my dear Friend, are not experiencing true Freedom in Christ.

I know this, because I lived it and still battle it.

I still have the curse word "SHOULD" floating in my thoughts and it sneaks out through my mouth and judgments from time to time.

That little word should, used first by God Himself in the Levitical law, is no longer my boss.  That little word needs to be thrown off its weak and rotted throne.  Should has done a whole lot of damage to Followers of Jesus.  If you are concerned about the state of Christianity in America as I am, then look no further than what is practiced because of SHOULD after belief in Jesus Christ.

It's either Him and His work alone or it's not.

This is a tough concept, I know.  The consequences of looking at this personally is scary, I know.  I've done it.

But I've tasted the freedom that comes from taking "SHOULD" out of my spiritual vocabulary and I want you to taste it too.  Believe me, life with Jesus becomes a whole lot more joyful when you taste and see that He and He alone is good.  You don't have to add a bunch of other stuff to get the full flavor of His work.  Sometimes too much of other spices is not always good in a dish.  Sometimes just a little salt will do.

Your assignment is this:

1.  Pray for God to show you what I'm stumbling all over my words here trying to tell you.

2.  Do number one again.

3.  Probably should do number one again.

4.  If three times doesn't help, try this:  Look and think about all the times you think and say should in relation to your personal spiritual walk with Jesus.

5.  Look and listen for all the times you say should in regards to other's walk with Jesus.

6.  When you recognize something, hold it up to the light of Jesus, like an antique dealer looking for real China.  If you can see light coming through, it's Jesus.  If it's fake China, with no transparency when held up to the probably has been over kiln cooked in the Should oven.

7.  The tough part will be what to do with the shoulds when you find find them.  The easy part is recognizing them.  (Spoiler alert - you're in for a humbling shock, but don't despair, hope is right there to pick you up!) The harder part will be throwing the shoulds out.  As always, the first place you should put anything you don't know is from God or not is at the foot of the Cross.  (Only then is this should a should you should practice!)  Set it down, pick up your Bible and see what the cross has to say about it.  Jesus will let you know where to go from there.  I promise He will.

That should (see how often that word slips out) be enough to get you started and thinking outside of the box someone long ago said we should sit in.



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