Jim Lugar | Special to The Prosper Times
I have a friend who is an atheist. When we first met he was organizing and leading a weekly meeting of atheists at a local pub. One day he invited my wife and me to come to his atheist group for a “Meet the Pastor” night. It was without a doubt one of the most interesting meetings we had been a part of as we shared why we believe in God with them, and they shared why they don’t believe in God with us. But what we discovered that evening was that each and every person who proclaimed to be atheist had a religious background from which they had broken away, because they just couldn’t reconcile the inequities of their religion. They were somewhat familiar with the Bible and all of their objections for believing in God came from the Old Testament, which told us that in their religious experience they were trying to relate to God through the law.
I had a similar experience in my spiritual journey but it didn’t lead me to atheism. I grew up attending a denominational church, which our family stopped attending when I was a teenager. Then a year or so after moving away from home I became a born again Christian in the non-denominational, charismatic movement of the 1980s. Yet both of those religious experiences were steeped in legalism and with each I realized I was trying to relate to God through the law. Just like the Israelites of the Old Testament, I was trying to earn God’s love, favor, and approval by adhering to a list of dos and don’ts prescribed by the leaders of each church. I was struggling with the inequities of religion and I knew there had to be more, so I dug deeper, specifically in the New Testament. After all, hadn’t God established a new covenant with His people?
What I discovered set me free from the bondage of legalism and opened up a new and life-giving way to relate to God. No longer did I have to earn God’s love, favor, and approval; all of those have been freely given to me by Jesus Christ, simply by placing my trust in Him.
The Apostle Paul explains this best in his letter to the believers in Rome.
Obviously, the law applies to those to whom it was given, for its purpose is to keep people from having excuses, and to show that the entire world is guilty before God. For no one can ever be made right with God by doing what the law commands. The law simply shows us how sinful we are. But now God has shown us a way to be made right with him without keeping the requirements of the law, as was promised in the scriptures long ago. We are made right with God by placing our faith in Jesus Christ. And this is true for everyone who believes, no matter who we are. For God presented Jesus as the sacrifice for sin. People are made right with God when they believe that Jesus sacrificed his life, shedding his blood (Romans 3:19-22, 25) New Living Translation.
Jesus gave us a new way to relate to God! No longer do we have to earn anything from God! Every bit of His love, favor, and approval is made available to us simply by placing our trust in what Jesus did for us.
My prayer for you today is that you would stop trying to relate to God through the old way, and enjoy the new way made available through Jesus Christ.
Jim Lugar is lead pastor of Life Journey Church.