The Problem with Rulebook Religion

Living A Christian Life Is Not About Rules, But Instead About Love

Tim Lundy
May 1, 2022    48m
Jesus fulfilled all of the rules of the Old Testament law, so when we are living a Christian life, we should focus on how we treat others and how we share the Gospel rather than how well we follow a list of rules. Video recorded at Los Gatos, California.

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This is a transcription of the sermon. People speak differently than they write, and there are common colloquialisms in this transcript that sound good when spoken, and look like bad grammar when written.

May 1-2022 Venture sermon
Tim Lundy: [00:00:48] Well, good morning, Venture. It is great to see everybody, what a great weekend. I love, as a church, I always love Sundays because I love being together, and I love to worship together.

Tim Lundy: [00:00:59] But I also love all the ministries that happen through the week, on the weekend, and when we can go out, and in tangible ways, make a difference in the world and really tackle head on real problems. And so yesterday, being at the Boys and Girls Club, it was awesome to see it in the morning at 8:00, and then see it toward the end of the day how much progress there was. And more than that, to see all of you out there, hundreds of people that showed up yesterday, and a lot of us left with more paint on ourselves than we probably put on the wall. I'm guilty of that, I can't paint neatly. I'm around people and they're doing it neatly, and I go, I don't know how you do that. But more than anything, I love seeing, we had so many young people, I think we had more teenagers than any group that was out there serving. So can we celebrate them, and the ones that showed up for that? Yeah, that was awesome to see. We'll get to see it next weekend, next weekend, you'll see the full celebration before and after pictures and the difference that it's making. But I just love when we partner with key organizations like this, when we do something in our city, and when we help in real ways.

Tim Lundy: [00:02:06] I'm thinking as well, that in a few weeks we're going to tackle a different issue. And we've got a conference on our campus, it's another Saturday conference, May 21st, of How to Live in Sexual Integrity, and this is in partnership with our Journey Women and our Warrior Men's Ministry. And again, I love these ministries because we're tackling a real problem. How do you help people live in a world where we're oversexualized and everything and some really struggle with it? And all of us know someone who does, and so it's a conference, guilt-free or shame-free, at least. And an opportunity to learn, okay, how can I learn from experts, how does this impact your brain? How do I support somebody in this? How do I parent well through this, in a world that's dealing with these issues? And I say that now, because as this conference is coming, it's real easy on a conference like that to go, oh, that's not my issue. Guys, it's all of our issues, because all of us are living in community together, and whether we like it or not, I mean, I just did a whole series on how much it's impacting us. And so I'd really want you to think and pray about if that'd be a conference that you would come, maybe it's not your current struggle or ever been part of your struggle, but I bet you know somebody that you could help. And by being equipped through it, we can tackle it in a real way because the Bible has real answers for real life.

Tim Lundy: [00:03:34] In fact, I love the passage we're in today, Romans 7 is one of my favorite passages because Paul gets so real in this passage of just real struggles and how do we address this stuff? And so if you've got your Bibles, turn to Romans 7. If you didn't bring a Bible, pull out the blue one in front of you, or pull it up on your phone. Everybody needs the text in front of you in some way, it'll help you in reading through it, it helps as we go through that together, we learn by doing that. But Romans chapter 7, if you're using the blue one in the room, it's probably page 1120,21 right in there if you turn there in it.

Tim Lundy: [00:04:13] And what we want to look at in this text is the flip side of what we talked about last week. And so just to give you a little bit of background, you know, I talked about two wrong approaches to the Christian life. And last week we looked at the golden ticket approach, I call it Golden Ticket Christianity, where basically I say I'm right with God, so it doesn't matter what I do now. Kind of like the Willy Wonka, I got the golden ticket, I am in, I am good, I prayed the right prayer, I walk the right aisle, I have been justified by faith, all the things you've been talking about in Romans, did it, done, I'm in, I'm good. So from here on out, it really doesn't matter kind of what I do. And God, by the way, is a God of grace and he loves to pour out grace, so I'm going to give him a lot of reasons to pour it out. And as we talked about last week, man, ignoring sin is not an option for Christians. We can't just pretend because he's a God of grace, man, that's my ticket to do what I want because it somehow nullifies what Christ did? No, but Paul, as we looked at it last week, he says, why would you want to live that way? I mean, why would you ever take this approach to it?

Tim Lundy: [00:05:35] As I told you last week, you've got this road of the Christian life that we're on, and that's one ditch that we can get caught in. This week, we're going to look at the other ditch. Let's look on the other side, this is rule book Christianity, and rule book Christianity says I stay right with God if I keep the right rules. Now, I was made right with God because of Jesus. Absolutely, Jesus died on the cross, I've done that. But if I'm going to stay right with God now, it's all going to be about keeping the right rules.

Tim Lundy: [00:06:08] And again, both of these have truth to them. I mean, have we been saved by grace? Will God forgive any sin no matter what? Absolutely. As Paul said, why would you want to live that way? In the same way, are there boundaries God gives? Are there parts of his word that he'll call us to that, and he says, hey, you got to follow this? Absolutely. The ditch is, when you make it all about the right rules, when you make it all about the rulebook. And for some, it's a legalism that you've got to do the right rules to ever get right with God. For some, maybe they don't fall for that, but it's if you're not keeping the right rules.

Tim Lundy: [00:06:45] And it's interesting, by the way, depending on your denomination or your church, how we define what the right rules are. You know, when I was growing up, I mean, it was basically, you know, you don't drink, smoke, or chew, or go out with girls who do. I mean, you know, that was like fundamental rules there. Or sometimes it's not even bad things, it's things you'd want in your life. but we kind of turn them into a rule. I remember as a little kid in Sunday school, we had an attendance chart, and every week that you came, you got a golden star. And then the teacher would highlight it, Suzy here has not missed a week, you know, in seven years, and everybody knows that Suzy is like, mm-hmm. Is it a good thing to attend church? Obviously, as a pastor, I think so, but are we going to turn it to that? Or you know, it's a good thing to have a quiet time, but I mean, you have a quiet time every morning, don't you? And I would think, you know, you'd at least need to spend an hour in your quiet time. I mean, have you ever been around somebody like that? And you're like, wait, what I thought was a good thing, and suddenly it's feeling like a rule thing, we all have this propensity to do this.

Tim Lundy: [00:08:06] You know, it's interesting as you look at these two things, by the way, non-Christians, these are the two things they really hate about us. Because Golden Ticket Christians are very hypocritical, and they look at it and they go, yeah, you tout this Jesus thing, but you guys don't live any different. And rule book Christians get really judgy, they go, yeah, you're judging me all the time. Now, I would say every world system has these two problems, by the way, and the world struggles with this just as much. We live in a culture that tells you that you can do anything, but they have a set of rules that if you break the rules that are ever-changing, by the way, and the social media rules and what you say and what you don't say, and if you don't believe this, you don't affirm that, man, you'll get canceled in a moment.

Tim Lundy: [00:08:52] It's a set of rules, the reason the two ditches are there, it's not just a Christian problem, it's a human problem that we have. But as Christians, how do we deal with it? How do we live in this way, that man, I want to pursue Jesus, I want to be on this path of doing that? And so as I looked at it, you know, Paul says, let me tell you about one ditch, and we looked at it last week. He goes, let's talk about this one, though, let's talk about rulebook Christianity, and by the way, we have the perfect case study to do so. Because a core part of the church, we're Jewish believers. And by the way, you know, they would hold up their hand and go, Paul, we're not just talking about any rulebook, we're keeping God's rulebook, we're keeping the rules he actually gave us called the law.

Tim Lundy: [00:09:39] And so the Old Testament law, if you know that system, if you're familiar with it, it was initially how God interacted with humanity and revealed himself through the nation of Israel. And so he gave them the law, and the law had moral parts of it, the Ten Commandments, do this, don't do this. It had civil parts of it, this is how you're supposed to operate as a country. It had ceremonial parts of it, here are things that you do, especially within the temple system. And the whole law was built in a way of, here as God's standard, and if you want to be right with God, you have to live up to this standard. And if you don't, God made provision of the sacrifices in the temple system to cover people who didn't live up to the standard.

Tim Lundy: [00:10:24] Now, the beauty of it is, as Christians now looking back on it, we can see the whole system was pointing to Jesus, all of the Bible is always pointing to Jesus out of it. But now in the church, you've got these Jewish believers, they become Christians. And Paul's telling them, hey, this is how you can live, and you don't have to live under the rules that you lived under, under the Jewish law. You're not restricted on some of the foods that you couldn't eat, you don't have to wear clothes like you had to wear, you don't have to do the ceremonial parts that you did with it. And a lot of these Jewish Christians are really struggling with this because they go, I don't know, but this doesn't feel right, Paul.

Tim Lundy: [00:11:03] In fact, wouldn't it just be safer if we go ahead and put these rules in place? So, yes, we love Christianity, and we love Jesus, but can we just add this to it too? I think that's a safer way of doing it. Part of the problem with rulebook Christianity, is we start thinking for God. And so, yeah, God, I know you took it to here, I'm going to go ahead and add a few more things because I think it would help you, you should have thought of this. And so in this, for us, this is a great passage to go through. Probably not because any of us today, I doubt there's anybody here that you're going, well, I'm really struggling with the Old Testament law, I think we ought to keep it. But if we're honest, we struggle with this form of rulebook Christianity, and so the way Paul helps them process through this will help us think through it too.

Tim Lundy: [00:11:51] As always, look in the passage with me as Paul writes, and he's going to start with an analogy. Read with me starting in verse 1, he says, "Do you not know, brothers—for I am speaking to those who know the law—that the law is binding on a person only as long as he lives? 2For a married woman is bound by law to her husband while he lives, but if her husband dies, she is released from the law of marriage. 3Accordingly, she will be called an adulteress if she lives with another man while her husband is alive. But if her husband dies, she is free from that law, and if she marries another man, she is not an adulteress. 4Likewise, my brothers, you also have died to the law through the body of Christ, so that you may belong to another, to him who has been raised from the dead, in order that we may bear fruit for God. 5For while we were living in the flesh, our sinful passions, aroused by the law, were at work in our members to bear fruit for death. 6But now we are released from the law, having died to that which held us captive, so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit and not in the old way of the written code."

Tim Lundy: [00:12:58] So as he describes it here, he's saying to us, as Christians, we've been released from life under the law. We've been released from it. And in the same way that you would look at a woman, if her spouse dies and then she remarries, no one looks at her and says, you're an adulteress. How dare you? Everyone knows, no, she has freedom from that first marriage through death in it. And so as Paul writes this, he's pointing out that we have that freedom because Jesus fulfilled the law for us. Remember, we were united with Christ, we died with Chris, and so when Christ died, we died, and so Jesus fulfilled the law completely.

Tim Lundy: [00:13:41] And this is an important point, because a lot of times when we talk about the law, you can look at it almost like, oh, yeah, the law, everything about it is bad. Paul doesn't think that way, Jesus certainly didn't think that way. He looked at the system of it and, in fact, remember what he said in Matthew 5. He said, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. 18For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished." Accomplish is the key there. Remember, the whole system of the law was to be right with God, you had to perfectly obey every one of the commandments. And then the sacrificial system was a way of covering your sin if you weren't right with the commandments. And so Jesus, when He walked on this planet, the amazing part about Jesus, He never broke one of God's laws.

Tim Lundy: [00:14:38] Now, if you read through the New Testament, you'll hear the Pharisees a lot of times they're bringing charges against him, they're like, you broke this law, you broke that law. He never broke one of their rules, remember, part of the problem with rulebook Christianity is we start adding to it, we've got to think for God. And so the Jewish people, especially the Pharisees, they added a bunch of rules they thought God should have put in there in the first place. And if you read through the Life of Christ, it's almost like he goes out of his way to try to break those rules. Because he's trying to point out to them, yeah, that system doesn't work. But he literally kept every one of God's commandments. I mean, he never messed up once, it's unbelievable when you think about it.

Tim Lundy: [00:15:21] If you think about Paul, remember, he compared the two Adam's, the first Adam, and then he calls Christ the second Adam, the second opportunity for humanity. The first Adam had one rule, and he broke it. The second Adam, by the way, lived in a fallen world, was tempted in every way we were, had all the commandments of God, and actually faced temptation from Satan himself, and he never broke one of them. He fulfilled it, he did what no one else could do, he fulfilled the law. And then to top it off, this one who fulfilled it, was willing to be the sacrifice for all the people who didn't fulfill it. He's willing to be the final sacrifice, that's why we don't have a temple, that's why we don't slaughter animals here, that's why we don't do any of the things that were part of the old law, not because it was just like abolished as bad, it was fulfilled in Jesus. And so when he is dying on the cross, he says his final words to tell us that, it is finished. That's what he's talking about, I fulfilled it, I did everything I was supposed to do, and it's completed in Him.

Tim Lundy: [00:16:36] Now, the good news for us then is, as Christians, we died to it when Jesus died on the cross. So everything that Jesus did in it, we fulfilled it because he fulfilled it. And then when he died to it, we died to it. And that's why Paul uses the analogy here of marriage, just like you're free and marriage in a death, there's been a death. And so you die to the former spouse, you died to the one, that by the way, was a great marriage in its time, it served its purpose, but now there's a new way of approaching this. And as you look at that, I think it is important that we realize that the law, and the Old Testament, and the prophets, that they served that purpose in that time, that's why we read them and study them so we can see how the new covenant, this new relationship changes things and it's built upon. It didn't mean the old was bad, it's the fulfillment of it.

Tim Lundy: [00:17:27] It'd be like, you can talk about when I was in high school, does anybody remember actually typing on a typewriter? Did anybody else, did you learn on a typewriter itself? And do you remember the technology of typewriters, I remember we had these old typewriters in our high school, we had we used to have typing class. It may have been the single most practical class I took in all of high school, by the way. But I remember our school got the latest technology, IBM's Selectric typewriters. So instead of all the keys and you go, and you had to do that, it had this ball on it with all the letters on it, and man, you could get that Selectric going. And that ball, and then it had a little strip that you could correct mistakes, you'd have to use White-Out. Do you remember, White-Out and all that? Now, I doubt any of you are still typing on a Selectric or a typewriter unless you like the feel of it. What happened? Computers came, and word processing took a leap. But when I use a computer today, I actually can see the parts of it that were related to the typewriter, I can actually see, oh, this was a progression of technology. When I use a computer today, it's not like I go, oh, typewriters were horrible. I go, oh, actually typewriters led to this, and I'm thankful for it. The computer is all the typewriter ever dreamed of being and more.

Tim Lundy: [00:17:27] And in the same way with it, Paul says, it's not that the law was bad, it's the fulfillment in the New Covenant that was built on it, that progression that happened. As we look at that then, we need to recognize the good the law actually does, we need to recognize the good parts of it. And Paul says I look at the good parts of the law when it was there. Look at it, and read with me, starting in verse 7, "What shall we say, then? Is the law sinful?" So was the law sinful? Was the law bad? By no means!" Come on, man, no. "Yet if it had not been for the law, I would not have known sin. For I would not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said, “You shall not covet.” 8But sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, produced in me all kinds of covetousness. For apart from the law, sin lies dead. 9I was once alive apart from the law, but when the commandment came, sin came alive, and I died. 10The very commandment that promised life proved to be death to me. 11For sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, deceived me and through it killed me. 12So the law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good. 13Did that which is good, then, bring death to me? By no means! It was sin, producing death in me through what is good, in order that sin might be shown to be sin, and through the commandment might become sinful beyond measure."

Tim Lundy: [00:20:36] So what's Paul describing here? He's saying, we need to recognize the good of the law. He says, in my own life, it shows me my sin. He said I thought I was the perfect Christian, and Paul really did, he was like a Pharisee of the Pharisee, he kept everything. He thought he was what Jesus actually fulfilled. He said, man, I thought I was doing it all, I could go down the list and you couldn't list anything I wasn't doing until I came to the one that says, thou shalt not covet, you can't want what somebody else has. And it gets really practical, I mean, their stuff, their wife, their home, their spiritual life. And Paul realized, oh. I'm not keeping that, it's exposed me. And so he looked at it and he says, so do I blame the law for that? Do I go, oh, it's the law's fault on that? He goes, no, no, that was me, it just revealed it in me. Let's say I was struggling with my health; I knew something was wrong. I go to the doctor and the doctor says, yeah, based on your bloodwork, this is pretty serious, we're going to have an MRI. So I'm scheduled for an MRI, and I don't know if you've ever done that, you know, they put you in the tube and you go up there and then the noises for about 20 minutes there. And then coming out of it and meet with the doctor and he says, I hate to break it to you, you've got a tumor. I mean, this clearly shows it right here, this is cancerous, this is bad. Now, my response in that moment, do I get mad at the MRI? It's that stupid MRI's fault, I mean, I was fine until I came across that MRI. No, I had the problem all along, it just revealed it, and it made it really, really clear. And Paul says in the same way, I mean, you look at this, you look at what God lays out, you look at the standards, you look at the law. As much as I might want to rail against it, it was a me problem, it was a sin problem, and it revealed it.

Tim Lundy: [00:22:58] The other side that he points to is, that it also shows me God's standard. He says the law is good, it's holy, and there's a righteousness to it. And so when I'm reading through that and I look at it, I suddenly understand God more. That's why when people ask me, they go, man, you know, I'm doing a Bible reading plan. How many Bible reading plans, have you ever had this where it just dies and Leviticus? You're like, oh. And then you kind of soldier through it and you get to Deuteronomy, and it repeats it all again, that's literally what the name of the book means, deutero is two, and nomos is law, it's the second repeating of the law. So God must've thought it was pretty important if in the first five books of the Bible, he repeats it twice. Now, did he give it to us because we got to go live under that again? No, but it helps me understand, even as I'm reading, even laws that don't apply to us today, I understand things about God and his standards.

Tim Lundy: [00:23:51] I'll give you one example of that, there's a law, Deuteronomy 22:8 says that when an Israelite was building their house, they're supposed to put a parapet on the roof. A parapet is like a little wall at the edge of the roof, so when it came to the edge of the roof, they had flat houses, and so you had a responsibility as a homeowner, according to the law, to build a little wall at the edge of the roof because they spent a lot of time up there. Remember, it's pre-air conditioning, so a lot of times in the evening they would sit on the roof, sometimes they'd sleep on the roof. And so part of the law was, as the homeowner, you have a responsibility for the people at your house. And so by building this wall, you're caring for their safety. Now, we don't apply that today, I'd never pull up to your house and go, oh, lousy Christian, no parapet. Look at that roof, it slopes all the way down, they do not love Jesus. We don't apply that law, but I learned God's standards. What's God's standard? Oh, you have a sense of responsibility in your home, you care about the safety of people in your home, you care about the safety of people that visit you. And so I'm looking at it, okay, I'm learning about God's standard.

Tim Lundy: [00:25:01] There's a gleaning law, it's an interesting law. If you were an owner of a field and you glean the field, in other words, you get all the crops in that field. There were gleaning laws that said, hey, if while you're gathering it, you accidentally drop some, leave it there. In fact, don't even glean the corners of the field, because those who are foreigners, those who are homeless, and those who are poor, they then can come after the fact, and it gives something for them. Now. Again, I doubt any of us are, maybe unless you're a farmer or we have fields, but we look at it, the technology has changed so much since then. But the principle of it is, okay, God is always thinking about those who don't have, and so are there parts of my life that I'm willing to sacrifice for the sake of those who don't have? And I look at it.

Tim Lundy: [00:25:55] See, even as you read through these things, as you look through these laws, there's a part of it, it's we don't read it so it's like, oh, I can live under that and that applies to me. But I read it because one, as I'm reading through it, some of it's really clear, and, man, it exposes me like an MRI. And some of it is, I look at it and go, oh, it shows me who my God is and what he values and what he thinks about things.

Tim Lundy: [00:26:19] There's great value in it, now, the flip side of it, though, notice Paul says, As Christians, we need to realize what are the problems of living under it when you make it a rulebook system." And probably the first problem is, that rules make me want to rebel more. Have you ever had this, have you walked up and it's like wet paint, do not touch? What do you want to do? It's like, oh, I want to touch it. Is it really wet? How long ago was it wet? Who are they to tell me I can't touch the wet paint.|? There's something in us, and Paul describes that, and he says, man, when everything becomes about rules and rules are pressed down, that human nature wants to rebel against that. And when you make the whole system about it, you're breeding rebellion. And you see it in different forms. Again, I talked to different churches and different groups, really a lot of it is based on the rules that you emphasize.

Tim Lundy: [00:27:15] At one point in college, I went to a very fundamentalist university, a very strict Christian school. And they had a bunch of rules about everything, like everything. Now again, even then I kind of looked at it is, it's their school, they can set up their rules their way, you know. I mean, you know, it's a free nation, I chose to be there. The problem I found myself in, though, is they always applied their rules to your spiritual life. And so these rules that we've come up with, now defines who you are as a Christian. And everything in me would be like, oh, yeah, well show me where that is in the Bible, well show me this, and that rebellion that came out of it. It would be everything...the general rule they would have all the time is, don't be like the world, don't look like the world, don't act like the world. I mean, everything was always like this big, scary world out there, and we're going to stay pure here through our separation in it. And the times I hated the most, every so often we would have what they call a class chapel, like freshman class chapel, and sophomore. And the freshman class chaplain, who was another freshman, would preach to us. And this guy was the worst, he'd wear me out. And I remember one day he's going, he's like, I've been looking at some of you guys and you dress like the world, your clothes are like the world, you like being all fashionable. And then he goes, and some of you, you're really into hair gel, like the world. I'm like, hair gel? And I knew what was going to happen because my roommate was really into all the rules, and the next morning I'm getting ready for class and I hear him call over, oh, I see you're using hair gel. He goes, I guess you didn't listen to chapel yesterday. And I said to him, I said, oh, I listened, that's why I doubled the amount of hair gel I'm using. And he said, well, I guess you just want to look like the world. I was like, dude, will you look at this cowlick? I just don't want to look like Alfalfa, that's all I'm trying to do, there is nothing but the world in that.

Tim Lundy: [00:29:31] But see, notice, that's what happens when you turn it all about the rules, you start creating rules about everything, and you actually breed rebellion in a way. Now, it's easy to laugh when we see those extreme versions of it, but let's be honest, we struggle with this as parents. It's always funny to me, some of the wildest people growing up become some of the strictest parents because they know everything that went wrong, so my kids not doing that. And suddenly, you're setting up a household and you're trying to train the household, but it can become a real rule-based household, and your faith gets tied in with it. and that struggle of how do I, because you have to have rules, Paul is not throwing out all that, but what's the focus of it, and is worth and meaning and everything coming down to rule-based.

Tim Lundy: [00:30:25] We struggle with it as churches, let's be honest. But let me dive into one, where we've done probably not too great with it over the last 20, 30 years, the issue of purity. How do we teach on sexual purity in a way, without creating it as a rule-based system? And, you know, when I was coming up and especially when I was a student pastor in the '80s, '90s, and early 2000, man, a whole purity culture kind of grew up around it. Which was all, by the way, based on good things, man, we wanted to train our young people, we wanted them to protect their purity until marriage, that's what Scripture calls us to, that is the ideal. But in that, we start creating a system around it, and then other rules get added in. So then suddenly it was like, yeah, we want a purity culture, so now no one should date, dating's a bad thing, you can only do courtship. Now, is the courtship model a good thing? Yeah, it's great, if you've chosen that. Is it the only model? No. If you want to guard purity, you can't even kiss, in fact, you should never kiss until you get married. And you go, well, why are you doing that? Well, you know, we're kissing leads. Now, again, I've done marriages where the couples, their first kiss is at the marriage, it’s awesome to celebrate. They've chosen that in their life, and there's a good thing out of it, is it the only way of doing it? No. And as you look at it, so if you date, if you do these things, if you ever mess up, you almost create this culture that, well, you missed out, you don't get to have true love because you messed up, and so you are kind of plan B the rest of your life.

Tim Lundy: [00:32:19] Now, it got real still in here, so I'm probably stepping on toes in different ways, it usually does when it gets real still in here. Again, hear me, am I against what we're trying to accomplish? Absolutely not. The problem is, we have to be so careful that people get really hurt in the process. And one of the things we've seen over the last 20, 30 years, I think we did a good job at curbing behavior, but we really didn't foster belief. And so this whole principle is not about rules are a way of curbing behavior, God's looking at doing something much more radical. How do you actually change who you are, and change the belief system in it?

Tim Lundy: [00:33:02] See, here's the worst thing about a rule-based approach, it's a diagnosis without the cure. I mean, if you go back to my cancer analogy, let's say after I got the diagnosis, the doctor says, I hate to break it to you, but you have a tumor and it's cancerous. And so I look at them and say, so what are we going to do about it? And if he said to me, well, here's what we're going to do, tomorrow, I want you to come and get another MRI, we're going to look at it again. And I'm like, oh, okay, and then what are we going to do? Well, next week we'll get another MRI, we'll look at it again, and we'll look at where it's growing, and we'll examine it. Yeah, but what are we going to do after that? Well, we're going to get another MRI. At some point it would be like, Doc, I got it, it's bad, it's ugly, it's growing, it's there, what are we doing about it? All this does is just keep diagnosing what's wrong, and I really need a cure, I need something that will actually change it.

Tim Lundy: [00:34:08] And see, that's what Paul's saying is, those of us who've experienced life change in Christ, why would we want to go back and live under that kind of system. He points to something so radically different, and we're going to see this radically different way to live. And we'll just preview it here, because, honestly, the rest of the book is what that's about. How do you stay on this road out of the ditches? How do you live this way? But as he looks at it, this radically different way, you need to discover the inside-out life in the Spirit instead of the outside-in life of rules, that's the difference, he pointed to it here, it's an inside-out instead of an outside-in.

Tim Lundy: [00:34:56] In Romans 7:6, remember this verse in it, we just read it. He says, "We are released from the law, having died to that which held us captive, so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit." So he's hinting at it, in Romans chapter 8, he's going to really tell us, how do you live this life in the Spirit? But in this "New way of the Spirit, and not in the old way of the written code?" See, there was an old system where all the laws were written in stone, they were written on tablets, and you studied them. And as I studied those laws, there was an outside-in approach, I learned the laws and I got to conform my life to them. Paul says, no, God's doing something radically different. What if, instead of writing it out there, he wrote it in here? What if, instead of just being a law that you have to do, it's something that he's changed in you, that you'd want to do that.

Tim Lundy: [00:35:42] By the way, this was his plan all along. You go all the way back to the book of Jeremiah, written hundreds of years before this. When Jeremiah said, "For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the LORD: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts." He's talking about after Jesus came, "I will be their God, and they shall be my people. 34And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the LORD. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.” See, he's describing this new way, he's describing the computer. They're living under the typewriter, and he says, ah, but the computers coming and you're going to experience this.

Tim Lundy: [00:36:24] Paul puts it this way in Second Corinthians, "He has enabled us to be ministers of his new covenant. This is a covenant not of written laws, but of the Spirit. The old written covenant ends in death; but under the new covenant, the Spirit gives life." And so this whole radically different approach is going to be Spirit-based, it's not an outside-in approach, it's an inside out of what God's doing in us. As we do that then, we learn to appreciate God's rule as part of his protection. So even on the inside-out approach, I don't look at it and go anyplace I see where God gives a clear command, I go, oh, I'm not under that anymore, but I look at why he gave it. It's the difference between approaching God as my Father or as my probation officer. Well, if he's a good Father, I'm a dad, and we have rules in our house, but why do we have those rules? Do I put rules in our household so that my kids can prove their worth to me, so they can show me? Because you know what, frankly, I kind of doubt it and so they better not blow it, and I'm checking it all the time, and you better hope you don't break one of these because this defines you. No, that'd be a lousy dad, wouldn't it? That's what probation officers do. And yet, I think a lot of you approach God like he's your probation officer more than he's your Dad. And so even though he's put things in place to protect us, to help us, we often use those exact same rules and go, it defines me. Man, I blew this again, I'm a lousy Christian. Man, I've got to get my act together, I'm going to do it harder tomorrow, I'm going to work hard. You know what, I'm going to have a longer quiet time, I'm going to do...And we put this thing in place, and without even realizing it, we're just over in this ditch, one, trying to earn what Christ has already earned for us, and trying to approach God in a way that he looks at and goes, that was never the purpose.

Tim Lundy: [00:38:38] See, he does give us protection through his rules. So when I read through the Bible, honestly, I read through the Bible and when it talks about money, I don't really like it because God talks about being generous with your money, he talks about being sacrificial, and he wants me to give away more than I would naturally give away myself. Now, why does he do that? Because he's trying to see if I'm a good boy, and good boys give their money away, and that's what you're supposed to do, you are supposed to give it to the church. No, he does that because he knows, man, money can grab my heart quick, and I could stress out about money. And without even knowing it, I can make money an idol. And so he says, hey, let me call you to something that actually will break that stronghold in your life, let me call you outside of yourself because I love you, Tim, I don't want that to be true about you.

Tim Lundy: [00:39:38] The same is true in maybe sexual issues. Man, why does God say, he literally says run from any sexual immorality? Is it because he's anti-sex, and that's how he defines people, and unless you get your sex life in order, you're not a good Christian and all that? No, he's actually a really good Dad and he knows how powerful sex is, and he knows how damaging shame is, and he knows how much it can mess up relationships in the wrong context. And so in love, he looks at us as a good Dad and he goes, I don't want that for you, man, I want a great life for you, and here's what a great life looks like. Will you trust me in that?

Tim Lundy: [00:40:24] Do you feel the difference in that approach? It's a radically different way of approaching life in the Christian life. And as we do that, we learn to embrace his daily grace as the means to the life he promised. I want to close with an analogy that Ray Ortlund wrote because I think it describes so much, what does it look like in this analogy of marriage? If I'm married to Mr. Law, this rule-based Christianity, this rule-based approach, or I'm married to Mr. Grace, the way that Christ provides it in my life. Listen as he writes, he said, "We were married to Mr. Law. He was a good man, in his way, but he did not understand our weakness. He came home every evening and asked, “So, how was your day? Did you do what I told you to? Did you make the kids behave? Did you waste any time? Did you complete everything I put on your To Do list?” So many demands and expectations. And hard as we tried, we couldn’t be perfect. We could never satisfy him. We forgot things that were important to him. We let the children misbehave. We failed in other ways. It was a miserable marriage, because Mr. Law always pointed out our failings. And the worst of it was, he was always right! But his remedy was always the same: Do better tomorrow. We didn’t, because we couldn’t. Then Mr. Law died. And we remarried, this time to Mr. Grace. Our new husband, Jesus, comes home every evening and the house is a mess, the children are being naughty, dinner is burning on the stove, and we have even had other men in the house during the day. Still, he sweeps us into his arms and says, “I love you, I chose you, I died for you, I will never leave you nor forsake you.” And our hearts melt. We don’t understand such love. We expect him to despise us and reject us and humiliate us, but he treats us so well. We are so glad to belong to him now and forever, and we long to be “fully pleasing to him”." See, being married to Mr. Law never changed us, being married to Mr. Grace, is changing us deep within and it shows.

Tim Lundy: [00:42:42] The beauty of the gospel is that Jesus did for us what we can never do. And guys, that doesn't just apply to the day of salvation, it applies to every day. And it allows me to live life in a way that I suddenly realize, oh, wait a second, Christ died on the cross, and the Holy Spirit's actually within me, and he's working to change me from the inside out. That I'd actually want to obey what God has declared, not because I have to because I'm learning something, but because I've realized how much he loves me, I realize his daily grace for me, and in that it changes everything. You know, whether we like to admit it or not, I think a lot of us struggle maybe with rule book Christianity. And it's good to step back and be reminded again of what Christ has done.

Tim Lundy: [00:43:45] In fact, as we close out now, I'm going to lead us in the greatest remembrance, the way that Jesus taught us to remember him. And so as you came in, you should have received the communion elements. And if you're a follower of Christ, we invite you to take communion with us. If you don't have a relationship with him, you look at this, I'd encourage you don't take it, we don't do anything here just as a ritual, everything we do here, Christ gave it to us with meaning. But if you're here today and you go, yeah, yeah, Jesus is my savior, there's an opportunity for us to stop right here, and as we remember him, and remember what he did could we also remember the difference it makes? Could you take a moment and just bow your heads right where you are, I want to give you just a minute to reflect. Because Paul says this is a great time, when you come to this communion time, to just examine your heart and life. Maybe today would be a great opportunity for you to examine, are you living in either one of these ditches? Maybe you've been in a place in life where you just haven't taken your sin very seriously and you just said, well, God's a God of grace, he doesn't care. And right now, the Holy Spirit's convicting you of something in your life that you go, I can't live that way anymore. Or maybe you find yourself in the other ditch, and whether you meant to or not, you've turned all of Christianity into keeping the right rules, and you treat God like he's a probation officer more than a Father. I'd encourage you to confess both those things to him right now, just tell him I don't want to live like that, and the beauty is we don't have to live like that because of what Jesus did for us.

Tim Lundy: [00:45:57] So let's celebrate together what Christ did, if you would, with me, take this element of the bread and remember his body broken for us as we eat together. Taking the cup, let's remember the blood of Jesus shed for us and drink together.

Tim Lundy: [00:46:20] Pray with me. Father, we thank you for Jesus, we thank you that he did what we could never do, we thank you that because of what he did on the cross, it changed our relationship to everything. We don't live under the law, we don't live under rules we have to keep to be right with you, we're right with you because of Jesus. Lord, we want to live that way, not just know that, but actually live that. And so I pray today that we would be people of grace, people who take seriously sin because we don't want it in our lives, but not allow ourselves to be defined by a rule book because you don't define us that way. Lord, we thank you for the Spirit, I'm excited as we move into the next parts of Romans, because you not only called us to live this out, you empowered us to. And so we come to you today thanking that, you, God, are a Father that we can come to as a Father and call you Abba Father. We thank you, Jesus, that you're a Savior who accomplished what no one else could accomplish. And we thank you, Spirit, that you live within us, and the life you call us to, we can actually live out. We pray this all in the name of Christ, amen.

Recorded in Los Gatos, California.
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Venture Christian Church
16845 Hicks Road
Los Gatos, California 95032