One day Dad left my youngest sister and me alone in the pickup while he visited with a neighbor. Farmer's pickups are a treasure trove of gadgets to get a boy into trouble—pliers, screwdrivers, old license plates, twine, wire… all piled on the dash and the floor, in no logical order.
After a while I started getting bored and decided to do an experiment with a pair of pliers and my little sister. I'm not sure how old she was, but she wasn't old enough yet to be smart enough to not trust me. I put one end of the pliers into each of her little hands, and the other end on her nose—just wondering what she would do. And much to my delight, she squeezed in the direction I suspected. And the more she squeezed the louder she screamed.
My experiment was a complete success, even though I had to pay for it with a very sore bottom. I share this with you just in case you don't believe in spanking. I was a poster child for the legitimacy of corporal punishment.
As you might expect, I was spanked on a regular basis for my behavior. But I was never disciplined for my attitude. Oh, I was spanked for having a smart mouth or giving a look, but never for an attitude—as long as I kept it hidden away, on the inside.
With years and years of practice, we get pretty good at hiding our attitudes from other people. So long as they can't see our attitudes in our behavior, we don't give much thought to the attitudes we carry around. As far as we are concerned, if we act okay on the outside then the inside doesn't much matter.
In our relationships with other people we can get by with a bad attitude—as long as they can't see it in our behavior. And we have played this game so long we don't even see the connection between our attitude and our behavior.
For a good tree does not bear bad fruit, nor does a bad tree bear good fruit. For every tree is known by its own fruit. For [men] do not gather figs from thorns, nor do they gather grapes from a bramble bush. A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart brings forth evil. For out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks. (Luke 6:43–45 NKJV)
God would not have made this point in His Word if it was not a universal problem. And it is not solved by just being “born again.” We bring it into our relationship with Jesus, and it makes us close to crazy.
When I was saved I had completely disconnected inside behavior with outside behavior. I knew I had things on the inside needing to be fixed, and I knew I had even more things on the outside needing to be fixed. But I didn't know how the two were connected. Oh, some things were obviously connected—like anger on the inside and harsh words spoken on the outside. But most were not so easily connected.
So I struggled trying to control external behavior without dealing with the internal issues causing the behavior—sort of like trying to get rid of the smell in your house while you're walking around with dog poop on your shoes.
Are you with me? Please do not miss this point. Most of us have spent our entire lives trying to fix behavior with behavior. And we've carried that same mindset into our walk with Christ. Well, it didn't work then, and it won't work now.
The work you do is not trying to fix your behavior. The work you do is not done on the outside. What happens on the outside is just a byproduct. The work you do is on the inside. When the inside is right, the outside will be right.
When God tells you to do something it is for a different reason than when man tells you to do something. When man tells you to do something, he wants you to change your behavior. When God tells you to do something, He wants to change you.
The mindset you have about rules applies only to man's rules—not God's. Don't bring that mindset into your relationship with God; it does not work. It will make you more miserable than you were before you knew Him.
What then was the purpose of the Law? It was added [later on, after the promise, to disclose and expose to men their guilt] because of transgressions and [to make men more conscious of the sinfulness] of sin; and it was intended to be in effect until the Seed (the Descendant, the Heir) should come, to and concerning Whom the promise had been made. And it [the Law] was arranged and ordained and appointed through the instrumentality of angels [and was given] by the hand (in the person) of a go‐between [Moses, an intermediary person between God and man]. (Galatians 3:19 Amp Bible)
Even the law given to Moses was not given to control external behavior. It was given to expose men to the corruption on the inside so it could be connected to external behavior.
What then do we conclude? Is the Law identical with sin? Certainly not! Nevertheless, if it had not been for the Law, I should not have recognized sin or have known its meaning. [For instance] I would not have known about covetousness [would have had no consciousness of sin or sense of guilt] if the Law had not [repeatedly] said, You shall not covet and have an evil desire [for one thing and another]. (Romans 7:7 Amp Bible)
“But Mike, what's this got to do with us? I thought Jesus made it possible for us to be done with this law thing.” Jesus did redeem us from the curse of the law (see Galatians 3:13). But the only time we act like it, is that very brief moment right after we've asked Him to forgive us for the umpteenth time. Seriously… think about it. It doesn't sound like we've been redeemed from anything if it keeps coming back. How long has it been today since you had your last pang of guilt?
We must understand the purpose of God's law before we can understand His grace. And as long as we think that God makes His rules for the same reason we make our rules then we cannot understand His grace.
I see two general extremes in the church today. On the one extreme are those who preach that pleasing God with our performance is everything. On the other extreme are those who preach that God's grace is everything. Both are true, but they must go together.
We'll get more into this tomorrow, but for now consider this: What good is it for me to preach good behavior if I don't also preach the Grace necessary to get it done? What good is it for me to preach Grace if I don't also preach the behavior necessary to receive that grace?
Have a good day,