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Weights

John Collins08/08/2013

Video available here: http://youtu.be/Ha5uKmO--fM 

After breaking through the barriers of a cult and into freedom, you will quickly find that this “freedom” you first experience is not nearly as incredible as it sounds.  In fact, many who have taken this journey will tell you that freedom comes with great price.

The Pentecostal movement bred many spinoffs, divided churches that separated themselves from other Christians.  Like the original movement from the Azusa Street Revival, they focused their ambitions on attaining the “spiritual gift” that they mistook for the Gift of the Holy Spirit that was promised by Christ.

For the original movement, “speaking in tongues” was the evidence that you had received the Holy Spirit, and once you had this “evidence” in your lives, you were “sealed to the day of your redemption.”  (In other words, you had everything you needed.  Your experience stops here.)  For others, healing was the “evidence,” and for others some other spiritual gift. 

Many have taken the “travel guide” laid down by the Pentecostals as their ultimate roadmap:  “Justification, Sanctification, Baptism of the Holy Ghost”.  These “milestones along the way” were nothing more than just that: milestones.  But for the Christian who’s following the pathway laid down by the Bible, these aren’t just stops along the way, we are continually learning and growing in the ways of Christ.  Sanctification is a continual process, starting from the day the doctor helps bring you into the world and ending on the day the doctor takes his fingers to close your eyes after death.

Very few from the Pentecostal movement recognized the evidence of the Holy Spirit in their lives that Paul tell us to look for: love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.  Since “sanctification” was a milestone in their history, they never put it on the roadmap for a frequently visited future.

But notice Paul’s words directly behind these gifts in Galatians 5:  “Against such things there is no Law.”

The early church was also on a journey, breaking through barriers that were very similar to our own.  Having focused on tradition that was wrapped around the Law of Moses, each rule given in the Mosaic Law had become a part of their inner makeup.  They were programmed to believe and follow these Laws, and were trained from birth to believe these Laws were required for salvation.  If they did not keep these Laws, they were condemned, and were no better than the Gentiles they despised.

But Christ came to fulfill the Covenant that included the Law as their requirement for salvation.  No longer were the Children of Israel to be a race of works-righteous faith, they were given the power to break through those barriers into freedom in Christ.  All Law was fulfilled by love, and the many laws that did not produce perfect love were under examination in scriptures to show us their weakness.  Christ came to show this weakness, and how this works-righteous faith actually produced the opposite of love.

But like we see today, men bound by tradition were not able to see and understand the Gift that God was giving them.  As they continued their journey from Law into Grace, there were many laws they tried to bring with them.  Like a pack horse on a long journey, they stacked these things onto their already cumbersome load, weighing themselves down with burden.

If we continue on in Galatians into Galatians chapter six, we see why Paul reminds us “against such things there is no Law”:

“Those who want to impress people by means of the flesh are trying to compel you to be circumcised. The only reason they do this is to avoid being persecuted for the cross of Christ.  Not even those who are circumcised keep the law, yet they want you to be circumcised that they may boast about your circumcision in the flesh.  May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.  Neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything; what counts is the new creation.  Peace and mercy to all who follow this rule—to the Israel of God.”

Notice the reason these people tried to carry the law of circumcision with them:  “The only reason they do this is to avoid being persecuted for the cross of Christ.”

The cross of Christ removed all of these burdens, and paid the penalty for the breach of the Old Covenant that included the Law.  A new Eternal Covenant was established, one of Grace, and one that lifted the many weights that they carried for generations.

But there were many still inside those boundaries.  And to the Jew who remained behind those barriers refusing Christ, these new Christians were using the cross to break all the rules.  They despised the idea that the man they hung on the cross could have removed them from tradition.  They despised anyone who broke that tradition.  They persecuted those who were trying to experience freedom.

Many who have made their journey from a cult and into freedom will tell you this.  There is persecution still today.

Men and women who refuse to accept the Cross of Jesus Christ as their only way to salvation have chosen to carry these weights of burden on their own shoulders.  Each rule they try to follow adds a weight, though the burden from that weight may not be noticeable.  When you stack them on top of each other, all of these weights become an unbearable burden.

Some cults avoid television.  That is a weight.  When they are fellowshipping with another Christian, and that other Christian has a television in their home, they are uncomfortable.  If it is turned on, that weight gets heavier.

One cult does not believe in drinking coffee.  Passing by a coffee shop in a mall brings an uncomfortable weight.  Another refuses to enjoy sports.  A walk in the park is uncomfortable for them.  Several of them adhere to a dress code.  A walk in the grocery store places you around several people who deny your faith.  Some of these weights are burdens against something so common that it’s difficult to even leave your house without feeling that burden.

Many of these things are unnecessary weights.  Many of them produce scorn instead of love.  Those weights that do not produce scorn have absolutely nothing to do with your love of God or your fellow man, and cannot be found in scripture.  Those escaping the cult realize this.

But like the men and women bringing their tradition into early Christianity for fear of persecution, men and women escaping a cult bring their tradition into their new lives – sometimes for the wrong reasons.  Instead of bringing with them a way of life they enjoy, many of them bring their traditions as “weights” that continue to burden them down. 

There is nothing wrong with avoiding sports, especially if your heart is not in the game.  If you can walk by a group of others who are enjoying a casual game of basketball or a round of tennis without feeling any emotion whatsoever, then this aspect of your new life is without burden. 

But if you pass by that same group of people and long to be in there with them, refusing to do so because of your tradition, there’s something wrong.  If you pass by them and feel out of place because you have never experienced what they are doing, that weight gets heavier.  And if you look at them with scorn or pride, then your weight has just brought you to your knees.

Sadly, adjustment to freedom is not an overnight change.  Many will tell you that this “out of place” feeling may last for several years.  The weights that they carry are so great in number that removing them one-by-one will take a lifetime.

Using the Bible as our example, we find that this hesitation to be free is human nature.  When Christ died on the cross, and the penalty for sin was paid once for all, we don’t find a group of new Christians celebrating their lives without the Mosaic Law that they were programmed to follow.  In fact, we find many sections of Paul’s letters – which came years later – reminding them that the New Eternal Covenant of Grace made the Old Law obsolete.

It is ironic, because many cult churches are familiar with the old-time Gospel song, “Come Unto Me,” but have never really stopped to consider what this song is referring to.  The song is a reference to scripture, Matthew 11, and it is begging them to take these weights, these burdens that drag them down, and cast them onto the back of Christ.  Christ was taking these weights, and nailing them to the cross on our behalf.

Immediately after rebuking the people because He loved to drink wine, Jesus said this:

 “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children;  yes, Father, for such was your gracious will.  All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.  Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

This “rest for your souls” is God’s REST.  It is not God’s PENALTY.  Christ did not come to replace the Mosaic Law with another set of Laws that were greater in power, in fact, he came and lifted the Mosaic Law.  It was part of the Old Covenant that had been broken by the people, and the Children of Israel were living under the penalty of that Law.  Christ came to fulfill the portion that the Children of Israel could not fulfill – keeping the Law – to set them free from their part of the bargain. 

And then He made a New Covenant that had no weights.  It had only one, simple requirement: “faith in Jesus Christ.”

Living under this New Covenant, children of God by Grace through faith, we still keep the Ten Commandments, the original Law of Moses that was given to the people.  There were two covenants given to Moses, remember?  The first one was broken, and Moses broke the stone tablets containing the Law.  The second covenant became the Mosaic Law, and it was filled with works-righteous faith.  It was given as an example that we will never be saved by our own works.  But rather than trying aimlessly to save ourselves, we uphold the original Law.  And we do so by love.

If we love God, we keep the first two commandments.  We will not serve any other god, and we will not make idols to bow down before them.  And if we love our neighbor as ourselves, we will not kill.  We will not steal.  We will not covet his possessions – instead, we will celebrate with him because God has richly blessed him!

All laws are fulfilled in love.  And love carries no weight.  In fact, love lifts us, making our feet lighter.  Through our unburdened lives, we can lift the burdens of others.

That’s why Paul said, “Against such things there is no Law.”

There are no rules, no weights.  There are no burdens that Christ wants us to bear; He told us to cast our cares upon Him.  His burden is light – and He WANTS to bear our burdens for us.  He wants us to be happy and free, telling others about Him.  He wants us to tell others that freedom in Christ means giving Him our weights!