This is the last lesson of this incredible Bible study! I am so thankful for what the Lord has taught me throughout this study, & I’ll post links to the other 5 posts with notes below.
One of my favorite things about the whole study is that it helps us grasp the FREEDOM that is in Christ. The Lord desires for us to live an “exceedingly abundant, above all we could ask or imagine” life (Eph 3:20) this side of heaven, but so many Christians are living lives of bondage & misery. We are ‘wandering through the desert’ like the Israelites when the ‘land of milk and honey’ is right within our grasp, and God WANTS for us to experience that (Talking about spiritual blessings here.) Heaven will be glorious, no doubt!!! But we can live in the “promised land” now. That does not mean life is going to be easy. Or free of pain, trials, difficult circumstances, and hurts. But we CAN have peace and joy no matter the circumstances! When you come to know Christ, this peace and joy is already within you. It’s a matter of activating that and allowing the Lord to work that in and through you. Definitely check out some of the former lessons in this study, but here is a little more from Beth Moore about ‘Experiencing God’s Presence.’
“When you pass through the waters,
I will be with you;
and when you pass through the rivers,
they will not sweep over you.
When you walk through the fire,
you will not be burned;
the flames will not set you ablaze.
For I am the Lord your God,
the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.” –Isaiah 43:2-3
Enjoying God’s presence does not mean difficult things do not happen to his children. Psalm 139:7-12 assures us that God’s presence is with us always. Although God’s presence in our lives is absolutely unchanging, sometimes the evidence of His presence varies. Sometimes He chooses less evidence to teach us to walk by faith.
In the midst of the storm Jesus came walking on the water. To His terrified disciples He said: “Take courage! It is I! Don’t be afraid.” But the storm continued to rage until He got into the boat. The point is not that we have nothing to fear, but that HIS PRESENCE is the basis for our courage. Christ does not always immediately calm the storm, but He is willing to calm His child on the basis of His presence. We’ll probably never learn to enjoy our storms, but we can learn to enjoy God’s presence in the storm!
In Psalm 16:11, David confidently proclaimed, “You will fill me with joy in your presence.” The Hebrew word for joy is simchah, which means “glee, gladness, pleasure, rejoice(ing).” We can learn to enjoy God’s presence even when life is not enjoyable.
You may believe God but still have difficulty enjoying His presence. Could the problem possibly be the work of the accuser? Revelation 12:10 identifies Satan as the “accuser of our brothers, who accuses them before our God day and night.” The enemy wants to keep us out of God’s presence, so he accuses us. He can’t keep us out of heaven, but as long as he can keep us feeling too guilty to enjoy the presence of God, he wins a small victory.
Never in all of Scripture did Christ resist the repentant sinner. (He resisted the proud and self-righteously religious, but never the humble and repentant.) If you’re feeling a crushing guilt, THAT is from the enemy.
“Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no worldly regret, but worldly sorrow brings death.” -2 Corinthians 7:10
Genuine repentance does not mean merely regretting that we have sinned. Repentance comes from godly sorrow over our sin. In the life of a believer, guilt experienced before we’ve repented of that specific sin is the conviction of the Holy Spirit. Guilt experienced after repentance is the condemnation of the evil one.
Not only can guilt keep us from experiencing God’s presence, but legalism will do the same.
Many situations or conditions can keep us from truly enjoying God’s presence. For instance, not spending adequate time with Him will greatly affect our pure enjoyment of His presence. Having an underdeveloped prayer life will also rob our joy, as could harboring bitterness, anger, or resentment towards another person; but the person who studies God’s Word in depth and experiences a consistent lack of enjoyment of God often suffers from a condition with an ugly name- legalism. Numerous Scriptures teach us about legalism.
Legalists make love conditional. They have a list of requirements that must be met before God can approve of and love people. If you don’t live up to the rules, you deserve to be punished, not loved. Acts 15 tells of a crucial decision in the early church, a decision that vitally affects you and me. The church was growing, and Gentiles were coming to know Christ. “Then some of the believers who belonged to the party of the Pharisees stood up and said, “The Gentiles must be circumcised and required to obey the law of Moses” (Acts 15:5). The leaders had to determine whether we become Christians by faith in Christ alone or by keeping the law. In the discussion that followed, Peter delivered the final verdict. He said why should we “put on the necks of the disciples a yoke that neither we nor our fathers have been able to bear? No! We believe it is through the grace of our Lord Jesus that we are saved, just as they are” (v 10-11).
Legalism appeared again in the Galatian churches with teachers telling Christians they must keep the Jewish law to be saved. Paul “laid down the law” on the issue.
“We who are Jews by birth and not sinful Gentiles know that a person is not justified by the works of the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law, because by the works of the law no one will be justified.” – Galatians 2:15-16
In the passages above and many others, we get a clear picture of legalism. Sadly, it didn’t die with the Pharisees. Sometimes it still creeps in to today’s churches and believers are hypercritical, or assume God is constantly picking us apart. In truth, God is LOVE.
We cannot please God or find freedom in rule keeping. Never have. Never will. Tragically, self-generated righteousness will always appeal to the human heart. How do we avoid the trap? By being conscious of the conditions that cause legalism to occur.
1….When Regulations Replace Relationship.
The Pharisees had a superficial understanding of God and no enjoyment of His presence. They threw a fit because Jesus healed on the Sabbath. (Matt 12:9-14) We are not talking about lax discipleship- Disciple means follower. We need to become radical followers pursuing God with everything that’s in us, but we must beware.
2…When Microscopes Replace Mirrors.
Note the words from Matthew 12:10 that the Pharisees were “looking for a reason to accuse.” Modern-day Pharisees sometimes practice the same thing, looking for a reason to accuse others. They love church drama because their own walk with the Lord is so unexciting. They look to the faults of others to keep things interesting. When we begin to compare out walk with others, then we either condemn others to make ourselves appear better, or condemn ourselves. Neither is pleasing in the sight of the Lord. We are wise to know our own tendencies. Some of us need to be more merciful to others. Others of us need to learn to accept mercy for ourselves.
“There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh:” – Romans 8:1-3
3…When Performance Replaces Passion
If our motivation for obedience is anything other than love and devotion for God, we’re probably up to our eyeballs in legalism for disaster. Obedience without love is nothing but the law.
**How much do you struggle with concentrating on your performance instead of pursuing true godliness?
Concentrating on our performance, striving to be good enough, perfectionism- none of these yield the desired results, but faith WORKS! Making lists of rules to obey cannot change a human heart, but a passionate love relationship with God can transform any life. That’s why it’s so important to PRAY GOD’S WORD.
A RADICAL WALK WITH GOD
Luke 14:27 says “Any anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.” Our right as a child of God is to follow after Him, to be more assured of His presence than any other thing you can see or touch. We are destined for this type of relationship with God, but the enemy tries to convince us that the Christian life is sacrificial at best and artificial at worst. God wants to free us from strongholds, but beware of trading one area of bondage or another. Legalism and religious bondage can keep us from living the life of freedom in Christ we are designed to live.
The book of James (my favorite!!) speaks of radical obedience. Paraphrase the following verses into prayers:
- James 1:12
- James 1:21
- James 1:25
- Demolishing Strongholds: “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.” –Galatians 5:1
- To Know God and Believe Him: “You are my witnesses,” declares the Lord,
“and my servant whom I have chosen, that you may know and believe me
and understand that I am he. Before me no god was formed, nor shall there be any after me.” –Isaiah 43:10
- To Glorify God: “…everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made.” –Isaiah 43:7
- To Find Satisfaction in God: “Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and he who has no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy? Listen diligently to me, and eat what is good,
and delight yourselves in rich food.
- Experiencing God's Peace: “May the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times and in every way. The Lord be with all of you.” – 2 Thess 3:16
- Enjoying God’s Presence: “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.” –Isaiah 43:2-3
How to pray God’s Word:
1. Restate God’s truth, affirming your faith. (1 Chron 16:34)
2. Talk to God about passages you don’t understand. (1 John 2:6)
3. Ask God for what you need. (Mark 9:24)
4. Confess sin and ask God to change your life. (Prov 8:13, 1 Peter 3:8)
5. Praise God with your paraphrase of the words of Scripture. (Ps 135:5)
Source: Moore, Beth. Living Free. Lifeway Christian Resources; 2002/Christian Growth Study Plan edition (December 31, 2001)