The Only Thing That Counts

“In Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.” ~Galatians 5:6

There’s only one thing that matters; don’t mess it up. There’s only one thing that’s important; don’t miss it. Our forgiveness, formation, and eternal life, our righteous relationships with God and with all people hang on just one thing; pay attention to it. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.

Circumcision? Doesn’t count! Uncircumcision? Who cares? In Christ, none of that stuff has any force. It doesn’t exercise any power. It’s got nothing. Christ Jesus, the crucified and risen Lord, has all power and all authority. He alone saves. So our faith, focus, and attention is only and always on him.

“There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the flesh, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in sinful man, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.” ~Romans 8:1-4

God in Christ has fulfilled the entirety of the law’s purpose on our behalf. Not individual commands — not circumcision, not the Ten Commandments, not purity rituals, not feast schedules — the singular requirement, the whole point of the law is fulfilled for us by Jesus. That’s the whole point of Jesus.

Do we trust that or not?

The perfect Son of God, the only one who’s never broken the law, became sin for us. He became your sin. He took on your sin. He took your transgressions with him to the cross. And when your sin is condemned in him, you become in God’s eyes as if you’ve never sinned. Jesus intervened to do what you can’t do. Christ became what you are so you can become what he is. Jesus is the ultimate sacrifice and he has taken care of absolutely everything to set you totally free from sin and death. Now, is your faith in that, or is it in something else? The only thing that counts if faith. That’s the only thing we need to be concerned with. That’s the freedom for which Christ sets us free.

But for some reason, we feel more comfortable in the chains. We have a very difficult time with the only thing that counts. We’ve got a whole list of things that count! We’ve got dozens and dozens of things that count!

It’s not circumcision; it’s acappella. It’s not food laws; it’s weekly Lord’s Supper. It’s not feast days; it’s Wednesday nights. It’s not you must become a Jew; it’s “Is he a member of ‘The Church?'” And it’s baptism by immersion and women’s roles and bishops and kitchens and KJV and crosses in the sanctuary, um, I mean, “auditorium.”

We judge people and we draw lines and label others and decide who we’re calling brothers and sisters and who we’re not when there’s only one thing that counts! We’re paying too much attention and spending too much energy on the things that don’t count!

We are freed from all that. We don’t have to worry about those things. Having the same worship styles and the same church structures and the same name on the building is not how we’re united. Or saved. That’s not what makes us brothers and sisters. We are united in Christ alone! We are made one in Christ alone!

The Bible says there is one body, not just one expression of that body. There is one faith, but not just one expression of that faith. There is one baptism, yes, but not just one expression of that baptism. These are the very things they’re discussing in Jerusalem in Acts 15 and the decision is “We should not make it difficult for the people who are turning to God.”

We spend valuable energy debating worship styles and doctrinal positions and denominational differences, but there’s only one thing that matters. We fuss and divide over methods and traditions and structures and rules, but there’s only one thing that’s important. We get worked up over interpretations and translations and obligations, but only one thing counts: faith expressing itself through love.

That’s true freedom. When we give ourselves completely to the fact that our salvation has already been secured, that there’s nothing left to do, it’s all been done, when we embrace that in faith, then we’re living in freedom. We’re free from our sins and anything that’s ever happened in our pasts. We’re free to stop worrying about ourselves and our rights and our honor to serve other people so that walls are torn down and wounds are healed. You’re not anxiously fretting about your standing with God. You’re not looking for physical signs or proof of who’s in and who’s out. You are free to become what God created you to be, what you always wanted to be — you just didn’t know what it was!

And whatever rules there are, whatever obligations remain, we’re free to live above them and through them. We don’t worry about any of that because our faith in Christ has us loving others.

The Gospel truth that you are righteous because Jesus Christ has become for you your righteousness, holiness, and peace compels you to love God and others. It moves you to defend the weak and stand with the accused and speak up for the oppressed. It motivates you to give and forgive. It empowers you to let go and live the way God lives, erring on the side of grace and giving everybody the benefit of the doubt.

Whatever you do, don’t mess it up. It’s the only thing that counts.

Peace,

Allan

4 Comments

  1. Allan: “We judge people and we draw lines and label others and decide who we’re calling brothers and sisters and who we’re not…”

    When we use we in sentences like this it is often difficult to determine whether the speaker is including himself or just talking about others while trying not to be too obvious. My question then is does the “we” include the 2018 version of Allan?

  2. I would mostly interpret the corporate “we” in my writings to mean two things. Most of the time it stands for all Christians, the universal Church, all followers of Jesus and, yes, I include myself in that. The 2018 version of Allan is part of the “we.” Second, I hope it also reveals an awareness that I nor any other Christian has arrived. I am aware of the problems “we” have and the many ways “we” distort the Gospel and drive people away from our Lord and I hope I’m personally contributing less and less to those problems.

    • I will attempt a follow up question although I struggle to make it sound like the genuine enquiry I believe it to be. When I read that you think you should not judge or draw lines or label or make decisions about who is in the Lord and I also read that you do these things, my mind turns to “why?” I would like your perspective on why you don’t just stop doing these things from this day forth.
      I have to ask for your perspective because to me it seems easy. I am not attempting to brag but merely to explain my confusion. If I thought (which I do) that I should not judge people, then I don’t judge people (and I don’t). This is the result of a conscious decision to stop judging people. It was not that difficult. Apparently it seems more difficult to you, so I am trying to understand your perspective on it. Why would it not be so easy as to say to yourself, “From now on, I will not form any opinions regarding whether another person is in the Lord”… and then just not do it?

  3. You would agree that our culture promotes and practices and, in some ways, exists in order to separate and judge and divide people. The more individualistic we become as a society the more judgmental everyone we run into seems to be. It’s in the air. We can’t avoid it. We’re pressured to judge and divide. You would also agree that for the past 150-years in CofCs, our culture has been to judge and divide. That’s how I was raised and I know you were, too.
    I do make those conscious decisions every day and in every circumstance to not judge. I am not the one deciding who’s in and who’s out. I’m aware of that. I know that our God’s great goal is to bring all things and all people together in Christ. So I want to be all about that, as well.
    However, I am also very aware that my human nature and my culture are very judgmental. I am pressured on all sides to judge, judge, judge and to divide, divide, divide. I do occasionally catch myself thinking judgmental thoughts and acting in us/them ways. I immediately repent and do my best to make amends. But I also know that I probably judge and label others in ways I’m not aware of yet.
    So, yes, the decision has been made. And, yes, it’s not quite as easy for me as you claim it is for you.

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