Lawlessness hardly seems a Christmas meditation, yet that is the very reason Jesus came--to destroy the works of darkness. And lawlessness is certainly one of them.
In my memorization of The Sermon on the Mount I have come to Matthew 7:21-23. (English Standard Version) "Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, "Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?" And then will I declare to them, "I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness."
Now, how can that be? How could people prophesy, cast out demons and do mighty works in Jesus name without Jesus ever knowing them? So I went to the source and asked! The thought that finally took form in my mind was to look at the Law. The first commandment is to have no other Gods before Him. When asked what was the greatest commandment, Jesus replied, "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: "Love your neighbor as yourself." That is the Law.
Lawlessness then, would be NOT loving God with your whole being and seeking after relationship with Him with everything there is in us. AND it would be to not love our neighbor as ourselves. It is possible to do works that are godly in nature without having a loving relationship with Him. That is what I call "cultural Christianity;" it is a form of Christianity that is learned from one's family and society but does not necessarily include having a saving, loving relationship with Jesus. It is saying all the right words and making all the right moves but still being disconnected from Him. How sad. We can concentrate on the second command and miss the first--to love God with everything within us!
What might such a scenario look like? Perhaps one could run a soup kitchen for street people--a ministry that would tug on the Lord's heart. He came to lift up the down-trodden, bind up the broken, proclaim release to the captives. It might be running a mission or an orphanage. It could even be a prayer ministry where you use the name of Jesus to accomplish much good in lives and yet neglect the most important of all--the relationship with the One you claim to follow!
If we neglect our relationship to God to the point that we are not loving Him above all else He considers us workers of lawlessness. If the praise of man is our primary motivator, or money, or fame rather than our love of Jesus and His kingdom, in His eyes we work lawlessness!
This is a shocking verse and opens a murkey grey area, what about people who are simply inmature? Or the carnal Christian? Is there a qualitative difference in the relationship? I think, yes, it is a qualitative difference in the works themselves and in the relationship with God. And for this reason the mature need to mix with the inmature and help them grow up and mature into the likeness of Christ. We need to be caring for our brothers and sisters, even carrying them at times when they cannot stand because of the difficulty of their situations. We need to model for them maturity does, what it looks like and how to attain it. When we bear one another's burdens we do fulfill the law of Christ according to Galatians 6:2. I'm glad He is the One making the call. I'll leave the judging to Him rather than questioning God's motives.
I think God wants the good works to flow out of our love of Him, be a result of our relationship with Him rather than doing good works to buy us a ticket into heaven. Buying a ticket does not involve a relationship with the agent! And He wants our hearts and our focus to be toward Him. He wants to be the reason for joy in our lives, the source of love and belonging. He is the inexhaustable source of these deep needs and only He is able to faithfully supply. People can have good intentions, but ultimately they are a limited resource. God knew that and so He said that we are to love Him with everything we have! The good works can be the overflow of what He gives us.
As Christmas approaches it is our custom to volunteer at missions or soup kitchens, to give to food banks, give coats, mittens and toys for poor children, etc. These activities are loving our neighbors as ourselves--if we were in that position, we would want someone to help us!
I think it would be good to examine our acts of charity. Do we do what we do because of the overflow of God's love? Because we love Him and want to see His kingdom advanced? Or is this activity a custom, a part of our culture, something we do this time of year because we have always done so?
This season I will be asking the Lord, "Is this a cultural tradition or is this somethingYou want me to do?"
I'd be interested in some discussion, hearing your thoughts on lawlessness.
May the Peace of heaven be with you during this season and beyond.
Blessings, Carol...making it plain