Friday, March 18, 2011

Beware The Toxic Drink

We’ve been sold a toxic concoction of Old and New Covenants, a “drink” that induces us to believe that God is still working with us on the basis of a quid pro quo relationship. In other words, if we get our part right, He’ll do His part, and we’ll get a good return on our investment. That invariably produces a fascination, even a transfixation(!), on figuring out the proper principles to employ that will move God on our behalf. We lose fascination with God Himself, and our actual knowing of Him is less than what He intends, less than what He has earned and given us. The passion for figuring out how to make things work becomes a surrogate fire that replaces the passion of knowing Him. And for the sons and daughters of God, that will not be sufficient. We will suffer. But I know He is working in opposition to the surrogate, and He is revealing true life that fills and satisfies…and becomes a healthy addiction.

The addiction is Him.

God chose to give us the “lead-up to Jesus,” but we’re not supposed to live by the lead-up. We’re not supposed to live by what they were looking forward to: we’re to live with God—we have Him!

We’ve been deceived into defining “hope” in Christianity as, “Here’s how to get what you want from God.” The equation goes like this: My Righteousness + God’s Faithfulness = Desired Outcome. But we’re not Jewish, and that covenant is, fortunately, finished. Under the New Covenant, hope is secured by Jesus, and I trust Him throughout my days to work in me, through me and around me for His glory and my delight. My life, in the sense of what I get, where I go, who is with me, etc., is less about making that happen and more about trusting Him and watching Him bring it to pass. My gaze is fixed on Him, and that secures my hope that He is providing everything for life and godliness.

I’m glad to have the Old Testament. But all too often speakers teaching from it today instruct Christians as if the Old Covenant is still in force along with the new, which regularly creates an addiction to the toxic drink. Many believe that God still bases His behavior and largesse upon our behavior and faithfulness. Many believe that sin still separates us from God. Many believe that not all of their sins are forgiven. Many believe that they are not a new creation, but an upgrade only. On and on it goes, because the Old Testament stories have been used as motivational inducements toward our “pleasing behavior” before God.

In other words: “Here’s how to get what God has not given.” And that becomes a bigger attraction to us than God Himself.

I suppose that if you listen to teaching and read books that interpret the Old Testament and the Old Covenant in light of the New Testament and New Covenant, where we hear and learn how well off we are in comparison, then you’re in great shape. I’m truly glad that’s happening more and more, but I simply want it to hurry up already!

I know this is a bit of a ramble, but I’m on my way to speak at a retreat. Pray for me and for them?


  1. Victoria Gaines9:59 AM

    Ralph, I'm praying for your time at the retreat! His life in you is a huge blessing to all of us, Ralph. Enjoy your weekend. And thank you for this post! It reminds me why "formulaic" Christianity never works ...but that my hope is now secured in Jesus, and like you said, we now trust that He is providing everything we need for life and godliness! Still reading your book and enJOYing it! ~ Vicki

  2. Mike Daniel11:03 PM

    Good stuff, Ralph! Thanks.

  3. Dave Geisler11:04 PM

    On the quid pro quo side of it we try and find the right way to get God to do what we think we need. Kinda like wandering the casino floor to find just the right slot machine to give us a return on our money...sickening and sad at the same time

  4. Cindi Estep11:04 PM

    I once had a book called Kingdom Principals..I through it along with all the others 12 step programs to Holiness away. I've drank my last Law laced sermon, too....So glad that we are in the Light as He is in the Light...May His Truth shine through you at this retreat in such a Way that all those that hears hearts are illuminated with the simple message of Christ plus nothing else...It's a done deal!! Thanks for the tag my ONEderful friend!!

  5. Donna Crowley11:05 PM

    Hmmm.... interesting thought. I might still be in a season of wanting to know how all this works.......but I am also pursuing my Jesus. I hope pursuing Jesus becomes my only theme. Just being honest. I think God can still work stuff out in my mind and heart even if I'm puzzled. thanks for your thoughts, Ralph. I got a lot out of it.

  6. Luis Leiva11:05 PM

    This is so true Ralph, if we can just figure out the right formula to get God to move, or say the right words, or the right decree.

    We have reduced Him down to a scientific method of so call faith, our whole entire purpose has now become to learn how to manipulate Him, to accomplish all of our desires.

    To us He is no more than some kind of great cosmic genie, just waiting to grant us any wish that we might have.

    But I believe that the only thing that any of us should be striving for is to enter into His rest, recognize and acknowledge His finish work, and to live out of that union life that we now have.

    Ralph, I'm trusting Father to prepare you to flow and your listeners to receive from that union life that we have in HIM.

    I wish I could be there.

  7. Victoria Gaines11:06 PM

    Cindi - I still need to throw some books away myself! lol...

  8. John Cook11:06 PM

    Sounds almost Calvinistic. God has already decided how He will direct our life, grow in our life, finish His work in our life. We are just along for the ride, albeit a wild ride at times.

  9. Sue Humphreys Thompson11:07 PM

    Of course I get your point--but the Old Testament did not "create an addiction to the toxic brew." Neither the Old nor the New Testaments "create" anything. WE follow teachings that appeal to us, and if they are toxic, it may be a long time before we realize it, if at all. May we all be delivered from teaching that binds instead of frees!

  10. Cheryl Lowry11:07 PM

    Spot on Ralph, tell the people at your conference its not about principle, its not about a story we've heard of in the bible...tell them, its about Jesus, its about relationship, its commUNION with him. I'm with you, hurry up already, its a time such as this, we need the truth! We're tired and burned out over principle that leave God standing on the outside looking in as we "try" to move him to do something good. He is good and his hearts desire is for us to know him so we can realize just how good he truly is...

  11. Julie Belshe11:08 PM

    Have an Awesome time of speaking the GOOD NEWS! Thanks Ralph, and will pray for you, you got it!

  12. Thanks very much for your comments. I wish I could more often respond to them, but the retreat at which I'm speaking has most of my attention. And they're a wonderful and fun and delightful bunch of God-lovers!

  13. Brent Harris11:09 PM

    So, do you believe that God's behavior toward us is disconnected from our behavior toward him?

  14. Brent--No. But His behavior is certainly not dependent upon ours.