“God does not bless what His word forbids.” Matthew Rueger
This quote came up in my Timehop a couple days ago. I’ll be honest, I had no clue who Matthew Rueger is (I had to look him up), but I fully agree with the quote. At the same time, I realized that just throwing it out there without any frame of reference can seem a bit passive aggressive and legalistic.
I’ve had to think long and hard about how I want to address this. You see I believe heavily in the grace of God. Romans 3:11 says, “There is none righteous, no, not one . . .”. And so without the forgiveness and grace of God, through the shed blood of Jesus, I’m utterly hopeless. We all are.
But there’s something else I believe. I believe in the transforming power of Jesus Christ. I believe that His grace is ever changing us and leading us to repentance. I believe that when we know better, because He lives in us, we desire to do better. Not out of a sense of obligation, but out of a deep desire that comes from the Holy Spirit dwelling and working in us.
“Or do you despise the riches of His goodness, forbearance, and longsuffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance?” Romans 2:4
The old testament gave us the law. The new testament gave us Jesus and His grace and forgiveness. But the new testament didn’t negate the law. Jesus fulfilled the law. As followers of Christ, we no longer have to follow every jot and tittle of rule of the Levitical law, but too often we forget to take the bible as a whole. And both the old and the new testament give us rules and guidelines, and yes, even things forbidden, not just because God wants us to have a bunch of arbitrary rules, but because He created us. He is everything. Before the beginning He existed, and after the end of it all, He will continue to exist, and He knows what is best for us.
I see and hear people say all the time, “Jesus never said . . . ” And it’s true. There are a lot of things Jesus never directly addressed, but I can tell a few things He both did and said over and over in the gospels. And He never excused sin. Jesus was most certainly not saying, “Live and let live.”
Jesus healed and defended the weak, the sick, and the sinner . . . the woman caught in adultery (John 7:53 – 8:11) . . . the woman at the well (John 4:1-30) . . . Zacchaeus (Luke 19:1-9) . . . so many others . . . He didn’t excuse their sin. He transformed the sinner.
He defended the woman caught in adultery as He challenged those about to cast stones that only if they were without sin were they able to stand in judgment. Then He looked at this woman and said, “‘Woman, where are those accusers of yours? Has no one condemned you?’ She said, ‘No one, Lord.’ And Jesus said to her, ‘Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more.'” (John 8:10-11). Go and sin no more. He didn’t say, “Hey girl! You’re cool. Keep doing you.” No He told her it was time to change. He looked at her and said, “Go and sin no more.” That’s pretty direct.
The woman at the well ” . . . left her waterpot, went her way into the city, and said to the men, ‘Come, see a Man who told me all the things that I ever did. Could this be the Christ?'” (John 4: 28-29). Jesus directly addressed the things in her life that needed to change. And He did it, not because He wanted to condemn her, but because He wanted to save her. He wanted what was best for her. And she knew that He was not just any man. She realized she was likely standing face to face with the Messiah, and she rushed to tell others.
The people were angry that Jesus chose to associate with Zacchaeus, a tax collector, a sinner. But Jesus didn’t just hang out with Zacchaeus and spend His time validating His sins. Something happened at that table, and after Zacchaeus ate with Jesus the bible tells us, “Then Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord, ‘Look, Lord, I give half of my goods to the poor; and if I have taken anything from anyone by false accusation, I restore fourfold.'” (Luke 19:8). Zacchaeus was transformed in just one meal with Jesus.
The new testament goes on past the gospels, and in much of it, Paul takes a hard line against sin. Not because he was a legalistic jerk that wanted to ruin everyone’s fun, but because he knew, firsthand, how utterly destructive living a life of sin can be to a person.
I often see people throw around the scripture, “Judge not, that you be not judged.” (Matthew 7:1) But there’s more to that scripture, “For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you. And why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me remove the speck from you eye’; and look, a plank is in your own eye? Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.” (Matthew 7:2-5)
Jesus goes on to give us specific instructions about how we are to address sin. First, deal with your own mess. Then you can address the mess in you “brother’s” life.
I firmly believe that there is a vast difference between judging of your own accord, because we all know that we can be super “judgy” over stupid things that honestly don’t matter (I legit do not care if you wear “hole-y” jeans to church nor do I think it’s irreverent, and I doubt Jesus does either), and holding things up against the word of God. When we look at God’s truth and address sin, that is righteous judgment that comes not from us but from Him.
So full circle back to the original quote, “God does not bless what His word forbids”. All too often I see people dive into situations and ways of life that are harmful to their very existence, and they want God to bless it. God gave us order, a way of doing things, not because He’s the boss and mean, but out of a deep love and need to protect us. So no, He isn’t going to bless the mess of your own making. But He will change you and enable you to do better.
Maybe you’re saying, “Well there’s nothing I can do to change where I am now.” And for most of us that is absolutely true. We are powerless to change ourselves. But God . . .
Just one example (of many) that comes to mind is remarriage after divorce (and there are definitely biblical grounds for divorce, but that’s a completely different post). I know people that continually struggle with feeling guilty about both their past and their present. That is not what God wants. God does not operate in guilt and condemnation. He loves you too much. You are married now, and you cannot change what is in the past. However, you can do things His way from this point on. But you have to be willing to work with God and trust Him with your healing, with your future, and even trust that you’re fully forgiven. Only then will you be able to stop the pattern of sin and the ongoing feelings of guilt in your life.
And maybe it’s something totally different, but it’s a situation you need to place in God’s hands. Maybe there are things from which you need to run hard and fast. Maybe there are things to which you need to run. Maybe it’s a little or a lot of both. I don’t have all the answers, but I can tell you this, what the world says is good is very rarely what God deems good. And it might not always make sense in the worldly economy, but God’s ways are not our ways. If you trust Him, He will redeem you. He will transform you. He will bring you up out of your past mistakes and sins, and work out whatever situation you’re in for good. He will bless you.
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