Chalking the chalk (cont.)

To chalk the chalk is to be able to write and/or draw a clear explanation of something on a chalkboard (or touchpad), such as the way Jesus’ sacrifice pays the debt of our sin. That is what legalists, who trust religious ritual, could not do. They talked the talk—said they were “Christians” and were trying to please God—but their chalkboard said that all it takes to please God is to go through the motions of religion properly—the right rituals done by the right people in the right way and the right place and time. That “pleases” God and he will bless us regardless of our faith or our conduct. 

 

We erase their mistakes and replace them with “justification by faith”. We get the chalkboard right, and we sign our names to it. We are not just saying we are Christians and we are trying to please God. We are getting serious and signing on the dotted line, accepting that Christ’s atonement is applied to our sin. We chalk the chalk! 

 

What is supposed to happen after we chalk the chalk? “Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.” (Col. 2.6-7, ESV). This is walking the walk, not signing the chalkboard and walking away.

 

In fact, if we sign and walk away, what does our signature mean? We may feel very superior to those who go through the motions of religious ritual, but are we doing anything more than going through the motions of religious faith, chalking the chalk, getting our doctrines right but not being transformed by them?

 

If we do not find ourselves walking the walk, we had better pay attention to the two reasons Paul rejects legalism (talking the talk):  1) it does not lead to the unity and growth of the Body, and 2) and it has no power to restrain our sensual desires (Col. 2.19 & 23). In other words, legalism has no transforming power. It does not lead to walking the walk. 

 

Many teachers today come perilously close to saying that our faith is unconnected to any transforming power, that is, we can have justification without transformation. But if our “faith” does not transform us, is it any better than legalism? It does not do what legalism cannot do. People talk about “justification by faith” but it is actually “justification by going through the motions of faith.”

 

This rings hollow—Christ died so we could have justification without transformation? Really? However we dress this idea up, it is merely “fine-sounding arguments” (Col. 2.4, NIV), or “hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition . . . rather than on Christ.” (v. 8). It may be logical or even intuitive from a worldly point of view, but Christ’s wisdom is counter-intuitive. Those who connect with this worldly idea have “lost connection with the Head” (v. 19) and his transformative intentions.

 

They are quick to claim that any insistence on walking the walk would make salvation depend on works, but we are not talking about “works.” Walking the walk is not a “good work” we can do in our own power. We cannot do either of the things Paul is looking for—unify and grow the Body or restrain our sensual desires. It is God who makes the Body grow (Col. 2.19). We have to trust the Spirit to do the transforming work in us and for us, just like we trusted Christ’s atonement for our justification in the first place.

 

It is the same Jesus. Why trust him to justify us if we do not trust him to transform us? Why have faith in his atonement but not in his transforming power? “Having been buried with him in baptism, you also have been raised with him through your faith in the power of God who raised him from the dead.” (Col. 2.12) 

 

So let us look at Christ again during  Mercy Season,  dwell on him and his astonishing sacrifice. Let us not cheapen it by consigning it to the compartment labeled “justification” but let it be as transformative as he intended when he died. That’s what we mean by SYNCing with Christ, holding to “transformation by faith” as dearly as we hold to “justification by faith.” The crucified King deserves no less.

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