Friday, April 26, 2013

Kudzu!


            Kudzu! No, this is not the sound of someone sneezing, or some new word the teens have made up, Kudzu is a plant. If you live in the southeastern part of the United States, you will know what Kudzu is, and none of us appreciate this plant. Kudzu was introduced to the United States in 1902. It was brought over from Asia to help farmers with erosion issues as well as vegetation for cattle and other animals. However, by 1938 this plant had over taken everything. Fairchild, the first man to plant it in Washington D.C. made this statement about Kudzu. It “grows all over the bushes, climbed the pines, smothering them with a mass of vegetation which bent them to the ground and became a tangled nuisance.” Kudzu completely replaces any and all existing vegetation wherever it grows. It is impossible to control and will kill everything in its path. Few plants can survive once smothered by Kudzu because it blankets completely the plants, trees, bushes, grass, and allows no light to come through. It takes all the nutrients, water, and oxygen needed for vegetation to grow. Kudzu is a bad word here in the south. But it is everywhere.

                As I drove along the highways of North Carolina yesterday, I started to see signs of Kudzu growing up the trees and beginning to creep everywhere. This reminded me of a passage of scripture that Paul wrote to the Galatians.
                “Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage. Indeed I, Paul, say to you that if you become circumcised, Christ will profit you nothing. And I testify again to every man who becomes circumcised that he is a debtor to keep the whole law. You have become estranged from Christ, you who attempt to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace. For we through the Spirit eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness by faith. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails anything, but faith working through love. You ran well. Who hindered you from obeying the truth? This persuasion does not come from Him who calls you. A little leaven leavens the whole lump.” Galatians 5:1-9
                You might be thinking what does Kudzu have to do with what Paul is writing? The purpose of planting Kudzu was good, and it started out well, but soon it became a nuisance and overtook everything. The law is much the same. The law was given as a shadow of what was to come. The law was given to the children of Israel to show them their need for the Messiah who was to come. Paul clearly states that the Law is not the means nor the way to be saved, so why are so many of us trying to keep the law and not living in the grace of God which has freed us and saved us from the bondage of sin and death?
                Paul tells us that we are to “stand fast in the liberty by which Christ has made us free”. Liberty does not mean that we live as we please, but that we choose to live as we should. The liberty that we have in Christ was given to us, all of us, once and for all. We put so many rules on ourselves. Do this, don’t do that. Our children grow up in homes ruled by the law and not by grace. If you do this, you do well, if you don’t do this, you do badly. Where is grace? Is not grace given to us because we are not able to do the letter of the law? Was not the law given to be a schoolmaster to bring us to Christ? (Galatians 3:34)
                Paul writes to the Galatians that they are under a yoke; they have become entangled and are being strangled by the law they are never going to be able to fulfill. When we strive to keep the Mosaic and
Levitical laws (which not even the Children of Israel were able to keep) we have placed ourselves in bondage. We have allowed Kudzu to overtake any hope of grace that we have been given. Declaring ourselves to be right because we “keep the commandments’ does not make us right. Seeking justification through the law, through the rules we have devised for each other means that we have no desire for grace in our lives. The law is like Kudzu; it will entangle you and take over your life until it blocks out grace. The law is not bad, nor was Kudzu meant for bad, but both will begin to choke out any grace that you have received from God.
                How do you know if your heart is entangled with Kudzu? How do you know if you are trying to justify yourself through the law? Most people I meet who are legalistic are critical of others. They quote the Old Testament law to point out the faults of others. They use the “law” to show people that they are not living a Christian life. I don’t know about you, but anytime I am around a Christian who is trying to keep the law, they have a tendency to make me feel less of a Christian. They have a tendency to point out what you are not doing instead of loving the person you are in Christ.
                We have to release the mindset of do’s and don’ts, release the rules we have set forth for ourselves and others. Now, I am not saying that we should go and sin it up, because God gives grace. But we are not Christ; we are not able to keep the Law of Moses, the Law of God or the Levitical law. If we want to walk in the “letter of the law” than Christ has no place in our lives, we choose to strive for our own righteousness and not the divine righteousness that Christ suffered so dearly to give us. Besides, what we will to do, we don’t, and what we don’t want to do that is what we end up doing, so trying to keep the law, the rules, the do’s and the don’ts only puts us into a tangled mess of Kudzu. We struggle with faith because we are trying to live by the law, and we can’t do both.
                Jesus came and fulfilled the law, the whole Law. He did not come and just fulfill the Ten Commandments; He dotted every “I” and crossed every “t” of every law ever written, from Genesis to Revelation. If the Mosaic Law and Levitical Law are to be kept, than we would be going to temple and sacrificing a lamb every year, and offering up the other sacrifices required by the law. But Christ came and fulfilled the law, the whole law; He died, once for all, no exceptions. So why then do we try to bring one another under the law? We say to one another “don’t do this, and you can’t do that. If you do this, then God is going to be mad at you, or if you do this you are going against what God said in Leviticus….” The freedoms that we have in Christ are just that- freedoms.

                I am not free to sin and live as I please, but I am free to live as Christ directs and leads me. If I want to go out and get a tattoo of a Cross on my back, then I am free to do that. If I want to have a glass of wine with my meal, than I am free to do that. If I want to go out to a bar and enjoy and dinner and a glass of beer with my husband, than I am free to do that. But if I do these things, and someone who is under the law sees me, I am a heathen, I have sinned, and I have fallen from grace.
                “The phrase {fallen from grace} does not mean that if a Christian sins, he falls from grace and thereby loses his salvation. There is a sense in which to sin is to fall into grace, if one is repentant. But to fall from grace, as seen by this context, is to fall into legalism….Or, to put it another way, to choose legalism is to relinquish grace as the principle by which one desires to be related to God.” (Boice)
               
A little leaven leavens the whole lump. One tiny seed of Kudzu can overtake an entire forest in one summer. If we allow our hearts to follow the law, soon the law will become the predominant motives of our lives and will smother out any hope of grace that we have been given in Christ Jesus. I do not want you all to think that this gives us free license to go out and live our lives as we want to. But what I do desire for you to realize is that the law was meant for good, and Christ has fulfilled the law, so do not let others judge you in what you drink, eat, do or say. For Christ is the only one who can justify you and in Him you have the freedom to live and to love as He wills. Don’t let the Kudzu overtake you, live for Christ and let those who seek to be justified by the law answer for themselves. In Jesus Name, amen and amen.