The Ultimate Out Clause

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Wednesday, May 27, 2015 1 comments
by Logan Ames

It’s a common thing in the world of sports. The star athlete or coach signs a contract with an organization that theoretically should keep him in that place until the deal is up. However, many agents negotiate “out clauses” into the contract that would give the individual more options based on one reason or another. We have seen this happen within the past year with a baseball manager that many consider to be the best in the game, and also with the best basketball player in the universe. Joe Maddon was the manager of the Tampa Bay Rays and consistently had his team in the playoffs. When the Chicago Cubs job opened up, he bolted and took over as manager in the Windy City. Many thought the Cubs and Joe Maddon should be punished for some sort of illegal tampering, but it was later discovered that his contract with the Rays gave him an “out” if that team’s general manager ever left. When the general manager left, Maddon was released from the contract. There was no bigger out clause in the state of Ohio than the one that brought Lebron James back to Cleveland. After playing under his contract for the Miami Heat for four years, James took the opportunity afforded him by an out clause and returned to his home to try to bring the city of Cleveland its first professional sports championship in over 50 years. That might just happen in the next few weeks.

Out clauses exist in many areas of life where contracts or other legally-binding agreements govern what each side can do. In the Old Testament, God established his covenant with the people of Israel and then gave them the law through Moses to govern their end of the “deal." The Israelites focused on attaining righteousness through their obedience to the law, but there was no way they would ever be able to measure up to God’s standard of perfection. If you broke even one of the over 600 individual laws, you had caused a “breach of contract” so to speak. But because God is rich in mercy and slow to anger, he made a new deal with the people. The old contract had to be torn up and replaced. Jeremiah 31:31 prophesies that “the days are coming” when the Lord “will make a new covenant with the people of Israel and with the people of Judah."

The rest of Jeremiah 31:32-37 gives some of the details of that new covenant, but our passage for the week in Romans 7:1-6 explains how we become part of it. The Apostle Paul states the obvious, that we are only bound by the law or by any other legal requirements as long as we are still alive. He compares our being bound to the law to spouses being bound to each other until death, but not a minute longer. Death is the ultimate “out clause” for all contracts and agreements. In verse 4, Paul explains that believers have “died to the law through the body of Christ” so that they could belong to the risen Christ and “might bear fruit for God." In other words, we didn’t have to physically die because Christ paid that debt for us on the cross. By accepting what he did on the cross in our place, we take part in his death and are ourselves dead to sin and to the law. This doesn’t mean we no longer have to try to do things right, it just means that obeying the law is no longer what we depend on to make ourselves right with God.

This is what Jesus was discussing with Nicodemus in John 3:3 when he told him that “no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again." Nicodemus seemed confused because he wondered how someone could be “born again." What I think so many Christians miss is that some sort of “death” has to occur first. You have to start over. You can’t just simply add a second life onto the first one. In order for you to be born again, you have to put to death the old self and its obligations to the law and to sin. Nicodemus had been part of the Jewish ruling council. He was used to boasting of his obedience to the law and self-righteousness. Jesus looked beyond that and taught him that the ONLY way he’d be able to even see or understand the kingdom of God would be to put to death his understanding of being bound by the law and accept the terms of the new covenant through Christ.

The same is true for us today. As Romans 7:6 says, “We have been released from the law so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit." That word Spirit is capitalized because it is the Holy Spirit that came to all believers through Jesus. Again, I emphasize that we were not released from the law so that we can go on serving ourselves. If we serve ourselves, we are serving sin and bearing fruit for death. Rather, we are released from the burden of the law so that we can be joined to the risen Christ and bear fruit for God as the Spirit lives in us.

Think of the difference this makes just on Sunday mornings. You are no longer teaching, giving an offering, praying, greeting, or singing in order to in some way earn favor with God. You aren’t attending church because you believe God would be mad if you didn’t. Instead, you come to church because the Spirit gets you excited to come into his presence. You serve in your various roles because you believe you serve a living God whose Spirit is moving and working in and through you. No matter what, your life is characterized by freedom and not burdens. As Paul says in another letter, “Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom” (2 Corinthians 3:17). Is your life characterized by trying to earn something you never could? Or are you living in the freedom of the Holy Spirit? Christ has already given you the “out clause” from the old contract. He has allowed you to enter into the new one. Yes, you do have to let the old way die. It may be uncomfortable, but it will be worth it when you are joined with him in the new covenant forever.

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Mom Ames said...

Love your explanation, especially the statement that something must die, whereby you cannot simply add a second life onto the old one after being born again. Far too many people who call themselves Christians seem to try this approach. Using your example of Lebron James taking the 'out clause' to leave Miami to join Cleveland: What if James went to Cleveland saying he was there to help them win a championship, yet continued to play and hang out with his Miami team when it suited him. His loyalty to each would mean nothing. He would be in a constant state of conflict with one or the other. And even if he could pull this off in 'secret', he would never have peace in his heart. What kind of life is that? Jesus came that we might have life, and have it to the full. You cannot have it to the full when you are constantly dividing your heart between 'opposing teams', i.e. Death from sin vs. Life from Christ.