What defines a society, a culture and even a person is the law. The written or unwritten law that governs a society, a culture or an individual is the framework or boundaries that dictate who we really are.
Some people love the law and some hate it. Some find security in the law while others find their identity in being lawless. Humanity tends to swing from one extreme to another. Some embrace rules and find that following them can give a feeling of control over their lives. Others shirk rules and find excitement in breaking them, indulging in the forbidden. Most of us have probably tried both. I know I have.
Old Testament law had rules covering just about everything: hygiene, sex, murder, food, animal husbandry, you name it. The Bible details how rule-by-rule the people of God, including kings and prophets broke them all.
Why did God create the Old Testament law knowing that it would be impossible for us to obey it? It can seem like kind of a long pointless exercise if you know the result in advance. Was He trying to just torment us? Just the opposite actually- He was trying to keep us from tormenting ourselves.
God knew that all people have an inner compulsion to create their own law. After creating this list of rules in their minds, they then use this law to justify themselves. Our flawed sin nature creates a built-in belief that says, “I am acceptable IF…I am hard working, IF I am good looking, IF I am successful, IF am responsible, if I am nice.” The problem of course comes when we try to follow our own rules. We mess those up too. With all of these “if’s”, we neurotically push ourselves to work harder to “be somebody” or at the very least to just “be okay”.
I’m not speaking in generalities. I am talking specifically about myself. I have found that much of my activity and striving can make me miserable because I operate out of fear instead of out of faith. Fear that I won’t measure up. Fear that others will look down on me. Fear that I will let people down. Following my own rules is stressful, because I am never good enough.
I don’t know why, but I am perfectly able to give grace to the people we work with on The Relief Bus: the homeless, drug addicts, ex-cons, but end up raking myself over the coals. No one is a harsher judge of me than me. For some reason, I am a cruel taskmaster to myself. I treat myself like a slave. God began to speak to me. I wrote the words He was whispering in my heart in my journal, “Stop doing things in your own strength and walking in the flesh. Why act like a slave, when you are a son? Don’t be a slave to fear, a slave to performance and a slave to success.”
We either make these self-imposed rules our religion, and feel superior to others because of our moral achievements, or we feel like a demoralized failure for our lack of will power and self control. Either way, our self-made law doesn’t lead to what we really want: to be like God, the only one who is truly good, to be so close and intimate with God that we become one. This is the only place of true peace and satisfaction.
Psalm 73:28 (MSG)
You’re all I want in heaven!
You’re all I want on earth!
When my skin sags and my bones get brittle,
God is rock-firm and faithful.
Look! Those who left you are falling apart!
Deserters, they’ll never be heard from again.
But I’m in the very presence of God—
oh, how refreshing it is!
God’s exhaustive law shines a spotlight on the fact that we are powerless to justify ourselves. We can never perform well enough to be secure. That’s why He sent Jesus to come and through the cross justify us through his grace.
Galatians 5:1 CEV
Christ has set us free! This means we are really free. Now hold on to your freedom and don’t ever become slaves of the Law again.
God knows that even after we make Christ Lord, that we will still slip into our old tendencies of trying to be a good enough Christians by reading the Bible enough, praying enough, thinking enough holy thoughts, etc.
v.4 And if you try to please God by obeying the Law, you have cut yourself off from Christ and his wonderful kindness.
In other words He is saying, “Stop it!”
Galatians 5:6 NIV
“The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.”
Evidently the only thing that counts is trusting God and out of that security, freely giving grace, affirmation, expressing value, affection and approval to others.
God’s Spirit makes us loving, happy, peaceful, patient, kind, good, faithful, gentle, and self-controlled. There is no law against behaving in any of these ways. And because we belong to Christ Jesus, we have killed our selfish feelings and desires. God’s Spirit has given us life, and so we should follow the Spirit.
In other words, you have to let God love your flawed, messed up self when you know you don’t deserve it. Only then will you have the power to love others in their flawed, messed up condition.
There is a truth that supersedes all law: God loved us, now we can love others, even ourselves.
1 John 4:19 NIV
We love because he first loved us.
This is what I am finding to be my salvation. This is the light that guides me home.
Psalm 73:28 (MSG)
I’ve made Lord God my home.
God, I’m telling the world what you do!
We should get ahold of this because IT’S THE ONLY THING THAT COUNTS.
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