Fulfilled in Jesus

Our pilgrimage with our Beloved in Japan -- Yoko & Ramone on the journey with Jesus!

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Life without the Law - Finding rest from fear of sinning

When I first learned of the Covenants -- that not only the Sabbath, but the moral laws of the Decalogue were the "Old Covenant", of course it raised the question of morality, of sinning: how could I be safe from lawlessness? It caused a little crisis for me, because I didn't want to sin. I didn't want to fall. I didn't want to hurt anyone or be hurt, and I didn't want to do what displeased God. The Law had somewhat been my guide for these things.

But Sinai was replaced with the law of the Spirit of life. I had to lean back in a "trust fall" and trust God to produce good works --and not bad works-- in me. The very thought of letting go of the Old Covenant (or shall I call it "the Old Guide"?) felt like becoming naked, like not knowing what was going to happen, not knowing if I would do good or bad.

Scripture said that the Old Covenant --all 10 Decalogue commands included-- was obsolete (see Hebrews 8:13-9:4). Forceful words! I could spend my new Christian life trying to minimize or qualify the words, or I could accept them and trust God that He would not produce bad works in me. So the law of the Spirit came to life inside me, and I learned to trust His Spirit.

And along the way, I read folks like Ratzlaff, who showed that the New Covenant --the Son! the Word Himself-- had a far more piercing morality than the Old Law. The Old judged deeds, but the New judged the thoughts and attitudes of the heart, distinguishing in me even what was soul and what was spirit. Christ showed this contrast by His great words in response to the Old Law, "But I say unto you..." and then proceeding to expose the heart. I began to understand that this was the reason that the Old Covenant (Decalogue included) was obsolete.

As soon as we suggest the obsoleteness of the Law, part of us instantly objects because it sounds like we're giving a "license to sin" (we quickly forget that people are sinning just fine without a "license"!). It's significant to notice how Paul responds to this fear. When someone suggests the "license to sin" idea to Paul, what did he say?
What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinnning so that grace may increase? By no means! We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? ... We were buried with Christ through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so too we may live a new life....

What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means! ...You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness. ... Offer yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life; and the parts of your body to Him as instruments of righteousness. For sin shall not be your master because you are not under law, but under grace.

It's amazing! He didn't talk about how the "moral commands" are continued. Yes, we still know certain things are sin, but Paul redirects our attention to Christ, to His death for us and His resurrection for us. He doesn't focus on sin---instead he focuses on new life. "Holiness" is not merely the "absence of sin"... there is so much more! "Purity" is not simply the absence of "impurity". Nor is "light" the absence of "darkness". This is why the Law became obsolete in the new life that Christ brought us. There is a force, a substance, to purity, light and holiness -- and it drives away sin. Merely refraining from sin doesn't make one pure, holy or full of light. If we were cleaned from our sin, we still wouldn't be able to bear the holy presence of God. So God gave us His Spirit living in us in place of the Law:
But now, by dying to what once bound us, we have been released from the law so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit, and not in the old way of the written code.

The way we serve God and live in Him under the New Covenant is not "Law" -- it is "Spirit". Paul isn't merely talking about "salvation", he's also talking about living, he is talking about where we go, what we do and how we live after salvation. (Romans 7:4)

And so he says elsewhere,
For through the law I died to the law so that I might live for God. I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me. I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!

How many of us are comfortable reciting Paul's words to ourself, in public, or even more from the pulpit?--"Through the law I died to the law so that I might live for God!" Paul died to the Law so that he might live for God. In other words, he was not able to "live" for God through the Law. Sin sprang to life and brought death. But by dying to what once bound him, he found life.

By dying to the law---dying to the Law! It sounds fearful! How will we know that we don't sin? How can we make sure we won't do anything bad? Paul's answer--God's answer--here in Scripture is that we leave the Law for the Spirit. We fall into His arms, trusting Him to be the new law to us, to be our insurance & deposit -- not only of our inheritance to come, but also we trust Him to do in us His works (instead of the enemy's works). From the perspective of Law, it is a fearful thing to let go of the law. Let go of that? That which kept me safe and on the straight path? That which kept me from evil deeds? Yes. Leave and fall into something better---a law that keeps you not only from evil deeds, but from an evil heart.

Yes, Christians have an intense passion to live in a holy, obedient manner. But we have to come to terms with the clear words of Scripture here: We are to die to the Law. The Law brought death. The Law is the ministry of condemnation. And we have been released from the Law to serve in a better way, the way of the Spirit.

For many years I unconsciously fought against Paul's incredibly literal statements about the Law simply because if I did take them literally, they would indeed appear to downplay or disparage the moral laws against sin in the Old Covenant. But I had to surrender to God's Word. I had to let the words of Scripture mean what they said. And in doing so, I found that I "fell" into the arms of a Spirit who is far superior than the letter. I found Christ to be my sufficient "rest" -- I fell in to Sabbath-rest in my daily works, in my daily life. In desiring to live a holy life, I fell into His rest, trusting Him to do it instead of me.

Bless you in His rest, even in resting your moral security in His Spirit.

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