For when we were in the flesh, the sinful passions which were aroused by the law were at work in our members to bear fruit to death. But now we have been delivered from the law, having died to what we were held by, so that we should serve in the newness of the Spirit and not in the oldness of the letter. (Romans 7:5-6 NKJV)
If you have ever been on a diet, you should readily appreciate how law provokes a person to sin. I recently enlisted in the battle of the bulge. My favorite foods are my waistline’s mortal enemies: chocolate and carbs, all varieties of Mexican and Italian dishes…all of them! When my clothes started getting tighter, something had to change. I decided to cut out all of the above from my personal menu.
Of course, my personal menu was my decision. My family was in full support just as long as they were getting their regular meals. Feeding my family is one my greatest pleasures, but as soon I was making rich, homemade foods that my family enjoys, I suddenly found myself consumed with the desire to indulge. I was craving all of the yummy food I would prepare. Craving turned to torment. Torment to taste. Taste to tearin’ it up!
“Legalism presents the commandments as divine ultimatums
coming from a harsh judge. “
If you want to get back into your clothes, you had better keep to your commandments, Patty. Thou shall not eat pasta, pizza, Mexican food, chocolate.
Self-imposed law stirred within me a consuming hunger to eat the foods I had sworn not to. That’s what the law does to our spiritual lives too.
Whether a person is a Christian or not, the law acts the same way with everyone. It stirs up a person’s passions to disobey. Read Romans 7:5-6 again. Paul described this stirring of passions perfectly. Passion to rebel is aroused by the law.
In John Bunyan’s book, The Pilgrim’s Progress, the character Christian goes into a great room that represents the human heart. The room is filled with dust which represents sin. Christian takes a large broom into the room and attempts to sweep out the dust. Instead of sweeping away the dust he simply stirs it up. You guessed it: the broom represents the law. That is the exact effect that law will have anytime you tend to use it as a means for keeping sin at bay, or sweeping shortcomings under the rug hoping your “good” outweighs the “not-so-good.”
What about the commandments?
Since rules, laws and decrees stimulate sin, what is the believer to do with the commandments? Didn’t Jesus say that if we love Him, we will keep his commandments? He did indeed! (Read John 14:15.)
When grace rules a person’s life, he will approach the commandments with a totally different attitude than the legalist. Legalism presents the commandments as divine ultimatums coming from a harsh judge. A person governed by the law hears and feels the tone of Jesus’ commands like this: If you love me you had better keep my commandments.
In contrast, Christians walking in grace face the commandments with eager anticipation, not fear and intimidation. Believers understand the words of Jesus and see His commandments as boundaries that protect and provide a safety net for our lives. Jesus knows us better than we know ourselves. He also knows the craftiness of the enemy better than we do. Obedience is loving and trusting the Lord because He has our best interest at the forefront of His heart. Obedience, therefore, is a natural response of the believer.
What delight comes to the one who follows God’s ways! He won’t walk in step with the wicked, nor share the sinner’s way, nor be found sitting in the scorner’s seat. His pleasure and passion is remaining true to the Word of “I AM,” meditating day and night in the true revelation of light. He will be standing firm like a flourishing tree planted by God’s design, deeply rooted by the brooks of bliss, bearing fruit in every season of his life. He is never dry, never fainting, ever blessed, ever prosperous. (Psalms 1:1-3 TPT)
Without truly loving Jesus and seeing that His commandments are for our good, the only thing we have to offer is loveless compliance. Loveless compliance is disobedience because we essentially do not trust God’s grace to cover any weakness or shortcoming that we may tend to magnify in our Christian walk. We will end up battling the belief of never being good enough.
Love is the basis for our obedience not laws. John stressed the relationship between love and our obedience to God’s commandments when he said, For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome (1 John 5:3 NKJV). It is the believer’s pleasure and joy knowing that he is in the Father’s heart. The commandments are not a burden but instead a great blessing.
The life of grace presents a beautiful blueprint of what a lifestyle looks like when it is empowered with the love and faith in His grace—grace that declares that we are loved, we are forgiven, we are overcomers.
A new motivation.
Love is our motivation toward obedience. But love would not have evolved without first being showered with the gift of grace. We love Him because He first loved us (1 John 4:19). Before we received Christ, we had no inner desire to live a godly lifestyle. Now that we have been shown grace—now that we are released from the law—there’s a newness of spirit. We are free to serve God because we want to, not because we have to.
The legalist is not free to serve the Lord; he obligates himself to serve. He enters the spiritual battlefield with weapon in one hand and a loaded magazine of “have to’s” in the other.
Is your life built around rules? The law’s power is that it makes one see sin as destructive. But loving Christ—receiving all that was accomplished on the cross—leads us to see sin as a defeated foe. Laws ultimately lead to tiresome effort; grace always produces victory.