Responding to God’s Law
In the first two sessions of Discipleship Training, we discussed the gospel. One challenge we face when it comes to understanding the gospel centers on the role of the Law, basically all the commands and expectations God places upon us. When people think of the rules of God, they are primarily referring to “The Law”, and often have the misconception that Jesus was only concerned with enforcing the Law. In reality, most of us aren’t quite sure what to do about the Law. You may think, “We follow Jesus, so the Law doesn’t matter. That’s Old Testament.” However, consider what Jesus said in Matthew 5:19: “Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven…”
So, how should we respond to God’s Law?
One error is to add to the work of Christ in an effort to gain the approval of God. Paul was astonished by this approach, writing “Are you so foolish? After beginning with the Spirit, are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort?”(Gal. 3:3) Engaging in religious acts so that God will be pleased with you is a subtle form of self-righteousness; we demand God’s approval based on what we are doing instead of what he has done. Instead of a personal relationship in which our hearts love and worship Jesus Christ, our faith is marked by religious activity.
The second error we often make is that, upon hearing Jesus forgives our sins, we abuse his grace by continuing in our sin. Instead of a grateful heart changed by the gospel of our loving heavenly Father, we reduce Jesus to our ticket to heaven and ask “how far can I take this sin before God gets mad?” We want the advantages Jesus offers – forgiveness, healing, heaven – but do not want to worship him as Lord. In order to live this out, we minimize our sin and justify ourselves before God by calling on his grace. While the forgiveness of Jesus Christ knows no boundaries, this approach does not mark the lifestyle of a follower of Christ who has been radically changed by grace.
Legalism and licentiousness betray a misunderstanding of God’s intent. The Law was never designed to solve the issue of sin. Instead, as it irrefutably reveals our brokenness, it points us to the gospel. Through the gospel, we are freed from the Law (Gal. 3:13), and no longer under the condemning curse of our sin. Jesus Christ achieves a righteousness we could not, and he not only imputes that righteousness to those who have faith in him, but God sends his Holy Spirit to dwell within us.
For the life of the believer, the Law continually shows us our need for Jesus Christ. However, instead of taking on an unbearable burden, we worship Jesus for the freedom his righteousness allows, which is now ours through grace. We are free to actually obey the Law, not from obligation but out of delight, and because God’s Spirit dwelling in us enables us to do so. We trust him for our joy, and we find that obeying his commands leads us to a greater joy than the weak happiness offered by this present world. Let us live our lives marked by this true freedom found only in Christ.
Questions to help you identify whether legalism, license or delight are driving your response to God’s law: Discipleship Training Week 3_Questions
Pastor Matt Stevens is Campus Pastor at Vintage21 West Campus.