This post originally went live in the spring of 2013, but it’s a message that plays over and over again in my mind. Living Loved in relationship with the Father instead of living by expectations and rules…
I realize this so-called series on reigning in life may now have morphed into a general theme for the blog rather than just a series. But then again, Pentecost Sunday isn’t until May 19th, so I guess technically speaking, in a church calendar sort of way, we’re still celebrating the Resurrection. Shouldn’t we be doing that anyway???
I made the shocking revelation in my last post that Elf is one of my favorite movies (right up there with Steel Magnolias and Mr. Holland’s Opus) and that I believe it has some great parallels to abundant life. I ended that post with a thought to ponder:
Love transforms us from the inside out, while the law conforms us from the outside in.
We all know there are several forms of love and in the Bible specifically, there are three. So just for the sake of clarity let’s focus on the unconditional kind. The kind that God has for us, agape. Not only does God have this type of love for us, but according to 1 John 4:8, God is Love. God is unconditional Love and through Jesus Christ we have direct access to that Love.
Not only do we have direct access to Love, but the living God, who is Love, then comes and takes up residence in us. At salvation we are united with Christ. It is no longer we who live, but Christ in us the hope of glory. (Sorry for the huge leap, but I am making the assumption that we all ‘get’ the idea of the Trinity…if not, well apparently WordPress will allow me to write and post as many things as I would like and we can discuss it another day.).
So let’s just talk about the impact of that Love, the God of unconditional Love, that comes to dwell in us.
I think the Bible records the transforming power of Love most beautifully through the lives of three amazing men: Peter, John the Beloved (as opposed to John the Baptist) and Paul. These men were so changed by their encounters with Love and the life Love lived through them that their names were actually changed. Simon became known as Peter; John, a son of thunder, became John the Beloved; and Saul became Paul. By the time Love was finished with them, they were completely different men.
Love transformed an uneducated fisherman into a pillar of the new church. It took a man who wanted fire to come down from heaven and kill people who didn’t believe Jesus and transformed him into a man whose major theme in writing is Love. It also took a man who followed the law to the nth degree, even killing under its authority, and transformed him into a man who wrote most of the New Testament. And what was one of his primary messages? That we are no longer under the law and we are to live free from the law. We are to live by Love, Jesus’ new commandment.
What was so wrong with living by the law? What is wrong with it now? According to the New Testament it kills. It brings death. There is no life in the law. The only life is found in Jesus who is The Way, The Truth and The Life. By definition the law does not transform it conforms to pre-determined specifications. It is limiting, confining. And the truth is we can NEVER live up to the law’s expectations.
So, why do we go back to something that is going to kill us, hem us in and keep us from experiencing the unfathomable depths, heights and widths of the Love of God? I am not necessarily talking about the over 600+ Jewish laws. What about all the rules we put on ourselves to be closer to God, that we use to define a “good” relationship with God?
I am talking about “good” things like, a quiet time with God at 5:00 am every single morning, an hour reading the Bible every day, or being at church at least twice a week, or feeding and clothing the homeless every week.
Have you ever started the New Year with one of these goals in mind because you want a closer relationship with the Lord? Then of course by the second week, unless you are highly self-disciplined, you have already missed a few quiet times or Bible readings because you got up late or your kids were sick or…fill in the blank. So what happens then? The condemnation comes. Why? Because that is what laws do (even the ones we place on ourselves), show us where we fail.
The problem with developing our own system (you could substitute the word law for system) for a closer walk with God is that it becomes all about us instead of Jesus. It becomes about what we do instead of who we are. Life in Jesus isn’t about a system or a formula, it’s about a relationship.
I am not saying there is anything inherently wrong with any of the things above, but when they become a set of rules they become death for us instead of life. They become one more way for the enemy to tell us we don’t measure up.
The Bible doesn’t record any system Peter, John and Paul followed to be closer to God. It records some of their relationship with God, and some of the things God LED them to do, and then the eternal fruit that came from that relationship. They had Christ IN them and as believers we do too. Honestly, we can’t be any closer to the Lord than Christ IN us.
As Paul told Timothy, the law is for the unrighteous. The law, even our own moral codes and formulas, only have the power to tell us what we do wrong. They don’t change us. God’s Love IN us has unlimited ability to transform us, if we let it. If we can lay down our own expectations and definitions of successful Christian living, then God can make us unrecognizable too.