Tell a child “Don’t touch that stove … it’s hot!” It doesn’t matter how emphatic are your warnings, or how stern are your threats, or how thorough are your explanations –if the opportunity arises, he will still try to touch the stove. It’s built into us at birth…
Our flesh is what gives us the ability to think and act in this world without God’s intervention. He designed us in His image and likeness –we naturally have desires and abilities –wanting to create and exert authority. As such, our flesh is neither good nor bad. However, it doesn’t have an instinctive need for Him and that’s why it’s considered “sinful.”
Like Eve, we’ve usurped His role as the judge over good and evil. We’re known by our judgments –justifying what we do and condemning those who don’t agree with us. As individuals, those judgments have become the laws –the supreme standards– that we live by. We’re gods of our own lives. Anyone else’s law is an affront to our flesh and it responds with rebellion.
The case of telling a child “Don’t touch!” exemplifies how we naturally rebel to someone else’s law. Ironically, the child may have been curious about the stove before you told him “Don’t touch!” but after your law is given, he is tempted –he plots and plans the act over and over in his mind until he’s done the very thing that will hurt him.
Whether it’s telling a child to not touch a hot stove, a woman to not desire new clothes or a man to not think about sex, it’s human nature to dwell on –and often do– the things that we’re told not to do.
For while we were in the flesh, the sinful passions, which were aroused by the Law, were at work in the members of our body to bear fruit for death. But now we have been released from the Law, having died to that by which we were bound, so that we serve in newness of the Spirit and not in oldness of the letter. (Romans 7:5-6)
The Law is met by rebellion because our flesh –that which we’re born with– is certain that it’s supreme over all. But God has subjected this creation with futility so that we will become frustrated with our flesh’s efforts. Even the best of them –our offspring, our organizations, our edifices– will ultimately fail. All of the ills and catastrophes of nature are to brazenly demonstrate our failures and drive us to Him.
The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law; (1 Corinthians 15:56)
Once we become believers and recognize that we have been released from the Law, we are set free from the power of sin because the Law is no longer an antagonist to the natural flesh.
The Law cannot produce holiness nor give life nor cleanse the conscience nor make anyone righteous. It can only point out our faults –our guilt –our shame.
For, on the one hand, there is a setting aside of a former commandment because of its weakness and uselessness (for the Law made nothing perfect), and on the other hand there is a bringing in of a better hope, through which we draw near to God. (Hebrews 7:18-19)
The Law has no power –it’s “weak and useless.” It can’t actually change a person’s heart. The best the Law can do is to superficially affect external actions –while at the same time continuing to give power to sin!
If you have died with Christ to the elementary principles of the world, why, as if you were living in the world, do you submit yourself to decrees, such as, “Do not handle, do not taste, do not touch!” (which all refer to things destined to perish with use)—in accordance with the commandments and teachings of men? These are matters which have, to be sure, the appearance of wisdom in self-made religion and self-abasement and severe treatment of the body, but are of no value against fleshly indulgence. (Colossians 2:20-23)
Religion and “trying really hard” are merely self-defeating…
God does not lead believers with His Old Testament Law –it’s purpose was only to get us to Christ as our Savior. God then leads us with His Holy Spirit. It’s the Spirit that shows us how to really love –letting God express His love at just the right time through our open arms and hearts; with His tears through our eyes, and with His words of encouragement through our mouths.
For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men, instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus, who gave Himself for us to redeem us from every lawless deed, and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds. (Titus 2:11-14)
We look at ourselves and at others and see faults and sins, but God has already dealt with all of those –He punished His Son for them. Jesus was given the wages for all our sins –He died once for all of us!
And inasmuch as it is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment, so Christ also, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time for salvation without reference to sin, to those who eagerly await Him. (Hebrews 9:27-28)
The removal of our sins was prophesied throughout the Old Testament. That became a reality at the cross.
“Lo, for my own welfare I had great bitterness; It is You who has kept my soul from the pit of nothingness, For You have cast all my sins behind Your back. (Isaiah 38:17)
For as high as the heavens are above the earth, So great is His lovingkindness toward those who fear Him.As far as the east is from the west, So far has He removed our transgressions from us. (Psalms 103:11-12)
Trying to live under the Law will only make a believer frustrated at his inability to be pleasing to God –the One he wants to please the most. We can not love anyone who continually points out –and punishes– our wrong actions and thoughts. (Punishment includes the withdrawal from fellowship—see “1 John 1:9 –The Christian Bar of Soap.”) Instead, the law leaves us with a guilty conscience and sense of fear in approaching God. The gospel –the good news– is that we have been set free from all of that!
There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love. We love, because He first loved us. (1 John 4:18-19)
Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death. For what the Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God did: sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh, so that the requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. (Romans 8:1-4)
Now walk by faith –trusting God to have done all that He said He did. As you trust Him more with each circumstance of life, you will also find that He is trustworthy for even more. We are talking about the One who did it all for you!