WHAT ABOUT GRACE AND THE LAW?
You've traveled on many roads and highways. . .leaving the old places. . .going somewhere new. . .searching. . .hoping. Perhaps you've hopefully taken a road away from heartache and disappointment. . .a hope burning in your heart that the new road would lead you to a new place. . .a place of fulfillment and freedom. Perhaps you've tried to leave the memories of old failures and guilt far behind as you travel toward the horizon. . .toward some dream. . .toward those greener pastures you've heard so much about. You've prayed that the next place you called home would be different somehow. . .it would be a place where you could find something called inner peace and happiness. . .the road to a new and greater freedom.
But you may ask whether it is really possible to find that road? After all, you've searched so many times already. Is it really possible to find the road to happiness. . .and is it possible to travel that road once you've found it? The Bible says, "Yes!" Today we want to share the Bible's way with you, a way to inner peace, harmony and happiness. So now let's discover God's way to freedom.
You can get no better directions than from the One who has traveled the road of freedom. That person is Jesus. As you check out his life, you will see that he had perfect peace and inner harmony. Yes, he faced many trials. He faced a cruel death. But in the face of it all, he knew who he was. He knew what his purpose was. He knew he was following the will of his Father in heaven. Early in life, he told Joseph and Mary, "I must be about my Father's business." (Luke 2:49) Jesus knew that doing the will of his Father was the road to freedom.
Later, when he began his public ministry, he said, "I seek not mine own will, but the will of the Father which hath sent me." (John 5:30) Jesus came to our earth to show us the Father. He came to show us that God is love, that God his Father would even be willing to give us his own Son so that we could travel the road to eternal freedom and happiness. One of the ways Jesus showed us the heart of his Father was by obeying all of God's commandments. Jesus kept God's law perfectly. He showed us that it was a law of love and perfection. It was a joy to live by God's law. Jesus said, "Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets. I am not come to destroy but to fulfill." (Matthew 5:17) Jesus came to show us the depth and potential of God's law and how it could help to lead us to righteousness.
When we behold the life of Jesus, we see that God's moral law--the Ten Commandments--is meant to guide us to the road of freedom and love. By his life Jesus cleared the Ten Commandments of centuries of man's traditions and interpretations. He showed us the eternal, perfect character of God's law. One of the things he showed us isthat God's law does not change. God's character is one of love and justice--and that does not change. He himself said, "I am the Lord, I change not." (Malachi 3:6) It would hold true, then, that his law would not change, for God's law is an expression of his character. It, too, is an expression of love and justice.
What is true of God is also true of his Word. The Bible says, "Forever, O Lord, thy word is settled in heaven." (Psalm 119:89) Of course, the Ten Commandments are a vital part of his Word. Our God is reliable and trustworthy. He does not change. His will and law are one, both perfect and unchanging. After all, what kind of God would we have if we could not depend on him to keep his word, if he changed his concepts of justice from day to day?
Because God's law is unchanging and trustworthy, Jesus could state: "Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled." (Matthew 5:18) The Ten Commandment law is God's gift to us, given to us because God loves us. The apostle James told us this was so. He wrote: "Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning." (James 1:17)
Right from creation God gave man the perfect gift of his law of harmony and righteousness. At first this law was written only on man's heart. But as man continued to rebel and sin against God, the law became obscured. Then God gave his law to mankind in another form. With his own finger, God wrote the Ten Commandment law on two tables of stone and handed them to Moses. Now, by reading this law and meditating on it, man could see what God's standard of righteousness is. Man now had a mirror, showing him that he was a sinner. All who looked into the law could see the dirt of sin on their faces. All could see that "All have sinned, and come short of the glory of God." (Romans 3:23) There is no exception. The Bible says in Romans 3:10, "There is none righteous, no, not one."
Man had no excuse. He could see what sin was. He could choose to turn away from sinning and turn to God for forgiveness. The Psalmist pointed this out. He said, "The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul." (Psalm 19:7) God is perfect. Therefore, his law is perfect. As we obey his law through the power Christ gives us, we will be changed into God's pattern of wholeness and perfection.
How important is the law? Jesus stated it clearly: "Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven." (Matthew 5:19) In Psalm 19 God's law is called "perfect," "sure," "right," "pure," "clean," "true," and "righteous altogether." These attributes of the law are also attributes of God's nature andcharacter. Only a God of eternal, changeless and boundless love could perfect such a law, a law that was meant to further the welfare and happiness of the intelligent beings he created. This law is actually a revelation of God's character, showing us his justice, his concern for our welfare, his love. The principles of his law are the very principles of heaven.
If we obey such a law, something good will certainly happen to us. In simple terms the law leads to liberty. Some may say that the law restricts our freedom. They may say it is arbitrary, restrictive, and binding. But nothing could be further from the truth. Consider for a moment who is free--the person who breaks the law through stealing, lying, killing. . .or the one who abides by the law and cares for the rights of his fellowmen? Who is more free--the man who has obeyed his conscience or the one who has broken the principles of fairness and right and now faces guilt and fears? As one studies the commandments of God, he finds that they are not against the happiness of mankind. They are actually given to help bring us happiness.
The law of God shows us the way to freedom. The Psalmist told us this. He said, "I will walk at liberty: for I seek thy precepts." (Psalm 119:45) "Precepts" is another word for "commandments." To seek to follow God's commandments is to walk in the way of freedom. The law of God is like a garden fence. The fence is not there to hinder plants and flowers from growing. Rather, it's there to keep out things that would destroy the beauty of the garden. So, too, in our lives the law of God is designed to keep out things that would weaken and destroy us and mar our beauty.
Jesus, with the law of God written on his heart, came to our earth to show us that God's law is meant to keep us in the garden of harmony and love. In the life of Christ, people could once again see the Ten Commandments obeyed perfectly and happily. They could see the wholeness and power the law brings to the life of one who loves and obeys God. The law is not given to hinder our happiness but to assure it. God's law shows us that we are sinners, that we have transgressed the perfect moral law. But this in itself is the starting point for a transformation of desires and objectives in our lives.
The Bible tells us the purpose of the law. It says, "Therefore by the deeds of the law shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin." (Romans 3:20) If we did not have this knowledge of what sin was, then we would continue sinning. We would continue deepening our guilt and adding to our unhappiness. But Jesus came to show us clearly that "sin is the transgression of the law." (1 John 3:4) Jesus came to show us that happiness lies in depending on his power to help us obey God's law. In fact, the very name "Jesus" implies this. The Bible says, "Thou shaltcall his name Jesus: for he shall save his people from their sins." (Matthew 1:21)
Obeying God's commandments is a way of showing our love for him. In fact, it's because we love him that we are able to obey. The Bible makes this clear. It says, "For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous." (1 John 5:3) How does a child best show his love for his mother or father? By trusting the parents enough to obey their commands. So, too, we show our love for God by obeying his perfect commandments.
But this type of obedience, which arises from a heart of love is not a drudgery. A supreme joy is connected with obeying and pleasing the one you love. Harmony rules within your inner self. We naturally want to obey God more and more. We will say with the Psalmist, "I delight to do thy will, O my God: yea, thy law is within my heart." (Psalm 40:8) The Bible says, "God created man in his own image." (Genesis 1:27) God has placed his law within our hearts. You cannot find peace or harmony with yourself until you are willing to be in harmony with God's image within you. The closer you come to that image, the happier you will be.
God's law is an integral part of each of us--a part of every human being, no matter of what race, nation or background. Yes, that image has been blurred by sin. It has been muddied by selfishness and rebellion. Yet, there are hints and glimpses in all of us. There are inner urges to be more like our Savior, to follow him, to be one with him. This is the law written within our hearts. If we do not rebel against it, we will obey it and find it a delight.
But what keeps us from following these inner pleadings? Why do we rather continue disobeying even though we know we will reap a harvest of unhappiness and dissatisfaction? Because we are incapable of turning ourselves around. We need strength outside of our own in order to obey God. If this is the case, then how can we be turned around? How can we secure the desire and the energy necessary to be able to follow God and obey his commandments? The answer is Christ. In Christ we can find power to obey God's law.
Without Christ, we would all face eternal death, "for the wages of sin is death." (Romans 6:23) We all have sinned. We all have rebelled against our Creator. The just reward is death. But God has provide another way. The verse in Romans 6:23 continues: ". . .but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord."
This gift of eternal life comes to you because of what Christ has done for you. One of the things he did was to keep the Ten Commandments perfectly. He lived by them. They were his delight. He said, "If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love;even as I have kept my Father's commandments, and abide in his love." (John 15:10) To obey God is to be in the circle of Christ's love. To love Christ is to obey him.
His keeping of God's law and following God's will perfectly was only the beginning of what Christ did for us. He did much more. In order to pay the penalty of death that was due all sinners, Jesus went to the cross of Calvary, and there he suffered the death meant for us.
What killed the Son of God? Not the spear thrust, not the nails, not the cross. No, friend, our sins killed him. Our sins broke his sinless heart. Isaiah a long time before had predicted that Christ would do this. He wrote, "He was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him." (Isaiah 53:5) The New Testament says, "But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us." (Romans 5:8)
As Christians, we have the righteousness and sacrifice of Christ as our foundation. We can build our lives on that solid, unchanging foundation. We can put all of our faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, and as we do so, we will become obedient followers.
As we study what Christ has done for us, we will find a desire growing within us to follow his example. As we place our lives in his hands, we will find the power to be like him--obedient to the Father, loving Him and others, and at peace with ourselves. As we let Christ control our lives, we will be "created in Christ Jesus unto good works." (Ephesians 2:10) We will be a new creation in Christ. Then, "Sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace." (Romans 6:14)
Calvary--your assurance that God cares for you without reservation. . .that he will give you the power to overcome sin. Calvary also tells us that God could not change his law, not even to save his own Son from death on the cross.To change the law would destroy the foundation of his perfect government. If the foundation crumbles, then everything else would also crumble. To change his perfect law would mean destruction of his perfect justice and love. Eventually it would mean the eternal destruction of every created being in the universe.
Clearly, God's moral law was not done away with on the cross. Rather, its vital importance was illustrated dramatically. The apostle Paul states often that God's moral law is still binding on us. He says, "What then? Shall we sin because we are not under the law, but under grace? God forbid." (Romans 6:15) With Jesus in our lives, we will naturally want to obey his moral law, for it is written in our inner being.
God's grace will transform our lives, our objectives, and our desires. We will not feel the law is a burden but a delight. We will not feel under the pressure of the law, for we will love to obey it. We will become God's people. Then He can fulfill that promise made in the Bible: "I will put my laws into their minds, and write them in their hearts: and I will be to them a God, and they shall be to me a people." (Hebrews 8:10)
To be a person of God--there is no other way to be completely happy and free! Love will then find new dimensions. Growing in love, we will grow in happiness. Walking in Christ's footsteps and fulfilling the law as he did, we will be but traveling on the road to lasting freedom. The apostle James made this clear when he described God's law as a "royal law," a "law of liberty."
The secret of obedience is a living connection with Christ. We can love and obey as Christ did only when we have the power of Christ in our lives through giving ourselves completely to him. Jesus described it this way: "I am the vine, ye are the branches: he that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing." (John 15:5)
When the love of Christ motivates our lives, we can obey the law of God with freedom and delight. We do not obey the law in order to earn salvation, for that is impossible. Only through grace can we find salvation. As Paul stated: "For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God." (Ephesians 2:8) God gives us the gift of salvation, but in no way does this free us to continue in sin. It frees us to glorify God by obeying him as we would a loving father.
The apostle Paul showed us the power and delight a person can find in obeying Christ. Paul found happiness and fulfillment by being Christ's man completely. So, too, can we find that kind of happiness. Let us say with Paul: "I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me." (Galatians 2:20)
Being connected with Jesus Christ places us on the same road he walked--the road to freedom and fulfillment. This road does not stop in this life but goes on throughout eternity. The Bible describes it this way: "Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city." (Revelation 22:14)
Friend, do you yearn for God's blessings? Do you yearn for direction for your life? Then give yourself to Jesus Christ. Let him live in you. Let him give you the power to be faithful to God, to obeyhis Word. Would you pray that prayer of surrender now? Let's just close our eyes now and open our hearts in prayer.
Dear Father, thank you so much for giving us your Son, Jesus, to show us the way to freedom and eternal life. Make our hearts like the heart of Christ. Write on them the words of your perfect law. Through Christ, give us the strength and power to follow you completely. Thank you for directing our feet onto the royal road of freedom and peace. We ask this in Jesus' name. Amen.
When we walk with the Lord,
In the light of His word,
What a glory He sheds on our way!
While we do His good will,
He abides with us still,
And with all who will trust and obey.
Trust and obey,
For there's no other way
To be happy in Jesus,
But to trust and obey.
-Daniel B. Towner (1850-1919)-