Who hasn’t heard the story? Who hasn’t had the attitude? I might be going through the motions of being polite, while inside my head I’m screaming in protest. Or I’m outwardly patient with traffic in my actions, but my attitude is anything but patient.
It is this problem that the life of Jesus Christ addresses. Knowing the human condition that we are rebels at heart, God sent His Son to give us the inner life we need. He knew that I could fake some of what He calls for — patience, kindness, good will, but exterior goodness is not what pleases Him. He wants obedience from the heart and I have to be honest about this; I cannot do it by myself.
The Law of God explains the externals, even hints at the internals, yet no one has ever kept it perfectly (except Jesus Christ). We are told not to kill and if we can avoid the act, who can avoid the thought? Or at least the hatred or anger that precedes it? Jesus makes it clear that the heart is the true measure of law-keeping.
You have heard that it was said to those of old, “You shall not murder, and whoever murders will be in danger of the judgment.” But I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment. (Matthew 5:21-22)God’s answer to our problem is a new heart, a change, a regeneration whereby our old nature is crucified and replaced by a new one. He offers us the very life of Jesus Christ. When we have it, by faith, then, as Christian Watchman Nee once said, “The Lawgiver on the throne becomes the Law keeper in our hearts.”
Over and over Paul also wrote about this need, God’s solution, and my responsibility to yield to that new life:
For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin: He condemned sin in the flesh, that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. (Romans 8:2-4)In traffic, I can choose patience in an external way where I don’t ram my car into the fellow who cut me off, but when I choose to walk according to the Spirit, I’m more apt to not even notice that someone cut me off, and certainly will not think to ‘get even’ or be tense up about it.
Years ago at Christmas time in a grocery store the lineup at the till and the bustle around us made me comment on the pressures of shopping this time of the year. My daughter, who was about seventeen at the time, said, “But mom, we don’t have to hurry on the inside.”
She cannot remember saying this, but I’ve never forgotten it. Because of Jesus, His people can have the integrity of being the same on the inside as they appear on the outside. Because of Jesus, we are set free from the Law of sin and death, which is a wonder in itself, but because of Jesus, we are also able to live by the law of the Spirit who has given us new heart and a new life.