April 18, 2015

Rules? Or Rules?

Deuteronomy 33:1–34:12, 2 Corinthians 8:16–24, Psalm 46, 2 Corinthians 10:3–4

One young woman said to me that she didn’t want to become a Christian because of the rules. She feared being so restricted that her life would never include anything that was fun.

The other end of that extreme are the people who think that once you are saved by grace (not by rule-keeping), you can do whatever you wish because God has already forgiven you in Christ Jesus.

Both ideas cannot be right. Or can they? Do the standards of God ever change? Is there a difference between the old covenant and the new covenant? Did the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ eradicate all the “rules” found in the OT Laws? Or are they still binding on us? If not, what are those NT rules that some people fear?

These questions came to mind as I read about the death of Moses. Moses received God’s law, gave it to the people, and led them through the wilderness, but he was not allowed into the Promised Land.

“Then Moses went up from the plains of Moab to Mount Nebo, to the top of Pisgah, which is opposite Jericho. And the Lord showed him all the land, Gilead as far as Dan, all Naphtali, the land of Ephraim and Manasseh, all the land of Judah as far as the western sea, the Negeb, and the Plain, that is, the Valley of Jericho the city of palm trees, as far as Zoar. And the Lord said to him, ‘This is the land of which I swore to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, “I will give it to your offspring.” I have let you see it with your eyes, but you shall not go over there.’ So Moses the servant of the Lord died there in the land of Moab, according to the word of the Lord.” (Deuteronomy 34:1–5)

The Promised Land points to new life. They were led into this new life by Joshua, whose name in Greek is Jesus. This is not a coincidence. The analogy is easy to see. The people of God had a new life but they had to battle powerful enemies to take possession of it. This seems analogous to the spiritual battle against sin that Christians experience, a battle that goes on for the rest of our lives. We are to fight that battle, not with law-keeping, but with NT strategy. As the Bible says, “For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds.” (2 Corinthians 10:3–4)

In my experience, law-keeping does not cut it. I need divine power, the power that comes from Jesus Christ. This is not about ignoring the godliness Moses describes in the OT, but realizing Jesus Christ fulfilled the law. Because He lives in me, I have His grace and power to not only be the person God wants me to be, but to defeat the evil powers that try to destroy me or render my life ineffective in glorifying God. This can be an intense battle, but because of Jesus (not law or rules), I am “more than a conqueror through Him who loved me.”

To answer the young woman, Christians are blessed with new hearts and changed “I-wants.” That means some of the things we thought would be fun are not nearly so important or precious, because Jesus gives us such great joy. As for the other extreme of being able to do what we please, the answer is the same. A genuine Christian has a different set of I-wants. We are pleased to obey God, and will gladly sacrifice those old desires so we can live out that new value system.

In today’s NT reading, Paul surprises some readers by saying that he cares what people think. “We take this course so that no one should blame us about this generous gift that is being administered by us, for we aim at what is honorable not only in the Lord’s sight but also in the sight of man.” (2 Corinthians 8:20–21)

For me, fearing opinions was a snare for many years. Instead of doing what God wanted and risk offending others, I waffled and did what I thought would win friends and influence people. Eventually God brought me through that fear so that I would not be concerned what others think of me as much as I am concerned to obey Him. Yet in that place of fearing God instead of people, He asks me to consider others, doing what I do so God is glorified. This is the way of Jesus; my life is not about me.

Today I had some junk to confess and as I did, the Lord assured me of forgiveness and gave me these verses that I might not beat myself up with guilt or shame. I am to remember His goals for me. He is with me in my efforts to follow Him.

“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble . . . . ‘Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!’ The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.” Selah (Psalm 46:1, 10–11)

This is the way of Jesus – my life is incredibly blessed because of His grace.

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