Romans 7:6. But now we are released from the law, having died to that which held us captive, so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit and not in the old way of the written code.
We used to live under the old way. The way of the flesh. The way of selfish earning and self righteous doing. Now we live under the new way of the Spirit. The way of faith in God’s grace found in the indwelling life of Christ in us.
The old way of the flesh is typically found in the law of linearity. This law says that we can find a better life by following better practices. If we do A we will get B. It makes progress and success the primary goal of life. Do more to achieve more.
Sadly, many Christians apply this same law of linearity to their Christian life. Life is reduced down to following Christian practices in order to achieve God’s “blessing.” Follow God’s principles for marriage and have a happy marriage. Follow God’s plans for your finances, tithe 10%, and God will bless your business. Raise your children to love Jesus and they will never walk away from the faith. Use accountability partners to overcome your porn addiction. You get the idea. But these are all just another form of law. The very thing we are released from. This way of living is not the way of the Spirit. It is not faith in the life of Christ, the death and resurrection of Christ. The law of linearity is a theology of glory, rather than a theology of the cross.
The problem is that living from linearity (do A to get B) is just another way to control your own life. It is not rooted in a desire to know Christ and boasting in the cross. When our A doesn’t produce the B we desire what happens? How will we respond? Self-loathing? Or what happens when A does produce B? Self-congratulations? Sure we give God praise at the church prayer meeting. But when is the last time you heard a Christian testify about how their life was crashing but they were rejoicing in being able to experience the sanctifying power of the cross in their life?
The old way of linearity desires a fruitful life without the intimacy. It makes our present reality our ultimate reality, rather than causing us to long deeply for our ultimate reality in God’s presence one day. It fails to show us that what we most desperately need every day is God, not his stuff.
One of the reasons why I love The Good Place so much is that it explores these same topics. (Spoilers) The whole show is premised on the after-life being achieved with a points system, a linearity. Do enough of A and earn the B which is the Good Place. The brilliance of the show is that it keeps consistently challenging this theory rather than upholding it. The show introduces us at one point to Doug Forcett, the man who has figured out how to earn enough points to go to heaven. But, to everyone’s surprise, he’s actually quite miserable. His life is not a real life. And it’s a million miles away from love.
Sadly, Youtube has no other Doug Forcett clips from the Good Place. But trust me by the end of the episode you see that the man with the most “good points” on earth is actually a miserable, self centered, pathetic and even hurtful person.
Only God’s grace, not earning points, can produce goodness in us. Only the new way of the Spirit can produce real change in your life. Real love, real joy, real holiness. Real Christ-likeness. The new way of the Spirit makes knowing God intimately the highest good and the highest goal in life. And we can only fully know God in the cross of Jesus Christ. Only the cross can sanctify us. Only the cross can kill the deeds of the flesh. Not the law. Not linearity. Not a points system. The law can reveal my holy God and my unholy self, but only the cross can remove the flesh and only the resurrection can quicken the life of Christ in me (and it already has). This is the gospel. This is the new way. This is “to live is Christ.”
Have you merged the gospel of grace with a system of linearity? How does our union with Christ free us from having to live within a life that we totally control?
Another good one from Andrew Peterson. “You don’t have to work so hard, rest easy.”