2 Corinthians 3:6. [God] has made us sufficient to be ministers of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit. For the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.
2 Corinthians 3:17. Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.
Here is the most important of daily tasks for the Christians – distinguishing between the law and the Spirit as the driving force in our lives.
What you might have expected me to say is that the most important daily task for the Christian is to obey God’s law. To understand the law of God and then follow it. Nope. That’s impossible. If you think you can obey God’s law you are living like a Pharisee who has minimized the perfection and holiness of God.
Don’t do that.
Rather, the most important task for the Christian is to distinguish between law and gospel. The letter and the Spirit. And the stakes are high – for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.
But how does the letter kill? How does the perfect law of God produce death? Because it places us under a standard that is unachievable. It makes a demand that can never be met. It requires, and requires, and requires relentlessly without ever offering a way to meet its requirement. It demands love without offering any power to love. It requires no faith and it steals all freedom. It controls and condemns. It literally sends us to Hell.
Now, stay with me, this does NOT make God’s law bad or evil. The law of God is actually perfectly holy. And in fact, when the law condemns us and sentences us to death, it’s just doing its job. When God’s law reveals our inability, our unrighteousness, our self-salvation schemes, it has actually succeeded in its goal.
But here’s what we must understand each day in our relationship with God and with others – when we try to live from law, it will slowly destroy all of our relationships. Why? Because law destroys freedom and without freedom there is no love. Not true unconditional love. Just manipulated love and control.
But praise God there’s another way to live. Jesus has given us another operating system for our hearts. There’s a whole new way to relate to God and others. The way of freedom. The way of the Spirit. And where the Spirit of the Lord is there is freedom.
Union with Christ IS freedom. In Christ we are perfectly, fully, unconditionally loved, accepted, and forgiven forever. It is this freedom by the indwelling Spirit that allows for faith. For grace. For real love. Only the one who has been unconditionally loved is now free to love from freedom, not reciprocation. While under the law we could never love. We could only control and demand with expectation after expectation. Before Christ we had to sin. We had to live from selfish ambition. We had to love dependent upon the love of others.
But not so in Christ. In Christ, we are set free. Free indeed!
But let’s be honest, true freedom can be terrifying.
Why? Because where God’s liberty will take us is into a place of freedom from ourselves. To turn from the letter of the law, is to turn from the self. That’s what law keeping is – self-reliance.
But grace is losing myself in order to find my better self. But we rarely see it this way. How many of us are actually able to let go of our usual coping mechanisms? To stop controlling? Stop maintaining an image? Stop earning? Stop our perfectionism? Stop being the victim? Stop blaming? Stop justifying our sinful responses and addictions?
And again, let’s be honest, as Christians we also tend to be afraid of freedom for other Christians too. This is why we try to keep each other under law. Under tradition. Under “Christian principles.” Instead of trusting the Spirit to guide each individual conscience, we place those around us, at home, in the community, in ministry, under an imperfect law of our own making.
But if the perfect law of God only brings death, why would we think that the imperfect law of (insert your name here) will bring life? Rather Christ is asking us to simply trust his imputed righteousness in other believers. The Spirit is asking us to trust ordinary, slow, progressive sanctification as the path of life.
“To live is Christ” is to live by the Spirit of freedom. Freedom from the law and its condemnation. And freedom to trust the power of God’s love that has poured into every beating heart of every believer in Christ.
Are you experiencing death by law? Or are you living in the life of the Spirit?
You in Christ
How does your union with Christ satisfy the law while empowering the love that the law requires?
Christ in you
In what ways are you keeping others bound to law? How can you begin to free them from the laws you have kept them under?
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