06 October 2014

Jesus Says The Law Still Matters

The Law and the Prophets were proclaimed until John; since that time the gospel of the kingdom of God has been preached, and everyone is forcing his way into it. But it is easier for heaven and earth to pass away than for one stroke of a letter of the Law to fail.

What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase?  It's a fair question, isn't it? If we are forgiven for what we have done, then what we continue to do doesn't matter? If the self-righteous are warned about their sin, then does any effort toward holiness matter?

From the garden of Eden, we have been persuaded by the question, "Did God really say?" Yes, Jesus gives stern teaching to the self-righteous, but he also sends a warning to the self-reliant: The Law still matters. 

After all, what is wrong with the Law? Do not murder. Do not steal. Stay faithful to your spouse. Remember to take a day off once a week. Do not give false testimony against your neighbour. Honour your father and mother. Do not long for what is not yours. Do not make or worship idols. Do not use the Lord's name in vain. Do not worship other gods.

Would we do better or worse if we did these things? Yeah, I pirate movies, but it's not like Disney is going broke. Yeah, I had an affair, but we drifted apart long ago. Yeah, I want his position, but I'm clearly much better at the job than he is. Yeah, I had an abortion, but I simply wasn't ready to be a mum right now.

Self-reliant and self-righteous people have at least one thing in common, self. We become convinced we do not need God. We can prosper without Him. We can be good without Him. We can live better lives without Him. And so, while the self-righteous attempt to fashion a new Law (How many times have we seen Jesus clash with the religious leaders over the Sabbath?), the self-reliant attempt to fashion a new life.

Often, we pretend as though Law and missing the mark of the Law, sin, is simply an eternal matter. Now, while this is the ultimate, most serious consequence of sin, this is not the only consequence of sin. The Law not only gives guidelines on how we are to love God with all we have, it gives us guidelines on how we are to love our neighbour as ourself. What happens when we don't love our neighbour as ourself?

Each time we are told that God's wrath was building into action, we read about the earth being filled with violence. What happens when we don't love? We hate. What is the spirit of the flesh? Violence. We war. We rape. We enslave. We hoard. We destroy. We murder. We rage. We defraud. We corrupt. We lie. We take. We tear apart. We ignore. We neglect. We become filled with STIs. We are covered in scars. Our skin hardens. We slowly lose feeling. We are go-getters. We go get what we want without any thought about who will be hurt and how they will be hurt. Getting what we want is the only law that matters.

The coming of Jesus and his death, burial and resurrection signaled a new way to come to our Father in heaven. It is the Good News (The Gospel) of the Kingdom of God. Jesus proclaimed that it is at hand; it is near. Jesus became a light to all the nations. As he taught, as he sat with those sinners and tax collectors, as he addressed those standing off to the side murmuring against the Messiah, he correctly said that all kinds of people will now have the Kingdom available to them. By his grace, they may enter in.

But, even in an age of grace, the Law still matters. As was demonstrated to Peter and Paul during the start of the church, the Law will look slightly different. Not everyone will need to eat kosher or be circumcised. Everyone can now eat together. Everyone will now have the opportunity of fellowship. BUT, no longer will a futile attempt be made to change us from the outside in. Instead, we can now be changed from the inside out.

The Spirit will testify to the truth and lead us through how to live among violent, selfish people while growing in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other."

Yes, this is what God really said. Yes, He is right. Yes, He is good. Yes, He is trustworthy. If we believe these things, then what is better? To listen to Him or ignore Him? Is it really good to keep living our lives as though He didn't exist? According to Jesus, the Law still matters.

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