It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery. Mark my words! I, Paul, tell you that if you let yourselves be circumcised, Christ will be of no value to you at all. Again I declare to every man who lets himself be circumcised that he is obligated to obey the whole law. You who are trying to be justified by the law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace. For through the Spirit we eagerly await by faith the righteousness for which we hope. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love (Galatians 5:1-6, NIV).
This is the third post in a series thinking about our relationship to God’s Law as Christians. In the first post we saw that God’s grace is both a freed from and a freed for. We were freed from somewhere so we could get to somewhere else. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love (Galatians 5:6).
In yesterday’s post we saw that the freedom that Christ gives us is the desire to obey the law not out of fear or duty, but out of love for God. We are still commanded by God to live a life worthy of our calling (Ephesians 4:1). The way we are to do that is by living a life that is rooted in love. The Bible clearly teaches that love is the motivation that makes what we do pleasing to God.
You and I were freed to live by love. If that is true we need to be asking ourselves “What is my motivation for obeying God? Is it love? If it is not love, what is it; and what can I do to correct it?” I want to share with you three key ways that we need to be learning to help us apply this truth in our life:
Stop trying to please God. Quit thinking you have to be good enough. Jesus Himself said in Mark 2:17, It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners. Jesus did not come to save people who are good enough, He came to save people who are not good enough. When we give God our best He isn’t getting much is He? None of us are good enough. That’s why Jesus came to die for us. God is pleased with us not because of anything we do but because of what Christ did. Stop thinking you have to measure up to God’s standards for Him to love you. You can’t, and you don’t need to. As Dr. Preston Sprinkle says in his book, Charis: God’s Scandalous Love for Us,
You can’t make God love you. God loves you because of who He is and because of what Christ has done. His love is not based on what you do, or what you don’t do. God doesn’t get angry at Christians, because all that anger—100 percent—was absorbed by Jesus on the cross. God doesn’t merely forgive us or save us. He actually enjoys us—even in our darkest moments. He doesn’t enjoy our sin, but He enjoys us as redeemed image bearers. Jesus’s crucifixion and resurrection enable His pleasure to flow freely to unpleasurable people who have faith in Him (page 31).
Stop focusing on what you are doing. Bill Hybels correctly observes that most people spell their religion DO. Christianity is the only religion that is spelled DONE. When your focus is fixated on what you are doing, or on what others are doing (or not doing) you are wasting your energy on the wrong thing.
This reminds me of the parable of the prodigal son in Luke 15. You know the story. A wealthy man has two sons. The younger son talks his father into giving him his inheritance now so he did not need to wait until his father died to get it. He then wasted it all on “wild living.” He finally comes to his senses and returns home to beg his father to take him back as a hired man, seeing he was unworthy to be a son. But the father runs to him, kisses him, puts a ring on his finger restoring his birthright, killed his best calf, and had a party to celebrate his son’s return.
But instead of sharing his father’s joy, the father’s older son is outraged and refuses to come to the welcome home party. Listen to what he says to his father when he comes out to find him:
Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him! (Luke 15:29-30, NIV).
All that obedience looked good on the outside, but when you see it for what it is, you realize there are two lost sons in this story. One who was lost but came home, and one who got lost at home. He did not care about his lost brother. He screwed up and it was better that he was gone. And he did not love his father. He obeyed him because if he did his duty, he would get his father’s estate when he died. How different is that from his younger brother? Not much.
When you think that what you do is more important than why you are doing it and whom you are doing it for, you will end up like this older brother.
Start building up your love for God. Seems obvious doesn’t it? Yet we don’t do it very well. We know what we need to do. It is no secret. Come be with God in worship every week at your church. Spend time with God by reading His Word and talking with Him in prayer every day. Be learning to work with Him by loving and discipling others, by getting involved in a small group study, and getting active in a ministry. When you do those things, your love with God is going to deepen. That’s the way any relationship is built, by taking time to listen, live, and work with a person. God is no different. God freed us to live a life of love. Don’t waste your life living any other way.