This month’s Heart to Heart is written by Jim Eldred. Through the years the Lord has spoken to Jim and given him “one-liners” that remind him of the things the Lord has shown him and taught him over the years. Jim has compiled them into a book titled A DEPTH OF INSIGHT – ONE MAN’S DISCIPLESHIP WITH CHRIST. We are blessed to have Jim and his wife Dena as part of our local fellowship here in Benson, and it is with Jim’s permission that we share one of these great truths with you this month. If you would like to get a copy of Jim’s book please click the book title above and you will be directed to a page with links to various online sites from which you may order a copy. Thank you!
LOVE IS MY ONLY LAW
Paul’s epistle to the Roman church has always been an illuminating and enlightening treatise on the Gospel of Christ for me. But for a long time, there was always one passage in which I saw myself while at the same time being utterly confused. I suspect that you might have stumbled over reading it also. It’s where Paul writes in Chapter 7 that “I don’t understand what I do … what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do – this I keep on doing … if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it but sin living in me …” In the previous chapter, Paul tells us that we have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness. Not only that, but if we died with Christ (and we did), then we are dead to sin. Yet, here we are in the next chapter (and in life) struggling with sin again. I have to say that trying to think this through made my head spin.
As I sought God’s clarity on the issue, I kept getting the sense that I just needed to carefully read it all. Finally, like one of those pictures where they ask, “Is the woman young or old?” I saw it. Paul says that through the man Christ, we not only died to sin, but we died to the law. It is the law which binds us to sin. In sharing His death, we are released from the law, “that which binds us.” This is the whole message of Romans 7! The reason that I, like Paul and everyone else, struggle with sin is because I haven’t allowed myself to die to the law! The law constantly informs my flesh of what it can’t have. And the harder I try, in my own strength, to deny the flesh, the more I chafe against the constraint. Just having the struggle is condemning – let alone what comes when I give in to my flesh. As Paul says, it is truly the law of sin and death.
So then, are we lawless? In one sense, yes, but in another, as Paul vehemently states, “Absolutely not!” The law was fulfilled in Christ so it no longer binds us. Yet, clearly we shouldn’t sin – we shouldn’t do what we know to be wrong. So, what’s the difference? Law or no law, aren’t we equally constrained?
This is really a hard one – at least it was for me. The answer is that in Christ, we are in no way constrained, or bound, or limited so that we are continually being informed of sin. Rather, in Christ, we are compelled by God’s Love toward righteousness. This isn’t just semantics or playing with words. The whole point of the Hebrew law was to illustrate that following the letter of the law (even if we could) does not lead to righteousness. I pray that you are catching the significance here. The difference is really quite simple but it is also immensely powerful as well as significant!
Christ told the Pharisees that Love is the basis for the entire law. It is more than the motive or logic behind the law; it is the only thing that enables us to live rightly before God – which was the purpose of the original law. But Holy Spirit was telling me (and continues to tell me) that God’s only law is Love.
The purpose of law is supposedly to provide a structure that governs society so that we don’t destroy ourselves by anarchy, selfishness, and greed. Law is meant to give us security in that we are all mutually protected by its constraints on one another. Some would say that law codifies what is morally acceptable. Ironically, we only have to look around to see that law does none of these things. Anarchy is only constrained by law in the sense that people must find creative ways to either use the law or get around it in order to take advantage of others. There is a cynic’s saying that the real golden rule is, “He who has the gold makes the rules” – basically true in this country today. In spite of having more laws on the books than ever in history, our society is not more secure today than it was in the Wild West era. The only source of true security is God’s perfect Love because it cast out all fear. And we can rely upon it because it never fails. The reality is that legislation has never been effective in establishing morality.
Only Love encompasses all of the things that the law is meant to fulfill. Love is the determining factor in holiness and righteousness. It is so because Love is the very essence of who God is. Love is His way – His nature and character. Paul calls it the most excellent way. No greater Love has any man than to lay down his life for another. Christ experienced the death of every person who has lived or ever will live. He didn’t just die; He suffered the pain and indignity of each ones’ sin. Every single one of us died in Christ at Calvary. When we look at God’s Love, we always see that it is completely selfless. And that is what we are called to be as well. It is His Love in us which we reciprocate back to Him and give to others that in turn determines whose we are. Love is the measure of our relationship with Christ. All men will know that we are Christ’s by our Love for one another.
Love is the essence of every true and proper relationship – not just with God but with anyone. True Love is selfless. Much is said these days about how we need to first learn to love ourselves so that we can in turn love others. That’s just not scriptural. Just read 1 Corinthians 13. Love is always about the other – not self. Anyone who says that he loves God yet hates his brother is a liar.
Jesus Himself told us that Love compels obedience: “If you love Me, then obey my commandment,” which is to love – God first and then your neighbor. And then go one step further and even love your enemy. If my response is not out of love, then it is from something else – self gain, fear, or obligation. Once again, we see that yielding to God without love is submission, not righteousness nor obedience.
Ironically, submission is precisely what most Christian religious denominations require. It is rare to find a Christian organization that does not try to augment the Love of Christ with any number of requirements. And compliance is motivated by gain, fear, or obligation. Such rules of conduct often aren’t even documented – unless or until someone displays a little too much liberty in their attire, their worship, with whom they associate, what they drink, and so on. Ever wonder what Paul meant when he told the church at Galatia that “it was for freedom that Christ set you free?” Paul meant that in freedom we can experience real life changing deliverance from sin. That is liberty!
I must say here that because Love is selfless, I cannot take liberty with others who keep themselves under the constraint of law. For example, if I feel free to drink wine, I don’t encourage those who are under the law of abstention from alcohol to do so. As long as they believe what they believe, that would be sin to them. I don’t want to cause fellow believers to stumble in their faith because of my liberty. Again, it is Love that dictates every action, not rules, mores, or norms. “And if on some point in this you don’t agree, that too God will make clear to you” or to me or to us both. Only let us live up to the Love that we have already attained in Christ.
Righteousness has never come from law or requirements, but from living faith in Christ Jesus. Love is God’s only law because it is His way. We are called to “eagerly desire the greater gifts: faith, hope and Love.” These gifts are what make all other spiritual and physical gifts effective and worthwhile. The greatest of these is Love because only it, like God, is eternal. 1 Corinthians 14 starts out: “Follow the way of Love and eagerly desire spiritual gifts …” It is the two together, Love and spiritual gifts which empower miraculous lives in Christ. God’s Love is beyond my carnal understanding. My love is imperfect, so how can I ever have, share and express Christ’s immeasurable Love? That is what I am reaching for. That is the very thing for which God has grabbed hold of me – “the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”
When I find myself in Paul’s conundrum of doing the very thing I don’t wish to do, I now look to the Love that compels. I shrug off the law which constrains and obey His Love. That doesn’t mean that I go ahead and do whatever. It usually means that I easily put it down and move on with liberty and Love. The liberty and freedom found in God’s Love doesn’t ever give me license to sin!
Do you, like me, ever struggle with doing the good you know to do? Then look to God’s law of Love. Love will compel you to act – to do that which is right!
“Father God, Holy Spirit, please help me to embrace all that Christ has done for me. Help me to live by the law of the Spirit of life and not the law of sin and death. Let me see fully all that Your amazing Love means to me. I ask it in the name of the Son Jesus Christ.”