Mat 22:36 "Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?" Mat 22:37 And he said to him, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. Mat 22:38 This is the great and first commandment.
1Co 6:12 "All things are lawful for me," but not all things are helpful. "All things are lawful for me," but I will not be enslaved by anything….1Co 10:26 For "the earth is the Lord's, and the fullness thereof." …1Co 10:31 So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.
In my last article we looked at the fact that we can’t help but look at, study, listen to and just be consumed with to one degree or another those things that we love. Disinterest proves a lack of love not love. So one way we show our love for the Lord is to be careful students of his Word to us. In this article I would like to carry this principle over into how we are to live under the New Covenant. Few doctrines have been debated more than how we serve the Lord in the New Testament era compared to how God’s people served him in the Old Testament while under the Law.
For many, the Christian life is mostly just trying to obey the commands of God whatever they may be. So one of their great concerns is what are the things God wants us to do and what are the things we are not supposed to do. Of course there is an element of this in Christianity, even Jesus said, “If you love me keep my commandments”. The question though is what are his commandments.
I believe the NT teaches that merely trying to obey a law as a Christian undermines true godliness. Even a lost person can outwardly keep law. Every time Paul speaks of keeping the law and starts to list some of them, he always stops short and finishes by saying that no matter what commandment you can think of,“Love fulfills the Law”.
I understand why Christians have always struggled with the concept of turning converts loose by telling them that the way to serve the Lord and be holy is not by keep rules but by just loving the Lord with all your heart and your neighbor as yourself. Certainly many have lived ungodly lives in the name of love. Living by love instead of rules is difficult because we can’t just mindlessly follow rules but we have to think about why we do what we are doing as the above verses suggest. But just because it is difficult and some abuse it doesn’t mean that we can rewrite godliness to suit us.
And this goes back to my previous article and what it is to love God. The reason we can turn each other loose and simply say live by love is because true Christians love God. And as we said, if you love God you will seek to “do all things for the glory of God”; for the good of the one you love. This is obviously more difficult than just being told how to live and what to do but it is the only way that demonstrates true love. If the law of the land required that I get up every morning and go to work to provide for my wife I couldn’t prove my love for my wife by getting up every morning and going to work. She wouldn’t know if I did so out of fear or out of love. It is only in freedom that we can prove that we love the Lord because we do what we do because we want to not merely because we have to. Thus I prove my love to my wife by doing what I do even when I don’t have to because I care for her good not because I am afraid of what the Law might do to me.
One last way to illustrate this is the difference between the lost and the redeemed. We might say the lost are those who are living in the freedom of doing whatever they want and what they want to do is their own will and to live for their pleasure and their glory and their interests. But a Christian is not someone who has just decided to obey the Lord and do his will instead of what he would rather do. A Christian is one who continues to live life free to do what he wants to do but his “wanter” or his heart has been changed. A Christian is one whose whole nature has been changed so that he loves God more than himself and so freely gets up every morning seeking to please the Lord and not himself.
So the New Covenant has turned us loose; we have been told that the whole earth is ours to be used in whatever way we can glorify the Lord. Yes, we are given some overarching principles to help us define that but we are not told every move to make, neither are we told that we will be punished if we don’t do what we should. We don’t have to be kept in line with threats because we love the Lord. I don’t have to be threatened to love my wife because I do love her.
Yes, our lives don’t often live up to our professed love and this is because our love is so weak and imperfect but legalism isn’t the answer because only in freedom can we demonstrate true love.