Growing up, I learned that if I did not obey the law of God, His commandments (do not steal, do not lie, to not lust after a women, do not, do not, do not) that I would be punished greatly by Him; I had this sense of fear of what God might do to me, as if He was wanting to threaten me with all of His vengeance and anger. Now I know how wrong this is, and I surely went through much pain; feelings of complete separation from God, condemnation, destruction, etc…
I saw firsthand what legalism within religion, within our churches and Christianity, could do to a person - completely separate them from the joy, peace, hope, faith and love of God. His unconditional love displayed on the cross for our sins was something I just couldn’t grasp, because of how far I was from truly knowing my Father’s love and promises.
But what I know now to be the reason for His law is for His absolute, undying, unending love to be shown to me, and for all people, giving us all new life and a revived existence in this world, and a promise of continued life in the next.
Recently, there has been some fuss on the online community about religion. Some say they hate it, because “Jesus hates religion”, others love religion, because honestly, they understand what it really is, others, they just outright despise it, and again, others just love to make religion out to be some legalistic practice of “get it right, or you’re going to get a WHOOPING from God.”
People say they hate religion, one, because of the way it has been presented in our churches, and two, because they hate how the law makes them feel - completely stupid, condemned, and unable to fully serve God because of their sins, which would be easier to overcome, if they truly grasped why we have the law in the first place.
It’s not to condemn. It’s not a set of rules of do’s and don’ts + if you don’t obey, you’re not saved, and you’ll be destroyed in hell. How wrong!
What I’ve come to find is the problem isn’t religion, or the law, but simply our understanding of them.
What is religion?
Simply put: “True religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit the orphans and the widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.” - James 1:27
So religion is simply an action of, “I’m going to obey God’s loving commands to not give into sin and a life of death, and I’m going to love others as I love myself, care for the poor and needy, orphan and sick, widowed and dying, etc…” Yep, thats it!
Now, the words “command”, “obey” and the other word “law” trips some of us up a bit. At least it did for me before.
So, what is the law?
1. It’s not about obeying a set of rules for the sake of appeasing God.
:: We have to understand that God is not trying, through His law, to make our lives miserable! God’s desire in having us obey His commands, His law, is in order to help us open ourselves up, with no strings of death and sin attached, to His grace and love - and most importantly His life - eternal life.
We can’t have this eternal life and be addicted to the things of the world, to the nice possessions and wealth, to our sexual desires, to business and vanity, and all the other things that hold us back from truly living in the life God desires to give us.
:: The law is not about the legalism of “obey these rules or you’re toast.” The law is given to us to obey in order that God can give everything of Himself to every part of us; and even more than that, His promise is that we will store up treasures in heaven and not on earth, and we will side-by-side, rule with love in our hearts with God in the coming ages!
“How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked,
Who does not stand in the path of sinners,
And who does not sit in the seat of scoffers!
His delight is in the law of the Lord,
And in His law he meditates day and night.
He will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water,
Which yields its fruit in season,
And its leaf does not wither;
And in whatever he does, he prospers.
- Psalm 1:1-3
Did you see that? Those who are blessed by God delight in the law of the Lord!
Now, does that not sound like a little bit of craziness? After all we have been taught about the law — It being so bad, so annoying, so hard to do, so frustrating and oppressive — how could we delight in this law?
But no! We are to delight in the law of God! Whoa.
And this is where it gets beautiful!
If we delight in the law of the Lord and obey His commandments, then we will be like “trees firmly planted by streams of water” and our “leaves do not wither” and “whatever we do prospers!“
Wow. This is Gods promise to us! If we obey His commandments, His law of grace and truth, then we will prosper, we will grow and be like a beautiful tree planted next to freaking paradise with utopian streams of waters! — (Sounds like Portland)
We’ll be filled with joy, and with life; with love and with freedom; with peace and with grace; with hope and with trust in the promises of our Father, who loves us so dearly.
His desire is to give us His life, His perfect life, that never dies.
This is good!
:: Finally, this is God’s promise to us, for ALL of the ages, from now until our God restores all creation, and into eternity!
“But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in or steal; for where your treasure lies, there your heart will be also.” - Matthew 6:20-22
Did you see that? The reason to obey God’s commandments is for laying up “treasures in heaven” where it will never be destroyed or stolen. And this is where our heart lies.
Does our heart lie in this world? With all of the things in it? All of our passions and desires for a perfect existence, a nice house, a beautiful car, 2 children and a 1/4 of one (average child per family in America)? Does our heart lie in our sexual passions, in loving only those who love us back, in a perfect little existence that will eventually be utterly destroyed?
Now, understand this. This is not talking about taking everything you love and that which you hold on to so dearly; its not about ripping you of all happiness and love and comfort and joy!
The reason God tells us to deny the worldly desires, possessions and passions, is to give us something better! Treasures. In heaven. With God. Treasures that never go away once you’ve lost all your money and go bankrupt; treasures that no man can take away from you; treasures that will not be destroyed in the end, because scripture does speak of the day when this whole earth will be destroyed, and we will be left with nothing but Him and what we have been given by Him.
What will you have at that time? Nothing? Or treasures beyond your wildest dreams?Treasures so dear to you that are embedded in God’s love?
The reason to obey God’s commandments and law is not to utterly destroy your life, but instead to give you life that will never die; to give you treasures within your heart, like the things you can’t explain - love for another person, love for God, love of peace and comfort and security, the feeling you get when you have been blessed by someone else, or when you give a gift to a person in need, and you are blessed to see their needs met; like when you are lying by a loved ones side, while they are minutes away from death, and you look in their eyes and tell them you love them, and everything inside of you seems to boil out on the floor in undying love for your them. Those things are worth fighting for, those things are what God dreams of giving more and more of (without death), until you are so overwhelmed by the gifts of your Father, that it seems you can’t take any more, you’re so happy.
God’s law is not to kill us, not to take away our lives.
God’s law, with our obedience, is what gives us love, it is what gives us undying life - a gift that can never be taken from us.
It keeps us from destroying ourselves, and gives us everything you could have ever desired.
This is what God desires to give us. We just have to accept the path to receive it.
To be continued…