Tuesday, July 3, 2012

How To Obey The Ten Commandments

Galatians 3:13 Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us, for it is written, ‘Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree’

Sadly, this beautiful verse has been used out of context all too often. Many people claim that the message of this verse is that we have been redeemed from the ten commandments, that we’ve been redeemed from the law. They combine this verse with Matthew 22:37-39 and try to claim that the law has no relevance to us - that the only thing we need to do in the New Testament is love God and love our neighbor. After all, we’re under grace in the New Testament - right? They don’t seem to recognize that Galatians 3:13 tells us that Jesus redeemed us from the curse of the law - not the law itself!

The mindset of some believers is, “I don’t have to obey all of the commandments now that I’m saved. I only have to love God and other people.” But read closely what Jesus said in Matthew 22. “Jesus said to him, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.’” Jesus wasn’t taking away the law and giving us something easier to do. The point is that love will keep the law!

I’ve said this before, but there is a great misunderstanding in modern Christianity of what God’s grace is. It’s not merely unlimited forgiveness or a license to live however you want. Rather, it’s the power of God for a new start, wisdom for the right way to live, and the ability to do what God commands.

We’re saved by grace through faith. Romans 3:20 makes it clear that salvation cannot come through obedience. “Therefore by the deeds of the law no flesh will be justified in His sight.” It’s true that the ten commandments don’t have a cause/effect relationship to our salvation. We can’t earn our forgiveness and salvation by the law. Ephesians says it this way, “By grace you have been saved through faith, not of works...” So salvation comes through faith alone.

But look at what Romans 3:31 says, “Well then, if we emphasize faith, does this mean that we can forget about the law? Of course not! In fact, only when we have faith do we truly fulfill the law.” Faith isn’t unrelated to works. Paul says here that faith is what empowers us to obey the law. This agrees with the what the epistle of James tells us - faith leads to obedience. So after salvation, God’s grace and our faith work together to fulfill the law! Romans 6:14 illustrates the sin-free lifestyle that grace empowers us to live: “For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law but under grace.”

The point is, it’s only through the power of grace that we can obey the commands of the law. When you try to obey the law through your flesh, you’re going to be frustrated. Romans 7:14-20 describes the frustration that comes when we try to obey the law on our own strength: “For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am carnal, sold under sin. For what I am doing, I do not understand. For what I will to do, that I do not practice; but what I hate, that I do. If, then, I do what I will not to do, I agree with the law that it isgood. But now, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me. For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells; for to will is present with me, but how to perform what is good I do not find. For the good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practice. Now if I do what I will not to do, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me.”

We can’t obey the law on our own. If we could, we would be able to save ourselves. But we can’t, because our natural flesh can’t keep God’s spiritual commandments. The only answer is to live your life by your born-again spirit. Romans 8:2-6 says this: “For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin: He condemned sin in the flesh, that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.”

Do you see it? When we live our life by the Spirit of God, we are empowered to fulfill the law!

The key book on law vs. grace - Galatians -has this very fact as its central theme. Galatians 5:18 says it this way, “But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.” Why? Because when you’re led by the Spirit, you have the fruit of the spirit (Galatians 5:22-23) growing in your life. And when you live in the spirit, the works of the flesh (Galatians 5:19-21) have no more place. You begin to naturally fulfill the law!

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