On Saturday at the men's breakfast for my church, we had a great discussion topic - what does it mean for us to conform to Christ versus being conformed to the world (referring to Romans 12:2). As we talked, though, I realized that our focus was on our conforming of ourselves to Christ, whereas Paul calls us to be transformed by the renewing of our minds, a work of the Holy Spirit. Our being conformed to Christ is the work of the Father. As my table talked about what it meant for us to depend on God for transformation, it struck me again how deep our longing for a law to follow is. Christians have been freed from the Law (see Romans 7), in order that we might be led by the Spirit. But we quickly turn to making up laws for how to live out our freedom from the Law! We long for law because we long for control. If I know what to do and how to do it, then I can depend on me to do it, and I don't need the Lord God's help. And yet we fail to remember that "the power of sin is the Law" (1 Corinthians 15:56). When we make a law, sin springs to life to produce death in us. Think about the times you have seen "Do Not Touch" on a freshly painted railing - something in you springs to life and longs to touch it, simply because you were told not to.
Ultimately, sin is independence from God, choosing to know for ourselves what is good and bad and depend on ourselves to decide and to do rightly. Sin uses the law to give us the fantasy of that independence, but, praise be to God, the law ultimately does its job and leads us to failure and to a need for the loving grace of the Father, in Christ, by the power of the Holy Spirit.