Monday, January 16, 2006

Longing for Law

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.


Sean said...

i think (at least i see it in my own life) that we default to law because, many times, we have so little experience of the Spirit. nature abhors a vacuum. i'm not arguing for 'Charismaticism' or 'Penecostalism' per se, but there's got to be more to 'life in the Spirit' than what i've experienced, right?

Burly said...

I don't think "trying" necessarily denotes works. Trying in the power of the Spirit (pentecostically or not) is being a "doer of the word." Following the word in the power of the Spirit is not legalism, but if we aren't constantly reminded (by reminding ourselves and others) of the gospel of grace, this "trying" is just "trying" without the qualifier: "in the power of the Spirit." Therefore, if I say "I'm trying to follow the Lord." I may implicity mean "by the Spirit ... because of the reality of my union to Jesus" ... I just might not say it ... I agree with Sean though ... I'd love to experience (read: deeply know) the Spirit more affectionately in my pursuit of being a "doer of the Word."

Marshall said...

I hear you, Burly, but I would say that to a great degree, it is, as Yoda would say, "Depend or depend not; there is no try." I don't think that Jesus "tried" to live in the Power of the Spirit. He did only what He saw His Father doing, and He did it in the power of the Spirit. When the word "try" comes in, we are taking a measure of control back. I know this is a gray area, and I think that by and large you and I are saying the same thing. I also know the fear is that my point of view leads us to this place where we just sit around and do nothing, languishing in inactivity. But this is certainly not the case; the Spirit will lead us both to work and to rest.

Burly said...

I'm pretty sure we are saying the same thing:

depend requires effort.
try (qualified) requires effort.

So, I guess what I'm saying is that if someone is exerting effort, as long as it is faith-FULL effort in the power of the Spirit, is is not necessarily legalism. So, I'm fine with the word "try" as long as I can hear the tone. So I guess in processing here, I would say "try" is a bad word to use in print. So, therefore what you have to say, Marshall is True ... DOUBLE TRUE!

Nick said...

CS Lewis had a nice example of what I think that you guys ara talking about. He told the story of a child who asked his father for a dollar than went out and bought him a gift with it. The father was pleased, but it wasn't by recieving anything, because what he had recieved was his in the first place. What he cared about was the feeble attempt of the child to show the father how much he loved him. Both sides of the argument may be irrelevant if this is true, because the Father doesn't really care. He looks on his childrens' feeble attempts and feeble trust in the same way. The danger I think comes in when there is an idea of merit through the gift which is laughable to the Father. I think Scripture backs this up: "Look up to me and be saved." Isa 42:22, "Be still and know that I am God.", etc... Frankly, I'm just tired. I've spent the first 7 years of my life with Christ trying to earn the Cross, or pay him back for it, or show off so He'll say good job. Either He loves me, or He doesn't and the Cross says He does. What's worse? Relying on the Cross a bit too much, or walking around trying to earn it and invalidating what He did on it. I think the later is the greater (if not greatest) heresy.