Friday, November 30, 2018

The Letter and the Spirit

We are a people for whom the law has been fulfilled and whose sin is no longer imputed to us, by the grace of Christ. Do we then live sinless lives, or do we sin all the more because we know it is not counted against us?

Paul raises this very question, and to the latter, he says, By no means! But what remains brings us back to the two questions we've been asking for the past two days - is it possible for a man, post-Adam, to live a sinless life and how, then, shall we live under righteousness, rather than law?

We started in Romans 5, where Paul brings up all of this law stuff to begin with and introduces the idea that men between Adam and Moses were ruled by death, but not by sin, not having the law. And we know that we are ruled by life, by not by death, the law having been fulfilled. Which leaves us with something in the middle that we must figure out if we want to answer the questions that remain for us.

Continue on into Romans 7:6, and we see that Paul has pressed deeper into it for us. He declares, we were once bound by the letter of the law (which revealed and imputed sin to us), but now, we are bound only by the spirit of the law. That is, righteousness.

As we read these words, we can't help but notice that it boils down to the question we were all asking ourselves twenty years ago - what would Jesus do?

In terms of righteousness, it is a question we have gotten painfully wrong far too often, and it seems we are on track to continue missing the point. Asked today what Jesus would do, many Christians would say that He would "just" love people. That He would affirm them. That He doesn't really care what we do and that He just purely loves.

But to say that is to miss the point of the fulfillment of the law entirely. Jesus did not come so that there would be no standards in our living; He came that we would live up to the standard of righteousness. And righteousness does not come without truth, without faith.

So it's not enough to simply say that we are who we are and that Jesus loves us anyway. Rather, we must live lives that declare that Jesus loves us and that this love inspires us to be better. We must live lives that recognize that love underlies all that we do, but that truth underlies love. And that grace walks in tandem with both.

The kind of righteousness that fullfilled-law living calls us to does not live blindly to the world, as though nothing that happens here matters; it lives eyes-wide-open to the possibilities, to hope, to the promise of what this world can be, what God intended it to be. It sees the brokenness of human nature and loves it anyway, but does not tolerate it.

And it hears the whisper of God and obeys.

That's the crux of it, really. That's righteous living. It was Abraham's righteousness when he heard the whisper of God calling him up the mountain with his only son, Isaac, and his obedience was counted to him as faith, as righteousness. It was Jesus's righteousness when He lived by the whisper of His father that didn't bow to the shouts of this world, and His obedience was counted to Him as righteousness.

So it is with us. Our righteousness will be our obedience when we have eyes to see more in the world and a heart to follow the whisper of God. When we have faith to believe and to trust and to hope and to know that this is the Lord, and it is He who we serve, for it is He who we love and He who loves us. That is our righteousness, and the spirit of the law is fulfilled in it.

How, then, should we live? By the whisper of God and by the grace of Him.


Come back next week as we begin a series of Advent reflections. 

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