God’s commands are not legalism. It’s quite a blunt statement but unfortunately, it needs to be voiced. The church is often hasty to label anything dealing with God’s commands as such, and it’s motioned the enemy to move on both fronts. On one front, We’ve allowed Satan to convince a piece of the church that strictly following God’s commands is the way to salvation (legalism). On the other, a section is deceived into zealously resisting any sort of Biblical self-control, discipline, and authority ordered by God. Both sides that hold to their arguments are foolish, and these perspectives both stem from the love of the things of this world. Too many members of the church simply love the world too much, and they have attempted to become partners with the world instead of molding it for Christ. In the middle of the two extreme opinions stands the Holy Spirit, left alone and overlooked. Whether your church’s doctrine upholds it or not, the Holy Spirit is the dynamic that erases the squabble.
Romans 8:5 declares, “Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires.” Unsurprisingly, according to 1 Corinthians 2:10, the Spirit is designed to search the depths of God. God is the undisputed Creator of this world, and the commands in the Bible that are often deemed “legalistic” originate from the Almighty. He gave Moses and the Israelites those same commands, and Moses told all of Israel in Deuteronomy 4:6, “Therefore, be careful to observe them (the commandments); for this is your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the peoples who will hear all these statutes and say, ‘Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.’ ” If you haven’t gotten the punch line yet, God gave His perfect commands to an imperfect people in order to preserve them from wandering into brokenness. That’s not legalism, my friends; that’s the kind of protection that usurps any kind of first-rate security detail. Whenever a man or woman takes a step away from God’s commands, they cross onto the path of lustful desires.
As Christians, we don’t want to be chumming it up with the lusts of this world, for that’s the fallen thinking that will leave you alone and in splinters. What seems so obvious is muddled by the mindsets that we clutch to. If one looks deeper, a part of the church’s scandalous secret is that we enjoy indulging in the lusts of this world. Some of us like the double standard of calling out everyone else’s shortcomings while running back to the same sins in secret. That type of double-mindedness is a result of the thinking that salvation means we don’t need to waste our time following God’s ordinances. Paul says in Romans in Romans 7:7, “What shall we say then? Is the law sin? Certainly not! On the contrary, I would not have known sin except through the law.” He goes on to say in verse 12, “Therefore, the law is holy, and the commandment holy and just and good.”
Following the commandments is how born-again Christians maintain their walk with God. John 14:15 makes it crisp and clear, “If you love me, keep my commandments.” Jesus came to fulfill the law, not to destroy it. On the other hand, What he did come to destroy was the works of the devil, because every man has fallen short of the glory of God. While the law is perfect, we were not, for “cursed is every man who breaks the law” and breaking the law meant walking into hell after death. That means that the law is powerless to save us from sin.
Paul writes on the relationship between sin and the law in Romans 6 & 7, and those are two passages to read outside of this article. However, Jesus’ love for us was so outrageous that He was willing to let every drop of His blood hit the ground so that we could find salvation through Him and meet our Creator, God the Father. That type of love changes a man to his core, because Jesus doesn’t just love us and then allow all of us to remain as the same person with the same sins and brokenness. His blood is a detergent to your sin and prior life, a full on heavenly housecleaning operation. Once you get touched by Him, there us no longer an excuse to balance His love along with patterns of iniquity. His love was expressed in blood and its canvas was the cross. That brand of love, therefore, demands change; for you were bought at a price.
Since we’ve been ransomed and redeemed, we are to change our lives to obey God’s commands, for love is obeying His commands. That’s why we have commands in the first place: He gives all of us a unique identity and personality, yet unlike the diversity of all our tastes and interests, His commands are straightforward. they prevent us from wandering back into sin and are a deposit in a life lived for our Creator. Ezekiel 7:13 tells us that “No man strengthens himself through iniquity.” Walking outside of God’s commands is iniquity, and that brings death. However, Jesus’ blood was the offering for our iniquity, so we have forgiveness that makes us sanctified even after we sin.
The problem comes in when we fall into patterns of iniquity, because we are taking advantage of the grace offered to us. God wants us to stay inside His ordinances so we don’t open ourselves up to the workings of sin in our lives. Christians often complain that they feel “restrained” and “boxed in” by the Biblical lifestyle because they don’t want to be “defined.” You’re either defined by God or the lusts of the world, so those who don’t care to have any definition in their lives will live a life without substance, blown and tossed by the whims of society. People want to “live outside the box.” Here’s the problem…if you walk alone outside of the box, you will be left cold and broken. Jesus Christ is the box everyone needs to live under, and paradoxically, living under His box allows you to live “outside of the box” in fullness. You don’t lose your personality suddenly when living under Christ; you will have to change, but God originally created your attributes through His own plan. We are not robots and that’s why the Holy Spirit enjoys creating with us.
God’s commands usually get lumped with the negative connotations of legalism and religion with their labels of man-made traditions. However, we know two things about His commands: they guard against iniquity but they cannot get you to heaven. Jesus’ blood gets you to heaven, while God’s commands keep us living in wholeness and prevent us from embracing the calls of hell. There is wisdom in obeying God’s because the man who obeys God will receive blessings. So let’s keep it simple: Hate the fleshly desires of this world, not the people, and love God’s commands. When you stay on the straight and narrow, you’re living a repentant life.
Just remember this, lone wolves in the kingdom of God get ripped limb from limb when they strike out for themselves. When you don’t want Jesus Christ to define your life, you become just another foolish man chasing foolish desires. God’s children learn this through real-world foolishness, the author included, and yours truly knows how the foolish things of this world will crack you. Jesus beat they system though, and every time we break down, the Holy Spirit turns our heads towards the cross. So keep your eyes fixed on the author and perfecter of our faith, and His love for you will soon have you desiring to live under the same law that God had Him both fulfill and save us from.
Kevin Cochrane is an eighteen year old writer and blogger with the distinct purpose of radically restoring everyone with ears to hear to the original testimony of Jesus Christ. His mission is to live by the words he writes and develop his character along with the prose he pens. For updates on his latest blog posts, you can follow him on Twitter @RunFree_KC or click the follow button at the bottom of the page to receive notifications by email.