Growing up the in the church I heard a lot of phrases used over and over again. Phrases that at one time were powerful statements of truth, but then as they were used again and again without further explanation they became empty clichés. Phrases that were repeated in order to sound spiritual, but no real power because they lost their meaning.
One such statement like that for me was the phrase 'born again.' Growing up I never thought it meant anything more than that I had prayed the sinner's prayer, that I was a Christian. It was just another label, like Baptist or Presbyterian. I had no idea that it actually meant that I was literally born again! That the old me was crucified with Christ and that a new me, different, holy, clean, pure, righteous creation of God was born again. (see Titus 3:3-5)
The result of my misunderstanding was that I missed out on experiencing the power, and freedom, that comes from my death, burial and resurrection with Christ. For over twenty years I tried to accomplish and gain what was mine from the moment I was placed in Christ. So it is critical that we understand the idea/power behind the words that are being used to communicate the good news of the gospel, that we might experience the its power.
This is especially true when it comes to understanding the truth that the Christian is freed from the Law. "For you are not under Law, but under grace." (see Romans 6:14, Romans 7:1-6, 1 Timothy 1:5-11, or the entire book of Galatians...)
What does that mean, "you are not under the Law?" Does this refer to the 613 laws in the Old Testament? Or does it only include the ceremonial and dietary ones? What about the Mosaic Law, commonly known as the 10 commandments? Are we still under some of the Law? What is Paul talking about when we repeatedly makes the case for our freedom from the Law?
Let's take a step back and understand what many thought, incorrectly it turns out, would be the outcome of following the Law - approval. (see Deuteronomy 6:25, Romans 9:30-10:4) The belief was that if I, you, or anyone was able to perform to the required level of behaviour, then (and only then) they would qualify and become eligible of acceptance. Worthy of esteem and respect for their high achievement.
But thanks to the likes of the Apostle Paul and then many years later Martin Luther, John Calvin and countless others, we have discovered that God's approval of us cannot come through the Law, but rather through faith in the finished work of Christ alone. (see Romans 3:21-26) We now know, without doubt, that God approves and accepts us. That our righteousness and justification is be grace alone.
And yet...many continue to live under this system of performing to achieve acceptance, often without even realising it and even professing to be free. How can one know if that describes you?
Here is a simple test. Do you fully accept yourself?
We know God accepts you. But do you, without any reservation, love and accept yourself, as you are today, even if you do not improve, but actually got worse? Or are there certain things that you need to fix/change/improve first?
Maybe you feel the need to lose some weight and get back into shape. Or there is a habit that you need to break, such as eating too much junk food, smoking, lustful thoughts, watching too much TV or spending too much time on Facebook and Pintrest. Maybe it is a habit that you are trying to start but can't seem to be able to. Such as reading your Bible, praying, or praying with your family. Whatever it is that you need to accomplish before God or you can accept yourself, that has become your own personal law. Your own standards for approval that you must achieve before you can become acceptable.
The reality is that Jesus came to rescue us from the Law system. Not just the 613 commands in the Old Testament, but any law or system of earning approval and acceptance, from God, from ourselves and from the world. He accomplished all this through the cross that made us into a new, perfect, holy, beloved, righteous, acceptable and approved child of the Most High and Excellent King. And because that is who I am, regardless of what I do or don't do, when I do it and how often I do it - I am free to accept myself - right now.
What about the habits, especially the sinful ones? Does God not care about those? Sure He does, and God is faithful to deal with them at the right time. (see 1 Thes 5:23-24)
But before He does, He is likely wanting you to accept yourself with all your perceived flaws and short comings. Only then will you experience what it means to be free the Law and under, or free to experience, His grace and power to live.
In Christ who is our Life,