Standards of Living
Let me ask you this one question: Did you receive the Holy Spirit by obeying the law of Moses? Of course not! You received the Spirit because you believed the message you heard about Christ. How foolish can you be? After starting your Christian lives in the Spirit, why are you now trying to become perfect by your own human effort? Have you experienced so much for nothing? Surely it was not in vain, was it? I ask you again, does God give you the Holy Spirit and work miracles among you because you obey the law? Of course not! It is because you believe the message you heard about Christ.
This question stood out to me in our sermon this past Sunday. How can we be so silly as to believe that a transformation in our lives that took place because of our repentance and acceptance of Christ’s indwelling through the Holy Spirit would have to be accomplished and completed through our own human ways and means?
I was flipping through the channels yesterday afternoon and stumbled across Joyce Meyer’s program and her special guest was Andy Stanley. I stopped to listen for a moment, and almost immediately, Galatians 3:3 came up in their conversation.
Let’s talk Football
One of the best explanations I got from the discussion between Joyce and Andy (I’m sure they don’t mind if I’m on a first-name basis with them) was this, “We respond to God as if he’s thrown us the football and then says, ‘Now it’s up to you to score the touchdown!'”
This is not at all what he intends! We think as though he expects us to do all the work to pay back the price that he paid for our redemption once it’s been given to us; that we have to be obedient to him out of debt or obligation. This is what Paul was writing about to the Galatians. Our salvation comes, not through the law and following its religious mandates, but through simply believing, by faith, that Christ lived, died, and was resurrected. Romans 8:3 puts it this way:
The law of Moses was unable to save us because of the weakness of our sinful nature. So God did what the law could not do. He sent his own Son in a body like the bodies we sinners have. And in that body God declared an end to sin’s control over us by giving his Son as a sacrifice for our sins. He did this so that the just requirement of the law would be fully satisfied for us, who no longer follow our sinful nature but instead follow the Spirit. (emphasis mine)
Andy’s explanation struck a chord with me. Following “the law” (for us this might mean a denomination, a political stance, a certain moral behavior, etc.) makes us one of two things: arrogant or depressed. We’re either puffed up because of how well we do what “the law” tells us, or we’re depressed because we can never quite meet all of the expectations perfectly. But the good news is, we don’t have to! “God did for us what the law never could.”
Living by the Spirit
Here’s a logic puzzle for you. If the law represented the standard by which the Israelites were to live, according to God, but God’s standards are impossible for us to achieve because we are sinful beings, then how can we possibly live up to his standards without the law? The answer: Follow the Spirit. Christ was sacrificed as a human so that “the just requirement of the law would be fully satisfied for us,” and after Christ was resurrected, he had to return to heaven, but sent a replacement in the Holy Spirit. If we, by faith, believe that the holy spirit lives within us, then we have already achieved God’s standard of living, and we simply need to do one thing: relax!
So I say, let the Holy Spirit guide your lives. Then you won’t be doing what your sinful nature craves…when you are directed by the Spirit, you are not under obligation to the law of Moses.