Sunday, January 1, 2006

The Weakness of the Law

Isn’t it just great that the first thing they make you do at the doctor is to step on that wonderful scale - with that nice little chart which shows you what your weight should be! My doctor’s scale lies to me. The only time it’s ever honest is after I’ve fasted for 7 days. Which really means it’s never truthful because I can barely even last 7 minutes on a fast! And why do they call it a “fast” when it takes so long! But this isn’t about fasting. This is about that dirty, rotten, filthy, stinking, lying scale and that fault-finding little chart!

Ok, I’ll admit it. You’ve caught me in a huge, nasty case of denial. I at least want to thank you for speaking the truth in love. When I come to my senses and face reality, I see that in fact the scale doesn’t lie, but rather it tells me the perfect truth about myself. And although I don’t like the reality of the truth, it’s nevertheless the truth!

So, I’ve acknowledged my problem. But how do I get to where the chart tells me to be? What if I memorize the chart, and meditate upon it? Will that help me get there? What if I ask the scale to please help me fix my problem? Sounds silly, I know. What good, then, are the scale and the chart??? They insist that I need to change the shape my body is in, yet they offer me no help and no power whatsoever to assist in that endeavor! The “good” that they have done is that they have pointed out my problem. But even though the numbers may motivate me for a short time to do what is right, after all is said and done a scale and a chart simply can’t cure my weakness for fried chicken, Cheetos and my couch!

In many ways God’s perfect, holy law has the same purpose and effect as the scale and chart. Like the weight chart, the law shows me the perfect standard of how I’m supposed to live. But when I stand on the “scale” and measure myself up next to the law, it only shows me how far I’ve strayed from the standard. The law tells me the perfect truth about myself - but yet it has no power to help me do anything it requires of me!

I suppose I could try to memorize all the commandments and meditate upon them. I may be motivated to do what is right, for a time. Maybe even 7 minutes. But there is always something which will keep standing in the way of this sought-after victorious lifestyle, if indeed it’s left to me and my knowledge of the law. My flesh is weak, so no matter how much I’ve meditated upon what is right and what is wrong, the law is ultimately of no use to me when it comes to actually controlling my fleshly desires! I know I’m not alone. We’ve all known how to behave, but yet we’ve gone the opposite way many times! So where do we find the power for victory? The victory comes when we turn from the thing which God purposed to point out our problem to the PERSON God sent as THE cure for the problem:

Rom 8:2-3 …through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death. For what the LAW COULD NOT DO in that it was weakened through the flesh GOD DID by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh…

What good then, is the law? The good is that it showed me my problem – that I was a sinner - just as a scale can show me I have a problem. But just as a scale can’t fix my problem, neither can the law. The law’s weakness is that it lacks any power whatsoever to cure my own weakness. Good News: What the knowledge of good and evil (the law) could not do for us, God did for us by sending Jesus! The power to live a godly life is not found in self-effort, but rather in ditching self-effort and placing our confidence in Jesus Himself living in and through us! Whenever I catch myself trying to measure up to God’s holy standard through my own efforts to keep His rules – I repent and turn to Jesus! As I understand scripture, victory is a gift to be received, not a goal to be achieved.

1 Cor 15:56-57 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law; but thanks be to God, WHO GIVES US THE VICTORY through our Lord Jesus Christ! (See also Galatians 3).

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