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What it Means to be Free From the Law

When I was a kid, "Mr. Stone" owned two, new dream cars: a black Packard with white walls (like the bad guys drove in the 30s and a Lincoln Zephyr, the prototype of the Lincoln Town Car. Those babies could lay their ears back and fly. There were no highway speed limits. If we’d driven our old Chevy wide open it might have reached 40 mph for a few miles, and then it would have sounded like the pistons were swapping holes. Mr. Stone would blow by us doing 70! He might even strike his match on our car to light his cigar. Nah.

Was Mr. Stone a speeder? No, because there was no speed law, no baseline by which to differentiate between Mr. Stone and the rest of us oil-stained wretches. In God’s time, the legislature passed a new law: Speed Limit 50 mph. After this, when Mr. Stone aired out his wheels at 70 mph, was he a speeder? Yes. Why? Law made the difference. "What shall we say then? Is the speed Law sin? May it never be! On the contrary, Mr. Stone would not have come to know sin except through the Law; for he would not have known about speeding if the Law had not said, ‘You shall not speed’" (Rom. 7:7, with minor changes). God’s Law is a wakeup call for sinners to convince them that they desperately need a Savior—Jesus (Gal. 3:23-26). Law was never designed to keep Christians in line (Rom. 6:14).

My friend Lee LeFebre grew up reciting the Ten Commandments in church every Sunday. You’d think this would be a deterrent against sinning. But, it will produce the opposite results. What if you began each day by repeating, "Keep off the grass" ten times? This would tempt you to walk on grass that you’d hardly noticed before! Hammering away with "you oughts" and "you ought nots" is not God’s plan for stimulating Christians to good works. Grace is to accomplish this desirable goal (Rom. 6:14).

Have you ever seen a bird dog that tucks its tail and cowers at your approach? Law likely produced that. Its master crushed its "spirit" by intimidating or perhaps beating it into submission. This animal has no joy. Its purpose for experiencing its created role (hunting) has been quenched by a hard taskmaster’s abusive law. Were it possible to give it a personality inventory test this dog would register very low on self-worth. It may even feel unworthy to eat its master’s food or feel guilty for breathing "his" air!

Consider, on the other hand, a bird dog that is owned by an agape master who has its best interest at heart. It was first taught the master’s will through rules (law), reward and discipline, then trained how to best experience the role for which it was created (hunting). It "lives in vital union with its master" as they work and play together (Col. 2:6, LB). Its greatest delight becomes to simply please its master who’s been careful not to crush its "spirit" like that of the first dog, but to bring its will into line with his own for the dog’s best good as well as for his own pleasure.

This dog manifests a zest for living. He has a sparkle in his eye as he ranges out in a grid-like pattern according to his master’s will. He is not restrained by a leash (law), but by the law of love for his master. He yearns to submit to his master’s will. Obedience has become the joy of his life. This demonstrates "the law of love" which controls Christians (Rom. 8:2). This animal does not perceive himself as being controlled by a burdensome taskmaster, but as cooperating with his life-companion, the love of his life. Sure, at times he needs correction and because it’s administered to him properly, he is the better for it. He delights all the more to please his master. Our relationship with our Spiritual Dad is very similar to this. Such obedience and love bring much joy to us and to Him as well. We were recreated in Christ to experience this on earth.

Can you identify with one of these dogs? Is the evil one beating you down with law, deceiving you into believing that an angry God, not Satan, is behind this? Or are you constrained by the invisible leash of Christ’s boundless grace and love for you? The later is what you were recreated in Christ to experience. "For the love of Christ controls us…" (2 Cor. 5:14). Understanding this will be a fresh breeze to your spirit. Christians are motivated to live up to (or down to!) what they believe to be God’s opinion of them. Believe the lie that you are a sorry, no-good, worthless sinner saved by grace and you’ll act like it. Believe the truth that through Jesus you are the holy, pure, righteous, accepted, virgin bride of Christ and you’ll be highly motivated to live like it.

As I grew in Christ, I saw teaching about the Law that confused me. "God made us adequate as servants of a new covenant, not of the letter (Law), but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life" (2 Cor. 3:6). Does that say that Law "kills"? Yes. Look at the next verse: "But if the ministry of death, in letters engraved on stones…" (2 Cor. 3:8). "Ministry of death?" Yes! Just to be sure we get it, God says it a third time, "For if the ministry of condemnation has glory…" (2 Cor. 3:9). God says the Law kills, and has the "ministries" of death and condemnation! How do we explain this?

"For the Law was given through Moses; grace and truth were realized through Jesus Christ" (Jn. 1:17). Notice, grace and truth were not imparted to man via Law—and it will never be so. Condemnation and death were imparted to man via Law—and it will always be so (Rom. 3:20-21). Many well-meaning mentors teach that keeping God’s law is our means of attaining or retaining His acceptance. In fact, if you removed law from their sermon barrel, it might be a big step toward solving our paper shortage. Using law to motivate Christians not only fails to inhibit sin, it actually fuels sin’s engine, and makes it stronger! Remember the "Keep off the grass" illustration. I realize that it may be difficult to accept this if it’s is a new concept to you. This new concept, however, is as old as the New Testament. God wishes that mentors understood that grace, not law, motivates Christians to obedience. God designed it this way. Have you not noticed that the preacher who rails the loudest against sexual sin is often the one who runs off with his secretary?

Now, I’m not teaching that since we are "not under Law" (Rom. 6:14), we can violate God’s Law with abandon while He smiles at our antics like an indulgent Grandpa—Boys will be boys. Absolutely not! We’re like a sparrow in the prison exercise yard that is governed by a higher law (aerodynamics) than the inmates (gravity). The new creature in Christ is governed by "the law of love (agape)," which is written on his heart (Heb. 10:16)—and this includes a passion to do the will of God. Christians wish they could overcome their sin (Rom. 7:15). That’s a ten! Paul verbalizes our desire, "For I joyfully concur with the law of God in the inner man" (Rom. 7:22). Does that sound like we crave sin? Ridiculous! The reason that God can trust us by taking us out from under the Law is because He has "written [the desire to obey Him] on our heart and mind" (Heb. 10:16). You might say we’re on a love tether. Love motivates us to obey.

About the Author

Bill founded Lifetime Guarantee Ministries to encourage people to experience the reality of Christ as life. His transparent, humorous, down-to-earth style and sense of humor made him one of the most effective teachers of his time. He communicated with great clarity the full extent of what God accomplished in Christ and what that means for the Christian identity. Although Bill passed away in June 2011, his messages are timeless and will continue to impact generations to come.