Today, a friend and I discussed the difference in serving God out of obligation and out of love. A religious spirit can make you get everything perfect on the outside, but your works will not be with any heart. It’s more like an arranged marriage. But a spirit of love will gently push you to uphold God’s law because you desire to bless and please the One who has been so good to you.
In today’s Infinite Supply, Chip Brogden speaks about the loving Spirit who created the law…
The Spirit of the Law
“Teacher, this woman was caught in adultery, in the very act. Now Moses, in the law, commanded us that such should be stoned. But what do You say?”
Legally they were on solid ground. But to her accusers, Jesus replied, “He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first.” And when they all left, being convicted by their own conscience, He said to the woman: “Neither do I condemn you. Go, and sin no more” (John 8:12). We must conclude that however good the Law was, it did not represent God’s highest, or God’s best.
Jesus represents the holiness and purity of the Law but emphasized the part that had been too long overlooked: grace and humility. He came to address the deeper issues of the heart, and in so doing, showed us what God really intended from the beginning. He did not destroy the Law, He superseded the Law! Thus He fulfilled the spirit of the Law – even if it sometimes appeared as if He did not follow the letter of the Law.
Source: The Irresistible Kingdom by Chip Brogden
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Of course, the One who created the law would most certainly know best His purposes behind it. As the author says, He supersedes the law. It’s our interpretations and perspectives on it that cause it to be grievous and chaotic. But the Spirit behind the law will lead us in keeping the spirit of the law as He intended–as a clear dividing line between unholy and holy.
Romans 2:29 (NKJV) adds some clarity to the thought…
But he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the Spirit, not in the letter; whose praise is not from men but from God.
When we keep the spirit God input into the law by His Holy Spirit, we will seek to please Him instead of men’s ideas of holiness and perfection. We will desire to be holy (separated from sin) because we love God too much to want to be unholy (separated from God). He wants to draw near to us, so He gave us laws to help us learn how to make room in our lives for His presence.
Unfortunately, even with the best intentions, we let Him down and make it hard for Him to find a place for His presence, so He pours out His mercy through the blood of Yeshua. That’s the dividing line now. We choose either outside of His mercy or under His blood because His blood is what makes us holy so He can dwell with us. So The Holy Spirit of The Law is greater than the letter of the law because mercy through the blood of Christ is more powerful than all the works we can do in and of ourselves.
Stories like the one in today’s reading from Genesis 12:14 through Genesis 13:4 may be one of the reasons why our court system has testifiers agree to tell “the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.” In this story, Abram has decided that his wife Sarai’s beauty could cost him his life, so he falls back on the fact that she is his half-sister. He has her tell the Egyptians that she is Abram’s sister and conveniently leave out the part about her being married to him. They pay him handsomely for sharing his “sister” with them, and they don’t question it until plagues hit their household. Somehow, I guess the word has already gotten around that you don’t mess with the things of God Almighty because they knew what was causing their plagues, and they immediately released Sarai to Abram and sent them both safely on their way with many blessings.
For me, the idea of telling a half truth, even for a good cause, is difficult. I am honest to a fault, and I have to find a reason and a justification before I can agree to something like what was cooked up between Abram and Sarai. I actually felt bad for the Egyptians and what they had to go through as a result of this half-lie. But as I study it and other Scriptures, I can see that there are times when the “letter of the law” is less important than the “spirit of the law.” For example, if you tell someone that you have plans that don’t include celebrating their birthday because you actually want to surprise that person with a party, in the letter of the law, you’ve told a lie. But in the spirit of the law, you were not leaving out truth for the purpose of hurting someone, so it wasn’t truly a lie. For the Egyptians, if they truly served God Almighty, Abram wouldn’t even have had to fear they would take his life just to take his wife for themselves. If they served the True God, and if they were God-minded and not self-centered pleasure seekers, they would have known to pray about everything rather than just thinking they could take something simply because they desired it.
It’s not always easy to know when to lean on the spirit of the law over the letter, but there are a few other biblical examples of it…
In 1 Samuel 21, King David acts like he is insane.
In Joel 3:10, the weak are to say they are strong.
There’s even a story where a prophet has to get beaten to look like he has been attacked before arriving at a particular city.
All of these things point to the same issue–do not speak lies or truth with the purpose of hurting others. Search your heart and pray before you speak at all times. Commit your ways to God, and from there, He will establish your thoughts, and thereby your words. Walk in the spirit of the law, and you’re less likely to violate the letter of the law unless there is just no other way around it.
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