It does not occur to all that life is a person. Yet this is the mystery of existence. There are folks who with a sigh and a smile of relief exclaim, ‘I don’t think those things matter anymore!’ They never did matter as much as they thought. They are talking about a bunch of shouldn’t do’s and must do’s. Some are important. Other are just rules taught by men. Whatever the case real life is not even found in good morality. It’s found in life – the life who is Jesus Christ.
Things that people thought did matter? In most cases they never did! At least not since the cross, the ripping of the temple curtain and Pentecost. Today we have the privilege of living in life itself and avoiding futility. Many of us make false starts and spend time in cul-de-sacs because our knowledge of God and who we are in Him is obscured. Yet if we persist in a Jesus life He will mentor us in the nature of God, the wisdom of life and a knowledge of ourselves. He means that He is our life. Legalism is a prison from which we have already been delivered. Jesus came to deliver us from obsessive behaviors so that we can be our real selves.
‘The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me, because the LORD has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners’ Isa 61.1 NIV.
Legalism is a prison. It is bad because it has us looking for righteousness and life in the wrong place: Ourselves. It denies God because it can portray Him as obsessed with the trivial. In some cultures it portrays Him as severe and vindictive. Legalism diverts us from imagination and vision because in seeking to please a god of triviality we are contained in The Small. Engage in legalism for too long and it will shrink your mind.
Don’t take pride in the fact that you have ‘a faith’ or a ‘Christian Perspective.’ Take joy in the fact that you have a life! Let’s be clear. There are non-believer who have more life than some Christians – simply because the latter are not living from rules and religion. There is a certain virtue in being yourself –even when we are not in God. This is why Jesus advertised Himself as giving all life to the full – and not a new version of religion.
The law was made to lead us to Christ. It was made for the Jews and it was made to expire. It had a use by date that finished at the cross. Now a completely new departure was initiated - a new and living way who is a person. This is the person of Jesus living by His Spirit in you. Now our existence is contained not in letters and definitions that kills - but released in a person who is life.
LAW ZAPS LIFE
Legalism is not only deficient because it ties us to the trivial and denudes people of personhood. Culturally it fosters poor leadership, an obsession with personnel who are ‘safe’ rather than daring and a preference for the unintelligent and mindless on account of the pressing need never to not rock the boat so as to preserve the status quo. We are not heroes because we gave our life to promoting a delusional religion. But we are heroes in heaven when we stand against it. Religion is known to kill the promoters of life. It crucified Jesus.
We may not be as outwardly as murderous today but are we smothering life in the name of conformity and our petty little status that we think we have in our dodgy version of the Kingdom. In the last days people shall promote death in the name of life. No. Jesus didn’t say that. I did. I’m on the side of life which means I’m with the One who is the Resurrection from the Dead. None of us live a good or an admirable life because we sustained and promoted an ‘ism.’ We are honorable when we let people out of prisons and propel them into life!
A law culture saps organizations of life. In some institutions it is common to see vision sapped from administration by a succession of mediocrities. These simple souls, pleasant enough in themselves, get to live in the illusion that they have executive ability because they have been thrust into a position of authority. But it is only an illusion. They are less able than their peers. Often limited in mental capacity and without intellectual ability they are unable to join dots of any description. They cripple the effectiveness of people more able than themselves while their subordinates expend an inordinate effort making them look good. Such institutions are the embodiment of Paul’s body of death. But we are already delivered in life by Jesus Christ.
‘Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?’ Rom 7.24 ESV.
‘Yet now he has reconciled you to himself through the death of Christ in his physical body. As a result, he has brought you into his own presence, and you are holy and blameless as you stand before him without a single fault’ Col 1.22 NLT. Jesus has delivered us from futility into life itself – into Himself!
THE LETTER KILLS
But this is not the worst effect of being rooted in the law and a law culture. Living in the law - which is to live in an abstraction - suffocates life. Paul asserted that the letter kills because it does. He declared Christ as our life because He is. He is infinite, eternal uninhibited life!
Generically, living in law is living in the knowledge of good and evil. This is the Adamic separation from God mistakenly chosen by our first Father. This is the lot of the non-believer, the rebel, the humanist and the adherent of any religion that is not Christ. But it is also the religion of Believers who live in religion; who live in Adam and Moses; who live in the old covenant rather than the new. It’s the fate of all who are dragging about this body of death in the name of life. And the demons of hell are laughing. The law suffocates life and promotes a culture of death - often in the name of God and always on behalf of religion.
THE GREAT DARKNESS
Law suffocates spirit and life and denies the life of God even while promoting it. But wait. There’s more. You can make your own hell before the time. Through stubbornness, pride and passivity you can live in the land of the shadow of death because your eyes have become immune to evil. So you live in death as a form of life. Robbed by the thief and the Father of lies they live in a revised gospel, hatched not in the Kingdom but in the government of hell.
WALKING IN THE LIFE
Law, the old covenant, the life in Adam and the knowledge of good and evil leave us separated from God and His life and outside the new creation advance of unlimited and eternal life that is the inheritance of all. Christ our life is the inheritance of all but only the possession of those who have embraced their new covenant life in Jesus. Paul expressed this in Galatians 2.20,21.
‘I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me. “I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness comes through the Law, then Christ died needlessly.”