Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. (Gal 5:25; NIV)
Corrupted Perspective. Rejecting and mistrusting God’s Law undermines the God-breathed character in each of us. Sin corrupts my standing with God, completely. Equally devastating, sin clouds my outlook on living, daily. I rebel against the Spirit’s impulse to live rightly. My sinful nature prompts me to use His Law as “precepts” and “principles” for finger-pointing. Incorrectly, I see God’s Law as a whip that urges me to “try harder”. Or “Get with it!” Or remind me that “I’ve failed again”. Worse still, I transfer this caustic judgment and calloused guilt to my wife, my kids and my associates.
Restored Perspective. As a believer, I need a different approach to God’s Law. As a believer, my character is being restored by God’s Spirit and power. Distinguishing “right” from “wrong” is about synchronizing my mind and heart with God’s mind and heart as revealed in His Law. That goal stretches my character to become Christlike. Moses, in Deuteronomy, counselled his fellow Israelites as follows:
“Hear, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord is one [the only God]! You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and mind and with all your soul and with all your strength [your entire being]. These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be [written] on your heart and mind. You shall teach them diligently to your children [impressing God’s precepts on their minds and penetrating their hearts with His truths] and shall speak of them when you sit in your house and when you walk on the road and when you lie down and when you get up. And you shall bind them as a sign on your hand (forearm), and they shall be used asbands (frontals, frontlets) on your forehead. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates. (Deut 6:4-9, The Amplified Bible (AMP)
Character Restored. God’s Law reveals God’s heart and portrays His character (i.e., goodness, love, longsuffering, holiness, righteousness, justice, mercy, grace and more). His Law helps us visualize His character. In creation, His image/character was written into our DNA … and mutated by sin. Fallen, we strive for our original God-likeness in frustration and inadequacy. Redeemed, we are restored to God’s as the gift of God’s Spirit through “Christlikeness”. Fallen, we fail. Forgiven, we are restored.
Like Moses wrote, concepts like “right” and “wrong” are NOT fickle when my heart, soul, mind and strength reflect God’s image. God’s righteousness is NOT arbitrary. God’s holiness is NOT impulsive. God’s justice, mercy and grace are NOT debatable.
When I admonish others (and myself) according to the tape measure of God’s character, I lead by “the person” upon which the precepts and principles upon which the Law is based. When I encourage others (and myself) by His character, I live under both His Lordship and His mercy, grace and love. Being “right” is not about my legal authority or correctness. Being “right” is about my restored expression of God’s character.
“The Christian way is different: harder and easier. Christ says, “Give me ALL. I don’t want so much of your time and so much of your money and so much of your work: I want you. I have not come to torment your natural self, but to kill it.” (CS Lewis, Mere Christianity)
Rom 5:3-5: This doesn’t mean, of course, that we have only a hope of future joys—we can be full of joy here and now even in our trials and troubles. Taken in the right spirit these very things will give us patient endurance; this in turn will develop a mature character, and a character of this sort produces a steady hope, a hope that will never disappoint us. Already we have some experience of the love of God flooding through our hearts by the Holy Spirit given to us. (JB Phillips, emphasis added)