Fatal Letters or Living Spirit

For the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life. (ESV 2 Corinthians 3:6b)

When I was eight years old I remember traveling with my Dad in his 1961 Ford Fairlane to a shopping center parking lot. It was there that vehicles were being given free seatbelt installations, making them compliant with a new law that went in effect in January of 1968, which required every seat in a car be equipped with a seatbelt.(1)

My parents were practical people and saw that seatbelts made sense, and whenever we drove anywhere, we had to have our belts on. But there were many people that didn’t see it that way, they wanted to make their own choices and didn’t want to be told what to do. It would take many years, but eventually laws had to be passed that fined people for not wearing their seatbelts. This despite data that showed that seatbelts reduced the probability of being killed by fifty percent.(2) In the face of real world data, thankfully most people have internalized the benefit and buckle-up almost automatically.

Yet, try as we may, it’s sometimes hard to comply with all the rules and laws that we are faced with each day. Many are not as compelling as the seatbelt laws, which make them harder to follow. If we break a law there are often consequences.

In our society the consequences for breaking our laws vary. Some consequences are severe, and others might simply be a small fine or fee we might have to pay. Sometimes we break the laws quiet unintentionally, at other times we do so with full knowledge, weighing the risk of being caught vs. the consequences should we be caught.

In our country, the laws are created by legislators. Once passed they are recorded and then enforced in our society by the appropriate officials.Officials typically enforce the letter of the law, and our actions and behaviors are evaluated against the backdrop of these laws.

Long before the United States came into being, God gave Moses His laws in the form of the Ten Commandments. One would think that it would be simple to keep these ten Laws, yet no matter how much we try to live by them, we will at some point trip up and fail them.

Sadly, God’s laws were ultimately misused over the years. Soon the very letter of the law became twisted into an impossible list of external rules that would ultimately form a barrier to our ability to be in a relationship with God. The letter of the Law replaced the spirit of the Law. When used this way, the very letter of the law would lead to separation from God, preventing us from having an eternal relationship with God.

Fortunately, Christ came and restored the intent of the Law. He did not come to replace the Law, but to restore the spirit of the law, to draw us to God so that we would be able to receive His grace and the gift of eternal life.

As one writer put it; “when one served the law, he ministered death. When he serves the gospel, he ministers life.” (3)

In life, I must be on guard to not judge others hearts and motives by what I see, rather as a believer, I need to offer the kind of grace that God has offered me. I am reminded by the Scriptures that no matter how hard I might try, I will never be able to stand before God at the end of my life and declare that I never once sinned before Him. He offers His grace freely to me and loves and forgives me as His child.

Dr. David Martyn Loyd-Jones once made the observation:

“I am now in His family, I am now His child, and when I sin now I am not sinning against Law, I am sinning against Love. It is no longer the action of a criminal; it is the action of a child.” (4)

If I am to be like Jesus, if I am to live out my life honoring the spirit of the Law, I need very much to remember that when I encounter someone that has disappointed me in some way, or frustrated me in some fashion, that I need to be very careful about the first words that come to my mind, because they may be words of judgement, they may be harsh and lack His love, grace, and forgiveness. I need to remember how my Savior approached me when I failed him. In fact, it will be a certainty that I will continue to fail Him many more times before that great day when He calls me home to be with Him.

May the heart of Jesus lead my words, my thoughts, and my actions. May God’s Law show the way to eternal life with my Lord Jesus, may it take root in my heart, not as the letter of the law which kills, but the Spirit of the Law which leads to eternal life in Christ Jesus.

 

 

====================================================================
Notes:

(1 ) Seat belts were required starting in January of 1968
https://www.google.com/?gws_rd=ssl#q=when+were+seat+belts+required+in+cars

(2 ) According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) 86% of the US drivers use their restraint systems. Seat belts reduce your chance of dying in a car accident by 50%. In 2012 there were 277,245 vehicle related deaths. Without the use of restraints this would be double, at least half a million deaths. This of course does not count the life changing injuries that go along with this statistic.

(3 ) Robert E. Picirilli, 1, 2 Corinthians, ed. Robert E. Picirilli, First Edition, The Randall House Bible Commentary (Nashville, TN: Randall House Publications, 1987), 295.

(4 ) Tony Sargent, Gems from Martyn Lloyd-Jones: An Anthology of Quotations from “the Doctor” (Milton Keynes, England; Colorado Springs, CO; Hyderabad, AP: Paternoster., 2007), 181.

Copyright FullLifeWord 2016

Ambassadors for Christ

“We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God.” -2 Corinthians 5:20 (1)

Paul used the idea of an ambassador, to remind the early church that God works through each of us as an extension of Himself to others. Therefore, it’s important that we recognize this vital role in our relationship with God and with those around us.

An ambassador in today’s world is a diplomat sent by a country as its official representative to another country. An ambassador will take up residence in a host country, and while there, they must be conscience of how they conduct themselves at all times. What they say, and how they respond to various situations are all reflections of their home country. In all they do, they seek to represent their country to the highest standards possible.

To follow Paul’s analogy, that we as believers are Christ’s ambassadors, simply means that we as believers, are in a way extensions of God’s ministry here on Earth. In simple terms, what we say and do in everyday life matters. Why? Because our actions might be the only positive testimony about how much God loves us, that other people see. Not everyone will step foot in a church to learn of God’s love and grace. In a way, you are the church to the world around us.

Being an ambassador is a tough job. As believers we are not called to take the easy path, but to take the sure path of Truth.(2) The gate that opens to the path of Truth is a narrow one, and it’s not always an easy one. Yet the Lord calls us to a life that reflects His character and nature.

All of this raises a question: As ambassadors, what type of traits should we be living out each day that best represents our Heavenly Father?

Fortunately, the Bible provides many examples. In one example; the Apostle Paul identified a number of these Godly character traits in a letter he penned to the early churches in the region of Galatia.

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” (3)

Paul wanted the early church to be known for these qualities, to live them out in their everyday lives.

On a personal life application level, the implications for me is that when someone wrongs me, or slights me, or even puts my character in question, I no longer have the liberty to respond in like manner. Rather, I need to consider how Jesus would respond and take the higher road. In such cases, He would no doubt trust his Heavenly Father for the outcome; and He would extend love and grace towards the one who offended me.

In fact, more often than not, I should be praying for those that have offended me and at the same time praying for myself, allowing the Lord to humble me and bring compassion and forgiveness to my heart, instead of coldness and blame. I need to seek His ways to love the very person that’s wronged me.

In this way, we become “Christ’s ambassadors.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

Copyright FullLifeWord 2016

 


References:
(1)The New International Version (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2011), 2 Co 5:20.

(2)The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001), Ga 5:22–23.

(3)The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001), Mt 7:13–14.

Notes:
Currently the U.S. has 180 Ambassadors in service, only the president with approval of the senate can nominate an ambassador, six have died due to acts of terror, most recently Chris Stevens Libya Benghazi, Libya September 12, 2012. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ambassador)

Defined: an accredited diplomat sent by a country as its official representative to a foreign country. (https://www.google.com/?gws_rd=ssl#q=ambassador)

For God has chosen to extend his work in Christ through “Christ’s ambassadors,” making his appeal through them to those who do not yet participate in the new creation to be reconciled to God (v. 20).
Walter A. Elwell, Evangelical Commentary on the Bible, vol. 3, Baker Reference Library (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1995), 2 Co 5:11.