Covenant of Obedience
I have a confession to make. I am a lawbreaker. I routinely drive 5 over the speed limit. And chocolate. I overindulge in chocolate. Okay, those sins don't seem to be all that bad, at least compared to other sins. But I also commit idolatry by allowing other things to become more important in my life than God. I have given in to the basest part of my sinful nature and gossiped about fellow pastors. If I were to list all my specific sins here, this post would be far too long to read. If one has to be perfect to enter God's kingdom, I fall short.
The history of God's redemption of fallen humanity includes the giving of His law to His people, and the making of a Covenant with them: Obey my law, and I will be your God and you will be my people.
There's only one problem. We are all lawbreakers. Every single human being who has ever lived, except Jesus, has broken the laws of God. Every one of us. For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. (Romans 3:23-24 NIV)
In these two verses, the Apostle Paul states the brutal facts and offers God's remedy. We are not covenant keepers when the covenant is keeping God's law. We all sin and fall short of His glory. Those are the brutal facts. We can dismiss our own sin as being minor (and we often do). We can construct a moral universe where only really bad sinners go to hell (you know - murders and terrorists and rapists). We can compare ourselves with others and convince ourselves we're not those really bad sinners (and we often do). But God is the One who gave the law, and God is the one who calls for obedience to it. And fact is: we all transgress His law. We are all lawbreakers who cannot earn our way into heaven by our righteous deeds.
Our only hope is to be redeemed from our sin by One more righteous than we are. And that's Jesus! All of us sin. All of us fall short of God's glory. And all who are justified are justified by God's grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus through His death on the Cross in the place of sinners.
Jesus took our punishment and paid the price for us so lawbreakers could be made righteous to satisfy the holiness of God. The law of God was not given so we could keep it and earn our way into God's good graces and into heaven. We are fallen creatures who cannot keep God's law perfectly. Isn't it a little cruel to give us laws we cannot keep and call for obedience to them? Why did God even give us His law?
God gave His law through Moses because God is holy, and we were created originally, before our fall into sin, to love so much and so well that we would be holy like Him. God's law is the definition of morality and holiness. This is the standard we are called to keep. Sadly, we cannot.
In the great plan of redemption, God had a deeper reason for giving us His law. In showing us the sinfulness of our sin, God points us to our need for a Redeemer. The Apostle Paul puts it this way:
Therefore the law was our tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith. (Galatians 3:24 New King James)
Obedience to God's moral standards does not come from legalistic human efforts. It comes from love. When we love God fully we want to please Him. When God's love flows in us and through us, we love Him in return, and we love others as we love ourselves. And that leads to Godly behavior that keeps and fulfills God's law.
The key to obedience of God's law is love. The more we love, the more our behavior reflects the law of God in our living. When we love God, we don't settle for idols. When we love others with God's self-giving love, we don't lie or steal or commit adultery or covet.
At its heart, the Covenant of obedience to God's law is a Covenant of love for God and others. And the love that makes this kind of transformation in fallen human hearts is the love of Jesus. We cannot manufacture it inside ourselves. It is a gift given to us when Jesus takes up residence in our hearts and we follow Him as Lord of our lives.
Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law. (Romans 13:8 NIV)
We can look at the law of God through the lens of obedience and feel its harshness, which can lead us to despair. Or we can look at the law of God through the lens of love and find that the love of Jesus living in us fulfills the law. To walk by faith in Jesus Christ and to love Him fully works itself out in our living to make us covenant keepers! And that's God's highest will for our lives.