“You have become obedient from the heart.”
See Romans 6:17
If I told you to not think about a blue sports car, what would you think about? You’d be thinking about which shade of blue it is, as well as the model. You can’t not think about something someone tells you to not think about. It’s impossible.
The apostle Paul knew this, and for that very reason he was adamant about getting our minds off of laws and on to Jesus. He told the Romans, “Apart from the Law God’s righteousness has been made known. The righteousness we now have comes through faith in Christ to all who believe” (see Romans 3:21-22).
Apart from the Law we are right with God, THIS IS FOR ALL WHO BELIEVE!
Now, for the person who finds their identity in their behavior, at first glance of this statement they will aggressively spout off, “That’s a lie! Even the devil and his demons believe! Don’t be deceived! There is more to it than just believing!” To that, I would say, “Have you ever tried decaffeinated coffee?” I’m kidding. I would think that, but wouldn’t say it. Instead, I’d reply, “Of course the devil and his demons believe. They know full well the truth of the gospel but they are already damned to hell. We aren’t. It’s too late for them, but we still have a chance to be saved.”
The next rebuttal a grace-confused person will fire toward someone like me, is something that Jesus said, “I have not come to abolish the Law but to fulfill it” (see Matthew 5:17). My response would be a one-two counter:
1. Yes, Jesus not only fulfilled the Law, but He did so by pointing out how much of a complete failure everyone is who tries to obey it. Then, He upped the ante! He lifted up the bar of Law to its highest notch and said, “Now let’s see how you do! If you want to live by the Law, here it is!”: “Be perfect like God is perfect.” “Sell everything.” “Loan your money to everyone who asks to borrow.” “If someone hits you in the face, turn and let them hit you on the other side of your face.” “If any part of your body causes you to sin, amputate it.” (See Matthew 5:29-30,39,42,48, 19:21). That is Law. So do we want Law or Him?
2. Jesus completed the Law in Himself at the Cross. Before the New Covenant was established through Christ, the annual Day of Atonement allowed the Jews to be forgiven of their sins through the blood of animals (see Leviticus 23:27, Hebrews 9:22). On this particular day, they would receive an entire year of forgiveness, none of this neurotic “daily” forgiveness stuff. By way of bloody animal sacrifices, their sins were “covered” for another year–never taken away, but covered, or atoned for. Jesus, on the other hand, was the final sacrifice for sin. This is why the author of Hebrews said, “If we deliberately keep on sinning after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there is no more sacrifice for sins left,” as in, animal blood (see Hebrews 10:26). This verse, which is used a lot by the grace-confused Christians to create fear in other Christians, was written to the unbelieving Jews who kept trying to get forgiveness through animal blood after hearing the gospel. This verse is not applicable to Christians who sin (just imagine if that were true). The Law requires the shedding of blood in order to get forgiveness (Hebrews 9:22). It does not require repeated asking or repeated repenting of incorrect attitudes and actions. BLOOD FORGIVES, NOTHING ELSE. This is why when Jesus shed His sinless blood, He fulfilled this law! Further, Jesus didn’t simply “cover” our sins–like the animals–He banished them forever! Gone! Past, present, and future sins! (See 1 Peter 2:24, Hebrews 8:12, 10:10, John 1:29). This is one of the reasons why He yelled out, “IT IS FINISHED!” as He completed this law and became the final sacrifice for sin! (See John 19:30).
Paul reiterated this fact, that Jesus fulfilled the Law on the Cross:
“Christ has already accomplished the purpose for which the Law was given. As a result, all who believe in him are made right with God” (Romans 10:4).
Friends, the Law never did anything for anyone except point out their need for a deep cleaning! Righteousness was never awarded to anyone who “obeyed” the Law! (See Romans 3:20). Rightness with God has always been based on faith, even before the Law was given! (See Romans 4:19-22).
On this side of the Cross we no longer have the option of having our sins covered up–even if we have faith in God alone (without Jesus). He now requires our sins to be removed through Jesus. So in order to tap into this New Covenant, faith in Christ’s perfect blood is what God requires–not sin covering, but sin removal. This is the same God of the Old Covenant, but He has put the old agreement with humanity on the shelf marked “obsolete” and replaced it with a New Covenant! One that is much better! (see Hebrews 8:13).
The basis of the New Covenant is understanding that only Jesus has the ability to cleanse us, and He does this once (see Hebrews 10:10), not year after year, or day after day. And God, in His great love for us, has made access to spiritual perfection through Christ the most simple way possible: by grace through faith (see Ephesians 2:8-9). Grace is simply getting something good you didn’t earn, and it’s also something you can’t work for to keep or sustain. Paul spells this out:
“And if by grace, then it cannot be based on works; if it were, grace would no longer be grace” (Romans 11:6).
Friend, righteousness with our Creator has always been based on faith alone. The Law was given so that faith alone would increase. Why would I say that? Because if sin increases through Law observance (see Romans 5:20), then faith alone increases too. This is because faith has always been what pleases God! (See Hebrews 11:6). So the Law was brought in so that we could please God even more by faith!
So what is faith? BELIEF! Once we believe in the event of Christ’s sacrifice as true for our sin, we become sinless in our spirits too! Our old spirit dies with Christ, it gets buried with Him, and then it shoots up out of the grave, resurrected as well–even while still in these bodies! (See Romans 6:6, 2 Corinthians 5:17).
This happens by hearing the gospel with faith! (See Galatians 3:2). You might not have “felt” anything when this happened–or you might have (salvation isn’t based on feelings, but a fact of faith)–but either way, your new spiritual birth is real and final! This is why Jesus told Nicodemus, “You must be born again” (see John 3:7). The Holy Spirit then moves in to us, makes His home in us, and He will never move out! (See John 14:23, 2 Timothy 2:13). No matter what the flesh does or doesn’t do, or what our unrenewed mindsets think, God is staying inside us forever! That’s the gospel! His promise to us!
As this relationship grows, He works together with us, constantly teaching us new things about Himself (see John 14:26, Philippians 2:13). He reveals in our hearts what He likes and dislikes, what He expects and doesn’t expect (see 1 Corinthians 2:10). He teaches us His loving character (Galatians 5:22-23). And where is this all coming from? OUR NEW HEARTS! HEARTS THAT GOD CAN TRUST!
Paul wanted to make sure the Romans understood that their new hearts were good by telling them they can actually trust themselves (see Romans 6:17). We are not in a battle with ourselves! We have good selves! We are at battle with the power of sin–the force, not the verbs–our old, stinking thinking, and the enemy, but not ourselves! We can trust ourselves because God lives in our hearts! This is why we are no longer led by any law or commandment but instead by God’s Spirit in us! We don’t need them! We’ve got God! (See Romans 7:6).
“Yeah right Matt, you gotta have the WORD! How are we supposed to know what God expects from us without His WORD! And if you ain’t got the King James Bible, then you ain’t got the real Word!”
Well I wonder what the early Christians did before they ever had a Bible, not to mention 70% of them were illiterate. I also wonder how they ever made it through their day without access to the King James Version? Who could possibly make sure they understood God? Oh, I don’t know…maybe His Spirit?!
Yes, we are fortunate to have the Bible, I love the Bible. Jesus was Jewish, so we are privileged to know the history of His bloodline through the Bible. All the Psalms and Proverbs, detailed stories of Christ’s life, the “acts” of the apostles after He ascended, as well as the amazing Spirit-breathed New Testament epistles; we are very blessed to have so much information from God on paper, in a nice, tidy book.
However, the truth of the matter is when we try to make a law out of the Bible in itself, we must remember that the Bible wasn’t even compiled until 400 years after Christ. And for the King James fanatics, that version wasn’t written until 1200 years after that! This is why we must refocus on God in us, not simply words on some pages.
The Holy Spirit wants to teach us that He is the author behind the Bible! He is so much bigger than a book! Although the canonized Scriptures are infallible, it is still God’s Spirit who ultimately counsels us into all wisdom and peace. So Christian, don’t simply let a book guide you each day, let your heart guide you each day–your heart is good!
I’ll address one last attack which I receive quite often, “Matt, you’re a liar! Our hearts are wicked!” Friend, no, they’re not. They used to be wicked before we believed, but now they are perfect just like God is perfect (see Colossians 1:22, Romans 6:6). The Prophet Ezekiel foresaw this amazing feat which God would perform for New Covenant believers, “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh” (Ezekiel 36:26).
Ezekiel knew that God would give us a soft heart by coming to live in our hearts. The writer of Hebrews builds on this same truth, “This is the covenant I will establish with the people of Israel after that time, I will put my laws in their minds and write them on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people” (Hebrews 10:16).
God’s laws, as in “what He wants and doesn’t want”—NOT LAW—as in the Law of Moses, which was a total of 613 moral laws, dietary laws, wardrobe laws, ceremonial laws, and more. God’s laws is what’s written on our hearts—His very own desires! Everything He wants us to know He has personally placed in us from the very moment we first believed! Yes, we are growing in His knowledge day by day (see Philippians 1:6), but as of today, you really do want what God wants! This is how He can always trust us to make the right choices, which is through our perfect hearts! Hearts which are not bound by any law but have been set free in Christ! (See Galatians 5:1). Hearts which are indwelt by God Himself! So Christian, live from your heart! Always live from your heart! This is the only law God wants you to live by!
A prayer for you: Heavenly Father, I want you to know how grateful I am for you. Sometimes I forget just how good you are to me! Thank you so much for making your home in my heart forever. Right now, I lift up all who are reading this, directly to you. For those who have been religiously abused with rules, commands, and laws, help them. Help them to grow in the confidence which is your grace. Help them to know you deeper and deeper each day as you guide them by your Spirit THROUGH their hearts. In Jesus’ name I pray, amen.
This devotional is from 60 Days for Jesus, Volume 1. Get your copy here!