NEW SERIES: LIVING IN THE OVERFLOW
The deal was clear: obey all the decrees and the nation would be blessed, break them and they would be judged… And before the inaugural period was over, the Law was broken and 3000 people died in consequence [Exodus 32:28].
THE PROBLEM WITH LIVING BY RULES
The trouble with external rules and regulations is that it’s like the old variety act of keeping plates spinning—eventually one falls and smashes. We can keep some of the rules some of the time, but not all of the rules all of the time.
The bottom line is you can’t legislate for goodness—it has to flow from inside out. Legislation keeps wrongdoing in check, but doesn’t change hearts, and somewhere unlawful behaviour always leaks out—as we see constantly on the world stage.
But we humans insist on trying to live by rulebooks, systems and procedures. It is part of the consequence of the Fall: Adam and Eve wanting to be like God, chose to eat from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, instead of the Tree of Life. One path pointed to independence from God and the domination of external laws, the other to Life flowing from within, in partnership with the Source of Life. The Mosaic Law was given to showcase the futility of mankind trying to be good, or trying to reach God, by his own efforts.
You can’t legislate for goodness—it has to flow from inside out. Legislation keeps wrongdoing in check, but it doesn’t change hearts.
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A NEW HEART AND NEW SPIRIT
The prophets saw the problem and prophesied the solution:
"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.
And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees
and be careful to keep my laws."
"This is the covenant I will make with the people of Israel after that time,"
declares the LORD.
"I will put my law in their minds and I will write it on their hearts.
I will be their God, and they will be my people."
The Law on the inside and the desire to obey it—that's what was needed.
Then one year the Day of Pentecost arrived, and things changed forever. The Holy Spirit fell in power on a group of nervous disciples and transformed them into lions of faith. He came with the sound of a mighty rushing wind, and tongues of fire appeared on each head. (Remember the fire that accompanied the visitation at Sinai?) And listening to their anointed words, 3000 people responded by repenting, (which meant recognising they were sinners and changing their way of thinking to align themselves with God) and were saved [Acts 2:1-41], each receiving their own gift of the Holy Spirit.
"This is what was spoken by the prophet Joel," declared Peter to the crowd,
‘"In the last days, God says, 'I will pour out my Spirit on all people.'"
The prophecies were being fulfilled. This was a new day. The Law of God was no longer to be an external affair, but an internal one. Pentecost was no longer to be about celebrating the giving of the Law at Sinai, but the giving of the Holy Spirit, the Law-keeper.
The Law-giver Himself had come to take up residence in people’s hearts.
THIS WEEK’S GRACE RHYTHM
NEXT WEEK: DITCH THE RULE BOOKS (PART 2): HOW TO BE GOOD CHRISTIANS
For many the Christian walk is like one long January, making resolutions, keeping it up for a few days or even weeks, then blowing it and feeling miserable...
PASS IT ON
[Photo credits: Simon Petrol (books); Bill Oxford (hammer); Priscilla du Preez (girls) @ Unsplash, with thanks]
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Da Kraplak (type writer);
Merakist (social media)
@ Unsplash, with thanks]
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