"For while we were still living in the flesh, (self-effort) our sinful passions, aroused by the law, were at work in our members to bear fruit for death. But now we are released from the law, having died to that which held us captive, so that we serve not under the old written code, (ten commandments) but in the new life of the Spirit."
How much more clear can you get? Yet I still didn't see it!! I couldn't see because I was in the darkness of self-righteousness and faithlessness in the gospel. I dare you to believe that God loves you even when you sin. I'm not talking licentiousness. I'm talking grace. He clearly says it through His apostle Paul. While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us!! God never hid from Adam, Adam hid from God! We are not condemned anymore. No one is. All we need do is come to the light, without fear that our deeds will be exposed, because Christ cleanses us from all our sin. There is no more consciousness of sin. (Easy to say, difficult to live by)
I get irritated with the idea that the law drives us to salvation, yet after salvation, we pick the law back up and try to obey it. Why? Is Christ not enough? Do we no longer need His Spirit?
Are you joking? Your body still sins! How can you do good when you're evil? I reject this idea because I used it and only saw myself fall deeper and deeper into condemnation. I liked to use the idea that, since I love God now, I'm able to keep His commandments. But the problem was that I wasn't able to love God because I was still living under law and not grace. I could see Him nothing more than a drill sergeant, or the principle in the Breakfast Club. I had heard about the always abounding steadfast love of God, but I wasn't seeing it. I heard about the immeasurable riches of God's love and grace, but I could certainly measure it. It wasn't very big. I didn't and still do not have the capacity to love God if He doesn't first love me.
I've tried abstaining from tv, computers, and video games in order to spend time and grow with God. I sincerely wanted to love Him more, but the more I tried to list His rules and obey them, the more I found out I couldn't even bring myself to like Him anymore. Why? I was constantly trying to measure up to the One you cannot measure up to! I was subtly adding law to grace in order to find closeness to God. I was scared to death. I was worried that had I ever been and tortured and threatened to die for Jesus that I might not be able to do it. And I probably couldn't have. I didn't even like God anymore. That raging love and faith in Him I first had, had somehow been quenched.
I tried motivating myself to keep His law. I tried more prayer time, more Bible reading, more giving, having good behavior, etc. It was not working. I couldn't even stay consistent for more than a few days with only this little list. I knew something was very wrong. I was terrified of Jesus returning. I just knew I was the wicked and lazy servant. I just knew I didn't have what it takes to be saved. I would go to sleep anxious every night about my salvation, and wondering if I would ever find my love for my Father again. Everyday was a constant fight to battle condemnation. I would cry and pray to God "What do you want from me?", and I begged Him to take away my timidity so I could witness for Him and be more active in my church. I wanted freedom to live for God, but I wasn't getting any.
This only came from that seemingly great theory that one must balance law with grace. Try it and see for yourself.
We're allergic to the Law. What you need is not more law and more abstaining from things. We need more Jesus. We need His grace and truth. Jesus gave law to the self-righteous. He really magnified the law all throughout the New Testament. It's funny Jesus liked hanging more around whores, drunks, gluttons and greedy people who loved money, rather than the guys who were trying so hard to please God. But their motive was evil, bearing worthless fruit, which is self-righteousness. Jesus called sinners His friends and ate with them. But to the people who abstained, prayed, read the scriptures, and kept all the law, Jesus yelled nothing but condemnation to them. But the sinners flocked to Him. Obviously He wasn't selling them law, because every street corner sold law. Every religion in the world requires laws to live by. Jesus wanted to give with all His soul. He wanted to fill our jars to the brim, overflowing, completely for free.
Are you scared you don't love Jesus anymore? Then bask in His love. Take the risk of trusting in Him completely. Abstaining from music, certain books, movies, tv shows, and food cannot help you love God more. Only receiving Him will do. I tried abstaining from things. It doesn't work. We're to be graciously given all things. You don't pay for God's gifts. A man in the book of Acts tried that. You see how severely he was rebuked for insulting the Spirit of grace. This rebuke isn't just meant for people who think they can pay with money. It is also for people who think they can earn God's acceptance by their turning from a few big sins and striving to keep the law.
What an amazing God we have. Glory indeed fills the highest place. What can separate us now? No one can undo the cross of Christ.