Few questions are of greater consequence. Read here the truth about love, law and grace!
YOU HEAR this age characterized as everything but what it really is. Newscasters trumpet our era as the space age, or the age of technology, or the computer age. Yet at this time of incredible technological achievement, upwards of half of the population of the United States are admittedly afraid to go out at night. Why? Why should a brisk evening stroll today include the possibility of rape, injury or theft? Can you explain why? "I'm as baffled as ever as to the causes and cures for crime," admitted one retired police officer who holds a master's degree in criminal studies and who taught at the Center for International Studies in London.
Our long-dead ancestors would be shocked if they viewed today's contempt for virtue and law. Do you realize that if the United States could convert its cost of crime into tax revenue that it would virtually wipe out the staggering U.S. budget deficit? Amid all this human confusion and suffering, the words of the ancient prophet ring out: "The way of peace they have not known, and there is no justice in their ways; they have made themselves crooked paths; whoever takes that way shall not know peace" (Isa. 59:8, Revised Authorized Version throughout unless otherwise noted). But what is this "crooked path" that humanity has chosen? And what does it have to do with lawlessness? Let us first look at what human knowledge reveals.
What and Why Violence?
Professionals of the social sciences struggle to explain what they term "socially deviant behavior" — the criminal mind. In a private conversation, one professor of a major American university admitted to this author that sociology had not yet unlocked why one human will turn to a life of crime and another won' t. "But," he continued, "we have uncovered what we understand to be major factors related to the formation of a criminal mind." Would you be able to guess which of these factors is the most important? The lack of LOVE! Erich Fromm says: "Love is the only sound and satisfactory answer to the problem of human existence" (The Art of Loving, pp. 111-112). But what kind of love? And how is it acquired — and expressed?
Looking for Answers
Genuine love and compassion are clearly among the rarest commodities today. Why? Why shouldn't this world be filled with love, joy, hope and peace? "Let all you do be done in love," wrote the apostle Paul to the young Corinthian church (I Cor. 16:14, Moffatt). Then why, for more than 1,900 years, has this advice of the apostle Paul been so maligned and neglected? There is a cause for every effect Political, social and family problems just don't "happen" — they are the result of going up against dynamic forces. The problem lies in the near universal non-recognition that true love is a spiritual element! Philosophers, psychologists, psychoanalysts and a host of researchers have developed hypotheses about love by the dozens! No one, it seems, is willing to recognize a standard to measure love by. Just what is "love"? "God is love" (I John 4:8), reveals your Bible — the ultimate source of spiritual definitions. Yet, many who read this don't comprehend what it means. Consider: God is much more than mere feeling. He is much more than a warm, fuzzy idea. He has lived forever (Ps. 93:2), is all-powerful (Ps. 147:5), has the greatest mind (Isa. 55:8-9; I Cor. 2:16) and has brought into being and loves his creation — humanity (John 3:16). Your mind cannot grasp how great he is! The problem for humans — that is, your problem — is that man has acquired a natural hostility toward God. From the very first human in the garden of Eden to the thousands of millions alive today, not a single one naturally desires to surrender his or her life to the God of love. Think on this. God revealed his way of life — his way of love — to the first two humans (Gen. 1-2). Armed with God — given definitions of right and wrong, Adam (the first human) chose the way that led contrary to God — to decide for himself what is love, what is good and evil (Gen. 3:6, 17; I Tim. 2:14). He rejected God's way of love and give and concern for others, setting the stage for all humans to follow. When the Bible says "God is love," it reveals the very nature of God. God embodies a "give" way of life, a way of outgoing concern. God wants you and me to be happy, to have a zestful, fulfilling life and to be able to share it with others — that's love (John 10:10; III John 2). To direct us toward this way that leads to happiness, God defines love: "For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments" (I John 5:3). This is a truth few understand! When asked what the greatest of the Ten Commandments (which summarize God's law) were, Jesus Christ boiled them down to their two basic essentials: "'You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.' This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself " (Matt. 22:36-39). Consider this: The first four commandments revealed in Exodus 20 show you how to love God. The last six reveal the way you are to love your neighbor. But how does the natural unconverted mind view this? "The mind that is set on the flesh [material, physical things] is hostile to God; it does not submit to God's law, indeed it cannot; and those who are in the flesh cannot please God" (Romans 8:7-8, Revised Standard Version). Man in his natural state wants little to do with God. Since God is love, man unwittingly rejects true love that would bring happiness.
Working Toward a Solution
God's way of life, expressed in 10 summary points called the Ten Commandments, is a living force. When you break one or more of these points, there is a penalty. Physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually you and others suffer. Take first the physical example. What if everyone stopped committing adultery and fornication and ended all relationships with homosexuals and prostitutes? The curses of AIDS, herpes and other sexually transmitted diseases would disappear! Prostitution would vanish! Rampant teenage pregnancies would soon become mere distant memories. People would be happier. But man says: "I don't want to obey God's law. I reject it. I make my own rules!" So men, women and children by the millions suffer needlessly. God, of course, does have the power to stop man from going the way of sin previously described in Isaiah 59. But that is exactly what man doesn't want God to do. So God has allowed man 6,000 years to make his own rules and decisions, to experience firsthand the pain and suffering that comes from grossly imperfect human laws. Humanity's choices are eloquently described in Deuteronomy 30:19-20: "I call heaven and earth as witnesses today against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; THEREFORE CHOOSE LIFE, that both you and your descendants may live; that you may love the Lord your God, that you may obey His voice, and that you may cling to Him, for He is your life and the length of your days." The Bible, however, reveals something far more ominous than physical suffering for breaking God's law. When you choose to break one of the 10 summary points that define love by doing the opposite, the Bible says you sin. What is sin? "Whoever commits sin also commits lawlessness, and sin is lawlessness" (I John 3:4). Mark well this prophecy of Jesus for this era: "And because lawlessness [the breaking of God's Ten Commandments] will abound, the love of many will grow cold" (Matt. 24:12)! The Ten Commandments are a blessing — they show you what sin is (Rom. 3:20, 4:15, 5:13-14). The apostle James terms the Ten Commandments "the perfect law of liberty" (Jas. 1:25). They guide one to the way of genuine happiness. But when you break these laws, you're as good as dead. What is the final payoff of sin? "The wages of sin is death" (Rom. 6:23).
How does this concern you? Unless you live the way of love — which is to know the way to salvation — you are a walking dead person even as you read this article! You have no claim to eternal life. You may think you haven't broken any of the Ten Commandments, but you have. "For all [including you and me] have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" (Rom. 3:23). As a sinner — a transgressor of the law and thus committing lawlessness — you have come "under the law," that is, subject to its penalty: death. For breaking the Ten Commandments, you are now subject to what the Bible calls "the curse of the law" (Gal. 3:13). You have no hope of eternal life. But there is GOOD NEWS. Someone has paid the penalty for you. Your very Creator has paid the penalty of lawlessness in your place. God created all things through Jesus Christ (Eph. 3:9). As the Creator of the human race, Jesus Christ died — in the first century A.D. — to become the ultimate and complete sacrifice for sin. But you still have to choose and accept this sacrifice. You cannot casually accept the blood of Christ as atonement for your sins. God wants, first, to see a change of attitude from hostility to submission in obedience! "Repent, and... be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins..." (Acts 2:38). Repentance is another key word few really understand. To repent means to change your life. Instead of going your way (which is heavily influenced by Satan's way of "get") you must begin to obey God — to love God by keeping his commandments (see I John 5:3). As John the Baptist declared, "Therefore bear fruits [acts] worthy of repentance" (Matt. 3:8). But you not only have to repent, you must believe God (Mark 1:15). Believe what he says — and that means to believe the message he sent by Jesus Christ — the good news (gospel is an old English word that means "good news") of the soon-coming kingdom of God. This is followed by complete immersion in water (baptism), which is physical proof of your inward faith in Jesus Christ.
On the Road to Salvation
Upon baptism, you officially begin the way toward salvation. In accepting Jesus Christ as your Savior, you come under unmerited grace. Your previous record of sins is forgiven — your past sins are totally covered by the blood of Christ's sacrifice (Heb. 9:12, 14), forgotten forever. Upon receipt of God's promised Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38; Rom. 8:9), you become an heir (not yet an inheritor) of the kingdom of God. You are now a begotten son or daughter of God. But have the Ten Commandments lost their power to guide? No. You are saved from past sins by grace (Eph. 2:8) — something you cannot yourself earn. But you must now, in a repentant state of mind, begin to keep all the commandments, lest you again come under the death penalty! Notice: "Being justified freely by His grace [that is, forgiven of sins committed] through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God set forth to be a propitiation by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His forbearance God had passed over the sins that were previously committed" (Rom. 3:24-25). You cannot earn forgiveness. That comes from grace — free, unmerited pardon — from God. Grace covers your past sins (Rom. 3:25). You are justified by faith (Rom. 3:28). But the law that defines sin — that makes plain right from wrong — retains its power of life and death over you! Consider: "Do we then make void the law through faith? Certainly not! On the contrary, we establish [Greek: continue] the law" (Rom. 3:31). Read this carefully: The law defines sin. It cannot forgive sins. Only Christ can do that. But once you are forgiven sin — forgiven your having broken the law and thus having committed lawlessness — now you are expected to quit sin, to begin to keep the law. "For not the hearers of the law are just in the sight of God, but the doers of the law will be justified" (Rom. 2:13). So now it all fits into place. After we have been converted and accepted Christ's sacrifice, our past sins are forgiven and we are no longer cut off from God (Rom. 5:10). Receiving his Holy Spirit, our minds are renewed and we begin to become more like him (Eph. 4:23), imbued with the spirit of love, joy, patience, peace of mind. Yet, as human beings struggling to overcome ourselves, the world around us and Satan, we occasionally stumble and break God's law. As we see the sin in us (Jas. 1:23-25), we are to immediately repent and ask that Christ's sacrifice be applied to us. We are to change and become more like God. Upon repentance and prayer for forgiveness (Matt. 6:12), our sins are forgiven (remember, grace is no license to freely break God's law: Rom. 6:15). We continue to "grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ" (II Pet. 3:18). In this sense, "the law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul" (Ps. 19:7). The Hebrew for "law" is torah. The sense of this word is instruction. By keeping the law of God, we are instructed in the way that leads to physical blessings and, ultimately; eternal life!
So as a bona fide Christian keeping God's law, you grow in spiritual maturity. Certainly, this is not of your own strength alone, but Jesus Christ living in you through the Holy Spirit — imbuing you with power to fulfill God's law. As the apostle Paul aptly stated: "I have been crucified with Christ [through baptism]; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me" (Gal. 2:20). As you grow by following the holy and spiritual law (Rom. 7:12, 14), your hostile nature is gradually replaced by the mind of Christ (Phil. 2:5). You find yourself filled with divine love — concerned about your fellowman, wanting the best for others, striving to serve, filled with proper humility. It doesn't happen all at once: "God's love has been poured into our hearts [attitudes, minds] through the Holy Spirit which has been given to us" (Rom. 5:5, RSV). It is a lifelong process. And this love that comes from God matches perfectly with God's law of love, for "love is the fulfilling of the law" (Rom. 13:10, RSV). Thus, moving from a carnal beginning to a converted goal, we see that "Christ is the end [Greek: goal] of the law" (Rom. 10:4). He already has set the pattern for us to live. He lived without sin. He kept God's law perfectly. And Christ living spiritually in us can do the same. The Ten Commandments guide us to the very righteousness of God that is in Jesus Christ (Ps. 119:172). If you'd like more information about the "perfect law of liberty" and the real Christian life, read our free booklets The Ten Commandments and Just What Do You Mean...Conversion? After reading them, you will understand and join with David — a man after God's own heart (Acts 13:22) — when he said, "Oh, how I love Your law! It is my meditation all the day" (Ps. 119:97).