Seven More Signs that You Might Be Living Under Law

back_to_law

C.S. Lewis said that the safest road to hell is the one without signposts. You might say the same thing about the road that leads back to the law. It’s gradual and unmarked.

Can you imagine the Galatians saying, “let’s set aside grace and re-instate circumcision” or “let’s stop trusting Jesus and try earn our salvation”? Of course not, for if they had thought about what they were doing in such terms, they would’ve stood firm and resisted the yoke of slavery.

Paul said the Galatians were “bewitched.” Some translations say they were under a spell. Paul wrote to set them free from the spell of the law and that meant asking a few pointed questions. Did you receive the Spirit by doing the works of the law or by believing what you heard (Gal 3:2)? Are you trying to complete with human effort that which God began (Gal 3:3)? Does God manifest His presence among you because of your moral striving or because you believe what you heard (Gal 3:5)?

If the road to law is unsignposted, then one way to remain free in grace is to erect signs that reveal law’s boundaries. This is exactly what Paul does when he flags grace-killers like human effort (Gal 3:3), the traditions of men (Col 2:8), rules and regulations (Col 2:21-23).

In Part 1 of this series I said I wished Adam had put a big fence around the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. He didn’t, so guys like Paul have had to warn believers like the Galatians about the dangers of nullifying grace by returning to the law. Self-imposed law can take many forms. In Part 1 I listed seven signs that will alert you when you’re in danger of trading free grace for enslaving law. Here are seven more…

1.    You feel rejected, guilty, condemned, or unworthy.

Condemnation is the number one symptom of a law-based life for the law is a ministry that condemns (2 Co 3:9). Before the cross, Adam’s sin meant condemnation for all men (Rms 5:18). Before the cross, God held us responsible for our sins and not even sacrifices could clear a guilty conscience (Lev 5:17; Heb 9:9). There’s only one thing guaranteed to clear a guilty conscience and that is the blood of Jesus (Heb 10:22). Now there is no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus (Rms 8:1). By God’s perfect standard, all of us are unworthy, all of us fall short. Not one of us deserves what God has given us and that’s why it’s called grace. He qualifies the worst of us and makes us His beloved sons. A life captivated by His grace responds with “thank you Jesus!” But a life under law ignores what Jesus has done and chooses to remain under condemnation. For more, read this from CS Lewis.

2.    You think working out your salvation means working for your salvation.

It doesn’t. Jesus’ work on the cross was perfectly perfect and completely complete. Because of His sacrifice you have been made perfect forever (Heb 10:14). As He is, so are you in this world (1 Jn 4:17). Your work is to rest in Him. Click on the link to learn what it means to work out your salvation.

3.    You treat the Bible as a road map or instruction manual.

We are to live by the Spirit, not by the book (Gal 5:16). God wants us to have a relationship with Himself, not with His love letter to the world. Jesus gave us a pattern for Bible study on the road to Emmaus when He pointed out in the Scriptures all those things concerning Himself (Lk 24:27). Don’t read the Bible merely to find out what to do. Read it to discover Jesus.

4.    You think the remedy for lukewarmness is to get zealous for God.

Contrary to what you may have heard, we are not in a Mr or Miss Enthusiasm contest. God is not watching you on Sunday morning to see if you’re singing or clapping louder than the person next to you. Jesus is not going to vomit you out if you don’t get up and dance or hand out a gazillion tracts. Carnal zeal gets you nowhere with God (Rms 10:2). Genuine enthusiasm comes not from what you have done for God, but from appreciating what God has done on your behalf. And what has he done? He has made you, a born sinner, righteous and acceptable through the blood of Jesus. There is no middle, lukewarm ground. (Click here if you’re thinking of the Laodiceans.) You are either “the people” of God or you’re not (1 Pet 2:10). We don’t declare His praises to become a people belonging to God. We praise Him because we are a people belonging to God and He is praiseworthy!

5.    You are conscious of your debt to God.

What debt? You were in debt but Jesus redeemed you. On the cross, the righteous demands of the law that stood against you were fully satisfied. If the debt had not been met in full, Jesus would not have risen from the dead (Rms 4:25). Or perhaps you think this unfathomable act of grace now obligates you to God, that He bought your debt and now you owe Him. A law mind-set will always get you to focus on what you have done, or in this case, what you have not done and cannot do. A perception of indebtedness will cripple you and make you grace-resistant. God didn’t redeem you because you deserved it or because He was looking for an army of indentured servants. He did it because He is the Ultimate Giver and it’s His nature to love on us. See every good thing in your life as a gift from God (Jas 1:17). He gave you His Son (Jn 3:16), His Spirit (Acts 2:28), His life (Rms 6:23), His righteousness (Rms 5:17) – even your faith is His gift to you (Eph 2:8). Stop trying to pay Him back for His priceless gifts – it’s an insult to generosity of the Giver. Just bow your grateful soul and just say “thank you Jesus!” Then go tell other people the good news about this Great and Giving Redeemer.

6.    You think your illness is God punishing you for your sin

It’s quite possible that your illness is the result of sinful choices you have made, but God is not making you sick. A law mindset says you reap what you sow, that if you do bad (eg: sin), you get bad (eg: sick). But grace declares that God already judged all your sin at the cross. Jesus went around healing people. If God the Father is making people sick while God the Son is healing them, then they’re a house divided. Jesus provided for your salvation and healing at the cross. A person under grace won’t take sickness lying down but will proclaim the Lord’s death over their infirmities.

7.    You think there is too much emphasis on the goodness of God.

And let me guess – not enough emphasis on the badness of God?! “He is the Rock, his works are perfect, and all his ways are just. A faithful God who does no wrong, upright and just is he.” (Deut 32:4). There is no variation, no shadow of turning with God. He is good all the way through and He is good all the time! It’s no more possible to overemphasize His goodness than it is to grasp the width, depth, height and length of His love (Eph 3:18). (But I encourage you to try!) We need more emphasize on the goodness of God, not less! If you’re not convinced, read this post on the goodness of God.

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17 Comments on Seven More Signs that You Might Be Living Under Law

  1. The complete CS Lewis quote is: “The safest road to Hell is the gradual one – the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts” (from The Screwtape Letters).

  2. Regarding illness, no matter what, God’s grace heals. Sinful choices that affect health don’t have the last word…Jesus does.

  3. Profound! Powerful! Well written!

    Paul you are a trained warrior. [Heb 5:13 For everyone partaking of milk is unskillful in the Word of Righteousness, for he is an infant. 14 But solid food belongs to those who are of full age, even those who because of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil]. The Holy Spirit is giving you some awesome insights into the depths of Grace and Righteousness, thanks for your obedience in sharing them with us.

    Loving your stuff my friend, keep them coming!

  4. Janet Cadieux // November 11, 2010 at 2:00 am // Reply

    That is one of the best articles I have ever read. Thanks for being bold enough to speak the truth without wavering! It enoourages, lifts, and solidifies the power of the gospel!

  5. #4 concerning enthusiasm: Enthusiasm means “God (Theos) inside”. Sounds like the Holy Spirit to me. Check out the first definition at this link.

  6. @Barbara: Amen!

    @Andre and Janet: Thanks for the encouragement!

    @Gerry: Good point! A defining sign of the kingdom is righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. Those living in the king’s domain have peace and joy because they know they are clothed with His righteousness. Law, in contrast, will never tell you that you’re righteous, will always leave you insecure, and kills joy.

  7. Have to Unlike you on Facebook for this; it is not accurate. I am washed in the blood of Yahshua and am a Law-keeper, because sin is the transgression of the Law (I JOHN 3:4). How else are we to know what is right and wrong, good or bad, sin or righteousness but by the Law? And I don’t feel rejected, condemned, guilty, or unworthy etc. Interestingly I am writing a series of posts on the Law at this time, for those who have misunderstood the purpose of YHWH’s holy and perfect Laws of love.

    • daughter,I think the thing is we already know the law,its written on our hearts,i dont have to tell you its wrong to steal or kill etc,if ive done something wrong,I can feel it in my spirit,because the holy spirit in me reacts.then if theres something the Lord and i have to straighten out, so be it,like Peter thats between me and the Lord.

    • In context, this verse is speaking about people who aren’t followers of Christ. Their “sin” is actually revealed in their attempts at following the Old Covenant law. When John speaks of the law here, he is referring to a NEW law, which is our only requirement under the New Covenant; to believe in the finished work of Christ. “Sin,” here, isn’t referring to a breaking of the Old Covenant law, but a desire for “self governing” and “self perfection,” as the apostle Paul put it to the Galatians, which is exactly what Adam and Eve were guilty of. Interestingly, the Greek word, which was most used in the Bible, translated “sin” means a desire to self govern, or self actualize. No one who truly follows Christ will seek to govern themselves, but will rest completely in His finished work, and trust in His power to guide and teach us through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, just as He promised He would.

    • chrisvanrooyen // July 2, 2013 at 6:22 pm // Reply

      Hi Daughter
      to unlike someone because of a difference of opinion, what happened to love your enemies, it seems you are not to good at keeping the law ,in the sermon on the mount Jesus only started expressing the requirements of the law , there is not one person who was ever able to keep the law what makes you different, why do you think you are so special.Jesus came for this very reason because no one was able to be saved by the law, are you saying his sacrifice was unnecessary.Before his Crucifixion he asked his father if there was any other way , there was none.You seem to think the old way could work. I do not want you to misunderstand me I love God,s law and continually study it. But I have no reliance on it to save me or strengthen my relationship with Yahshua .My relationship with him is only strengthened through continual revelation of his unconditional love for me. I can confidently say I am the one Jesus love,s.
      The original sin was Eve,s attempt to approach God by knowledge of right and wrong ( the law ) Are you making the same mistake.
      There is no need for a exposition on the purpose of the law the scripture is crystal clear on this, the law,s Purpose was so that sin may abound it,s purpose was to show you how dead you are without Jesus. To show you how far you fall short of God,s standard.
      Now the Good new,s Jesus came so that through faith in him you can perfectly keep the Law you love it is the greatest gift from a loving Father GRACE!

      Grace to you Daughter of the most high God.

  8. Colleen G. // July 2, 2013 at 9:35 am // Reply

    It sounds like you are still looking to the Law keeping for your right standing(aka righteousness) with God.(Romans 10:4) If not excellent. If we have been
    We are to look for the guidance of the indwelling Spirit of God to know what is good, bad, sin or not sin.(Romans 8:14) Galatians 5:18 says that if we are led by the Spirit we are NOT under the law. Jesus brought us a new covenant because the old was faulty.(Hebrews 8:6-13) The new covenant is not on paper or stone but written into the hearts of those who have faith in Christ.

  9. Oh dear,dear, dear……..Satan is called the lawless one, shouldn’t that be enough to obey the law

    • so basically, you’re saying that believers should live by the law (that brings condemnation and death) instead of living by the Holy Spirit (who brings liberty and life)… that its better for us to live in spiritual adultery against Jesus by insisting we have to keep our relationship with the law? (rom 7:1-6)

    • Except on your best day you cannot keep the law perfectly enough to please God. There are 613 laws if you break even one of them you are guilty of breaking every-single-one of them. James 2:10

  10. Daiinah Kamei // April 24, 2014 at 6:40 am // Reply

    ” we are not in a Mr or Miss Enthusiasm contest”

    ” If God the Father is making people sick while God the Son is healing them, then they’re a house divided”

    …comforting lines for someone like me. I used to wonder what have I done wrong when something bad happens to me, sickness or whatever problems. Love it!
    Thank you so much!

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