I found myself in tears in my living room. It was an ordinary weeknight. I’d just been lying with my daughter reading as I do every night, but had to excuse myself so I didn’t lose it in front of her.
I’d been reading Jeff Bethke’s new book Jesus > Religion and a passage explained a set of Scriptures that always left question marks in its wake.
Jesus says, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished.”
While I always understood Jesus died for all my sins, I’d always read this and thought But Jesus said the Law is still valid. He might have covered all my sins, but he still expects me to obey the law. Then things would get confusing. Which law was still valid? Which do I have to follow? Which can I ignore?
The pendulum would swing the other way at times and I’d think well of course we don’t have the law. Jesus got rid of all that. We’re totally free to do whatever we want. Eat, drink and be merry!
And then I would think, but…but…Jesus is holy and wants us to be holy. I know the Holy Spirit guides me away from some of the same things the law does. The law fits in there somewhere. Plus, didn’t Jesus say…
Somewhere in my head I knew he’d freed us from the law, but I just could not understand how these verses made it all work together.
In response to these verses in Jesus > Religion, Jeff writes:
Jesus wants to make it clear: he isn’t taking God’s moral law lightly. The only difference is, he didn’t come to crush us with it—which religious people do, like the leaders in John 8—but rather, he came to fulfill it for us. When something is “fulfilled,” it means it has reached its end or completion. That’s what Jesus said he was doing. He was fulfilling the righteous requirements of it, on our behalf, to give us perfect standing with God.
That paragraph is what sent me in tears out of my daughter’s room. I’d read that verse so many times but finally I understood. I am free. Totally and completely free from the law. Jesus fulfilled all the requirements for me.
And here’s how I finally understood the rest: God hasn’t changed. He still desires for us to be holy. The law shows what God’s holiness looks like. It’s purpose is to show that we don’t meet that standard. With religion, we try to follow all the rules so we will be right with God. With Jesus, he does it all for us and then we begin to obey and grow out of a love relationship with him. Likely, the more we grow, naturally we are obeying the laws because we are becoming more like the character of God which is displayed through the law. But we do not have to obey the law first to be right with God or even to maintain our righteousness.
God is so good to me in that our sermon yesterday, the question for us was if we are free from the law, can we just do what we want? The answer is that yes, we’re free from the law but when we have that relationship, we live out of love and want to obey his Spirit not his law. It’s like God just wanted to give me an extra pat on the back and say, yes! You’ve got it now!
And this is what I love about Christianity. I don’t have it all figured it out. The questions don’t go away. But the trust doesn’t either. I may not understand every piece of the puzzle but I trust that the puzzle is complete in Christ. He shows me answers when I’m ready and sometimes that’s when my heart, a book and a sermon are ready to intersect.
I’m convinced Jesus > Religion is going to be part of so many more moments of clarity. Jeff is a voice for a generation that desperately needs to hear Jesus is relevant and a reminder to long-time believers what we truly believe. Jesus > Religion released this week and whether you are a person of strong faith or the word religion sends you running, I’d highly recommend it.