The Law Is Obsolete - Give Me A New Law

We have a tendency to want law.

To begin, we're going to read through some of the laws of the Old Testament.

When a woman has a discharge, and the discharge in her body is blood, she shall be in her menstrual impurity for seven days, and whoever touches her shall be unclean until the evening.  And everything on which she lies during her menstrual impurity shall be unclean. Everything also on which she sits shall be unclean. And whoever touches her bed shall wash his clothes and bathe himself in water and be unclean until the evening. And whoever touches anything on which she sits shall wash his clothes and bathe himself in water and be unclean until the evening. Whether it is the bed or anything on which she sits, when he touches it he shall be unclean until the evening. And if any man lies with her and her menstrual impurity comes upon him, he shall be unclean seven days, and every bed on which he lies shall be unclean. (Leviticus 15:19-24 ESV).

 In reading  the Old Testament laws, we encounter  a lot of strange laws. Often, we, as Christians, like to ignore that the Old Testament has these weird and crazy laws. But you know what? Atheists don't ignore them. Nonbelievers don't ignore them. Typically, when you are talking with them about Christianity, these ridiculous laws from the Old Testament are things that come up.

So how do we handle these laws in the Old Testament?

Let's read a few more.

Six days work shall be done, but on the seventh day you shall have a Sabbath of solemn rest, holy to the Lord. Whoever does any work on it shall be put to death. (Exodus 35:2 ESV).

 Anyone do some work on Saturday?

I actually put together a bunk bed on Saturday. Should I be put to death? I went out to eat. Should the hostess, waitress, and cooks be put to death?

Absolutely not. We don't follow the law any more. If we did, we would be putting a lot of people to death.

For no one who has a blemish shall draw near, a man blind or lame, or one who has a mutilated face or a limb too long, or a man who has an injured foot or an injured hand, or a hunchback or a dwarf or a man with a defect in his sight or an itching disease or scabs or crushed testicles. (Leviticus 21:18-20 ESV).

 None of those people are allowed in the assembly the Lord. If we still followed this principle, we would exclude people with those issues from coming to church. But we don't do that.  

The Old Testament has a lot of crazy laws. How do we deal with them? What do we do with the law?

The Seventh Day Adventists still believe that we should hold to the law. You will notice that they still honor the Sabbath.

Some Christians still believe that we should celebrate the Old Testament festivals. I see some benefit in doing that. I spent one year at our church celebrating each one, yet Christians don't have to honor the ordinances of the law.

The most popular method, that we are more likely guilty of, is that we pick and choose which laws we want to keep and which laws we want to ignore. We disregard those laws we think are silly. We keep those laws we like. Who wants to be the crushed testicle or menstrual checker when people come to church anyway? Nobody wants to do those things, so we ignore it. But this is really a totally dishonest way to deal with the law. What is the process for picking and choosing anyway?

Our arbitrary method doesn't really make any sense. We accept the laws we like and reject the ones that seem a little weird. When we pick and choose laws, we get to decide what is important and what isn't. This isn't the way we should go about it.

In all this talk about the law, I want us to understand that the law was very important. With that said, we can go to the New Testament for guidance on how to handle the law.

So then, the law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian, for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. (Galatians 3:24-26 ESV).

 The law was our guardian until Christ came.

If you were living in the world before the Hebrews were brought out of Egypt and Moses was given the law, you would recognize that it was a vicious world. Maybe no more vicious than some of the places in our world today. Places that would benefit from the law just like the Hebrews benefitted from the law.

When you encounter a teaching like "an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth," it helps to understand the world that teaching was given to. God gave them that teaching to prevent people from chopping off someone's head for stealing something. It was limiting retaliation and would stop the process of escalating violence. The maximum punishment for a crime could not be greater than the crime.

The law played a great role until Christ came. It was important. It kept humanity in check. It was intended to shape the people into being the people God wanted them to be, but it didn't always work. The people didn't follow the law the way God intended.

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. Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 5:17-20 ESV).

Jesus is teaching that the law is ending. But it's ending with its intended completion. Not abruptly or prematurely. The "all is accomplished" in Jesus.

The Scribes and Pharisees were people really good at following the law. They would seek to complete the letter of the law while ignoring the spirit of the law. That isn't just something unique to their times; we see it a lot in our society. Take bankers for instance. Not our local bankers building our main streets and financing our homes. I'm talking the stories we see in the news. Many of those big bankers will follow the letter of the law, yet they will find a way to avoid the intended purpose of the law.

This is why we have so many lawyers. Our society is filled with people who will follow the letter of the law while ignoring the purpose of the law. We need lawyers because laws need to be interpreted. People can find ways to wiggle around the letter of the law. And the unfortunate truth is that law can never stop abuse. We could write laws for nearly everything, yet some corrupt person would find a way to follow that law while avoiding the intended purpose of the law. In that case we just write a new law, and another corrupt person would come along and find a way to skirt that law.

We write law after law to create a just society, but we cannot prevent evil people from circumventing the law. Evil people will abuse the law while good people will honor the spirit of the law.

This is what we see with the Pharisess and the Scribes. They would follow the letter of the law. For example, the law told them to honor their parents, but they claim that they have fulfilled that law without honoring their parents because the honor due to their parents has been given to God. (Matthew 15:1-9).  There are always ways for people with corrupted hearts to avoid following the laws they don't want to follow. The Pharisees and Scribes found legal ways around all the things that God intended for them to do.

We're not really all that different.

That's the problem with laws. If we think Christianity is a group of laws that we have to follow, then we will figure out ways to legally get around those laws. We will fulfill the law to the minimum to enable ourselves to do whatever we want to do with the rest of our lives.

Christianity is not a bunch of laws. Jesus came to fulfill the law and bring the law to its intended ending. He came to bring something better.

In speaking of a new covenant, he makes the first one obsolete. And what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away. (Hebrews 8:13 ESV).

According to the writer of Hebrews, the old law is obsolete. But the zeitgeist of modern Christendom makes us feel uncomfortable saying exactly this. The writer of Hebrews is stating that we don't have to follow the law any more. Repeating this Scripture in the wrong circles will get you strange looks. I once had someone get very stern and irate with me over stating this very thing. There is something in our Christian culture in America that makes us not want to be freed from the law. Due to this, we are uncomfortable saying exactly what Scripture says. The law is obsolete. We are no longer under it.

One of my little daughters who is just learning to write wrote me a little note and handed it to me. It read, "I love mom and daddy." Love is the opposite of law. We wouldn't need laws in our society if everyone loved each other. Nearly every law is there to prevent people from behaving in ways that are not loving to each other.  

We no longer have the law. And if we are looking at it purely at what we are now obligated to do, we have it worse in a way. We now have the Holy Spirit guiding our life. In some morphed albeit true sense, this means that we have more laws to follow.

The Holy Spirit knows what you should be doing this afternoon, and He is going to prompt you. You need to do that prompting. The Holy Spirit knows what you should say to encourage your friend, and He is going to prompt you. You need to follow through on that. The Holy Spirit knows what you should tell your spouse, and He is going to prompt you. We must ask ourselves, "Are we willing to listen?" "Are we willing to follow?"

There is a guy in our church who was given a to-do list by his wife. And his wife posted on Facebook, "Made honey-do list for my hubby today to accomplish after his dentist appointment this morning. And he did everything on the list and more."

To-do lists are good. The husband in my church excelled with the to-do list from his wife. He jokingly said that he did it because he just wanted to eat.

Like the husbands joke, we often want to follow the law to just get the benefits that the law brings. The Pharisees followed the law because they wanted to be God's people. We sometimes follow the law to prevent ourselves from going to hell. We want benefits. And because we are just looking for benefits, we miss out on the blessing of actually being God's children.

God wants us to be more than just people who follow the law. He wants us to be in a relationship with Him. We would do well to remember that at all times.

I can't give you a list of things to do to please God like the woman in my church gave to her husband. Isn't this a great message? You've spent all this time reading to get to this point, and now I am telling you that I am not going to tell you what to do. I can't give you a list of do's and don'ts.

Many denominations make handbooks with lists of do's and don'ts. But there is always another thing that could be added to their books because we are unable make a conclusive and authoritative list of do's and don'ts. If that is what God wanted, He would have given us a handbook Himself.

With that said, I will give you a list of things that could help you improve your relationship with God. But don't make them laws. If you make them laws to be completed, you will miss the point. A list makes it easy to go through, accomplish the task, check off the list, and act like we are right with God. God doesn't want you to do a list; He wants your life.

A lot of the times, in order to please the people in the church who want to be minimal Christians, the church compromises and gives list. Instead of the people in church giving God their whole lives, churches are filled with people just doing the minimum it takes to appear Christian. But the harsh truth is that if we aren't giving God our whole life, then we really aren't Christians.

I was listening to a sermon where the preacher was talking about the kingdom of God. He was stating that the kingdom of God is this for you, and this for someone else, and this for the next someone else. You will get healing. You will get better. You will be able to cope with life. Generally, these things are true, but we flirt with a dangerous line we turn the gospel into just a benefit for us to receive.

The gospel can only bring its benefits when you truly surrender your life to Jesus. It's not a benefit if you just want benefits. It is a benefit when you truly surrender.

It's like when you love your wife. If you bring home flowers for some manipulative reason and she found it out, the flowers wouldn't count. But if you brought flowers home just to show her that you love her - not for any ulterior motives whatsoever, then they have their worth.

It's the same thing with God, except He knows our heart and can't be deceived. If we do what the law teaches and don't give Him our heart, it doesn't work. We may want the blessings of being God's children, but if we don't give Him our heart, then those blessing will not come.

Being right with God is not about checking off a list. So with that big disclaimer, here is the list I mentioned a little bit ago.

First, read your Bible daily. Reading the Bible helps you get in tune with what God wants for your life. The Bible is the inspired word of God. We encounter God through reading His inspired words. We must be careful though. We shouldn't go to the Bible to just get a list of things to do. Instead we should go to the Bible to learn about who God is and encounter Him. When we learn about who God is and combine that with listening to the Holy Spirit in our life, we will be the people God wants us to be. All too often, we just don't get into the Bible. Or we study the Bible to make it say what we want it to say rather than allow it to transform who we are.

Second, pray daily. Actually, we need to go beyond just praying daily and begin to learn to live a life of praying constantly. It's easier said than done. It's having a conversation with God. Not just us talking, but us listening. It's living in His presence. It's building a relationship with the Creator of the universe who for some mysterious reason loves us. Being a Christian isn't about following some laws; it's about being God's follower and, in many ways, His friend.

Third, do what you feel prompted to do. Actually live out the life God is leading you to. Especially the crazy things. God is leading you do things. I guarantee that. The more you listen to God, the more you hear His voice, the more you will be led to do the things God wants you to do. All too often, we just ignore what God wants us to.

I had a great high school baseball coach. He would take time to correct me when I would be doing something wrong. He would see my mistakes and take me aside to tell me how to improve. I would be pitching and do something wrong, so he would tell me what to change. One of those times that he pulled me aside he said, "You know, I spend a lot of time correcting you, Regan, because I believe that you can be better. I don't spend time correcting [and he pointed at a teammate] because he's not going to be better." God spends a lot of time prompting us. But if we aren't listening, it will be as if He isn't prompting us. We will not become any better. The less we listen to the promptings we hear, the more we shut off the pathways to hearing Him.

It's like a person who has had a stroke. They have to work on rewiring everything so that they can once again do all the things that they previously did. They have to develop different neural pathways to laboriously do the things that once came easily to them. Sometimes we are like that with God. We have hardened ourselves to His promptings so much that we no longer hear His voice. He doesn't give up on us though. He will continually try to get past the hardness of our hearts. He is always willing to guide us, but it is up to us to listen to God and be the people that He wants us to be.

Fourth, sacrificially love others. I have found that best way to get to know God is to be His hands and feet in loving others. Take going on a mission trip. When we go on a mission trip and spend a whole week focused on loving others, God honors that. He interacts with us in great ways. But that experience of God doesn't need to be relegated to the mission field; we should be living our lives like that daily. Turn your regular life into a mission field.

Fifth, get plugged into real relationships with others in the church. The one thing that can happen when we get together that can't happen when we are on our own is encouragement. That should be a key element of the gathering together. When I preach a sermon, the point of my preaching is to encourage people to be who God wants us to be. When I write an article like this one, the purpose is to encourage you, the reader, to be who God wants you to be.

As a teacher, I want to encourage people to be all that God destined them to be. It is up to you to live the life that God wants you to live. No amount of listening to teaching will do that. You have to be the one learning to listen to His voice, and then act on it. God is going to tell you what He wants you to do with your life. God is going to tell me what He wants to do with my life. Typically, he isn't going to tell me what He wants you to do with your life. My role as a pastor is to encourage you to listen to God and be who God wants you to be with your life.

No church will be a healthy church unless the people in the church are focused on listening to the Holy Spirit and doing what the Spirit wants them to do with their lives. A church will not receive the blessing that God wants to give it unless that church is trying to be who God wants them to be. Likewise, a person will not receive the blessing that God wants to give them unless that person is trying to be who God wants them to be.

But let's be honest, sometimes the encouragement of church leaders or brothers and sisters in Jesus must take the form of correction. This isn't always fun. Sometimes, we may be going off on the wrong path and need guidance.

All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.(2 Timothy 3:16-17 ESV).

As a teacher, when I deliver Scripture, it should be accomplishing some of these four things. Being part of a church helps us to stay grounded and remain encouraged. But we must remember that the biggest component to being who God wants us to be is listening to the Holy Spirit guide and prompt us in our daily lives.

These five tips are just some practices that I have found useful in being who God wants me to be. I hope that you will find them useful in being who God wants you to be.

Your relationship with God is what matters.

There is a story from a guy named Parker Palmer as told by Dr. Marcus Borg.

It's a story about a three-year-old girl who was the only child in her family. But now her mom is pregnant, and this three-year-old girl is very excited about having a baby in the house. The day comes where the mother-to-be delivered, and the mom and dad go off to the hospital. A couple of days later come home with a new baby brother. And the little girl is just delighted.

But after they've been home for a couple of hours, the little girl tells her parents that she wants to be with the baby in the baby's room, alone, with the door shut. She's absolutely insistent about the door being shut. It kind of gives her folks the willies, you know? They know she's a good little girl, but they've heard about sibling rivalry and all of this.

Then they remember that they've recently installed an intercom system [think of an old-style monitor if you don't know what an intercom system is] in preparation for the arrival of the new baby, and they realize that they can let their little girl do this, and if they hear the slightest weird thing happening, they can be in there in a flash.

So they let their little girl go into the room. They close the door behind her. They race to the listening post. They hear her footsteps move across the room. They imagine her now standing over the baby's crib, and then they hear her say to her two-day-old baby brother, "Tell me about God. I've almost forgotten."

The idea is that we have all come from God. The story implies that the young three-year-old could remember being in God's presence, but that feeling was dwindling. The question we are all faced with is whether we are going to continue to grow closer to God throughout our lives or are we going to drift away. The choice is ours, and we can develop the practices of growth or the practices of drift in our life by what we invest our time in. The way we grow closer is to learn to listen to the Spirit and act upon who He is guiding us to be.

Christian culture will continue to try and convince us that the way to do that is through following laws. It's wrong. Laws are not going to get you closer to God. You could be the most moral person around, yet you could be just as far away from God as the most immoral person you know. God wants you to be close to Him. He wants you to be in a relationship with Him. He wants you to be His. There are no laws that if we followed would bring that about. It only comes through a willing heart, a willingness to listen, a willingness to let that Spirit lead you, a willingness to act on His promptings, and a willingness to be different when God wants you to be different. That's what God wants in our lives.

May we grow closer to God through our lives. May we not stray into an unhealthy dependence upon laws. May we learn to listen to Him every day of our life.

The law has been fulfilled. The law has been made obsolete. The Holy Spirit has been given to us in its place. May we learn to listen to Him.


Some Bible passages for further reading.

 And one of the scribes came up and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, asked him, “Which commandment is the most important of all?”  Jesus answered, “The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.  And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’  The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” Mark 12:28-31 (ESV)

 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.  By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” John 13:34-35 (ESV)

 “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.  Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.  You are my friends if you do what I command you. John 15:12-14 (ESV)

 For the commandments, “You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,” and any other commandment, are summed up in this word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”  Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law. Romans 13:9-10 (ESV)

 And this is his commandment, that we believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he has commanded us.  Whoever keeps his commandments abides in God, and God in him. And by this we know that he abides in us, by the Spirit whom he has given us. 1 John 3:23-24 (ESV)

 And now I ask you, dear lady—not as though I were writing you a new commandment, but the one we have had from the beginning—that we love one another.  And this is love, that we walk according to his commandments; this is the commandment, just as you have heard from the beginning, so that you should walk in it. 2 John 1:5-6 (ESV)

 If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing well. James 2:8 (ESV)