Bees work away in their hives building their wax to store honey on ‘man-made super frames’ which are regular pre-shaped slats. They are diligent workers conforming to a pattern – here is a picture of Christians living ‘under the Law’ which you read of in Romans 7. However, taking away these imposed structures gives them freedom to create their own shapes for honey combs which led to this beautiful work of art by a bee colony. This could represent a Romans 8-style ‘Life in the Spirit’ – wonderful, strong, purposeful and shaped by the Spirit to the glory of God. If your Christian life was represented by a honey comb, would it be a free-form thing of beauty or conformed to a rigid pattern?! Have you understood the difference?
Three of the Gospels make it very clear that Jesus came to fulfil the requirements of the Law on our behalf, leading to a new and better covenant.
- ‘And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, Jesus explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself’ – Luke 24:27
- ‘Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfil them’ – Matthew 5:17
- ‘For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ’ – John 1:17
As a zealous Pharisee, Saul had been a fanatical Law-Keeper but he came to see that even with all his hard work, he couldn’t keep all the Law. God showed him this whilst he was hunting down followers of Christ to draw them away from their new found freedom they had found in him. Renamed after his dramatic conversion, Paul renounced the ‘worker-bee law-keeper’ approach realising that life ‘in the flesh’ will never succeed. From now on, Paul’s mission is to show that Christ has brought us out from bondage to sin and death so that through faith we can live by grace ‘in Christ Jesus’. An example is sometimes given of a bookmark inserted into a book – now if the book is moved then the bookmark moves with it. In fact, whatever happens to the book also happens to the bookmark!
- ‘Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory’ – Colossians 3:2-4
- ‘Therefore no one will be declared righteous in God’s sight by the works of the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of our sin. But now apart from the law the righteousness of God has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus’ – Romans 3:20-24
Law and religion bring death rather than life! Both are constantly demanding what you cannot deliver – they rob you of joy and replace it with heaviness, weariness, disappointment and guilt. Picture the Corporal that bullies on the parade ground and contrast it with the joy of ‘Demobilisation Day’ when you realise he no longer has power over you! Or the day you leave the heavily regulated Boarding School run by ringing bells and punishment that demands attendance of formal church services! These are illustrations of the freedom for abundant living that comes in Christ through his work rather than ours. The power of this truth led to the Reformation in the 1500s. Paul went on to confront any practices where people were returning to a reliance on human effort (flesh or sinful nature) in an attempt to be righteous. This caused embarrassment for Peter when shown that he was not ‘acting in line with the truth of the Gospel’ as he was turning back to Jewish customs:
- ‘I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!’ – Galatians 2:20-21
Paul then had to address this human weakness directly to the church in Galatia (Galatians 3:1-14) and also bring correction to the Corinthian church for it was at times building in the ‘worker-bee law-keeper’ way which was ‘still worldly’ (1 Corinthians 3:1-3). For the Christian is free to say ‘yes’ to God through life in the Spirit and ‘no’ to living in the flesh – this is a new forever changed position as he sets out here:
- ‘Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death. For what the law was powerless to do because it was weakened by the flesh, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the flesh but according to the Spirit’ – Romans 8:1-4
Christ has dealt with our past, present and future sin through his mighty work on the cross. If a child of God sins, it is now a sin against love NOT a sin against the law. This is not an excuse to sin, for if it is then it questions whether a person really is a child of God in the first instance. Our motive now is to live for the glory of God (Ephesians 1:3-14) with several massive reassurances:
- ‘For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord’ – Romans 8:38-39
- ‘I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have an advocate with the Father—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins’ – 1 John 2:1
- ‘If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word is not in us’ – 1 John 1:9-10
- ‘My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand’ – John 10:29
- ‘In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans’ – Romans 8:26
- ‘What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?’ – Romans 8:31
Christian, you are called to be joyful and fruitful. Our lives are to be ‘Christ-centred, Father-focused and Spirit-filled’ (John Groves). Remember those bees and be sure to let your life in Christ resemble the free-form beauty rather than being conformed to the pattern of this world.
TAGS – life in the Spirit, Lloyd-Jones, once saved always saved, legalism, religion