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Legalism or Love?

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Published: 16 years ago
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Legalism or Love?

Ancil Jenkins shares this illustration:

"'Fasten your seat belt,'I said to my wife, Elaine, the other day. 'It is the law, you know.'As she fastened her seat belt, I thought, 'Dummy, that is not the reason you want her buckled up. You want her protected from the harm of any accident you might drive her into.'How shallow would be my concern if I was more in fear of paying a fine than in her being seriously hurt!

"How much this can describe our approach to our obedience to God! Almost all we do is from mixed motives. Yet which motive is overriding? Do we obey because we fear God's wrath and judgment? Do we feel He will break our leg or burn down our house if we disobey? Do we feel that Christianity is just a set of rules to be obeyed and our satisfaction comes from doing a good job of keeping rules?

"The result of such an attitude will only breed fear and guilt. Fear comes from any failure to obey, and there will be such failure. Guilt comes from many sources, such as finding there was a law you had been failing to obey. Any failure at perfect obedience can lead to regarding some laws as more important than others. All this can lead to a disregard of others who do not keep laws as well as we do (Luk_18:1). It can lead us to giving more attention to the minute details and neglecting the major virtues God desires us to have (Mat_23:23). We become ridiculous gnat strainers and camel swallowers (Mat_23:24).

"We should obey God because we love Him. We obey because He has done so much for us and we have done so little for Him. We obey because love is never content to accept but must always give. Jesus said, 'If you love Me, you will do what I command' (Joh_14:15). We then come to realize that our disobedience not only breaks the laws of God, it also breaks the heart of God. How often they rebelled against Him in the wilderness and grieved Him in the desert! (Psa_78:40).

"Such obedience is far fuller, richer, and freer than can ever come from a legal motivation. Imagine a woman who is a nurse and a mother. She may work at a hospital all day caring for the sick. When she has worked eight hours, she goes home. Upon arriving home, she finds her child is seriously ill. She will then give her child the same care she gives the hospital patients. However, when she has cared for her child for eight hours, she will not quit. She gives care no one can buy. The difference is the motivation.

"What is your major motivation? Seek to know God better, and you will find yourself obeying out of love. It will become 'richer, fuller, deeper'and will become 'sweeter as the years go by.'"

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