by Dustin Cannon
I recently wrote an article explaining why being LGBTQ is not a sin. Over the next few days I saw a barrage of Facebook comments as they streamed furiously down my iPhone screen. So much disagreement. So much anger from those wanting to honor God by upholding God’s law. They would quote Bible verses and others come back and retaliate by quoting more Bible verses. I admit I was tempted to respond with more of the same. With the neo-reformed movement resurgence there has been a growing obsession for exegeting scripture to death. For many, sound doctine has become their God and Biblical scholarship their worship. And in all of that we hear Jesus in John 5:39 saying, “I’m right here and your missing me.”
It’s exhausting. It’s also pointless. Very few ever change their minds. And if they do they are usually just changing their minds about what they believe is right and wrong with regard to the old testament laws, ten commandments or the new covenant.
God Never Wanted Us To Know The Difference
It’s no wonder God never wanted us to know the difference between right and wrong. Good and evil.
He didn’t want us to know. God didn’t want us to know that any such thing even existed because He knew we would screw it up. God just wanted to be with us. To be in relationship with us. To love us.
The Bible says that after God made everything, he looked around and saw that it was good (Genesis 1:31).
Adam and Eve had true freedom and were in perfect relationship with God. This was possible because they didn’t know any better. They didn’t know that anything could ever come between them and God.
There was only one rule.
“The LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it. And the LORD God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die.””
What was the purpose of this?
God didn’t want them to know the difference between right and wrong. He didn’t even want them to know that there was any such thing. God knew that the glorious freedom that he wanted for his people would be lost. He knew it would corrupt their faith.
The Faith of a Child
When my youngest son was just a baby less than one-year-old he would sit on the edge of our King size bed and purposely let himself start falling backwards. I would catch him as he fell. He thought it was wonderful and hilarious. He had no fear of the consequences of falling and he had no knowledge whatsoever that some people might consider this behavior irresponsible and dangerous. So much so that I had to be careful if he was sitting on the bed and I wasn’t close enough to catch him.
His faith that his daddy would catch him was perfect. No fear, no doubt, all in, balls out. Real faith based on love. Not his love for me, but his knowledge of my love for him.
As he grew a bit older and gained more worldly wisdom he eventually stopped doing that. Clearly, he was afraid because he started looking over his shoulder and rotating his body so that he would land on his feet.
(I admit I may have been the cause of some of this loss of trust when I accidentally let him fall to the ground once or twice.)
At some point, he realized this was not a responsible way to behave. Actually, I should correct that statement. He decided that this was not a responsible way to behave. I didn’t consider it irresponsible. I took delight in his sweet faith that I would catch him.
It was his knowledge of right and wrong that resulted in fear and loss of trust. It was a corruption of his faith in his daddy that changed everything.
In some ways, it was sad when he stopped trusting me like that. That’s why God never wanted us to know the difference between right and wrong.
All God Ever Wanted Was To Be With Us and Love Us Like A Father
He knew it would destroy our relationship. All God ever wanted was to love us. It’s really not even about us loving God, because he knows we can’t love Him perfectly.
It’s more about trusting Him.
Listen to the language God uses in Jeremiah Chapter 2. Notice how deeply personal it is.
This is what the Lord says:
“I remember how eager you were to please me as a young bride long ago, how you loved me and followed me even through the barren wilderness. In those days Israel was holy to the Lord, the first of his children. All who harmed his people were declared guilty, and disaster fell on them. I, the Lord, have spoken!”
Listen to the word of the Lord, people of Jacob—all you families of Israel! This is what the Lord says:
“What did your ancestors find wrong with me that led them to stray so far from me? They worshiped worthless idols, only to become worthless themselves. They did not ask, ‘Where is the Lord who brought us safely out of Egypt and led us through the barren wilderness—a land of deserts and pits, a land of drought and death, where no one lives or even travels?’
“And when I brought you into a fruitful land to enjoy its bounty and goodness, you defiled my land and corrupted the possession I had promised you.(Jeremiah 2:1-7)
Then He continues in verse 11…
Has any nation ever traded its gods for new ones, even though they are not gods at all? Yet my people have exchanged their glorious God for worthless idols! The heavens are shocked at such a thing and shrink back in horror and dismay,” says the Lord. “For my people have done two evil things: They have abandoned me—the fountain of living water. And they have dug for themselves cracked cisterns that can hold no water at all! (Jeremiah 2:11-13)
Then read Chapter 3
I thought to myself,
‘I would love to treat you as my own children!’
I wanted nothing more than to give you this beautiful land—
the finest possession in the world.
I looked forward to your calling me ‘Father,’
and I wanted you never to turn from me.
But you have been unfaithful to me, you people of Israel!
You have been like a faithless wife who leaves her husband.
I, the Lord, have spoken.”
Isn’t that beautiful? The problem is we have such thick skulls. It was same with God’s people after they were delivered out of Egypt. God wanted to be their God and love them and care for their every need. But all they did was complain. They were thirsty and He provided water. They needed to eat and God provided Manna (bread of heaven) every day and they whined about it. They wanted to do things their own way and didn’t trust God. And so the ten commandments were given to show them that the standard of God’s holiness was beyond their ability to obey.
The purpose of the law was to drive them to repentance which means to turn away from trying to please God on your own and admitting you can not anyway, and turning to contrition and faith in his loving kindness and grace. It is about trusting in Jesus Christ.
Righteousness has always been about faith. It was never about works.
When Jesus said the greatest commandment was to love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength, it wasn’t because that was necessary for salvation. It was to show us that we can’t make the cut. We need grace.
We need the unmerited loving kindness of God in Jesus Christ or we are doomed.
In his letter to the Corinthians Paul wrote that the Ten Commandments were a ministry of death (see 2 Corinthians 3:7)
That’s right. The law brings death to our relationship with God. It always happens and that’s why God never wanted to give it.
The Law Causes Sin
The law not only reveals that we have missed the mark when it comes to loving God, but it also encourages and causes sin to increase. (see Romans 7:13). Like when you tell a toddler he can’t do something and then that is all he wants to do.
If we had never known the difference between right and wrong or good and evil there would be no sin. The Scriptures teach that the law is powerless to restore our relationship with God (see Hebrews 7:18-19). Paul wrote that those who embrace the law instead of faith are stupid (see Galatians 3:1). In the same chapter in verse 23, he writes that if the law had the power to save us then God would’ve used it for that. But the truth is there’s no glory in the law. Nobody is justified by law. (Galatians 2:16).
In fact, in Philippians 3:4–8, Paul wrote that he considered anything he had gained by the law to be shit. You heard me right. The Greek word he used was the vilest word that he could use for poop.
The great theologian, Martin Luther wrote that,” If faith is not without all, even the smallest works, it does not justify; indeed it is not faith.”
He is saying that faith itself does not justify but simply becomes aware of the Grace that already exists in Christ. Faith receives this free gift from God and this is not a self-generated activity but solely a work of the Holy Spirit.
Rules Don’t Glorify God
In the comments on my recent article, Free To Love, someone posted a bunch of “law preaching” and another person responded that they would never want to worship such an evil God. And that is exactly what the Bible says will happen with the law.
2 Corinthians 3:14–15 says that whenever the law is preached it hardens people’s hearts and pushes them away from God. It blinds us so we can’t see God the way He wants us to see him. And that’s how we lose our faith just like my boy lost a bit of his faith when he thought he knew something about how the world works.
Grace Glorifies God
Those who cling so tightly to the Law like to quote Jesus where he said that he came to “fulfill the law and not to abolish it and that not one tiny fraction of the law would ever pass away until all things were finished.”
““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 tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished.”
The “fulfill” part simply means that Christ came to pay the debt that had been created by the law.
This is what Paul meant when he wrote,
“Now before faith came, we were held captive under the law, imprisoned until the coming faith would be revealed. 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. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. (Galatians 3:23-28 ESV)
Let me ask you a question.
Let’s say that your rich uncle paid off your house.
Would you keep making payments on a debt that was paid off?
Of course not. And suppose that your generous uncle who paid off that debt found out that you were still making payments on it. He would be hurt. It would break his heart if he found out that you were still making payments on a debt that he paid off.
That is why the Bible teaches that all who try to practice the law are under a curse (Galatians 3:10). And that’s what Martin Luther, reformer and founder of Protestantism) meant when he said that “God can’t save fictitious sinners so be a sinner and sin boldly”. He didn’t mean that we should sin on purpose, he meant we should stop trying to pretend that we don’t sin or that we can please God in anyway whatsoever except by grace through faith.
I’m happy to tell you that your debt has been paid in full. It was nailed to the cross (Colossians 2:14).
Let’s go back to second part of that verse above about the law not passing away until all has been accomplished. First, everything has been accomplished. The law was abolished on the third day when Jesus rose from the dead. For those who have faith in Jesus Christ the law is obsolete. Secondly, the law is only for unbelievers (see 1 Timothy 1:9–10). The law is only there to show us that we can’t be good enough so we will run to Jesus Christ and claim His free gift of love, grace and mercy.
It’s not there to argue about or to try and figure out what we need to do to please God.
We can’t do anything to please God. And even still we cannot seem to accept the fact that we don’t need to do anything. That is why Jesus kept trying to make the standard even more impossible than it already was. He was trying to get it through our thick skulls.
The Law Exposed Our Need For Jesus
Have you noticed that every time someone thought they had it all figured out Jesus would take it one step further.
Jesus said, “I know the law says do not murder but I’m telling you that if you’re even angry with someone you are guilty”.
Jesus said, “I know the law says not to commit adultery but I’m telling you that if you even look at someone with lust in your heart then you are already guilty.”
Or what about rich young ruler. He came to Jesus and asked what he should do to inherit eternal life and Jesus replied, “You know the commitments. Keep them.” The man replied that he had already done that so Jesus took it one step further and said, “OK now go sell everything you have and give it to the poor and follow me.”
Jesus wasn’t trying to say that’s what you must do to be saved. Jesus was saying you can’t do it. You can’t be good enough. You need grace. It’s the only way.
That’s also the reason he said that all of the law could be summed up in loving God with all of our heart, mind, soul and strength and loving everyone else as much as we love ourselves.
Do you know anyone that loves God or other people like that? I don’t either. It’s impossible. Think about it. Using that standard, it would be a mortal sin to eat a cheeseburger for any other reason but for the love of God. Really.
It was never God’s will that we be bound by the chains of law but rather that we be free to be in relationship with Him and have a part in the work that He wants to do in and through us.
But when Christ dwells in our hearts, through faith we become rooted and grounded in the love of Christ that surpasses all knowledge (Ephesians 3:17-19). And in Christ we are filled with the fullness of God and His love naturally overflows into the lives of those around us. This is why Christ says to us “my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:30).
God wants us to stop focusing on rules and to stop arguing about Bible verses.
God wants a relationship with us through Jesus Christ our Lord. Jesus is bigger than the Bible. He just wants to love us.
Open your heart to him. Give yourself to Him. Let him love you and let his love work in you and through you. Walk in the spirit. Do this and there is no law of God that applies to you.
Let us look to the cross and remember that His grace is sufficient.
*The above is from my upcoming new book A Hooker and A Homosexual Walk Into A Bakery: The Parable Of A Lavishly Loving God Who Doesn’t Give A Damn About Keeping Score which will be available December 2017. Please follow me on Twitter or join my mailing list to be notified when it is available. A portion of the proceeds will be donated to The Trevor Project.