What Does the Law Require?

What does the law require?Because I grew up being rewarded or punished depending on whether I obeyed or broke the rules, it was easy for me to believe that salvation depended on my obeying all of God’s law, doctrines that are often hard for even a career Christian like myself to get my mind around. So I tried my best be good and obey all of the rules.

Yet when Jesus came He clearly taught that outward sin was only the manifestation of a heart problem, and He distilled all of the law down to loving God and our neighbors (Matthew 36-40). If this is true, then the law seems to demand our love, which can’t be demanded anyway. How can one satisfy the demands of a law that can’t demand anything? I was obviously looking in the wrong place to try to meet the demands of the law by obeying rules.

A Bit of God Magic

While the law of God requires my ability to love, for the same reason that the law of respiration requires me to breathe, I have a disease that makes it impossible. The truth is: I can’t be good. If I can’t be good, then how will I ever survive the consequences of failing to love?

The ability to be good simply lies in a bit of magic that God does within me when I choose to be close friends with Him. When I engage Him, God fills my life with every bit of goodness that I so desperately need. He doesn’t play favorites either. He heals my sin as certainly and as thoroughly as He healed King David’s or Simon Peter’s. Only God’s magic (the power of the gospel) can make me strong in my weakness.

Saved by Trust

The only way I can learn to love is by spending time with the only One who can teach me. He does this by drawing me into a dance of love with Him and showing me how. This is the only way I can ever meet the demands of God’s law of love. It is why Morris Venden says that “righteousness is not being good. You won’t be saved for being good, and you won’t be lost for being bad. The devil doesn’t care whether you are naughty or nice as long as you keep away from a relationship with Jesus.”

This entire process—from its beginning through our complete healing—is based simply on an initial and continued willingness to listen to God and be His trusting friend. The very essence of sin is rebelliousness—a breach of trust and friendship characterized by a stubborn unwillingness to listen—and the inevitable separation from God that comes as a result. The secret of being able to obey God’s law comes through the magic of a simple, childlike relationship with Him. We are saved by this trust—this admiration—this willingness to listen to Him.

Case In Point

When the jailer fell down before Saint Paul and asked him what he must do to be saved (Acts 16:30), Paul didn’t sit him down in the rubble and give him a 28 point Bible study on the doctrines of the church. No. He simply said, “Trust in Jesus.” We make it too hard. Many—especially new Christians and the youth—have been discouraged, overwhelmed, and driven away from God by a focus on rules and perfection when all that is necessary for salvation is a trusting friendship with God.

So What’s the Bottom Line?

If I can do nothing without Jesus (John 15:5), and I can do all things with Him (Philippians 4), then it follows that my only effective effort in life is to get with Jesus! Though I would not undermine the importance of doctrine, we have placed far too much emphasis on understanding doctrine in order to be saved. Daily looking to Jesus is the only thing that is required for our salvation, the only thing that can bring us back to the love and forgiveness from which we have fallen so far. We are enabled to do all that the law requires as a result of walking with Him.