Pitfalls for the Mind (3)
For to be carnally minded isdeath, but to be spiritually minded islife and peace. Because the carnal mind isenmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be. Romans 8.6, 7
The grace snare
Incredible as it may seem, many Christians have had their progress toward maturity in the mind of Christ interrupted by grace. Well, not grace actually, but grace as an excuse for not following the Lord Jesus in the way He has clearly marked out for us.
You can tell if you’re trapped in this grace snare if you’ve ever said, if only to yourself, that in your walk with the Lord Jesus you’re “under grace, not Law.” Those who make this claim see grace as liberating and Law as legalistic. They want to be “free” in Jesus from any onerous, legal burdens, any demanding list of “do’s and don’ts”, any obligatory directives that might prevent them from “following the leading of the Spirit” in any situation.
Jesus, such people insist, has done away with any need for the Law of God. If we just look to Him, cling to Him, and love like Him, we’ll know the freedom of God’s Spirit to spread His love abroad through us as each situation or opportunity requires.
Well, that sounds real nice. Except that it indicates a mind wholly opposite to the mind of Christ and completely out of accord with the purpose and nature of grace.
Consider the Law
Let’s consider just a few basic things about the Law of God. First, the Law was given to a people who had experienced God’s saving grace, so that they might continue and abound in that grace by understanding the basic parameters of what love for God and neighbors requires. The first four of the Ten Commandments, and all their supporting statutes and rules, outline how we may express and grow in love for God. The last six of the commandments, together with their supporting rules and statutes, do the same for practicing neighbor love.
This is the path Jesus walked as He was among us on earth, and it is the path He commands us to walk as well (1 Jn. 2.1-6). If we want to think with the mind of Christ, so that we live the life of a follower of Christ, we’ll need to bring our thinking more into line with the teaching of God’s Law. Paul insisted that, just because the Law can’t save us doesn’t mean we don’t establish it as the foundation of things holy and righteous and good (Rom. 3.31; 7.12). Jesus explained that greatness in the Kingdom lies along the path of learning, obeying, and teaching the Law of God (Matt. 5.17-19). The Apostle John, echoing our Lord Jesus, summarized the teaching of the Law as love (1 Jn. 5.1-3; Matt. 22.34-40). And the Apostle James described the Law of God as the “perfect law of liberty,” and insisted that all believers should strive to live by this standard (Jms. 2.8-10).
The Law of God encodes the mind of the Spirit of God, as Paul explained in our text. God has written His Law on our hearts, as those who are made in His image (Rom. 2.14, 15). However, our sojourn in sin has obscured the role of the Law in growing us into the mind of God, to love Him and our neighbors. Thus, when God gives us His Spirit, He immediately begins to redress this situation, setting up shop in our souls to teach us the Law of God, and to make us willing and able to obey it (Ezek. 36.26, 27; Phil. 2.13). The more we submit to His teaching, the more we grow beyond the letter of the Law – as if the Law were something we have to “look up” at any moment, in order to know what we must do – into the Spirit of Law, Who forms us by the Law and Word of God into the image of our Lord Jesus Christ, beginning with our minds.
If you find yourself opposed to reading, meditating in, learning, obeying, and teaching the Law of God (cf. Ps. 1), then no matter how ardently you insist that you are “under grace, not Law,” you are in fact living out of a carnal mind, a mind dead-set against the Spirit’s work of forming you into the mind and image of Jesus Christ.
What to do?
How do we extricate ourselves from this snare? By following the counsel of Scripture concerning the Law of God. The Law of God is the cornerstone and footprint of all Scripture. It is the acorn to the oak of divine revelation. All the prophets point back to the Law as the way into the promises of God. All the New Testament assumes the Law and the promises as the guardrails along the path of sanctification. We must make growing in the Law of God a more central focus in our effort to become mature in the mind of Christ.
Begin by memorizing the Ten Commandments, and praying through them regularly, stopping on each one to allow the Spirit to search your heart and mind, and to surface any failures of omission or commission where each commandment is concerned.
Enroll in the Spirit’s school of Law, and study the statutes, precepts, rules, and counsels of Exodus through Deuteronomy, giving greater attention to how the civil codes given here help us to understand the application of the Ten Commandments in everyday situations. Read some books on the Law of God, so that you learn how to interpret the Law today. We do live in the age of grace, and, as the New Testament indicates, that does not negate the Law, but it affects the way we apply the commandments and statutes of God. But we’ll need to train ourselves to think with the mind of Christ and the Spirit concerning how the Law, applied in our lives and times, can help to bring to light more love for God and our neighbors.
You will not make progress in the mind of Christ, or in His grace, if you use “grace” as an excuse for not learning, obeying, and teaching the Law of God. Don’t let grace, wrongly understood, distract or divert you from growing to maturity in the mind of Christ.
1. Why do you think so many Christians are averse to learning and obeying God’s Law?
2. What’s the difference between working for your salvation and working out your salvation? What role does the Law play in bringing us to salvation, and in helping us to grow in it?
3. Meditate on Psalm 1. Why is neglecting the Law of God living out of a carnal mind, rather than the mind of the Spirit?
Next steps – Preparation: What can you do to bring more consistent and fruitful reading and study of God’s Law into your regimen of spiritual disciplines? Talk with a Christian friend about this question.
T. M. Moore
This is part 8, the final installment of a series on the Christian mind. To download this week’s study as a free PDF, click here.
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Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Not under Law?
- T.M. Moore
- March 1, 2017
Do you really understand grace?
Pitfalls for the Mind (3)
T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in Essex Junction, VT.