Have you ever wondered why there are commands in the New Testament? This used to trouble me. If the good news is all about God’s free gift of forgiveness that we can never earn but only receive by faith, why do Jesus and Paul and John and the rest of them give us things to do? What’s the point, unless to earn forgiveness?
The problem is in our definition of salvation. If we equate salvation with forgiveness, biblical commands make no sense. If all there is to the gospel is the message our sins can be forgiven and we can go to heaven when we die, it makes very little sense to read the Bible at all, much less obey the commands.
But what if the commands aren’t there to make us measure up, but simply to help us reduce our inborn resistance to the life of God flowing through us?
But, as I’ve written before, there’s way more to salvation than getting our sins forgiven. From the biblical perspective, the good news is that life in God’s kingdom is available to us here and now by trusting Jesus Christ. Salvation, then, is not just about getting our sins forgiven so we can go to heaven when we die, it’s about participating in the life of God here and now.
When we understand salvation in this more holistic sense, biblical commands start to make more sense. If we are called to participate in the life of God by following Jesus, we need the power of God to flow through us like it did through Jesus. Because we are “in Christ,” the unlimited power of the Spirit is available to us in the same way it was available to Jesus. So if we’re not seeing the same things happening through our lives, what’s the issue?
Resistance is the issue. In any electrical conductor, the power flowing out is equal to the power flowing in divided by the resistance (Ohm’s law). High resistance = low power. Low resistance = high power. Jesus had no resistance, and thus God’s power flowed unhindered through his life. The unlimited power of the Spirit is available to us, just like it was for Jesus, but resistance will cause it to be unable to flow through us.
So what’s the spiritual resistance that hinders the flow of God’s life? Fear, anxiety, unbelief, bitterness, unforgiveness, impatience, etc. My friend Eric Pfeiffer puts it this way, “Where these things live in our hearts they quench the Holy Spirit; they are barriers to the love of God, who longs to fill us and be released through us to accomplish His work through us.”
This is why we are urged to get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, to be compassionate and love our enemies and practice hospitality and be devoted to one another in love and take up our cross and forgive one another. The commands are there to reduce the resistance.
Read through the Scriptures below, but instead of seeing them as shame-inducing guilt-trips (“You’re not getting it right!”), look at them as practices that will reduce your resistance to the life, peace, and power of God flowing into and through you.
- Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.*
- Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position.*
- Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.*
- Do not be anxious about anything.*
- Forgive as the Lord forgave you.*
Obeying these commands isn’t about earning anything, it’s about living in the kingdom and being transformed by the power of God! This is why the Psalmist was so giddy about God’s commands; obedience to them reduces the resistance in the conductor that is our lives and enables us to more fully participate in the life of God here and now, allowing the Spirit free reign in our lives so God’s will can be done on earth as it is in heaven.