Freeing Power: Marrying Jesus

Jesus is offering us a relationship with Him that is free from the law. Once we reach a point of brokenness and are in Him, there is no condemnation. Now it's based on a relationship of love and marriage to Jesus.

1987

Who are YOU married to?

There are three lives we can live on planet earth—three marriages, if you will. Ponder these things with me. You’re not going to be able to read these things with half of your brain and understand anything that I’m saying, so you’ll really have to stay close to me.

Married to the World

There are three lives that we can live. One is that we can be married to the world and to the world system. That’s where our affection is placed, that’s where our time is spent.

Married to the Law

Secondly, we can be married to what I’ll call the law, for reasons you’ll see in a little while. I’m not talking about the Ten Commandments, but about dos and don’ts. There are things I need to do—and they’re right, so I should be doing them. And there are things that I shouldn’t do, and for sure it’s right that I should keep from doing them. Yet, that’s our marriage. We’re married to this system of truth. In the third marriage, we can have a groom by the name of Jesus. I submit to you that most of the problems you will have in life come either by still being married to the world’s system, or more likely, to the religious system (the law)—it has to do with being married to the law, being married to a system of truth. The law is one hundred percent correct, mind you. I’m not demeaning the value of the law, and we’ll talk about that also. The law is true, but our marriage can’t be there, because if it is, we’re going to be in a lot of trouble. Look at 2 Corinthians 11:2. We see there the intention of an apostle of God who had been caught up into the third heaven and heard unspeakable things, things that he was not allowed to say to anyone else. He said, “I am jealous for you with Godly jealousy. I promised you to one husband, to Christ, so that I might present you as a pure virgin to Him.” The intention of this Apostle was to present these people who were very dear to him, to Jesus Christ. He desired that they would be a pure virgin presented spotless and blameless, without any wrinkles or blemish, to the groom, Jesus Christ.

Now, back to Romans, chapter 7. You remember chapter 6 talks about people that say, “We want to go on sinning so that grace may increase.” The comment that Paul makes is “Can we go on sinning? Of course not! What a ghastly thought! That’s impossible! Don’t you realize that you have the seed of divinity in you and that’s not your nature anymore?” Like the prodigal son, our nature is not to live in the pigpen anymore. When the son came to his senses he said, “I’m not a pig. I have the nature of my father. I refuse to live in the pig pen anymore.” What’s being said is this: Don’t you know that you have the seed of God Almighty, the Creator, Who is all Goodness and Love and Holiness, inside you? The Holy Spirit could have been called a lot of things like the “Loving Spirit” or the “Truthful Spirit.” Those are His qualities, but God chose His primary name to be the Holy Spirit. When that Holy Spirit’s in us, how can we go on living in sin? Don’t you know that you’ve died to sin and buried that sin under the water? No longer offer your bodies as slaves to sin. Offer your bodies as slaves to Christ instead. Reckon yourselves dead to sin, see what Christ has done in you and walk in it, walk in it, walk in it. Until it is finished, walk in it!

That’s what chapter 6 is all about. He said in verse 21, “What benefit did you reap at that time, from the things that you’re now ashamed of?” Think back on it, be reasonable: what good did the world’s system do for you? Did it really offer you heavenly realms? No! You know you were miserable. You remember the stress. You know how it gave you ulcers, how it aged you and tormented your soul with frustration, and robbed you of sleep. Remember how you were captivated by things that didn’t bring you any long-term satisfaction? Then Romans 6 has a powerful message! Our life has got to be one that’s reckoned—an accounting term—as dead to sin. The books are closed. Draw two lines under it, because it’s finished. Reckon your lives dead to sin, and grab hold of it.

Now all the sin talk in chapter 7 seems like Paul has gone off the deep end. He starts talking about marriage. What’s he up to here? “The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is Eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Remember there’s no chapter breaks. “Do you not know brothers—for I am speaking to men who know the law—that the law has authority over a man only as long as he lives? For example, law binds a married woman to her husband as long as he is alive. But if her husband dies she is released from the law of marriage. So then, if she marries another man while her husband is still alive then she is called an adulteress. But, if her husband dies she is released from the law and is not an adulteress, even if she marries another man.”

Paul, what are you doing here? You spend all of chapter 6 talking about reckoning yourselves dead to sin, and then you end it all by saying “The wages of sin is death,” and then all of a sudden you talk about marriage? “Well, don’t you know that a person is married as long as the partners are a part of each other’s life? But, if one of the partners does happen to die, that bond is broken and the other partner is free to remarry. But, if they remarry before the marriage bond is broken by death, that’s adultery.” He goes on rambling about marriage, and you kind of bob your head and say, “Okay that’s a great teaching about marriage. I receive that Paul, way to go. But what are you talking about?” You’ll see what we’re talking about in just a little while.

He goes on to talk about the law, and how it brought this wretchedness into his heart: “What shall we say then? Is the law sin? Certainly not.” Nothing wrong with the law! “Indeed I would not have known what sin was except through the law. For I would not known what it is to covet if the law hadn’t said ‘do not covet.’ But sin seizing the opportunity afforded by the commandment, produced in me every covetous desire. For apart from the law, sin is dead. Once I was alive apart from law; but when the commandment came, sin sprang to life and I died. I found that the very commandment that was intended to bring life actually brought death. For sin, seizing the opportunity afforded by the commandment, deceived me, and through the commandment put me to death. So then, the law is Holy, the commandment is Holy, Righteous and Good.”

Now I want to ask you this question about verse 9: “Once I was alive apart from the law, but when the commandment came, sin sprang to life and I died.” When was Paul alive apart from the law? Well, who did the law have power over? Who was it written for? The Jews. When was Paul not a Jew? He was not a Christian prior to his conversion, but wasn’t he a Jew from the day he was born? On the eighth day circumcised, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Pharisee, son of a Pharisee, Hebrew of Hebrews, zealous beyond his peers, and flawless in legalistic righteousness—a Jew to the max! Think about it. Paul says “Once I was alive apart from the law,” and we reply, “Come on—that’s impossible, Paul. When were you alive apart from the law? The law was bound to every Jew the minute he was born. He was under the old covenant from day one. He was Jew and therefore accountable to the law.” Paul answers, “No, I was alive apart from the law once upon a time.” Now how do you understand that? Got any theories? : )

Paul thought he could keep the law. He didn’t understand. But look what happened: “But when the commandment came, sin sprang to life and I died.” When did the commandment come? “On mount Sinai! What are you talking about Paul?” If it hadn’t come to him—if sin had not sprung to life in him and he had not died—he would have continued functioning in this Jewish system, struggling to surpass his peers and to be something special to the Kingdom of God. He was trying to obey Jehovah God—a True God, not a false god—and a true system of law. Paul said, “The commandment’s good. It’s Holy and right. I don’t have any beef with the law.” But there came a time when the Law came, sin sprang to life and he died.

Do you know when Paul died? I just for the life of me cannot think of a time prior to the Damascus road. I tried and tried and to think how that could apply to any other incident in his life other than when he saw Truth. He knew truth, but he hadn’t seen Truth, until he “saw the Righteous One.” He saw the Truth about the Commandment when he saw its Fulfillment. Jesus said, “I didn’t come to take the law away—I would never do that. I came to fulfill it. I came to be it.” That was His purpose. “The Word became flesh and dwelt for awhile among us.” All the righteousness, all the Glory of the Father, all the Holiness of all the Heavenly Realms, stepped foot on planet earth and then rose up to the right hand of the Father. When Paul saw the Righteous One, sin sprang to life and he died. He spent three days on Straight Street, crying his eyes out. He was blind, fasting and praying. Now, finally, he’s come to grips with the Truth. Sin sprang to life and he died.

So, why did Paul talk about marriage? What’s he getting at? You’ve got to understand it in light of the fullness of what the Holy Spirit was saying to those people. First, as religious as Paul was, he was still married to the world’s system. The commandment hadn’t come, so he wasn’t under the law yet—he hadn’t seen Righteousness. He hadn’t seen the Holiness of God or His commandment yet. So, he’s still married to the world’s system. There’s no other choice if he hasn’t seen the law. But, then he said the law came and he died. What was the result? “Sin seizing the opportunity authored by the commandments produced in me every kind of covetous desire.” We know he goes on to say, “I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin, I do not understand what I do but what I want to I do not do and what I hate to do I do. When I do what I do when I don’t want to do, do I agree that the law’s no good? No, it’s not the law’s fault.” Then he goes on to talk about how “nothing good lives in me (that is in my sinful nature).” He discusses all these things and he talks about this war that’s being waged.

Paul wrote to the Church in Galatia. In chapter 5 he said, “The spirit and the flesh wage war against each other.” Galatia said, “Amen brother. We know about that.” So that’s what Paul’s discussing: this war that’s waging in us. “Who among you has passionate temptations that I don’t inwardly burn also? I know what that’s about,” he said. So here’s this law of the sinful nature: while he’s married to the law sin springs up and seizes the opportunity and chokes him to death. So now he’s in the religious system. “Sin sprang up because of the law.” The law is good, but now it’s choking him to death. It’s got him by the throat, and it’s throwing him this way and that way.

Now, let me give you a few practical illustrations. How much did you guys pray this morning when you woke up? How much did you read the Word within this past week? What did you do for anybody? When was the last time you went to a prison? When was the last time you went out of your way to spend time with a widow? That’s the definition of pure religion by God’s book. Have you forsaken the assembly lately? Have you been selfish lately? Did you get out of bed too late and did you speak sharp words to your wife or your husband? I could go on forever. What do you do in a case like that? I submit this to you: the commandment is good. I’m not talking about the Ten Commandments—I’m talking about the law of the righteousness of God. The commandment comes and shoves itself in your face. Sin seizes the opportunity and chokes you to death. If you’re honestly seeking the things of God you’re gonna feel guilty, because you don’t read your Bible as much as somebody else does. “Man, I must be really wicked because when I pray I don’t seem to experience what everybody else does. And I don’t even get any answers from prayer. I must be really wicked.”

So self-condemnation, fear, competitiveness, and envy—just name it—spring out of this marriage to a “good” law. The commandments are right. Of course you should read your Bible, of course you should have good prayer time, and of course you should live sacrificially and spend time with the widows and the orphans and the prisoners and the hungry and the poor. Of course you should do those things. That’s the law, which is good, and right, and true. Those are the requirements of the law. When you’re married to the law, it will shove it in your face and it will reap condemnation, and bitterness, envy, and despair. “I can’t do it! I just can’t do it. I try so hard and it doesn’t work.” Then you repent of that and by self-will you say, “I’m going to do better.” And you do better for a while, and then you judge everybody else that isn’t doing better, and then you fall on your face. Then you realize how pitiful you are, and you’re not going to make it. “I gave it my best shot. I did the best I could. And it’s not working. I don’t have it. I can’t make it.” But, after awhile, you think, “well, maybe I can make it.” The pain wears off and you decide to give it another shot. The cycle just continues to go on and on.

I want to say this to you, if you’ve ever experienced those things: Ask yourself in a quiet place sometime whether you are not, in fact, married to the law. The commandments are good and right. I’m not talking about the Ten Commandments. I’m talking about the righteousness of God. The requirements are all right and Biblical and accurate, yet if you’re experiencing the fruit of envy, self-condemnation, judgment, comparison, or despair, then you are married to that second party, to the law.

“Remember that the law has authority over a man as long as he lives. For example, by law a married woman is bound to her husband as long as he’s alive. But if her husband dies, she is released from the law of marriage. So then, if she marries another man while her husband is still alive, she is called an adulteress. But if her husband dies, she is released from the law and is not an adulteress, even though she marries another man.” And he goes on and begins to open up a window on what in the world he’s talking about. “So, my brothers, you also died to the law”—To the righteousness of the requirements of the externals.—”that you might belong to another.” The King James literally says “being married to another,” someone other than this system of belief and truth, in order that we might bear fruit to God. See, we’ll never bear the seed of God if, in fact, we’re married to something that’s not of God. That’s really what I’m saying: the requirements, the righteous requirements of the law are not God. They’re only about God; they’re not God. What a tremendous difference that is!

Can you imagine being married to a slave driver who’s always right? That is what actually is happening, you see. “Of course that’s right—of course I should always get up on time. Of course I should always put the lid on the shampoo. Of course I should keep the house clean—it should be clean when he comes home from work.” “Of course I should provide a good living for my family, but here I am making minimum wage. I’m embarrassed, and she’s right.” Take whatever system of things you want to talk about and imagine a slave-driver that demands all these things, and as hard as you think about it, they are always right. That’s true, I should do that. I should do that, but they’re all externals, every one of them. The harder you try to keep those things the more you find out that you didn’t do, and on and on it goes through the day. Then there’s self-condemnation, because he’s right—I should do these things. I shouldn’t lose my keys, I shouldn’t lose my car, whatever the “shouldn’t” happens to be. The law is right; the law is good. Whatever this person is saying to me is good and right, and so it comes to self-condemnation. Then comes the rebellion: “I don’t have to put up with this. He can’t talk to me this way.” This rebellion will happen against God too, if we’re married to the law. “I’m going to live by grace. Forget all this law stuff. I’m going to do it my way.” That becomes putting yourself on the throne. Then, ultimately, you realize: That’s wrong; that can’t be true. God did say to do that. This person was right; I really shouldn’t lose my car. Whatever it may be, it’s all externals. Every bit of it is a laundry list, twelve things that I’m supposed to do today, and I only got to eleven. What’s going to happen when he gets home? I’m going to get beat on, and I deserve it too. That’s the worst part—I deserve it.

Now that’s being married to the externals. Here’s what Paul is getting at when he’s speaking about marriage: If that’s your situation there’s no way out. The law says that you are under the authority of this marriage bond as long as both partners are alive. As long as both partners are alive you cannot remarry Christ. There’s nothing you can do about it. We’re bound as long as we’re alive to this marriage. There is no other choice. We can’t deal with that. But then he goes on to say, “My brothers, you’ve died to the system of truth that held you in bondage, that made you feel oppressed, that seized the opportunity and choked you.” You died to those things through Jesus’ physical body on earth, “…that you might belong to another, to Him who was raised from the dead, in order that we might bear fruit to God. For when we were controlled by the sinful nature, the sinful passions aroused by the law were at work in our bodies so that we bore fruit for death. But now, by dying to what bound us, we have been released from the law so that we serve in the new way of the spirit, and not in the old way of the written code.”

Can you see what’s starting to happen to him? “By dying to what bound us.” That system of things held us rigidly and choked us. “I gotta do this, I can’t do that, I want to do that, this person is better than me”—all of this stuff going on. “But by dying to what bound us,” he said, we can go on and in fact marry the one who has risen from the dead. We’ve been released from the law to serve in a new way. There’s a new way of serving God, the way of the spirit in place of the old way of the written covenant.

Now, if you can picture what’s happening: Jesus is watching us. He’s seen us marry the law now. With all our heart we want to be religious and keep that law. Paul never said he didn’t want to obey. That’s ridiculous—of course he wanted to keep the law, but he couldn’t. It didn’t work. As hard as he tried, it just aroused his sinful nature and made him all the more likely to sin. So, Jesus Christ is watching this marriage, and he sees the requirements of the law are right. This husband or wife that we’re married to is 100% correct. So, Jesus condemns us, too. He says, “Yeah, you ought to be doing that. That’s absolutely right. You should be getting up earlier. You should be praying more and better. You should be studying more and better. You should be fellowshipping more. You should be doing less of this and more of that.” Jesus looks and says, “The law is Good, Holy, and Right.” That’s what the Word of God says, right? The commandment isn’t wrong—it’s right.” Even the Holy eyes of Jesus look at us and condemn us. So here’s the difference: Jesus looks at this marriage and has compassion. He says, “I see the pain in your eyes. Ohhhhh, I see the pain in your eyes. I see the futility and despair. I see the passions that go up and down, up and down like a roller coaster. I see everything.” He has compassion and sheds a tear and says, “I know this is true about the law, which is eternal, that a man or a woman is bound as long as both partners live. There has to be a death here, or this marriage will go on forever.” So it says that Jesus substituted death for us. We can receive His death and join ourselves to it. “Don’t you know that as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have been baptized into His death?” We have shared in His death, by dying to sin and the sinful passions, by choosing to join ourselves to the death of Christ and His Holiness. Now this other marriage can be broken. Now we look at Jesus, and He’s died.

Married to Jesus

Imagine somebody breaking into this house, busting open the front door, and pointing a gun at Sam. Then somebody else stands in the way and receives the bullet. Let’s say Sam is single, okay? This person dies for him on the spot. Now Sam realizes that a life was spent, and by all rights it should have been his. That attacker was after him, no question about it. The crime was premeditated, but was meant for him. This other person died in order that he wouldn’t have to. Don’t take those words in some trite way because you’ve heard them for so many years. But this person literally died and Sam deserved to, no question about it. He was guilty. He did exactly what that person who was shooting him said he did. He was guilty. He should have died, but another person died. But as Sam’s standing over a pool of blood and the dead body, that person is raised from the dead.

Here’s what I would like you to paint a picture of in your mind: Would it be hard to fall in love with a person like that? That wasn’t some act of chivalry. That was the nature of His life, to be a slain lamb and give His life as a ransom: His very nature was to wash people’s feet and serve them—never lording it over them, but pouring out His life for ungrateful people that will never learn. “When I return to earth will I find faith here?” He looks at you guys and admits that it’s hopeless. Yet He goes on loving and laying down His life. Can you imagine falling in love with a Person like that, a person who gave his life and now has risen from the dead? Really grab a hold of what actually happened there, in your life. Now, this person is raised up from the dead and proposes to you. He gets down on His knees and says, “Will you marry me?”

“Me? I don’t deserve that. I should be dead. Don’t you know my history? I can’t do anything right. I keep messing it up. I could try to paint a picture of my own righteousness, but in my heart I know it doesn’t work that way. I have these passions just like everybody else. I’ll try and talk myself out of it, but it doesn’t work. I ought to die!” All of a sudden, you can fall in love with somebody like that.

It’s easy to see now that if this person presented you with righteous things to do, it wouldn’t be external anymore. Now you’ve joined your heart to them. In fact, whatever you see in that person’s requirements, that person’s will, you want to go beyond. You LOVE this person. You’re passionately in love with Him and so eternally grateful, that you want to serve Him with all of your heart. You want to do anything—slippers, newspaper, whatever they ask. You want to go the whole way with it and give ten times more. You want to shower them with gifts, on and on and on…. Now, to make the bed, which was a hassle (man what a hassle!), is a joy. Reading the Bible used to make you bored out of your gourd. “I don’t get anything out of it, and I don’t see how anybody else can, either. I have to pray again. I guess somebody is going to embarrass me to pray in a restaurant, too. What a hassle!” Well that’s what it was like in a previous marriage. It’s no longer a hassle when you’re in love with a person that you’re married to. You want to go wherever. If you can just catch the slightest idea that they might have some desire, you want to double that, because of your gratitude and your love.

In 2 Corinthians 6:10 it says, “He who unites himself with the Lord is one with Him in spirit.” Right before that it says, “The two must become one flesh.” What does that remind you of? Marriage, right? “The two become one flesh and the one who unites himself with the Lord, that person becomes one with Him in spirit.” Now if you’ve been married for awhile you know so much of what your spouse wants that you can even predict it, without them having to say a word. You join yourself to their mind and their desires. You pattern yourself according to them and begin to comprehend what pleases them. That’s what is being said here. You’re married to somebody that you’re genuinely in love with, and the two of you become one flesh. It’s not an external thing: “Yeah, I vowed in my marriage that I would obey him and follow him, so I guess I better do that to keep my promise.” That’s marriage to the law. But when you’re in love, you’re one with them in spirit. You don’t wait for something to be said, because you know their minds, and hearts. You go beyond even their most trivial or most demanding requirements—nothing’s too much. “You’re not your own, you were bought for a price.” There is nothing God could ever ask me to do that is too much or that’s a hassle. It’s impossible.

Adultery

So, that’s what’s happening in this marriage with Jesus: He’s been raised from the dead, and has proposed marriage to us. We accept with our whole hearts and begin to walk in this thing and enjoy it. James 4:4 talks about the person who chooses to love the world and so becomes an enemy of God. Familiar with that verse? I’m sure you will want to underline it. Does anybody remember the phrase right before that? “You adulterous people.” There’s adultery going on here. That’s why it’s such a problem—not because it’s some external requirement of the law, but because you’ve fallen in love with something other than Christ. You’ve become an adulterer. You’ve made a covenant with Jesus Christ, and you’re bound as long as you live to Him. When you fall in love with the world you have committed adultery.

Imagine driving down the road with your spouse, and you’re just deeply in love with this person. With all your heart you love them and cherish them. They’re the apple of your eye. It’s such a glorious relationship. But you’re driving through some neighborhood, and then all of a sudden your spouse knocks you on the shoulder and says, “Pull over right here.”

You say, “Why?”

“Just pull over right here.”

“Okay.”

“I’m going to get out of the car now. I’ll see you all later. Kiss the children for me and I’ll be back.”

You say, “What in the world are you talking about?”

“Well, I have a lover who lives right here. I’m just going to spend a few days with them. I’ll be right back. Don’t worry about it—I still love you. I do—I love you. I love my children, and we have a wonderful family, but I’ve got this person at work and, well, you’d like them, too. They’re just really special, and I’ve fallen in love with them. I’m just going to be here for a couple of days. Never mind. I’ll be back—I promise.” So they get out of the car and your head just hits the steering wheel, tears flying. How could it be?

Now, that’s what happens when we fall in love with the things of the world. This one who died for us has risen from the dead in all beauty and holiness and service and love. All the wonders of the universe are in this person. He has cherished you and pursued you, and He’s gotten on His knees and proposed to you. You weren’t worthy of it to begin with, but now you say, “Pull over the car. I’ll be right back—no problem. I really do love you.”

Jesus says, “How could it be? I don’t understand this. ‘You adulterous people, don’t you know that he who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God.’” There’s adultery involved in loving the world’s system.

“On the day you were born your cord was not cut, nor were you washed with water to make you clean, nor were you rubbed with salt or wrapped in cloths. No one looked on you with pity or had compassion enough to do any of these thing for you. Rather, you were thrown out into the open field, for on the day you were born you were despised.

“Then I passed by and saw you kicking about in your blood, and as you lay there in your blood I said to you, ‘Live!’ I made you grow like a plant of the field. You grew up and developed and became the most beautiful jewels. Your breasts were formed and your hair grew, you who were naked and bare.

“Later I passed by, and when I looked at you and saw that you were old enough for love, I spread the corner of my garment over you and covered your nakedness. I gave you my solemn oath and entered into a covenant with you, declares the Sovereign Lord, and you became mine.

“I bathed you with water and washed the blood from you and put ointments on you. I clothed you with an embroidered dress and put leather sandals on you. I dressed you in fine linen and covered you with costly garments. I adorned you with jewelry: I put bracelets on your arms…. Your food was fine flour, honey and olive oil. You became very beautiful and rose to be a queen. And your fame spread among the nations on account of your beauty, because the splendor I had given you made your beauty perfect, declares the Sovereign Lord. (Ezekiel 16:4-14)

“In all your detestable practices and your prostitution you did not remember the days of your youth, when you were naked and bare, kicking about in your blood.” You never realized where I found you. “Woe! Woe to you, declares the Sovereign Lord. In addition to all your other wickedness, you built a mound for yourself and made a lofty shrine in every public square.” Ponder… “At the head of every street you built your lofty shrines and degraded your beauty, offering your body with increasing promiscuity to anyone who passed by. You engaged in prostitution with the Egyptians…” (Ezekiel 16:22-23)

All the way through the Bible the Egyptians represent the world system. The world pursues us, we who’ve escaped from it. Through the grace of God the horse and rider are tossed into the sea, and we move out ultimately into land flowing with milk and honey. But in Ezekiel God’s saying that you engaged in prostitution to the Egyptians, to the world’s system, to “your lustful neighbors, and provoked Me to anger with your increasing promiscuity. So I stretched out my hand against you and reduced your territory.”

“When you built your mound at the head at every street and made your lofty shrines in every public square, you were unlike a prostitute because you scorned payment. You adulterous wife! You prefer strangers to your own husband! Every prostitute receives a fee, but you give gifts to all your lovers, bribing them to come to you from everywhere for your illicit favors. So in your prostitution you are the opposite of others; no one runs after you for your favors. You are the very opposite, for you give payment and none is given to you.”

So, Jesus found us in a field kicking in our blood. The cord wasn’t cut. We were there, we were dying and nobody cared about us. You know that was true in your life. Anybody would have sold you for a plugged nickel if given half a chance. Yeah, I had a blast for a while, but just think about it: nobody would have any allegiance to you whatsoever. As long as you have the toys they play with, as long as you have the money or the personality, then it’s fine. But put yourself in a wheelchair somewhere without any personality or money or toys or position, and see if they care. That’s what God is saying. “I cared when there was nothing attractive about you. You were kicking in your blood. You were nothing.” “Once you were not a people but I made you my precious possession,” Peter said. And so Jesus lifted up this person and cleaned him—and that is you, that is me. And when he saw we were old enough for love, He spread a garment over us and made a covenant with us. We became His and we joined ourselves to Him. He adorned us with clothing and silver. He fed us manna from heaven. He kept on loving us. We became queens in the sight of God. Our natural beauty was added to by His splendor. It was a beautiful relationship.

But He said, “You loved the world and chased after it. The world didn’t chase you. The world didn’t make you do anything, but you sold yourself for nothing. You became a prostitute and gave them good gifts. You pursued them. Here I am—I’m your lover, your husband, but you’re running away from me. I don’t understand it. Think about it—you’ve forgotten where I found you. You’ve forgotten who you were apart from me. Remember! Don’t let your splendor go to you head.” Now that’s what happened here in Romans 7 and in James 4:4. Jesus is saying, “Remember where you’ve come from!”

When we hear those words we’re either cut to the heart or very, very hardened, which is a sad fate. Your opportunity before God is to join yourself to Him in marriage and be free from bondage to the regulations. It’s a wonderful thing! I’ve heard the old covenant was nailed to the cross until the cows come home. But I want to tell you something: “The law is a schoolmaster, a tutor that leads us to Christ.” You all know that verse, right? That’s not saying that the Old Testament was a forerunner that ultimately dropped Jesus in front of us. That’s saying that the law drives us into the ground. Paul says, “I can’t do it. I want to, and the requirements are righteous, but I can’t do it. I can’t do it. I can’t do it!” The word “tutor,” schoolmaster, was a Greek word for a slave was assigned to drive that child to school with a stick. The slave didn’t teach once they arrived. His only job was to make sure the little child got to school and didn’t play hooky. Paul says that the law was a slave assigned to drive us to school, to make sure that we learned our lesson. Can you relate to that? Do you know what the law did? It led us into the arms of Jesus. We were cowering at the pain of all these requirements of life: “I can’t do it. I’m helpless. I’m pitiful. I’m wretched, blind, and naked. I can’t do it!” And the schoolmaster drove us to our only recourse—to fall into the arms of Christ.

That’s the law’s job, and we still need it. That’s still good and righteous. The commandments still need to come. We need to unmarry ourselves from the world’s system, like those men who were cut to the heart on the day of Pentecost. That cutting came because they saw the law, they saw its requirements, and they saw their sin. Remember in Romans 3 it says that the “Law was given to make us conscious of sin… No one is righteous, not even one. Your mouths are open graves, nobody does good; you’re all the same, you all sin and fall short of the glory of God.” Again, “The law was given to make us conscious of sin.” That’s the same thing that Paul said in Romans 7, right? Romans 3 goes on to say, “There’s no one who will be declared righteous aside by observing the law.” That marriage won’t do you any good. “Rather through the law we become conscious of sin, but now righteousness from God apart from the law has been made known, which the law and prophets testify. This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe… There’s no difference: For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God and are justified freely by his grace, by the redemption that came by Jesus Christ.” Paul was saying, “The law makes us conscious of sin. The law makes us die—the commandment comes, sin springs up, we see all these things within us, and it drives us to a total helplessness in the sight of God.” We have no choice but to fall into the arms of someone who genuinely loves us. And now those commandments are no longer grievous, but they’re a joy. I’d rather be a doorkeeper in the household of God than to be bound to the law, and be in a system that drives me and is trying to modify my behavior all the time, and trying to choke me to death. The life that is really life—abundant life—comes from having intimacy in the life of Jesus Christ and a depth of love that says, “There’s no requirement that’s a hassle—none whatsoever.” That’s true of everybody who’s married to Jesus, every single one. There’s nothing that is too great to offer, nothing is too big of a requirement, absolutely nothing.

We talked about in verse 5, “When we were controlled by the sinful nature, the sinful passions aroused by the law were at work within our bodies as we bore fruit for death, and now by dying to what once bound us we have been released from the law, so that we serve in a new way of the Spirit, and not in the old way of the covenant.” 2 Corinthians 5:16-17 says: “We are a new creation. The old has gone, the new has come! We no longer see men after the flesh, though we once saw even Christ that way.” We once saw even Christ after the flesh. He was one more “thing,” one more commandment, one more demand for being Holy—and one more condemnation to my soul, because I couldn’t do anything He said. He said, “When you have a feast, don’t invite your friends. They might actually pay you back. Rather, invite the poor, the naked and the blind.” How many of you have done that? I mean, the old law says, “Do not commit adultery, but I say to you if lust is in your heart you’re guilty of adultery, and are worthy of death.” One more commandment even harder than the old one!

We once saw even Jesus after the flesh, but I want to tell you something new: Now I can live for Him who died for me and rose from the dead. I can fall in love with somebody like that. I don’t have to look back. I don’t have to feel guilty and oppressed by the requirements of the law anymore. I have found Truth, and it’s not something that has been shoved into my face that I’m supposed to keep. Now I have married myself to Truth. Truth is a person; don’t tell me you know truth if you don’t have intimacy with Jesus and if you’re not free from this bondage to requirements. You don’t know Truth. Jesus said, “I am the Way.” Don’t tell me you know the way just because your studied your Bible. You only know the way if you have intimacy with Jesus.

The Limousine Ride

This is exactly what we do: we walk all over town saying, “How do I get to Joe’s Diner? How do I find eternal life?” We ask here, we ask there, but we keep finding these different directions. “Go down three miles, then turn left, turn right, go to the second stop light, turn left, hop in a cab, go….” All this stuff—but we realize once we get three steps into it, that we don’t remember anything that was said. If we make one wrong turn, then we blow it. Anybody ever feel that way about Christianity—one wrong turn and it’s all over with? “I’m going to blow it and there will be no hope for me now. One wrong turn and all the other directions don’t work anymore.” So we ask everyone that we can find, “How do I have eternal Life? Teach me something else.” And here’s what happens: One day finally somebody pulls up. Jesus is there in a limousine. You say, “How do I get to Joe’s diner?” You’re weary and heavy laden, and you’re not going to make it. But then He says “Get in. I’ll take you there.”

You can try to learn all about the way by finding all these good directions and trying to keep all of them, but you’ll become very, very conscious of sin. I don’t care who is in this room right now. Every one of you presently, in your life, is so far short of the Glory of God. Let’s go back to where we were. How many of you have had the poor, the lame, and the blind into your home? Well, that’s a requirement of God. Who would dare disobey God? Who among you can say you’re holy and righteous, but you never kept that command? You know that the wages of sin is death. You’re dead meat! You’re gone. It’s over with. As long as we’re living that way, it piles up in our face, and it’s the condemnation of, “I can’t do it.” Ultimately the only solution is for the limousine doors to swing open and for you say, “I give up.” The schoolmaster has driven me right into that limousine, and now I’m in the Way.

Don’t you ever say that I am in Christ, but I’m not in the Way! I may make a mistake or two. I don’t ever intend to, and I don’t ever want to do it again. But if I am in the Way, “There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” Who can lay any charge against God’s elect? We’ve moved from Romans 7 to Romans 8! “If God be for us who can be against us? If He gave His son for us, how much more will He freely give us all things.” All of these things are dependent on our being in Truth, being in the Way, being in the Life—who is JESUS, who IS JESUS. “Who will free me from this body of death?” Oh, wretched man I am. I have only one recourse, and that is to marry Jesus. Until the law has made you conscious of sin and the schoolmaster, the tutor, has driven you to your hands and your knees and you say, “Brother, what can we do?” You’re going to be married to the law. Until you die, you are bound as long as you live to that marriage. It’s not until we see the One who has died for us, and died for our sinful passions, and we join ourselves to Jesus in His death, that our other marriage could possibly be broken. Then finally, for the first time we see men no longer after the flesh, although we used to see Jesus that way.

With all of our heart we wanted to serve this Jesus, but He also condemned us because we saw Him after the flesh. But now we see Him risen from the dead, and He brushes Himself off and gets on His knees and proposes to us. We fall into His arms and serve him with deep and passionate love—not just obedience, but a passion to be joined to His Spirit and to know His heart. “To love Him until the day we die, and then to be with Him forever” as Paul said. Caught up in the air to be with Him forever. That’s why the phrase keeps coming up, “Though you see Him not, you love Him.” That’s why there are verses like, “Not only for me but all who long for His coming.” Maranatha! My Lord, come quickly! The Bride is prepared; my lamp is burning brightly. I’m ready! See the only jubilation, the only celebration, the only Good News that I know about. That’s Good News, that’s the gospel, and that’s the Kingdom of God.

Which comes first: Worship or God?

Let’s look at Romans 7, which is a favorite to most of religious America, because it provides a convenient justification and description of a lifestyle—remember, that’s the one with all the tongue-twisting. “For what I want to do and I do not do, but what I hate I do… Oh, wretched man I am who will free me from this body of death?” The “body of death” that he’s probably referring to is a torture of the ancient world, where they’d strap a corpse to the back of a person. The body would begin to decay, and the rot would spread to the victim as well. Paul said, “I have a body of death. Who will free me from it?” He certainly didn’t say it had to stay that way. He said, “Praise be to God, through Jesus Christ our Lord!” There is no condemnation, there is no deterioration that has to be—I can be free from this body of death. There’s good news at the end of Romans 7.

 

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