Refresh: Begin with prayer. Ask for the Holy Spirit to open your heart to new understanding and for God’s character to be revealed.
Read: Romans 7:1-12 in the New International Version (NIV). Note 1–3 insights or questions.
Reflect: Paul advises us to “serve in the new way of the Spirit, and not in the old way of the written code” (Romans 7:6b).
What happens when the law conflicts with the right thing to do?
John 8 describes a woman caught in the very act of adultery who is brought before Jesus. The angry law-keepers ask Jesus to advise them as to the proper course of action. Leviticus 20 commands that the woman (and the man, if he were there) be taken out to the edge of town and stoned to death. The law doesn’t say, “Unless you feel sorry for them.” There is no leeway. The commandment is what it is. It’s written down in black and white. There is no compromise.
So, does Jesus choose to go with the old way of the written code or the new way of the Spirit?
It’s interesting that Jesus bends down and puts His fingers in the earth, just as God did to form the law. And then, instead of enforcing the law, Jesus chooses to go with the new way, the way of the Spirit.
In another instance, Jesus is met on the road by a leper. Jesus reaches out and touches the leper and heals him. The law, in Leviticus 5, says that Jesus is to go and offer a female lamb as a sacrifice for touching the leper. Jesus chooses the way of the Spirit over the written code.
In yet another instance, Jesus sees a broken-hearted family and remedies the situation by taking the hand of a dead little girl and raising her to life. The punishment for touching a dead person, according to the written code, according to the law, in Numbers 19, is as follows: “Whoever touches a human corpse will be unclean for seven days. They must purify themselves with the water on the third day and on the seventh day; then they will be clean. But if they do not purify themselves on the third and seventh days, they will not be clean. If they fail to purify themselves after touching a human corpse, they defile the Lord’s tabernacle. They must be cut off from Israel. Because the water of cleansing has not been sprinkled on them, they are unclean; their uncleanness remains on them” (vs. 11-13).
Jesus didn’t do any of this. He certainly knew the written code, but instead of following it, He went with the new way of the Spirit.
Finally, Exodus 16 forbids the gathering of food on Sabbath. When the experts in the law saw that Jesus’ disciples were picking food and eating it on Sabbath, they were very upset. They knew the letter of the law; they lived according to the written code. So they threw the law in Jesus’ face and challenged Him to correct His law-breaking followers. Instead of instructing His disciples to obey the law, He gave an example to the law-keepers of a time that David broke the law. Again, Jesus chose the new way of the Spirit over the old way of the written code.
So how does this apply to us? We are to be like Jesus. When we are faced with conflicts between what the law says and what the most redemptive action might be, the way of the Spirit is always the way to go. Jesus was so in touch with what the Spirit wanted from Him that He never wavered in His mission to obey the voice of guidance He heard.
When we take time to sit and listen, when we know what the voice of the Spirit sounds like in our lives, we will choose to follow His lead, even when it flies in the face of the written code.
Recalibrate: Have you ever found yourself challenged by a situation in which what God’ law of the Bible teaches seemed to be at odds with the best way to handle the situation? What did you do and how do you feel about your choice?
Respond: Spend time listening to God’s Spirit today in some quiet time. Ask Him to tune you into His will so you can hear Him speak during your day.
Research: Read 1 Samuel 21—David eats the shewbread.
Remember: “Still, the Law and its commands are holy and correct and good” (Romans 7:12, CEV).
Mark Witas is the lead pastor at Pacific Union College Church in Angwin, CA. Originally from the Pacific Northwest, Mark has served as a youth pastor, Bible teacher, college and academy chaplain, and lead pastor in the United States and Canada for the last 33 years. He has also authored four books: Born Chosen, Live Out Loud, Portals, and Just Jesus.
Make a listening station with a variety of sounds. You can use a saucepan with a wooden spoon, rice or water in a plastic jar, or water pouring into a bucket. See if your little one can watch and listen to what you are doing and copy the sounds you are making. Lead your little one in the art of listening.
Make a list of all the things that you believe are holy, correct, and good. Holy meaning “from God,” correct meaning “not wrong,” and good meaning “not bad.” How often do we think something is “good” when it is “good for us”? Can something be good for us and bad for somebody else? Is it still good then?
When I was growing up, my mom always said, “Live your life based on principles, not emotions.” I never really understood what she was saying until I got older. Each of us has lots of decisions to make. Decisions about education, career, calling, marriage, and the list goes on. I am so grateful that my mom taught me to live my life based on principles. And what are principles? In my home, the main principle I was taught was to bring everything before God. We live in an age where everyone says, “Follow your heart!” What they don’t tell you is that your heart is fickle and it changes. God’s Word is full of amazing principles, or, as we often call them, laws. These laws help us live a life of true freedom, yet they give us the guidelines we need to be successful. Figure out what your “principles” in life are. What are the unshakable truths of your life that keep you grounded and moving forward?