I have been a christian for some 35 years and have been through just about every “flavour” it comes in. Converted as a traditional Anglican and moved on to “charismatic”, pentecostal, fundamental, hyperfaith…. and sort of ooozed out the other end with my own ideas on what christianity is and how to live it.
There are some key points that I have had to keep coming back to over the years:
- The Old Testament is just that – the old agreement (covenant) between God and man.
- The New Testament is also just that – a brand new agreement between God and man.
Therefore, the lessons we learn learn from the OT must be viewed through the lens of that old covenant and the culture of the people it was made with (I’ll expand on that another time). The NT says “hey, the old arangement only proved the point that no matter how hard you try you are going to end up turning everything into a system of rules (legalism, religion… and all the nasty stuff that comes out of that).
The NT radically changed that – so radically that if you can still see rules and legalities and imposed values etc you have probably missed the point of the new agreement.
What’s the difference then? Man can’t use any system of laws and regulations to get to God (have a meaningful relationship with Him). We are just consistantly “sinful” no matter what. We can’t get close enough to Him to allow Him to change us for the better – from the inside – to see God in such a way that we are inspired by a deep passion to please Him (like you do when you are in love!). So God sent Jesus to take all our sinfulness on himself. That means that all that gets in the way of seeing God for who he is, is gone – God doesn’t see it anymore; he sees us as perfect! This is pretty radical stuff – we don’t have to “do” anything (no religious activities whatsoever). And this is not a once off deal, it’s for every moment of every day. And even better is there are no strings attached – meaning we are free to totally abuse the offer.
I guess God took a big risk in making this new deal, but the point is, he did it so we can get to know Him – because when we know Him we fall in love with Him and wouldn’t want to do anything that would stuff up the relationship.
Now that is the key point – Jesus came so that we can be free to love God – not so that we can follow the ten commandments; why do you think Jesus said that the only “law” we need is “love God with all your heart, soul, body etc”.
The other thing is the danger of looking at the writings of the NT as a set of legal regulations too!! All God is doing in all the NT books is showing people some tips on how to apply his new arangement in their particular situations (thus the apparent contradictions).
The only thing we need to worry about is getting to the point where we have fallen hopelessly in love with God and are very happy to do whatever he asks of us. Our life will change just because we love him – not because we are trying to struggle with sticking to a set of laws.