I was recently at a restaurant with a friend who was on a diet. We all know that eating at most public restaurants while trying to lose weight can be a challenge. But this trip to the restaurant gave me spiritual revelation. As my friend looked over the menu, these words kept coming out of his mouth. “I can’t have that. Oh my, that looks good, but I can’t have that. Oh my goodness, I sure would want some of that, but I can’t have that either.”
While he was looking at the menu, I heard the Spirit speak to my heart and say, “That’s the way some of My people are. They focus their lives on what they shouldn’t have but desire, and then choose to resist it because it’s wrong. Instead I want them to focus on what they can have and choose what is right because their heart is right, and they love Me.”
Legalism guides you to what you should have by telling you what you can’t have. But grace guides you to what you should have by showing you the goodness of the gift. Two people can be in the same restaurant and both eating a healthy meal. While one is eating healthy – after fighting an internal battle to put down the flesh and the desire for unhealthy food, the other is eating the healthy food because they enjoy good health and pleasing God. Even though both people are eating the same healthy meal, one person leaves the restaurant totally unsatisfied as a result of the battle to overcome the rules and regulations of what they should not eat, while the other leaves the restaurant satisfied.
As Christians we have been redeemed from the curse of the law. While it is true that God’s desire for our lifestyle has not changed and it is true that He wants us to live our lives in holiness, the motivation in the age of grace is different than during the age of the law.
I know what is right and what is wrong. Because of God’s Word, I know the lifestyle He wants me to live. The Bible clearly defines what is sin and what is not. But I choose to live a lifestyle pleasing to God because I love Him and not because I fear He will punish me if I don’t.
Years ago I spent a short time as a marriage counselor for a company in Kansas City, Missouri. It has always been interesting to me how people can rationalize their actions. Once during a counseling session, a husband complained that he was not receiving the affection that he desired from his wife. Immediately his wife said, “Every time he wants a kiss, I kiss him!” When I asked her why, she said, “I have to. We’re married and he’s my husband.”
Here’s the point. A kiss under legalism is not the same as a kiss as a result of love, and that husband could tell the difference. Although he was receiving the physical kiss, because she was kissing him under legalism instead of love, the kiss was not satisfying. You can’t fool the heart. Although the action is the same, the motivation is different. The Bible says that man looks at the outward appearance, but God looks at the heart (1 Samuel 16:7).
The letter of the law is legalism and legalism kills and destroys, but the spirit of the law is grace (2 Corinthians 3:5,6).
So, whether it’s dieting or living the life of a Christian, the motivation must be from a pure heart of love and not from the law. One way will leave you satisfied and the other way will not.