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There is something innate in the human spirit that demands justice and acquittal.  We need to be made right.  Most often we try to be made right through our actions.  Actions that condemn us require, instinctively, actions that acquit us.  That's why the common religion of today is, "I'm a pretty good person."  In their minds, they have been acquitted because their actions aren't as bad as the guy next to them.

Growing up, I was always very hard on myself.  I was very critical and even self-abusive, of no fault to my parents.  I knew that what I did was never good enough and that drove me to self-loathing.  I hated myself because I could never remove the guilt my wrong actions brought with them.  A spanking was justly given - and many did I rightly receive - but my spirit knew better: I was guilty.  So, I tried harder.  But when continual failure met even my best efforts, I became even more self-loathsome.

When I began to trust Jesus at the age of six, I became indebted to Him.  At times I loved Him, but usually I feared Him.  I was unsure of His love for me, though everywhere I turned I heard that "God loves you."  I had a lot for which to pay Him back; how could God love me when I still did wrong?
It is a sad truth that many Christians think, "If we can just get the children to know that God loves them, then they'll be okay."  Children's Christian books almost always skip over the fact that they are sinners and that Jesus was put to death on account of their sins; they almost always end, on the final page, with the line "And God loves you and all the little children."  This kind of love makes no sense, even to a child.  Each of us knows we have offended the High King of Heaven and each of us - even a child - feels the inadequacy of their works to justify themselves before Him.  We know we aren't lovable.

Still, I worked harder at keeping the law of good works.  Again, at times I loved Him and knew glimpses of His love.  I see those times now as God's gracious favor to one of His sheep, to persevere me to glory.  Praise God for His sovereign providence!  Yet, I still felt the burden of trying to do more for my Savior.  I was under the impression that Jesus had died for His Church and then left her with all sorts of unfinished tasks to complete.  This was part of my weight to carry.  I had a lot of work to do for God.  This influenced my attitude and actions, and drove me deeper into my self-hate.

But the Lord is forever faithful to His sheep, to those whom He has called to be His children from before the foundation of the world.

As I grew older, the burden of being a Christian was heaped more and more upon my shoulders.  "You need to be witnessing to at least one person a day," is what I heard many pastors saying.  "You need to do this and you need to do that."  I was left with many silent questions: Why did Jesus leave so much left undone?  And why does the burden that is "easy and light" feel so heavy and cumbersome?

Over time, by God's hand of providential grace, I began to see more of His sovereign authority, grace, and love for His people - even me.  I grew in gratitude and in love for my Savior and Lord.  I willed myself to pray against my feelings of inadequacy and began to accept God's love for me in Christ Jesus.

Fast forward to last night: I was reading a short excerpt from a book by G.K. Beale:
"Not only was Adam to 'serve' in and 'guard' the initial stage of the Edenic sanctuary, but Genesis 1:28 affirms that he also was to subdue the entire earth: 'And God blessed them... Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the seas and over the birds of the sky, and over every living thing that creeps on the earth.' ... This 'ruling' and 'subduing' 'over all the earth' is plausibly part of a functional definition of the divine image in which Adm was made, though there is likely an additional ontological aspect of the 'image' by which humanity was enabled to reflect the functional image.  Just as God subdued the chaos, ruled over it, and created and filled the earth with all kinds of animal life, so Adam and Eve were to reflect God's activities in Genesis 1 by fulfilling the commission to 'subdue' and 'rule over all the earth' and 'be fruitful and multiply' (Gen. 1:26, 28)" (Garden Temple, G.K. Beale).
After years of seeking and trying to understand God's commands to obey Him, coupled with my own inability to do so and with Christ's love and grace - I was struck to the heart.

Of course!  Jesus has done what we could not.  That's it.  It's final.  It's over.  The commission that Adam and all his tragic race failed to do - reflecting the glory of God by subduing and ruling over all the earth - was effectively done and finished by the second Adam, our Lord Jesus Christ!

Jesus hasn't left us an unfinished job to do.  He hasn't left us with a burden to bear.  "It is finished."  What freedom there is in that!  He has left us with a testimony to speak concerning Himself, a testimony we speak not out of obligation to keep a command of the law - as if by sharing it enough we gain something Jesus did not gain already. But we bear this testimony out of love, for Jesus Christ has fulfilled all things, and given to us all things He gained - and we love Him for it! We are partakers in His glory and have been tasked - but not burdened by a law of works - with taking His message to all who are deaf to it, that others may benefit from His obedience as well.  The Christian is motivated by love, then, not law.  (Motivated: the reason or reasons one has for acting or behaving in a particular way.)

Suddenly, the world God made seemed clearer and the burden of law-keeping was once and for all dropped from my shoulders.  I am no longer under the law's demands, for Christ has fulfilled them all!  I love Him for that!  I am motivated by His love, then, to love Him!  I am motivated to bear witness to the One who has overcome all things because He has done so for my sake!  This is why Paul can say that "Love is the fulfillment of the law!" (Romans 13:10).

How, then, does this apply to my life now?

I have neighbors who are not Christians.  They do not love the Lord for they do not obey Him.  Am I under obligation by the law to speak the Gospel of God to them?  Not by the law of works, but by the Law of Christ.  When I reflect on the love that God has for me in Christ, I am motivated by His love to speak the Gospel to my neighbors, desiring that they, too, may be quickened to life and freedom in Christ.

I used to wonder why the Apostles were so wordy in their letters, now canonized in the Bible.  But now I know: to unpack the riches of God in Christ and its implications for His Church is to undergo the most difficult of all tasks.  Praise be to God that His Word is written up our hearts and that He gives grace to the weak!

All glory be to God, for great is His love for us in Christ!

Think often of the love of God for us in Christ Jesus.  Let it dwell within you, until it overflows out of your mouth, hands, and feet to those around you.