What is the role of God’s law in our lives? What does it do? What does it not do?
The law has every right to tell me what I must do: I must love God. I must love my neighbor. I must obey my parents unto the Lord. I must not worship things that are not God. I must not covet another man’s wife. The law, however, has no ability to save me from my failures to obey the law. The law is the diagnostic; it is not the cure.
On Thanksgiving morning 2009, I got up and poured myself a cup of coffee. I fed our 6-month-old, Nora, her bottle and put her in her Johnny Jump Up. I turned and headed back to my chair and woke up in the hospital. I had a grand mal seizure in front of my three kids.
I got to have my first MRI that day. The doctor came in and scooted his chair right next to my bed and said, “Man, you have a mass in your right frontal lobe. You’re going to need to go see a neurosurgeon.” When the neurosurgeon pulled up the results of my MRI and saw that glowing red and yellow golf ball in my right frontal lobe, he said, “This looks really bad. We’re going to need to do surgery immediately.”
Eight days later, I went in for an eight-hour craniotomy, in which they removed the tumor and as much tissue around it as they could while still allowing me to continue to be me. My doctor laid out both the diagnosis and the prognosis and said, “You have anaplastic, or malignant, non-encapsulated oligodendroglioma, WHO grade 3. You’re going to die in the next two to three years.”
Behind him on the screen was that MRI with that glowing red and orange the profusion creates. We laid out the battle plan the next day: six weeks of radiation and chemo, a month to recover and then 18 months of being pounded with high-dose chemo. For the next two years, that’s exactly what we did, and God was unbelievably gracious and merciful through all of it.
I don’t tell this story a lot because I don’t want to be “the cancer guy,” I want to be “the gospel guy.” But here is why I’m telling it now: The MRI showed I had a problem, but the MRI was powerless to cure me. No matter how many times I got in that machine, no matter how many times I got scans, the MRI wasn’t going to heal me. It was simply going to diagnose that something was wrong.
The law is like that MRI: a holy, divine, diagnostic tool that shows us something is wrong. But the law will never save you. Never.
The law is diagnostic, but Jesus Christ is the cure. When Christ imputes to us His righteousness and takes on God’s wrath toward us, the Holy Spirit comes to live inside of us. We are in Him; He is in us. Our scan is clear because Jesus perfectly fulfilled the requirements of the law on our behalf. This is why the Bible says that when we are in Christ, God sees us as perfect, spotless and blameless. We get His scan results instead of ours.
When we understand that the law is the diagnostic and Jesus is the cure, we are set free to pursue obedience because the diagnostic is no longer telling us that we’re too sick and too sinful to come before Him. When we become aware of the grace of God in the cure of Christ, it leads us to repentance. We seek to line ourselves up with the law because the law displays how God created us to function, showing what is good and righteous.
Are you living and walking in accordance with the diagnostic or in accordance with the cure? Your obedience can never earn you a clean scan. Christ has already done that for those who are in Him. “He took our illnesses and bore our diseases.” Let the joy of the clean scan fuel your efforts to obey the law out of gratitude, as a means of glorifying the One who secured your cure.