Have you ever longed for something that is not yours? Once, when I was a kid, my mother set me up to experience the power of forbidden fruit.
While putting some chocolate bars in the cupboard, she said, “Joshy, don’t take these chocolate bars…” Then she left the room. This is like telling someone not to think about pink elephants! When the coast was clear, I took all the chocolate bars. I then relocated them to a safer location—underneath a sun-bathing couch. A few days later, my mother found them melted to the carpet and came hunting! “Joshy, did you take these chocolate bars?” As an intelligent four year old, I thought blaming my younger brother might help: “No Mommy, Caleb hid the chocolate bars!” As you can probably guess, this didn’t end well for my rear end.
Why Does God Make Rules? Forbidden Fruit
As a 4-year old, I probably didn’t understand my mother’s reasons for keeping the chocolate bars from me. I could think of only one thing: how tasty those chocolate bars would be in my mouth. As an adult I can list multiple reasons why my mother didn’t want me to eat those chocolate bars. Perhaps, it would spoil my supper, or maybe I already had eaten enough sugar that day.
Most of the time, if we look hard enough, we will understand why a rule exists. However, there is one rule I find hard to explain. In the book of Genesis, God commands Adam and Eve not to eat from the tree in the center of the Garden of Eden. On one occasion, Tim Keller was asked to explain why God commanded Adam and Eve not to eat from the tree:
My chocolate bar theft pales in comparison to Adam and Eve’s betrayal of God’s one rule. But in most cases, boundaries are made to protect blessing. Keller explains elsewhere that
In obeying his Father, Jesus reverses the curse of the first Adam and thereby releases an entirely new way for humans to relate to God.
Don’t Light Candles at Noon:
The difference between the Old Testament and the New is best explained by contrasting the “do not” with the “do”. Remember how Jesus was asked what the most important commandment is. Notice how he answers not with negatives, but with two positive commandments: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” And the second is like it: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” One preacher from over a hundred years ago explains it this way:
As the Bible shows, humanity will always function under boundaries. But the gospel shifts humanity from living under boundaries that restrict freedom, to boundaries that empower freedom. This is why Galatians 5 says: “if you are led by the Spirit you are not under law.” Through the Holy Spirit, Christians no longer desire forbidden fruit. Instead, we produce the “fruit of the Spirit” which “is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.”[Tweet “Old Testament law said “Do Not!” But when Jesus sums up the law he says: “Do!””]
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|↑1||“Q&A with Tim Keller – Reason for God? Belief in an Age of Skepticism” from the Veritas Forum, available from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&v=L9jHlrMRJAo#t=4620|
|↑2||Timothy J. Keller, Encounters with Jesus : Unexpected Answers to Life’s Biggest Questions (New York: Dutton, 2013), 163.|
|↑3||William Lincoln, Lectures on the Epistles of St. John (J. F. Shaw & Co., 1871), 107-108.|