“I was once alive apart from the law, but when the commandment came, sin revived and I died;”
Once there was a young man named John who enjoyed the piano. And while he had never received formal training, he considered himself to be on the level of a concert pianist. In fact, he could not read music and what he did play by ear was at the most elementary level, and not very good at that. For a time his friends indulged him. John had no family and the piano was his principal avocation, so they tolerated his fantasy. But as time went on his illusions began to dominate his life. John spent hour upon hour playing, never advancing in his ability. He was losing himself in his illusions. He began to speak of his plans to give concerts, to go on tour. In preparation John went deeply into debt and purchased an expensive concert grand piano for his home and invited his friends over for a ‘concert’ on the new instrument.
The appointed evening came, the friends gathered and the man stumbled through several songs. The quality of the instrument could not compensate for the embarrassment of his poor playing. Then, his best friend introduced a young woman who had accompanied him. Would John mind if his guest played something? Reluctantly, the host slipped off the piano bench. The woman took her place and for the next half hour the piano came alive with the extraordinary sound of Mozart. Her playing was at the highest level. In fact, she was a concert pianist. John was shattered. All his illusions collapsed. When John heard the woman play, it was not beautiful, it was the sound of death to him. This was precisely what John’s friend had hoped for. Getting John out of his illusions was a necessary step toward sanity.
In his letter to the Romans St. Paul describes the life of natural man and woman prior to knowledge of God’s law. “I was once alive apart from the law”, he writes. The life he refers to here is the life of one who is a law unto himself, who lives by following one’s natural appetites, desires and inclinations. But when God’s law was revealed to Paul, his illusions about himself and life before God were shattered, died. With the perfect law of God placed alongside his life, he was now aware of the vast chasm between what he was and what he had been created to be.
Left to ourselves, life becomes an exercise in self-definition. We steal our existence from God and live within the framework of our own self-serving illusions. But like John’s friend, God loves us too much to leave us to ourselves. He uses His law to bring us to spiritual sobriety. But his goal is not to leave us there. In the months that followed, as she had opportunity, the concert pianist voluntarily became his tutor. John slowly and with difficulty emerged from his illusions. He came under the structure of her discipline. More importantly, he came to see how much she cared for him. He came under the influence of her love. In time, they married.
The path to seeing the greatness of Christ begins at the place of your great need. God’s law exposes that need. To shatter you? Yes. But more importantly, to bring you to see the extraordinary greatness of God’s love for you in Christ Jesus.
“May the peace of God that passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord.”