You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? Before your very eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed as crucified. I would like to learn just one thing from you: did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by believing what you heard? Are you so foolish? After beginning by means of the Spirit, are you now trying to finish by means of the flesh? (Galatians 3:1-3)
There it is: the new way and the old way right up next to each other. The fact that this verse is in the Bible and was a characteristic Paul identified in one of the first churches to ever follow Christ shows how the old way of relating to God holds on tenaciously to our psyches turning us all into Pharisees in much less time than we can learn the ways of the Spirit.
Like a tweet I past on yesterday — “Religion changes your behavior. Jesus changes your heart” — our new relationship with God is all about the heart. The old way is based in God’s expectations for us written on stone tablets. It’s a distant relationship with God. It’s not even a relationship with God as much as it is a relationship with God’s laws or God’s expectations, which for all of us are so far beyond any of us as to render us all disobedient. So the old way either grovels in our failure, or it severely reduces the expectations to something we can do (which enable us to pridefully judge all those other people who don’t), while hiding behind a religious facade that has nothing to do with the real attitudes and changes in the heart that God wants to form in us.
In fact, that pretty much describes the church for thousands of years — fake, self-righteous leaders and groveling parishioners.
Our new relationship with God changes all that because through it, God writes His ways and means on our hearts. This is not a relationship with God’s laws; it’s a relationship with God. It is close and intimate. Because of the blood of Jesus that covers all our sin, God can come near to us and change us on the inside.
“‘This is the covenant I will make with the people of Israel after that time,’ declares the Lord. ‘I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. No longer will they teach their neighbor, or say to one another, “Know the Lord,” because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest,’
declares the Lord. ‘For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.’” (Jeremiah 31:33-34)
No more groveling. No more faking. No more spiritual caste system. God’s forgiveness opens the door to an entirely new relationship where we all know God — priest and parishioner — on the same basis, not on the basis of what we do, but on the basis of what He has done.
If you harbor guilt in your heart, you are not walking in the new way. If you think there are those who are better than you, or not as good as you, you are not walking in the new way. Our new relationship with God is based on what He has done. Period.
Whatever we do comes out of that relationship, not to earn it, but to live and walk in it.