What is the Law Written on Our Hearts?
Six-hundred years before Jesus came, the prophet Jeremiah spoke of a new covenant that God would make with his people:“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.” (Jer 31:33-34)
What is the law that God writes on our hearts and minds? Here are three things it is not:
- It is not the law of Moses; if God wrote the Ten Commandments on our hearts then Jesus died for nothing.
- It is not a new and improved version of the law. It is not the new commands of Jesus or the New Testament. We cannot please God by keeping a new law any more than we could please him by keeping an old one.
- It is not the knowledge of right and wrong that was bestowed upon us – against the Lord’s wishes – by Adam.
So what is this law that the Lord writes on our hearts and minds and embeds in our very being?
It is himself.
Let’s look at three things the New Testament says about the new law in our hearts.
1. The law of love
A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. (John 13:34)
Under the old law covenant, love was demanded from you. “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength.” But under the new covenant of grace, love is given to you – “As I have loved you” – and out of the overflow of Christ’s measureless love we are able to love others.
How does it happen?
God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us. (Rom 5:5)
God abundantly pours his love into our hearts by giving us the Holy Spirit, a.k.a. the Spirit of Christ. Do you see the difference between the old and new?
- Under the old, the law was a rule for weak men to obey. Under the new, the Law is the Spirit of Christ given to us, loving us, and loving others through us.
- Under the old, you loved others because you feared punishment. But under the new, you love because a Lover lives in you and it is his nature to love.
- Under the old, you had to make an effort to obey. But under the new you have to make an effort to disobey. It’s a whole new way of life.
2. The law of the Spirit of life
It’s important that you understand the difference between the old law (a written code you can’t keep) and the new Law (Christ himself, living in you). Try and live by the old laws, as Paul did, and it make you miserable:
What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? (Rom 7:24)
Paul couldn’t keep the old law no matter how hard he tried. He needed a new law and that new law is a Who:
Who will rescue me…? Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord. (Rom 7:24-25a)
Do you see? The old law is a what; the new law is a Who. The old law ministers condemnation and death (2 Cor 3:7-9), but the new “law of the Spirit gives life” (Rom 8:2).
For the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life. (2 Cor 3:6)
Who gives life? Not a set of rules, but the Spirit of Christ within you. The new law is a Who.
3. The perfect law of liberty
James wrote of “the perfect law that gives freedom” (Jas 1:25), which can be contrasted with the law of Moses that binds (Rom 7:6). What is the perfect law that gives freedom? Well, what is the implanted word that can save you (Jas 1:21)? It’s not the Ten Commandments or the Bible. It’s Jesus, the living Word who sets us free.
The perfect law of liberty describes what Jesus has done (perfectly fulfilled or completed the law) and the fruit he will bear in our lives (liberty) if we trust him.
But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it – not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it – they will be blessed in what they do. (Jas 1:25)
Look into the mirror of Moses’ law and you will be miserable, for it exposes all your faults. But look into the perfect law which is Jesus and you will be blessed, for it reveals his righteousness.
“Don’t just listen but do what it (the perfect law of liberty) says” (Jas 1:22). In other words, allow the Spirit of Christ to convince you that in him you are righteous and holy. Don’t walk away from the perfect law and forget who you are in Christ. Fix your eyes on Jesus. Look intently with an unveiled face and be transformed into his likeness.
The Law written in our hearts is Jesus
Jeremiah said those who had the new law written on their hearts would know the Lord and would no longer need others to teach them. This is describing your union with Christ. One with the Lord you have the mind of Christ (1 Cor 2:16). His Spirit dwells in you and teaches you all things (John 14:26).
The law of the Lord written into your members is your Father’s spiritual DNA. It is the seed of God birthed in you by the Holy Spirit. It’s Jesus himself.
How do you know he’s there? Because you are a new creation with new hopes and desires. You no longer want to sin. Your desire is to love God and others and that desire has nothing to do with old rules written in stone.
Christian, you are who you are because Christ lives in you. He is the new law written, by God, in your heart and mind.