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Weekly Wisdoms for the week of October 12, 2009

Love God and do as you please.

St. Augustine, an influential Christian author of the fourth century A.D., wrote this: "Love God and do as you please." On the surface, that may seem like a license for sin—"As long as I love God, I can do anything I want, and God's okay with whatever I do."

But Augustine seemed to realize that if you genuinely love God, then you will want to do what honors him most. Just as a married woman who loves her husband will want to make him look good, lift him up, and honor him, so also a person who loves God will want to glorify, magnify, and honor him. If you truly love God, then his Holy Spirit will transform you such that what pleases God will become what pleases you.

Jesus, who is God, made this observation: "If you love me, you will obey what I command" (John 14:15). Similarly, the Apostle John wrote, "This is love for God: to obey his commands" (1 John 5:3). And finally, the Psalmist wrote, "I obey your statutes, for I love them greatly" (Psalm 119:167).

When we love God, then we want to obey him; obeying him becomes a sign that we love him. Jesus linked love for God with obeying the commandments (i.e., with obeying God's law) in this way: "'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments" (Matthew 22:37-40).

If you love God, then his Holy Spirit, who dwells in you, will conform you—all of you, including your desires—into the image of his Son, Jesus Christ (Romans 8:29). In this way, what pleases you and what pleases God become one and the same such that if you love God, you can do whatever pleases you and God will be pleased.

The first Adam was a man who tried to play God; the second Adam was God who became man.

Genesis 3 records the story of Adam, the first human being created by God, who tried to "be like God" (verse 5). By attempting to become God, Adam sinned, and as a result every single one of us became condemned by God as a sinner: "one trespass [the sin committed by Adam] resulted in condemnation for all people" (Romans 5:18).

In essence, Adam was our representative before God. He sinned, and his sin was imputed (i.e., attributed, given) to us. Adam's sin was counted against us such that we became an enemy of God.

Fortunately for us, God did not leave us hopelessly in our sin condemned justly by his wrath; instead, he demonstrated his unfailing love for us by sending his son, the second person of the Trinity, to die for our sins offering a way for us to escape his wrath (Romans 5:8).

God, himself, became man (Philippians 2:6-8), and bore all our sins. Paul puts it like this: "For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive" (1 Corinthians 15:22).

Just as through Adam's disobedience his sin is imputed to us, so also through Christ's obedience his righteousness is imputed to us. The first Adam tried to become like God, and, in so doing, every human being became an enemy of God. The second Adam, Jesus Christ, is God who became man, and, in so doing, he opened the door for every other human being to be reborn as a friend of God.

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