Do you remember the story about Isaac Newton?
He was lazing under a tree on a warm day when he saw an apple fall.
Isaac watched idly as more apples fell. It was nothing remarkable, apples have been falling from trees since the dawn of time. Everyone knew apples fell. But Isaac was a clever student and he started to wonder why apples always fell perpendicular and never went sideways or up. Instead of being satisfied that it was so, he wanted to understand how it was so.
That was the start of his theory of gravity. These days we call it the law of gravity.
Why is it that we call it a law? We do so because it has no exceptions. Gravity always works. It is what keeps the earth in perfect orbit around the sun. It is what keeps your feet on the ground. It is what keeps your food on the plate. It is why when you step off a cliff you will always fall to the bottom of the cliff.
Another thing we know is that the law of gravity didn’t take effect when Isaac Newton first described it. It worked when no one knew about it just as effectively as it does in our days, when all schoolboys learn the story of Sir Isaac Newton.
Belief in the law of gravity is not required.
Nor is belief required for the functioning of other laws. Take this: “Due to ever‑increasing entropy, you can’t return to the same energy state. Energy concentrated in one place will always flow to places of lower concentration.” That’s the second law of thermodynamics.
The job of science is not to invent laws, but to describe them so that we can use them. When we know the laws we can, for example, build computers, cars, trains and planes.
You all know this. It is obvious, isn’t it.
When you know the laws of aerodynamics, you can overcome the laws of gravity and get a chunk of metal to fly people safely around the world.
But did you realise that it is the same with spiritual laws. Just because someone says they ‘don’t believe in that stuff’ it doesn’t mean that the rules have been overturned for them.
Anyone with a postmodern way of thinking may struggle with this, but we have to admit it is true. A law is not a law because we say it is, nor by saying so can we invalidate a law. God created the laws when he created everything else.
Do you remember our reading this morning from Romans chapter 8. We use the New Living Translation and I really like this translation of the Bible, but on this occasion it is less than helpful in the way it translates verse 2. Let’s have a look at it.
This is how it reads in another translation, the ESV: “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death.”
Where the NLT has ‘power’ the ESV and NiV have ‘law’. In the Greek original the word is nomos, which means custom or law or command.
The Bible says there are spiritual laws. It says specifically in Romans 8 that the ‘law of sin and death’ is less powerful than the ‘law of the spirit of life’. If you know, and live according to, the laws of spiritual life there is great benefit. It says the power of the Holy Spirit in you is greater than the power of sin in you. Are you overcome by sin, then you need to have the power of the Holy Spirit to set you free. It’s a law. There isn’t another way. Good intentions won’t work to overcome sin. Pretending that sin doesn’t exist won’t work either.
Maybe you have seen evidence of the spiritual laws in your own life or in the lives of people around you. Perhaps you have seen the law at work in someone who refuses to forgive. As night follows day, when you choose to not forgive someone for the offences they have committed against you, there are consequences that bring inner disruption and disease. When bitterness and resentment are allowed to remain in the heart, then it is a law that degeneration will follow as surely as a fallen tree will rot. You can cover up the evidence all you like with fine clothes and makeup and material success, but the law is the law all the same. It is as reliable as gravity.
If you are going to succeed in business you will need to do business according to the relevant laws, such as the law of supply and demand or the law of diminishing returns.
If you are going to succeed in your spiritual life, you have no choice but to do it based on the spiritual laws that are revealed in the Bible.
Water is always H2O and it will never be CO2. And so with the spirit, there are no moral holidays. You obey or you are broken.
Do you think it is OK to cheat if you can get away with it? That it is OK to be immoral if you do it in another city and the pastor never finds out? No! No one ever gets away with anything in the moral universe.
Numbers 32:23 says: “if you fail to keep your word, then you will have sinned against the Lord, and you may be sure that your sin will find you out.” Please notice that it says here that your sin will find you out. It doesn’t say your sin will be found out.
Your sin will effect you, it will change you, it will bring rust and corruption and decay.
If you don’t get rid of the sin in your life, you will suffer as a result. This is a law. Over the next few weeks I want to talk about some of these laws so that you can live a better life and have more spiritual success.
You see, we cannot manipulate life and make of it what we want. We are free to choose, but not free from the consequences of our choices. If you go against the spiritual laws, you will lose every time. There will be misery, frustration, wreckage.
You cannot live a gay lifestyle, for example, and then demand entrance to heaven because although you broke the spiritual laws you still believed in God.
But if you obey the law, and you struggle with all his power at work in you, giving the Holy Spirit full control, you will reap the benefits.
The law isn’t going to change, so you had better adapt. Now we all know we live in the age of grace, not legalism. Romans 6:15 is quite clear on this. So it may seem unwise to talk of laws this way, but it seems to me to be the most useful word. I am not suggesting a life of trying to obey every commandment, but that the commandments reflect the spiritual laws at the heart of the universe. These same laws that God placed in our hearts when he created us.
If you want success in life, you have to live in accordance with these laws.
And what is success in God’s eyes? God says in Joshua 1:8 “Study this Book of Instruction continually. Meditate on it day and night so you will be sure to obey everything written in it. Only then will you prosper and succeed in all you do.”
1 Samuel 18:13 “Finally, Saul sent him away and appointed him commander over 1,000 men, and David faithfully led his troops into battle. David continued to succeed in everything he did, for the Lord was with him.”
Success is a moral thing. It is not material abundance, but purity and obedience and closeness to God. There is no way to succeed except by living in harmony with God’s laws. So you need to learn the laws, and live according to them. You need to dive deep into the words of this book and obey all of it.
Next week we shall start by looking at the law of worship.
Remember, everything you do does matter. The spiritual law is always in effect.