This is closely akin to a topic I just wrote about: how to know God, and how to know we are right with God. But this is on a deeper level: actually experiencing God, and connecting with him.
There are two ways we have of experiencing God. FIRST is by means of the law of God, beginning with the ten commandments. SECOND is by means of the grace of God, and the love of God.
JUDGMENT DAY AND THE JUDGMENT OF GOD
There is a verse in the Bible that indicates God will allow either approach. Romans 4:16 says, "The promise might be sure to all, not only those who are of the law, but to those also who are of faith…" But I believe that God prefers the New Testament way of grace and love, as we will see.
THE LAW OF GOD AND THE TEN COMMANDMENTS
If we relate to God by means of the law of God, beginning with the ten commandments, this in fact separates us from God, it does not draw us to him. As I discussed before, this puts us into a SELF focus that is task and goal oriented.
This began in the Garden of Eden when Satan tempted Eve: "You shall be like God." This was the deceiver's attempt to get Eve to strive for what today might be called 'self actualization,' and achieving an objective without God. I think this is how God sees us when we strive to live by God's law, including his ten commandments.
It draws us away from God, even if it is toward a good objective. But it is motivated by the same forbidden tree Eve was told not to eat from: The Tree of Good vs. Bad. That tree is still forbidden today. We are not meant to live by a standard of good vs. bad, or right vs. wrong. We are meant to live from The Tree of Life, which is God.
THE GRACE OF GOD AND THE LOVE OF GOD
The law was Old Testament. Grace, love and gospel truth are New Testament. "For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ." God calls us to live by a different standard today: the grace of God and the love of God.
This is what gospel truth reveals, and it begins at The Tree of Life. This means it begins with GOD, not with SELF. It begins with God approaching us, as he did by sending Jesus -- not with us trying to approach him by means of laws and rules.
If we don't know the love of God, then the law of God prevails.
HOW TO KNOW GOD: EXPERIENCING GOD
We can't know God by means of the law of God. We can only know God by means of the love of God. "We love him because he first loved us" (I John 4:19).
God is love (I John 4:8, 4:16).
When you relate to a person, you must experience them on the basis of who they are. If we think God is LAW, then we will relate to God in law, which is the way things were in the Old Testament. But if we live in the gospel, and know that God is LOVE, then we relate to him on the basis of love.
Jesus says, "Love others … as I have loved you." Love must proceed from our knowing God's love for us. We cannot know his love if we live in his law. The two are mutually exclusive. Love draws us to God. Law draws us into ourselves. Eve was drawn into herself: "You shall be like God."
We stand before God in his love (Eph 1:4).
GOD'S LAW IS EASIER FOR US TO RELATE TO
God's law really is easier for us to relate to. It's easy for us to understand: "DON'T lie, cuss, cheat, steal, commit adultery, yell at your spouse or kick the cat." We likewise understand: "DO attend church, read your Bible, pray, give money and attend small group."
It's hard for us to think in the terms of God's unconditional, eternal love for us because we know ourselves. We know we have sin. We know we don't always do things right, or even think right. When we think in terms of SELF, it's hard to understand God's LOVE.
Thinking in terms of our performance doesn't produce God's love. But the fact is that God sees our PERSON, not our performance. If our person is in Christ, we stand before him in LOVE. But if we view things by our performance, we stand before him in LAW.
The gospel truth is God loves us as much as he does Jesus (John 17:23).
This is a real mind-blower. But the fact is we must learn to live by gospel truth, and not Old Testament legalism, or we'll never truly experience God, and know the love of God. So let me close where I began.
Living by the law of God produces a separation from God to self. Living by the love of God and the grace of God produces a drawing to God, and an experience of him that nothing else can produce.
Love cannot begin in us: in our performance. Love must begin in God: in Christ's finished work on the cross. "The Lord make you increase and abound in love one toward another" (I Thes 3:12). It is God who initiates love. "We love him because he first loved us." Living in the love of God produces an experience of God like nothing else can.