Wednesday, July 31, 2013

"A Love for the Law" by Chris Crane

One of my favorite passages in Scripture is Psalm 119, where King David celebrates the Law of God. For David, the Law was not something dreadful to him, but something delightful. He found joy in God’s commands. 

We see this kind of language just by a cursory overview of the chapter:
“In the way of your testimonies I delight, as much as in all riches.” (v. 14)
“Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of your law.” (v. 18)
“My soul is consumed with longing for your rules at all times.” (v. 20)
“Lead me in the path of your commandments, for I delight in it.” (v. 35)
“How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth.” (v. 103)

I am drawn again and again to this text because, often times, when we think of the Law, we don’t use words like sweet, wondrous, or delight. More often than not, words we might deem more appropriate to use would be boring, legalistic, dry, or cold, yet these are the exact opposite of how David looked at the Law. 

He saw it as a gift from God to be savored. Unfortunately, this is not the consensus view among Christians.  In fact, many Christians are often guilty of what is called antinomianism, which is a belief that God has no moral law that he expects Christians to obey. 

Not only does this give us a misunderstanding of the Law, it gives us a false view of our present pursuit of holiness as followers of Christ. There are delightful demands that give evidence of persevering faith. As Jesus himself said in John 14:15, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” So, how should we view the Law? What can we learn from David in Psalm 119?

1) The Law Should Be Received with Joy
First, we should recognize that we did not discover God. God chose to reveal himself to us. It would be perfectly just and good for God to not reveal himself to us. We do not deserve to know him, but instead deserve to be the recipients of his wrath because of our sin. This is sheer grace that he shows us. What we find in the Law is not only God’s requirements, but his character. We see his high standard of holiness and his hatred of sin (Hos. 1:1-9; Psalm 5:4-6). We see that his love is a holy love, not mere sentimentality. 

Furthermore, and of utmost importance, we see that because of his high standard of holiness in the Law and his demands of perfection, the Law points to our substitute, Jesus Christ the Messiah, who would fulfill the Law for his people, remove their guilt and set them free from the penalty that was on our heads as law-breakers (Matt. 5:17; Rom. 3:19-26; 8:2-4). We are free to receive the Law with joy because we are not trying to be justified by it and God’s people see no longer see his commandments as burdensome (see 1 John 5:3).  

Since Jesus has secured our adoption with our Father, we are free to delight in his commands as an expression of who our Father is. In other words, being free to enjoy the Law is another way we get to know our Father. It is this position we have been given through Christ that makes the Law joyful to the heart of the saint.

2) Delighting in the Law Gives Evidence We Love Jesus
As I mentioned briefly above, those who have been truly born again will give evidence that they love Jesus by keeping his commandments. Will they do this perfectly? Absolutely not. Will they do it at all? Yes. The regenerate heart has new desires and will live a life of repentance and confession, which will be a life marked by obedience. So even though they will not obey perfectly, they will no longer live in a lifestyle of slavery to sin because they have been “made alive in Christ” (Eph. 2:4). 

Notice that I am not saying we are justified, that we are made right with God, by our obedience to his commands. We are saved by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone (Eph. 2:8-9). However, as Reformer Martin Luther once said, “We are saved by faith alone, but the faith that saves is never alone.” Saving faith is evidenced by good works.

3) Loving the Law as a Weapon in Fighting Sin
In Psalm 119:9, David writes, “How can a young man keep his way pure? By guarding it according to your word.” In David’s time, “your word” is a reference to the Torah, the first five books of the Old Testament, which contain the Law. A couple of verses later, he writes, “I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you” (v. 11). Putting his faith in a future Messiah (who would be Jesus of Nazareth), David was given eyes to see that God’s people are set apart unto holiness and if he was going to fight for his joy in the Lord, he could not ignore God’s will found in his revealed Word.

Like David, we must take sin seriously. The pervasiveness of sin affects all areas of our lives. Sin leaves no stone unturned in its curse upon creation, including the lives of men and women everywhere. From our friendships to how we drive, our slavery to sin taints what God originally created good. Even worse, sin is rebellion against a holy God. 

The depth of the effects sin has between us and God is profound, as Pastor John Piper once said,
“What makes sin sin is not first that it hurts people, but that it blasphemes God. This is the ultimate evil and the ultimate outrage in the universe. The glory of God is not honored. The holiness of God is not reverenced. The greatness of God is not admired. The power of God is not praised. The truth of God is not sought. The wisdom of God is not esteemed. The beauty of God is not treasured. The goodness of God is not savored. The faithfulness of God is not trusted. The promises of God are not relied upon. The commandments of God are not obeyed. The justice of God is not respected. The wrath of God is not feared. The grace of God is not cherished. The presence of God is not prized. The person of God is not loved.”[1]

Fighting sin is a declaration that we desire our joy to be in Christ above anything else. It’s warfare against lesser pleasures. It is seeing holiness as beautiful, reflecting the beauty and majesty of Jesus, who is to be valued above all else. While the Law reveals our sin and points us to our need for a Substitute to save us and stand in our place, it also is a means for the Holy Spirit to strip away disordered affections as we long for Jesus. It declares along with David, “Turn my eyes from looking at worthless things; and give me life in your ways” (Ps. 119:37).

The Law is good because it comes from God. He established it and, in his infinite wisdom, only makes good laws. In sending his Son to fulfill the Law, he didn’t give us a reason to toss the Law out the window. That was not his intention. He is preparing his people to be a pure Bride, adorned in the clothes of the gospel, namely, the righteousness of the Bridegroom, Jesus Christ. 

I wonder, could it be that we are not living in the joy of the gospel like we desire because our view of the Law keeps us from seeing the delight of holiness? Do we really see the Law as a means to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord as we are in awe of his holiness? Or have we fallen into the error of antinomianism and think that God’s people have no moral commands to concern themselves with? As we wait upon the return of Jesus, let us have full hearts for the joy found in the Law, knowing that “he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ” (Phil. 1:6).

[1] John Piper, “The Greatest Thing in the World: An Overview of Romans 1-7,” Desiring God, (accessed July 30, 2013).

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Jesus loves the little Children!

Just a short 27 verses into the book of Genesis we learn that God not only made man.  More specifically Moses is careful to tell us that God made man “in His image”.  That caring act of creation set man apart from all of the rest of God’s creation.

In Psalm 139 we learn that God has continued His loving act of creating man by uniquely creating each individual person.

Psalm 139:13-14 - For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother's womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.

We were formed by God’s own hand.  Knit together.  And the Psalmist says that our having been created by God in such a way that we were created to praise Him.  He says, I praise you BECAUSE I am wonderfully made.

Made in God’s image, we were created to praise God.  That is man’s chief purpose.  God created us so that we would freely praise His Name!  Yet, the Bible tells us in Genesis 3 that man has a dire problem.

Romans 3:23 says that we have all sinned and fallen short of God’s glory.  In other words, because we have all sinned, we have all failed to meet God’s standard of perfection.  And we are not just a little below the mark; we are woefully short of giving God the glory He deserves.

Our job as Christian parents is to teach our children what they were created for.  They need to understand that they were created to worship God. But our job is not a simple one.  We compete with their attention against TVs, iPods, video games, and a culture that increasingly pushes them to grow up quickly and grow up focused only on themselves.

Every human being was created to worship, and every human being worships something.  Our job is to point our children towards the only One who is worthy of our worship; urging them to trust in the Lord Jesus Christ.

The question then becomes one of how?  How do I lead them towards Christ?  How do I show them their need for and the value of a life lived for the glory of God?

Well, the key is to teach them God’s Word.  Use the principles from God’s Word to train them.  For example, the 10 Commandments.

It is so important that you teach your children the 10 Commandments.  God’s Law, the 10 commandments, is there for a myriad of purposes.  Chiefly, it shows that which God requires in order to be properly worshipped.

However, as we examine our hearts in light of each commandment we quickly realize that we have not perfectly met any of God’s requirements.  But in doing this the Law shows us WHO we are.

We are a people prone to give room in our hearts to other masters besides Christ.  But the Bible says in Luke 16:13 that our hearts can only have one master. 

The second thing God’s Law does is show us WHAT we need.  The Law commands us to do good, and then proves that we cannot and have not.  To do what the Law requires we need righteousness.  A righteousness that we obviously do not possess given our frequent transgression of it.

Next, the Law reveals WHO God is.  He is our Lord and our Savior!  His giving of the Law was intended to point us towards our need for CHRIST because HE and HE alone is the perfect fulfillment of all of those Laws that we could not keep.

Being perfectly righteous Jesus kept every Law perfectly on our behalf!  As we teach our children God’s Law they should see that they need Christ!  That God sent Christ to lovingly rescue them from their sin!

As we teach our children the 10 Commandments God will show them that their every violation of it or any one that they will ever commit has been absorbed by Christ on the cross!

The world tells our children that people should accept them just as they are, but the reality is that the world creates systems that force them to earn any acceptance that they may want. 

But teaching our children God’s Word teaches them that God will truly accept them just as they are.  Not because they are good, not expecting them to be perfect. 

No, the Bible teaches that God will accept them because He is satisfied by His Son’s sacrifice that was made on their behalf.

Not only that, but God’s Word teaches that God will put His very Spirit within them and that Spirit will begin to work in them so that sin’s reign in their life is broken as He begins to transform their lives! 

He transforms them and frees them from the burden of their guilt and sin and it frees them to be the worshipper that God has created them to be!

Remember our text in Psalm 139, I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made!  We have to teach them the beauty in having been created by a good and holy God.

But it will not do to simply teach these things to them.  That is the quickest way to produce self-righteousness in them.  We must not only teach them God’s Word, we must also model it for them.

Our kids have to see that we too love Christ and His law.  They need to see in us a wholehearted response to God and His Word to us.   Our lives must not only demonstrate the pursuit of obedience to God but they must also demonstrate the response we should have to disobedience.  Our children need to see us striving to obey Christ, and when we sin and fall short they need to see us repent. 

When your children observe your sin.  Maybe you blow your top and scream at them.  Maybe you speak harshly to your spouse in front of them.  Maybe you get cut off in traffic and they witness you saying terrible things about the person who has offended you. 

When those things inevitably come up, be transparent with them about what you’ve done, why you know it was sinful, and why you need to repent of that sin.  Make it your goal to not only tell them about the importance of trusting Christ but show them how that looks in your own life.

Psalm 1:1-2 - Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither.

When you pass one day, and your children inherit your possessions… what will you pass on to them that is of lasting value?  What will they remember about you?  The greatest legacy you can leave your children is one that teaches them to flee from their sin and trust in the sufficient grace of Jesus Christ.  They need to see and know that your delight is in the Lord alone!