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).

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