Wednesday, June 13, 2007

The Law and Love (Part 3 of 3)

In the final segment of this series we look at our response to God's love expressed through the giving of His law.

The Law as an Instrument of Love

We began with the understanding that God gave us his commandments out of love but we sinned against him by breaking his commandments. We brought a curse upon ourselves, but God demonstrates his love toward us in that while we were yet sinners, God sent his son to pay the penalty for our sins and remove the curse.

Jesus Christ was the perfect image of God because he kept the law perfectly. He never sinned. His righteousness made him the only possible representative to stand in the place of sinners and receive the full wrath of God in our place. If we realize that Jesus Christ took the penalty for your sins, died and rose again in victory then how can we possibly express our gratitude for giving us new life?

Jesus didn’t make it complicated, he said, “If you love me, then keep my commandments.” God loves us by giving us his commandments and we love him by keeping them. When we behave like we belong to His family then we exalt him before a fallen world.

But not only are the commandments given in love and obeyed in love but Jesus said that love and obedience are the same thing. When our Lord was asked, what is the greatest commandment, he answered:

“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 40 On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” Matt. 22:37-40

Bishop Augustine condensed it even more, he said, “Love God and do as you please.” The apostle Paul said in 2 Cor. 5: 14 For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; 15 and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.

The love of Christ controls us, the commandments and our love for Christ cause us to no longer live for ourselves.

I want to leave you with a picture of a kite.
My family went to fly kites over in the park. My three year old son and six year old daughter had some pretty generic delta wing kites which worked fine and they brought them joy. My twelve year old daughter had this great nylon kite that looked like an Iguana. It was a beautiful piece of artwork. It had an enormous tail and perfectly balanced to ride the wind.

It flew amazingly high and it danced and responded effortlessly to each gust of wind that moved it. It expressed such freedom and grace as it beautifully lived up to its expectations.

Suddenly we heard my daughter cry, “Oh no!” I looked up and the kite seemed to be fine but now I noticed that the string in her hand was no longer pointing skyward toward the kite. The string had broke. The kite danced gracefully only a moment longer and then began to tumble and flip and flop and then fall.

You see, even the finest built kite is useless without a string to constrain and control it.

We are so much like that kite. We are designed for greatness. We, like our heavenly father, are able to reason, to make choices, to love, to work, to build, to lead and create. We love freedom but for many we get confused about what freedom should look like.

Only the blood of Jesus Christ sets us free from sin and the penalty of death. After that, he gives us the freedom not to sin and to live an abundant life. Now that life includes struggle, that’s true, for in this world there will be troubles, but be of good cheer for Christ has overcome the world and the penalty for your sin. When we fail to be obedient, we confess our sin and rely on Christ’s perfect obedience to the law.

Jesus said, you shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free. God’s commandments and our loving obedience to them form the string on the kite. Without it, we can never live as the true children of God.

Prayer: We pray with the sweet psalmist of old that you would this day open our eyes, that we may behold wondrous things out of your law.

The Law and Love (Part 2 of 3)

We continue with a three part series on The Law and Love. This portion takes an overview of the Ten Commandments to glean what the Decalogue tells us of God's character and our nature.


“You shall have no other Gods before me.” What does that reveal about God?

He is One, he is the only God, there are no other so-called 'gods'.
He is the Creator
There is no authority higher than God
There is no judge above God
God alone is worthy of our worship

What does it say about us?
If God is the only God then we are NOT God.
We as creatures owe everything to the Creator.
We owe God our love and obedience.
Our sin deserves just punishment from a just God.
We owe God our worship.

“You shall not make for yourself any image and bow down to worship it.”
The first commandment tells us to worship God ALONE.
The second commandment tells us how to worship God.

Let me tell you about idolatry. You probably have a definition in your mind that idolatry is worshipping false gods and you are correct. The first commandment deals with that aspect of idolatry.
The second command warns us against worshipping the TRUE God falsely.

When Moses came down from the mountain with the tables of the law, he found the Israelites worshiping a golden calf. The golden calf did not represent a false God, it represented Yahweh. Now, do you know where in scripture that God said to make a golden calf to symbolize Him? NOWHERE!!!

Now this is important because we see this commandment broken everywhere. The Israelites wanted to express worship to Yahweh; they wanted to LOOK on Him and BOW to Him and GIVE themselves to Him, but God is Spirit, God is invisible. The people wanted a visible, touchable POINT OF CONTACT.

Idolatry is seeking a point of contact with God that is not prescribed in His Word. There is only one point of contact that is acceptable - the Word of God itself.

The living Word of God is where we are to meet God, it is where He reveals himself, it is where we learn of our fallen nature and His atonement for our sins. We are to be a people of the BOOK. The Word of God sets us apart from the worldlings. We are to worship God in spirit and in TRUTH! God’s Word is the TRUTH!

“You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain.”
The third commandment is a warning not to use God’s name except in an honoring and respectful way.

Wow! How do you swim against a tidal wave of a polluted culture slapping you in the face daily. You all know that it is wrong to use God’s name or the name of Jesus as a curse, a swear word. Try and find a popular movie today that doesn’t do that.

A person doesn’t have to be angry to break this commandment. People all over America over use the word ‘like’
You know, like, it’s everyones favorite, like, adjective for, like, for adding emphasis, it’s like, crazy.

After “like” it’s “Oh my god.” In excitement, in joy, in surprise, in wonder, litlle kids to the elderly respond with “Oh my god.” THAT is vanity, that trivializes the name that is above all names, the name by which we are saved, the name of the Creator and sustainer of life.

It doesn’t stop with words. If you call your self a Christian then you have taken the name of Christ. In other words, if you have a fish on your car, don’t drive as if God placed you above the law and gave you ownership of the road. “Look at me, I’m a jerk! Oh, and I’m a Christian too.!” “I’m a jerk for Jesus.” Don’t stain the family name. I’ll tell you what, when we repeat the Lord’s Prayer and say, “Hallowed by thy name”, “may your name be kept holy”. That means you’re praying that his name will be honored in everything YOU do and everything that YOU say. That should cause you to pause and consider your ways.

“Remember the sabbath day to keep it holy.”
Six days you should work but don’t ever complain that you haven’t time to spend with God in His Word or fellowship with the saints. You need to hear the Gospel every week. God has given us a day to break away from our work and school routine to seek Him as families and hear His Word. The sabbath is a gift.

“Honor your father and mother.”
The fifth commandment is about authority. God has established order in the universe. The sun, the moon, the earth and the stars all move in an orderly manner.

God has authority over all things. God has established elders over his local, visible church. They are responsible for the spiritual growth, protection and discipline of the church family according to the Word and the church’s confession.

God has made husbands responsible for the spiritual growth, protection and purity of their wives. God has made dads and moms responsible for growing their children in the faith. Everyone here is a child and most of you are parents. God works through families and he established an order so give honor where honor is due.

“You shall not murder.”
Never take the life of another person without just cause. Why?

The abortion debate back in the 70s required those who wanted to kill the pre-born to invent new language and new definitions. Some decided that for life and personhood to exist there had to be a quality present they called ‘viability’. Life is not life until it can live outside the womb, that’s viability. Outside the womb it’s a baby, inside the womb it’s a ‘tissue mass’.

As long as the head is still in the womb, it’s not a person. Partial birth abortion demonstrates the incredible absurdity of this kind of languge and the horrific implications of man defining personhood. God defines PERSONHOOD! Genesis 9:6: “Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed, for God made man in his own image.”

A person is one who bears the image of God. Personhood has nothing to do with viability or quality of life, it is about the image of God. Every human, believer and rebel, carries the image of God. It’s stamped on us; we can’t escape it. It is that stamp, that image, that gives man worth and dignity - every man, woman and child. That’s regardless of skin shade, regardless of income, regardless of IQ. Everyone is an image bearer and to attack the one who bears God’s image is to attack God himself.

The sixth commandment is about how pro-life God is and how pro-life we are not. You haven’t murdered, good! But have you insulted someone this week? Are you holding a grudge against a brother or sister in Christ? If so, you’re not as pro-life as you think you are.

Jesus said that if you insult your brother then you have broken with the family resemblance. Love you neighbor as yourself and love your brothers and sisters in Christ MORE. Don’t hold back from doing good for your neighbor, for that is sin as well. The sixth commandment is about recoginizing and acknowledging the image of God in every man. We summarize it by saying, “You shall not murder.”

“You shall not commit adultery.”

I could write for pages on this one. Marriage is holy. The family is the fundamental unit within the kingdom of God on earth. Marriage is modelled after the covenant between God and His people. To break a marriage covenant is to mock God’s covenant, for what God has brought together let no man tear apart.

The family is where we learn of God and his Word and his purpose. The family is God’s model for too many biblical principles to try and mention here. The level of attack that the family is under today is the proof of the immense importance and value that God has placed on the family. Fathers and mothers, you have no greater priority than the strength and well being of your family. If you don’t recognize this and get your friends to recognize it then we will lose America.

Children, if you do not see the strategic importance of honoring your father and mother then we, the church, will lose our place as salt and light.

The seventh commandment is “You shall not commit adultery” but it is about protecting and strengthening family.

“You shall not steal.”

Isn’t it something, God values the private and personal property of his children. He wants us to value other peoples property as well. I won’t run down the many ways we steal - on the job, at tax time and so on. Stealing violates our role as God’s stewards and it is a sin against God because it is a sin against our neighbor.
You shall not steal.

“You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.”

Inititially this command applied to the court room. But where would we be without the truth. We, as believers, rely on the truth to spread the gospel. We have the source of Truth, the Bible. God values the truth. We worship in truth. Jesus is the way and the truth. Our Father does not lie, his children should follow His example.
You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.

“You shall not covet.”
We musn’t covet the possessions of others. Why? Because it questions God’s sovereignty. God tells us he will take care of us. We are so much more valuable than a sparrow that sells for two cents and God takes care of them. He has given you everything you need to live a righteous life, honoring to him. He has given your neighbor everything your neighbor needs for the same purpose.

To crave what God has given your neighbor is to question his love and care for you - you question God’s plan and his promises - you cast doubt on His Word.

In the final segment of this series we will consider what is to be our response to God's law.Go to Part Three

The Law and Love (Part 1 of 3)

This is the beginning of a three part series on The Law and Love. We will look at how God gave us His law out of love, how His character and our nature are revealed in the Ten Commandments, and the importance of our loving response to His law.

Gen. 1:1 In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth, that’s everything; then he created man and a woman and there was a relationship between the Creator and his creatures. Was the man and woman the first family? Not in the strictest sense. It was in that a family is one husband and one wife - male and female.

The family is also one union made up of two or more persons. John 1:1 sounds a lot like Genesis 1:1, it says: In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.

And of course the “Word” here expressed is the second person of the Trinity - Jesus Christ, the only begotten son of God. Gen. 1:2 tells us that the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters. So before man was created there was, pre-eternally, God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit - three persons making up one union. So in a general sense we may say that family life existed within the Godhead. God counseled within himself to create and manifest his Glory.

In the course of creating, God made mankind in His image. God’s plan was that man, in a reflective way, would be like God. Man would function from a family base. Man would have dominion over the earth - an under-king. Man would reflect the character and values of God. In other words, man would carry the family resemblance. Exodus 6:7 shows us the picture of an intimate covenanting God who says to his chosen, 7 I will take you to be my people, and I will be your God, and you shall know that I am the Lord your God...

God is establishing his family, his covenant people. Now to enable man to reflect the character of God, the Creator did an amazing thing that he didn’t do with any other creature. We read about it in Romans 2:14-16:

For when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law. 15 They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness

Some scholars today get this confused, they think that God gave the law to Moses and that’s the first we see of it. The law that God gave to Moses was actually a re-publication of the law that God had hardwired into us at creation. Why did God do this?

God so loved the world that he gave us his law. God as Father was sharing his family values with his children so that we could reflect His character. What parent doesn’t understand that? To guide and protect our children we teach them our values and give them limits and if they go beyond those limits we discipline. Why? Because we love them.

God gave us the law out of love, to assure us that we were his own, that we would reflect his values, that we would have dignity, that we would be in a unique intimate relationship with Him. God wrote the law on our hearts and what a beautiful thing that was to do. But something went terribly wrong in the garden didn’t it?

Man was supposed to be like God. Satan must have understood that much because he offered Eve a shortcut. He offered Jesus the same shortcut. “Use your God powers Jesus. You’re hungry, turn these stones into bread. If you are indeed God, act like him.” Instead, the one who never sinned gave the answer that Eve should have given. “Man does not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.”

God’s words are the words of life! To seek meaning and purpose from any source that is not compatible with the Word of God is sin. So what happened to us in the garden. Adam sinned and all in Adam sinned.

Romans 3:23 tells us that all have sinned and fall short of the Glory of God. You’ve all heard that verse. It’s a well known verse. Romans 3:23 is saying two different things:

1. “All have sinned” is a judicial declaration of guilt. We went against God’s Word, we broke the law and now we carry a curse.
2. We fell short of the greatness we were made for. We did not act like our Holy Father. We acted like rebellious Satan. Instead of displaying the greatness of our family we acted as if Satan himself was our father. Where did our greatness go? Where did our dignity go?

So God re-published the law, not to give us a way to earn salvation, but to show us what His character is like and how far we had fallen from our family image. So the law is good for it tells us of the character of God and what he values. He values relationships. Yet, because the law contains the image of our original dignity it demonstrates our falling short and condemns us.

We must study the law to learn about ourselves, our relationships and about the character of God. Even a brief overview of the Ten Commandments reveals much about our great God and about ourselves. In the next installment, we shall do just that.

Go to Part Two