Delight in the Law (part 3)

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I’d like to complete this short series on delighting in God’s moral law with three further thoughts that should help spur us on and motivate us to imitate Paul and the Psalmist.

First, take a moment to contemplate what a day in your life would be like if everyone in the world perfectly obeyed God’s moral law.  You could trust everything you read or heard.  You could make every business transaction without fear of being ripped off.  You could go wherever you wanted to without fear of harm from others.  You could flip through the TV channels without seeing images that corrupt your mind.  I think we can all agree that that would be one awesome day!  Well, what kind of ridiculous hypocrites must we be to recognize the benefits of others keeping the law, yet refusing to do it ourselves?

Second, consider the foundation and nature of the moral law.  It is the transcript of the character of God Himself.

Many years ago I was terribly disappointed to find that the administrator of one of my favorite websites had decided to leave the Reformed Baptist church he had been a part of.  Part of his explanation for doing so was extremely disturbing to me.  He told of how in his church they had studied the 10 commandments as they are expounded in the Westminster Larger Catechism, and how troubling that was to him.  Anyone familiar with this section of the catechism will agree that it is extremely thorough.  (In my opinion it is the finest concise exposition of the moral law in print.)  But for this man, the exhaustive precision of what God requires was just too much.  He told us that he thought to himself “Who could possibly do all this?  Why even try?”  I couldn’t believe it.  I thought to myself, “What in the world is he going to do next time he comes across Matt. 5:48?”

Well, I have a much better use for this section of the catechism for you.  Read through it again, examining the precision and exhaustive detail of the perfect obedience our Creator and Redeemer demands of us.  But do that with two considerations in mind:  1. Ponder the fact that this is a description of exactly how our Lord Jesus Christ lived as he walk upon this earth.  He perfectly kept every miniscule detail without the slightest deviation of any kind.  Do you want to know what Christ is like?  Study the moral law.  2.  Consider the moral perfections described and realize that this perfection was not just something God came up with willy-nilly.  This truly is the transcript of His character, to understand and love these commandments is to understand and love the author of these commandments.  We all long to be more conformed to the image of our Lord and Savior.  Conform yourself, inwardly and outwardly, to the demands of His moral law so that you will be more like Him.

And finally, I will conclude with what I believe ought to cause every believer to delight in God’s moral law.  This has been the desire of my heart since the moment of my conversion.  But unfortunately, the church has been so inundated by false teaching and fuzzy thinking about the law that it almost sounds like heresy to many.  We delight in the moral law because it informs us how we can please the one who created and redeemed us!

Ralph Erskine put it this way:

A rigid matter was the law                

          Demanding brick, denying straw

But when with Gospel tongue it sings                

          It bids me fly, and gives me wings

For the unconverted man, the law is an unbearable burden.  Making demands he can never fulfill, and providing absolutely no aid or consolation to anyone guilty of the slightest deviation from its requirements.  But the gospel turns the law into something altogether different!  Through the gospel, God takes the stony rebellious heart out of us and replaces it with a heart of flesh that seeks after God and yearns to please Him.  The law then instructs us how we can show our gratitude and love for Him for whom we now live. Please allow me to make the necessary qualifications.

  1. Unconverted man can do NOTHING to please God!
  2. No one can do ANYTHING to earn God’s favor or salvation!

But neither of these truths contradicts the fact that Christians CAN and SHOULD live and behave in such a way that is pleasing to God! Paul Washer put it this way:

“[A lot of people] think that Christianity is you doing all the righteous things you hate and avoiding all the wicked things you love in order to go to Heaven. No, that’s a lost man with religion. A Christian is a person whose heart has been changed; they have new affections.”        ~ Paul Washer, sermon, “Dating, Courtship, and Marriage.”

What are the new affections he speaks of?  They are the love of Christ and the desire to please Him.  But how do we go about accomplishing the desire to please Him?  Is it that difficult to understand that one way to please someone is by doing what He tells you to do?  It is Christ Himself who said “You are my friends if you do what I command you.” John 15:14.

Our obedience is utterly imperfect, it could never deserve God’s favor, but He looks upon our feeble efforts as a father watching a small child attempt to please him.  He has cleansed the multitude impurities from our obedience with the blood of Christ and is truly pleased with it.

2 Corinthians 5:9 Therefore we make it our aim, whether present or absent, to be well pleasing to Him.

Colossians 1:10 that you may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing Him, being fruitful in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God;

Colossians 3:20 Children, obey your parents in all things, for this is well pleasing to the Lord.

1 John 3:22 And whatever we ask we receive from Him, because we keep His commandments and do those things that are pleasing in His sight.

This is why every Christian should delight in the moral law of God.  Every true Christian eagerly desires to please the One who redeemed him.  The moral law teaches us how to accomplish the goal of living a life pleasing to Him.

 

His Throne is Forever and Ever!

rex

Delight in the Law (part 2)

Asher Delight 1

In part one I discussed one of the greatest obstacles that can prevent Christians from delighting in the law as they should.  In part two I want to point out what I believe is one of the greatest motivations for delighting in the law of God.  I hope to follow up with more posts with the purpose of helping Christians to delight more in the law of God.  For the sake of clarity, I am referring to the moral law of God as summarized in the 10 commandments & the 2 great commandments, and expounded throughout the Bible, especially in texts such as Matt. 5 – 7.

The Law Increases our Love for Christ

The heart of every true Christian heartily echoes the desire set forth in Elizabeth Prentiss’ hymn:

More love to Thee, O Christ, more love to Thee!
Hear Thou the prayer I make on bended knee.
This is my earnest plea: More love, O Christ, to Thee;
More love to Thee, more love to Thee!

Yes, we already love Him, but we know we can never love Him as much as we ought.  We yearn to love Him with all our heart, mind, soul and strength, for that is what He deserves.  This may come a surprise to some, but the law is one of God’s primary ways to accomplish the goal of increasing our love for our Savior.

Please consider with me the following passage, Luke 7:36-50:

Then one of the Pharisees asked Him to eat with him. And He went to the Pharisee’s house, and sat down to eat. 37 And behold, a woman in the city who was a sinner, when she knew that Jesus sat at the table in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster flask of fragrant oil, 38 and stood at His feet behind Him weeping; and she began to wash His feet with her tears, and wiped them with the hair of her head; and she kissed His feet and anointed them with the fragrant oil.

39 Now when the Pharisee who had invited Him saw this, he spoke to himself, saying, “This Man, if He were a prophet, would know who and what manner of woman this is who is touching Him, for she is a sinner.” 40 And Jesus answered and said to him, “Simon, I have something to say to you.” So he said, “Teacher, say it.” 41 “There was a certain creditor who had two debtors. One owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. 42 And when they had nothing with which to repay, he freely forgave them both. Tell Me, therefore, which of them will love him more?” 43 Simon answered and said, “I suppose the one whom he forgave more.” And He said to him, “You have rightly judged.” 44 Then He turned to the woman and said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave Me no water for My feet, but she has washed My feet with her tears and wiped them with the hair of her head. 45 You gave Me no kiss, but this woman has not ceased to kiss My feet since the time I came in. 46 You did not anoint My head with oil, but this woman has anointed My feet with fragrant oil. 47 Therefore I say to you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven, for she loved much. But to whom little is forgiven, the same loves little.” 48 Then He said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.” 49 And those who sat at the table with Him began to say to themselves, “Who is this who even forgives sins?” 50 Then He said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you. Go in peace.”

I fear a great many Christians misunderstand this passage.  When they read “Therefore I say to you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven, for she loved much. But to whom little is forgiven, the same loves little”, they take it as if Christ were saying that this Pharisee didn’t love him much because he didn’t have that many sins that needed forgiving, compared to this sexually immoral woman. This attitude can be seen in the way so many churches crave to hear testimonies of people who were “really bad” sinners before they were saved, and in the way that many Christians seem almost jealous of such testimonies.  But that is not what our Lord is saying at all.

Please stop and think about this for one moment.  Does our Lord really look upon the haughty and prideful heart of this hypocritical, unkind and merciless Pharisee and judge it to be better than the heart of a sexually immoral woman?  Of course not, the Pharisees had succeeded in cleaning up the outside of the cup very nicely, but the vile putrid corpse rotting inside puts off a stench that is reprehensible in the nostrils of a holy God!  Pride, hypocrisy and lack of love for fellow sinners are the most abominable of sins to God.  So Christ wasn’t pointing out that this adulterous woman was more sinful than Simon.  Our Lord was pointing out that the reason this woman loved Him so much was because she realized how great a sinner she was.  It was the knowledge of the greatness of her sin that gave rise to the wondrous volume of love she poured out at her Savior’s feet.

So one of the lessons we ought to take from this passage is that a primary means of increasing our love for our Savior is to realize just how much He has saved us from.  The more we realize how much we have been forgiven, the more we will love Him.  God’s appointed means for showing us our sin is His law. (Romans 3:20)  Go to the law and let it expose your sin.  Yes, it hurts!  I despise the agony of a guilty conscience as much if not more than most people.  But we do not wallow in guilt and self-pity when the law exposes our sin.  We flee to Christ, to be washed afresh in His cleansing blood and to receive from Him the necessary power to repent and forsake that sin.  The temporary pain that is brought by the knowledge of your own sinfulness cannot compare to the blessing received through it, for that blessing is a greater love for our Great High Priest and Redeemer, Christ Jesus our Lord.

This is most certainly one of the reasons for the general shallowness of the broad scope of Evangelical Christian churches, isn’t it?  The law is avoided like the plague.  Sin is seldom mentioned, and when it is, it is in the vaguest of terms.  Sin is never defined, it is just something we acknowledge as “bad” but avoid talking about if we can help it. No wonder these churches are filled with people whose love for Christ can be exhaustively demonstrated by mindlessly singing a handful of Christian jingles and dancing a little jig a few times a month.

But I want to point out one more wonderful truth before closing.  The man, woman or child who was brought up in a Christian home with nurture and discipline, who rarely even openly disobeyed his/her parents, let alone ever committed sexual immorality or abused drugs can love our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ every bit as much, if not more than someone like me, who filled their belly with the filth of this world before God so graciously saved me.  Every one of us has a seemingly bottomless cesspool of sin within our hearts.  He who delights in the law will allow it to reveal his own sins to him, that he may love His Savior all the more for it.

His Throne is Forever and Ever!

rex

Delight in the Law? (part 1)

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The Psalmist describes the blessed man as he whose “delight is in the law of the Lord”  (Ps. 1:2).  And the Apostle Paul himself declares that he “delight[s] in the law of God according to the inward man”(Rom. 7:22).  Yet a large portion of the professing Christian church today would instantly condemn anyone who delights in the law as a “legalist.”  The very idea that the Psalmist and the Apostle were guilty of legalism is on its very face preposterous.  But let me further put this idea to rest with a simple truth.  The legalist does not, indeed cannot delight in the law of God, for whenever the law of God is misused and abused as a means of procuring favor with God it is an unbearable burden!  That is why legalism inevitably twists, truncates and manipulates the law of God into something that it is not, something that the legalist is able to fulfill, at least in his own mind.

Undoubtedly, the reason behind the disdain so many professing Christians hold toward the law of God stems from the fact that they have never bowed the knee to King Jesus.  They have entered the “church” by means of an easy-believism “gospel” and have never surrendered their hearts and lives to the dominion and Lordship of their rightful King.  They sit securely upon the throne of their own heart and sternly reject the right of anyone, including the God who holds their life in His hands, to tell them how they must live.  Every time they are confronted with the law of God their conscience is reminded of the fact that they owe obedience to one greater than themselves and therefore they reject and despise it.  There is only one solution for anyone in this frame of mind:  Repent and believe.  Surrender your life to the King of kings and Lord of lords and trust in Him alone to save you from your sin.  Give yourself to Him, take His yoke upon you, for it is indeed light, and He will carry you to glory.

 How Can I Delight in that which Brings Guilt and Shame?

 I want to focus, however, on a question that others may have.  Even those who have truly been converted and love the Lord Jesus may still wonder at times “How can I delight in the law of God?  It is the law that brings my sin to mind.  It reminds me of how much I fail my Lord and it fills my conscience with guilt and shame.  How can I delight in something that does that?”  I believe the answer to this question will not be difficult for us if we just look at the conscience from a Biblical perspective.

Unregenerate sinners have various unbiblical means of dealing with guilt, and unfortunately, these habits are not instantly eliminated from our minds at the moment of conversion.  We need to consciously recognize and reject them.  I will focus on two primary ways that the world deals with guilt and then contrast these with the means the Bible gives us for dealing with it.

 Balance Guilt with Blame

 One of the most common things unbelievers do with a guilty conscience is to shift the blame from themselves by concentrating the focus of their energy on someone else doing something that they consider to be so much worse.  Perhaps the clearest example of this in our society is the strange marriage of pro-abortion advocacy with animal rights advocacy.  It seems so illogical that those who have no concern for the rights of a human being as long as that human being resides within the womb of its mother should at the very same time spent their time and energy fighting for the “rights” of anything and everything within the animal kingdom.  Until you realize that this principle is at work.  The guilt they have for advocating murder in some cases is somehow, in their conscience, relieved by focusing on someone else doing something cruel to something else.  The Christian is not immune to this principle however.  How often, when faced with the guilt of our own sin, do we instinctively point to someone else doing something worse instead of dealing with our sin Biblically?

 Pretend it isn’t Sin

 The second of the two most common ways that the world deals with the guilt of sin is simply to pretend it isn’t sin.  This stands out the most in our society in the homosexual agenda.  The fight for “gay marriage” isn’t about “marriage equality” at all.  It is about sinners trying to quiet their consciences.  They know what they do is wrong, but they want to do it anyway.  They fight to convince themselves and are able at times to quiet their stubborn consciences.  They do everything in their might to remove every reminder that what they love to do is in fact sin.  But every time they are confronted with someone who holds to the Biblical truth their conscience is again disquieted and this opposing view must be silenced so that they can return to their slumber!  That is why the simple truth that according to the Bible homosexuality is sin, is being outlawed as “hate-speech” in place after place.  Again, unfortunately, Christians are not immune to this practice.  We have certain sins we are quite comfortable with, and when our conscience is awakened by the law of God our first reaction can be that we don’t want to hear it.  Keep the law to yourself so I can go on in my blissful ignorance!  Well, needless to say this is not how Christians should deal with guilt.

 Dealing with Guilt Biblically

 Before looking at how we should deal with guilt according to the word of God, I just want to point out one important thing about both of these worldly ways of dealing with it.  Neither of them does anything at all to actually deal with the problem of guilt.  They are both nothing but mind games!  They are means of self-deception, nothing more.  The Bible provides us with the one and only means of dealing with guilt that actually fixes the problem!  What is that?  Short answer:  Christ.

When the law confronts us with the guilt of our sin, there is only one thing to do:  Flee to Christ.  1 John 1:9  If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.  Don’t hide from your sin, don’t cling to your sin, take your sin to Christ!  Confess and forsake your sin and leave it at the foot of the cross.  He is faithful, not only to forgive you and cleanse you from the guilt of your sins.  But he is also faithful to cleanse you from that sin.  It is Christ and Christ alone who can give you the strength to forsake that sin, to cause you to see it the way He sees it and flee from it in disgust.

If you allow the law of God to work in your heart in this way it will inevitably become a delight to you.  Allow the law to test your heart, to go down to the very depths of your soul and shine it’s light upon you.  Let it expose your most intimate and secret sins, those you have been hiding even from yourself.  But when you come face to face with the wickedness of your own heart in the mirror of God’s holy law do not despair.  Do not be overcome with the dreadfulness and despicableness that you will inevitably find.  For no matter how vile and putrid it is, the blood of Christ has more than enough power to wash you white as snow.  Take it directly to the foot of the cross and lay it before your compassionate Savior.  Oh what a Sweet Savior He is, for He will draw you unto Himself and cover you with His undying love.

 The Question Reversed

 So you see I must reverse the question.  Dear Christian, how can you fail to delight in the law of the Lord.  How can you not delight in that which constantly draws you to the foot of the cross and causes you to lay hold of your Savior afresh and cling to Him with all of your might?  The great delight of the law of God is that it enables us to find our greatest delight in Christ Himself!

In part two I will share a number of further thoughts to help enable us to be that blessed man of Psalm 1, constantly delighting in the law of the Lord, meditating on it day and night.

His Throne is Forever and Ever!

rex