The Law as a Gift of God

Israel at SinaiThe Hebrew people were brought out of Egypt with a mighty hand in the Book of Exodus. God was calling them to himself; they would be his people and he would be their God. It was a covenant relationship not offered to any other people on the face of the earth. He made a dwelling place for himself among them and gave them his law. As people of faith living in the age of grace, we may think of the Law as a burden that is too great to bear. At the time it was gift, given only to God’s chosen people. Continue reading

The Law of the Lord

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. (Psalm 1:1-2, ESV)

His delight is in the law of the Lord. What delight is there in in the Law? After reading the New Testament, the Apostle Paul in particular, we know the Law does not make us righteous but in fact more guilty. The Gospel is superior to the Law; the Gospel is good news and the Law is bad news right?

It’s just not that simple. Continue reading

The Read and Share File

I would like to try something new.  Sometimes I’m reading or watching the news, and a statement or comment lights that creative spark and I sit down and crank out a blog post.  At other times I read something in an article or on a blog and think “Oh that’s neat,” then go about what I’m doing.  I don’t feel compelled to write 800 words, but would like to share with my readers those things that have blessed me or twisted my noodle just a little bit.

I’m still working on the concept – and the title – but let’s begin with the Read and Share File and see how it goes.

Daniel Jepsen at his self title blog explains Why I Don’t Preach the Law.  The Apostle Paul points out that the Law is useful, but has limitations.  Namely the Law does not make us righteous.  Jepsen lists shortcomings of preaching the Law rather than sharing the Gospel.

Internet Monk (apparently doing a whole series on wilderness, but I missed the announcement) has this to say about the Wilderness of Life Under the Law.  If all you get from the Old Testament is the Law, you’re missing out.  Abraham was justified by faith before God gave the Law.

Steve Brown of Steve Brown Etc. had published a book, Three Free Sins.  He is in the middle of a very short book tour.  Tons of stuff to read, download and listen to on his blog.

Paul Wilkinson publishes the mother of all link pages every Wednesday.  Here is the special, limited edition Leap Day Link List.

Religion is Bad News

If you type “religion, gospel” into the Google search bar, you get 3.6 million results in about 0.22 seconds.  Search on WordPress and the results are even more along the lines of “Religion vs. the Gospel” and such like.  Lots of people are aware of the shortcomings of religion compared to the Good News of Jesus Christ.  But even for the believer, and certainly for everyone else, the temptation is still there to not fully trust in the concept of grace.

In Mark’s Gospel (Mk. 5:1-20) Jesus and the disciples land on the coast of the Gerasenes.   They encounter Legion, a mad man filled with demons.  After Jesus casts the demons into a herd of pigs, the locals are amazed to see the man formerly known as Legion clothed and in his right mind.  Rather than allow him to follow, Jesus commands him to go back to his home town and tell them what God has done.  In this case, the man does so.  Ergo: You don’t have to fix all your problems before coming to Jesus.  How many people plan to come to church as soon as they quit drinking, stop smoking, get back with their ex-wife, find a job, etc. etc.  We cannot fix our own problems, and if we could then we wouldn’t need Jesus in the first place.  Remember what Jesus told the Pharisees; it is the sick who need a physician, not the well.

The rich young man (Mk. 10:17-22) come to Jesus with one simple question; What must I do to be saved.  Religion is about what we do.  We could substitute Law if we were comparing the Law to the Gospel.  Keeping the Law, very religious.  This man claims to have keep each of the commandments since his youth.  Unlikely.  David was a man after God’s own heart, and he failed all kinds of ways to keep the Law.  We simply cannot do what is right, just like we cannot in and of ourselves fix what is wrong.  Religion is what we do; grace is what God has already done.

We can’t.  That’s the story of fallen man.  We can’t keep the Law.  We can’t be right.  We can’t fix what’s wrong.  Religion is our attempt to either be right or fix the wrong, and we the human people are epic failures at both.  Religion is bad news; the Gospel is Good News. Tell the world.

The Law of Love

Paul has a lot to say in his letters about the Law. Throughout the Book of Romans, the paragraphs have subject headers like “Judgement and the Law,” “Released from the Law,” “Sin and Law” and so on.  As a Pharisee, Paul had studied the Law well and enforced it.  As a Christian sharing the Gospel, he realized that the Law and the Prophets had been fulfilled in Jesus Christ.  His opinion of the Law remained very high.  Paul says the Law is like a tutor, or school master.  It teaches us about the attributes of God.  Living under the Law though would mean we are still subject to God’s judgement.  Living under grace is far superior to meeting the requirements of the Law.  Keeping the Law is a burden we cannot bear.

Paul also has a thing or two to say about love.  I was struck during my last read of Romans at how Paul relates love and the Law together.  Note this passage from Romans 13:

Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law.  For the commandments, “You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,” and any other commandment, are summed up in this word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”  Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.  -Rom 13:8-10

Wow.  Love is the fulfilling of the Law; very similar to Jesus’s answer about the greatest commandment in Mark 12.  In that case, Jesus says the greatest commandment is to love God with all your heart, mind and strength and the second is like it, to love your neighbor as yourself.  There is no way to violate any one of the 10 commandments if this love is our guiding principle.  Which is exactly what Paul explains here.  In John 15, Jesus said things like “If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love,” and even “I give you this commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.”  I’m still amazed at the way Paul expresses love as the fulfillment of the Law.

Jesus Greater Than Moses: Heb 3

Hebrews is easy to preach because its form is much more like a sermon than an epistle (letter).  At the heart of its message is an impassioned plea not to leave the Christian faith for another, and so in order to be convincing the author of Hebrews makes many comparisons between Christ and all the things of the Old Testament he is superior to.  We have already seen that Christ is superior to the angels, and that through suffering he becomes the perfect founder of our faith.  Chapter 3 begins this way:

Therefore, holy brothers, you who share in a heavenly calling, consider Jesus, the apostle and high priest of our confession,  who was faithful to him who appointed him, just as Moses also was faithful in all God’s house. For Jesus has been counted worthy of more glory than Moses—as much more glory as the builder of a house has more honor than the house itself.  (For every house is built by someone, but the builder of all things is God.)  Now Moses was faithful in all God’s house as a servant, to testify to the things that were to be spoken later,  but Christ is faithful over God’s house as a son. And we are his house if indeed we hold fast our confidence and our boasting in our hope.  Hebrews 3:1-6

Continue reading

The Ten Percent Tithe

tithingTithing is a tricky thing.  If a church pastor preaches a sermon on tithing, he will be accused of being interested only in money.  The pastor’s salary (minister, priest, etc) is probably set in the church budget.  It’s not like if the church has a good day at the offering plate, he’s going out to Golden Corral after the service.  But try to teach on the subject of tithing if you don’t believe me, and see if  words like meddling or greedy aren’t tossed around freely.

The issue I wish to address here is the practice many Christians have of tithing exactly ten percent of each dollar earned.  I mean to respond to questions such as:

  • Is tithing an Old Testament command?
  • Are Christians required to tithe?
  • Does Jesus demand a tithe?
  • How much should one tithe, if anything? Continue reading

The Greatest Commandment

In the Old Testament, God gave Moses the Law so that the Hebrews could be His people and He could be their God.  Most people are familiar with the 10 Commandments, but there were many others.  You can read page after page in Leviticus and Deuteronomy about what to do if your bull accidentally kills one of your neighbors sheep and other such unlikely events.  Many laws were simply about calling the Hebrews out to be different from the culture they lived in.  Every now and then, some well-meaning Bible teacher wanders into the Levitical law and comes out preaching a sermon about how God does not want us to eat catfish.  Some people make the argument that it’s all impossible to understand, and that we could never keep all of the law.  That conclusion would be exactly the correct one to reach. Continue reading