O How I Love Thy Law! (Closure of Legalists & Libertines)

Psalm 119:4  Thou hast commanded us to keep thy precepts diligently.

While we can see the error of the Legalists on one hand and the Libertines on the other, we should never let such excesses paralyze our own due diligence in the pursuit of holiness. And, mind you, the pursuit of holiness cannot be rightly taken up without the Law of God, for it is the standard by which we measure our progress. Granted, we will only have gradual progress until that day the Lord returns and makes us like He is, but we are nonetheless charged to “keep [God's] precepts diligently.”

Do we love Jesus? Then we ought keep His commandments (John 14:15). Do we hate our sin? Then we ought diligently study the Law to see our sin in light of God’s perfection (Romans 7:7b). Do we love one another? Then we ought seek their good, for Christ’s sake (Exodus 20:12-17). Do we realize the exceeding sinfulness of sin? Then we ought see that the mortification thereof is more important than life or limb (Matthew 5:29, 30).

Christians have the privilege of possessing an alien righteousness that gives us a right standing before the Holy God of Scripture. In light of such a wonderful truth, is it really so difficult to believe that God expects, nay demands, our pursuit of perfect obedience to His Law? It shouldn’t be. Romans 12 calls it out “reasonable service.” Does this mean we can merit God’s favor by keeping His Law? Of course not, because even in our greatest law-keeping we are yet deficient. We don’t keep the law to merit favor, but as a response to undeserved favor lavished upon us.

Would that we can echo the Psalmist when he says, “O how love I thy law! it is my meditation all the day.”

Josh

Piper, Prophecy, and Providence

So I’ve seen a few people blog about Piper’s “take” on the Tornado hitting the meeting where the ELCA voted to allow homosexual clergy. I decided to jump on the bandwagon. Most people may think me extreme, but it’s neither our duty nor our right to read or interpret Providence. Since I’m lazy, I’m just going to copy and paste a blurb I wrote elsewhere on the matter.

We are not privy to the secret things of the Lord our God. Did he predict this event in Scripture? No. Should we dogmatically presume that what has happened was God’s response as a direct consequence of the ELCA meeting? I don’t think we should. However, here’s what we can agree upon:

1. All negative things that happen in this life (sickness, calamity, disaster, death, etc.) are a consequence of sin. Therefore, there’s at least a general way to say that this, yet another natural disaster, is ultimately due to sin. Adam brought it into the world, and we are good at carrying that torch on as well.

Might God have sent this calamity as a means of shaking up these people? Maybe. That’s not for us to proclaim, cuz we cannot know. I assure you, though, if that’s why God did it, He’ll make it known beyond a shadow of a doubt to those people. God certainly sent this act. But can we really say why? Do we need to? No.

We can rest in knowing that God was pleased to bring it. We can be satisfied with calling what the ELCA is doing as an abomination and sin. But the two do not have to be related (although they may very well be). We can pray that the whole thing be used as a means to bring these people to repentance, but not simply a calamity by itself; rather, a hearing of the Word of God, which is much more powerful than any disaster that occurs.

We needn’t speak where God hasn’t spoken.

Josh

Brokenness and Sanctification (Dark Nights of the Soul)

 
Sanctification is process that will not be completed on this side of heaven, which means that right now we still have issues of sin that the Lord is dealing with. This video looks at some of the things a true Child of God can face when God deals with us in our sinfulness. Even though these times can be the darkest of nights for the believer, they are also some of the most precious as the Lord works in us great progress in our sanctification much of which comes through brokenness.

Legalists & Libertines: Both Imbalanced – Part 3

Psalm 119:4 Thou hast commanded us to keep thy precepts diligently.

Previously, we discussed the Right Group (as opposed to the Wrong Group) within the context of the Libertines. Today I’d like to explore the Right Group within the context of the Legalists. It will really be quite brief, because I’d like to simply reference some sermons from Pastor Todd Ruddell that go into detail concerning the relationship of God’s Law to the believer.

Although Legalists carry the aura about themselves as folks who love God’s Law, we must understand that such boastings are all a charade. Due to their misuse of God’s Law they may rightly be classified as antinomian, for their abuse and misuse is truly against God’s intended purpose of the Law in the life of the believer. Legalism proper can be defined in two ways:

1. Legalism: Trying to gain merit before God by keeping the Law.

2. Legalism: Requiring more of people than God requires.

Having already addressed the number 2 definition in a previous post, I’d like to hit on the first definition as it is the import of this particular series. The Law of God obeyed by the works of man cannot merit any favor from God, and that is not its purpose. While the Libertines have taken that and decided to abrogate or severely distort the purpose of God’s Law altogether, the Legalists have done quite the opposite.

The Pharisees not only thought they could merit favor before God by keeping the Law, but in order to “keep” the Law they had to change the depth and breadth of the Law altogether. Jesus called them white washed tombs because they “kept” these Laws on the outside, but they did not truly keep the Law in its fullness. Christianity is a heart religion. The Religion of Yahweh was a heart religion. It is not enough to simply keep the outward letter of the law, but we must be compelled to obey the Law in our hearts too.

This, of course, was Christ’s purpose in preaching the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5). He would say to the Pharisees, “You have heard it said, but I say unto you…,” and in doing so would tear down any pride the Pharisees may have had in their so-called “law keeping.” They were like white washed tombs because on the outside they looked nice and clean, but on the inside were full of dead men’s bones.

The Law is not a means of salvation for anyone. The Law cannot be fully kept by any mere human born to woman. All of Adam’s posterity have broken God’s Commandments in thought, word, and deed, so to pretend that we may attain salvation by the keeping of said law is a farce. The prophet Isaiah has referenced that even the “greatest” of our “righteousness” is filthy rags in the site of the thrice Holy God of Scripture. God does demand perfect obedience to His Law to have salvation, and that is exactly why Christ had to come and obey the Law perfectly on behalf of His people so that we will be able to stand before God as pure, holy, and undefiled. And THAT’s the good news of the Gospel, Friends!

Christ paid our debt that He did not owe. But we must never see God’s Law as a means to merit favor before God or a way to salvation. No, salvation is by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone. Rather, our obedience to God’s Law should be a loving response to the glorious truth that God, in His mercy, has saved us from ourselves, passing us from death unto life. Our love, study, half-obedience, and failure of God’s Law are to serve as a reminder that we cannot please God with our works, and a reminder of the good news that Jesus has pleased the Father on our behalf.

So, is the Law of God binding upon the believer? Absolutely. Does our half-hearted keeping of God’s Law merit us anything before the Almighty? Absolutely not. Does this fact negate our responsibility to obey God’s Law to the best of our abilities and with the utmost sincerity of our hearts and minds? Absolutely not. For God’s Law is good, perfect, holy and just. Our hearts are not. We seek to obey and uphold God’s Law because He has commanded it be so. Jesus said, “He who loves me, obeys my commands.” The following links are a sermon series that my pastor preached on Matthew 5 concerning the Law, the distinctions therein, the proper & improper uses thereof, and its relationship to the believer. I implore you to listen to them, as they are greatly edifying and helpful.

1. The Law or the Prophets: Who Are They?

2. Distinctions in the Law: How is Law Used in Scripture?

3. Distinctions in the Law, Part 2: Ceremonial, Judicial

4. Distinctions in the Law, Part 3: The Moral Law, Part 1

5. Distinctions in the Law, Part 4: The Moral Law, Part 2 – the Moral Law Abides)

6. Uses of the Law, Part 1: Unlawful Uses – As a Means of Justification

7. Uses of the Law, Part 2: Unlawful Uses (Cont.)

8. Uses of the Law, Part 3: Lawful Uses – Who’s Law Will Prevail?

9. Lawful Uses of the Law – How Do You Define Sin?

10. Preaching the Law – The Revealer of Sin

11. Uses of the Law, Part 4: Lawful Uses – The Law Binds us to Christ

12. Uses of the Law, Part 5: Lawful Uses – An Affectionate Rule of Life

13. Preaching the Law – Do You Love God’s Law?

14. Introduction – The Greatest and the Least

15. Are You Least or Greatest in the Kingdom?

16. Keeping the Least Commandments

17. Keeping the Least Commandments, Part 2

18. True Biblical Greatness

19. Doing and Teaching the Least Commandments

Josh

Legalists & Libertines: Both Imbalanced – Part 2

Psalm 119:4 Thou hast commanded us to keep thy precepts diligently.

The Right Side

Considering the ending of the previous post then, we might ask, “What is the proper balance?” The Biblical understanding of God’s Law.

Let us briefly examine a role/some roles in which God’s Law ought to act in the life of a believer. I find this necessary becausethe errors of the Libertines stem from a misunderstanding of what it means to be “under the Law.” Respectfully, though I believe their intentions are sincere and positive, I fear they have fallen prey to the idea that those of us who are under grace can only be out from “under the Law” by casting it aside. Such a belief is unfounded in Scripture and, I believe, a revolt against God’s provision of goodness He has given us in the Law.

First, what does God’s Word say about God’s Law? Many things. My personal favorite follows thus from Psalm 19:

7 The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul; the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple;
8 the precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes;
9 the fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever; the rules of the Lord are true, and righteous altogether.
10 More to be desired are they than gold, even much fine gold;sweeter also than honey and drippings of the honeycomb.
11 Moreover, by them is your servant warned; in keeping them there is great reward.

I am certain that Biblical Christians would all agree that we can trust Scripture, no? Not only can we trust in Scripture, we can love and obey it wholeheartedly, without fear of it leading us astray. Hence, it follows we can also believe in and trust what the Psalmist says here. Let us consider a few of the Psalmist’s descriptors of the Law.

1. God’s Law is Perfect (v.7)

Hebrew: תמים –Transliteration: tamiym — which means:

1) complete, whole, entire, sound
a) complete, whole, entire
b) whole, sound, healthful
c) complete, entire (of time)
d) sound, wholesome, unimpaired, innocent, having integrity
e) what is complete or entirely in accord with truth and fact

Accidental is certainly no way to characterize the Psalmist’s placing of perfect as the first descriptor of God’s Law in this passage. Rather, it lays the foundation for all those which proceed thereafter. Because God’s Law is perfect, we can be confident that to the “revived soul” it:

-is sure, bringing wisdom to the simple
-is right, rejoicing the heart
-is pure, enlightening the eyes

So not only is the Law all these perfect things, but it does and brings good things! Wisdom, Joy, Illumination, and Rewards. That doesn’t sound scary, nor is it something I mind living “under.” ;) Now, considering the given definition of perfect, I believe we are safe to proclaim that God’s Law is perpetual. If it is perfect (and it is), how could one even imply that it is bad, deficient, or whatever one wishes to say, enough that we need to be finished with it? I mean, it is complete, not lacking in anything, sound, etc., thus it has no need to be abolished. Next, allow me to quote that Esteemed Apostle, when he writes:

So the law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good. – Romans 7:12

Having briefly touched the surface, let me say that I, in no way, would think the sincere Libertines would disagree thus far with what I’ve said. “So, then, what is the purpose, Josh?” To point out that when the Apostle says “you are not under law but under grace,” he does not mean that the Law is bad, or that it is no longer in effect. Granted, there are certain Mosaic, Ceremonial, and Judicial laws which are no longer in effect, but not without reason. The ceremonial laws no longer have any typological use, having been fulfilled in Christ. The judicial laws have passed with the passing of the nation-state of OT Israel*. No, what I speak of is God’s Moral Law.

What was Paul saying, then? The same thing that is true for every believer in all times in all ages ranging from Adam to present. That, before God so graciously regenerated and justifies a sinner, he is condemned by the Law. Not because the Law is in any way deficient. NO! Because men are deficient. The Law stands as a condemnation against those who have not been saved by the Law Giver. However, once the sinner is graciously brought into the Law Giver’s family, he is no longer condemned by that Law, but saved by the Law Giver’s grace.

Therefore, since it is nothing inherent within the Law that is condemnable, deficient, etc. Paul does not mean that the Law is no longer authoritative, binding, or important for the Christian. We know that the Law is perfect, good, holy, just, rewarding, etc. How, then, could we say it is abolished? The Law, for the unbeliever, serves one of two purposes: Either, his condemnation unto everlasting hell, or his conviction unto repentance, conversion and everlasting glory.

For the Christian, though, the Law is still authoritative, binding, and important. It cannot condemn the Christian, for there is now no condemnation for those in Christ. Why is that? For Christ took the condemnation, not because of some magical pixie dust that is applied to believers when they are converted. The Law is a measure for the Christian. The Law ought to be a delight for the Christian. The Law serves as a means unto holiness (not perfectionism, mind you). Thus, it is not the Law that is bad, but men. The Law is not a Boogey-Man.

Lord willing, in a future post, we can look at the “Right Side” in the context of the Legalists. Until then, Godspeed and Grace to all of God’s People!

*Although the judicial laws have expired with the nation of OT Israel, the general equity of said laws still remains (this will be discussed and expounded upon in a future article, Lord willing).

Josh

Legalists & Libertines: Both Imbalanced – Part 1

Psalm 119:4 Thou hast commanded us to keep thy precepts diligently.

“The Law” has become a source of terrible infighting amongst the visible Church today. This is a sad and lamentable course, no doubt. There are three primary groups of understanding amongst professing Christians when it comes to the Law of God. Suffice it to say, such divisions are not desirable. For only one understanding of God’s Law is right. That is the biblical understanding.

Two of the three groups, though seeming to be polar opposites, can ultimately be classified as the same thing: antinomian. The anti of course means against. Nomos means rule, law. Let’s just call these two groups, in a collective context, the Wrong Side. If we wanted to classify the two groups within the Wrong Side, we could call one group the Legalists and the other group the Libertines. Let us lay out the surface distinctions between the two.

Libertines

This group could be broken down even further, but for the sake of brevity we shall present them as a conglomeration of varying degrees. Some in this group would say that the Ten Commandments (Decalogue), that is the summary of the Moral Law of God, were primarily applicable to the Nation of Israel, however whatever commands are repeated in the New Testament are still binding and applicable to the Christian under the New Covenant. Another group amongst the Libertines, however, would say that the Ten Commandments have no application whatsoever, and that Christ brought a “new” and “higher” Law. They contend that the Decalogue was an external command, where as Christ’s Laws were better commands because they deal with the heart. They also contend that since (they say) the 4th Commandment is no where repeated in the New Testament that it has been abrogated and is not binding upon Christians today.

Consequent to this belief is a pitting of Law against Grace, as if the two are mutually exclusive. They are certainly distinguished one from another. But the Law still serves a very important function in the life of the believer. The Libertines are wont to say, “We are not under Law but under Grace!” And to this I give a hearty “Amen!” However, in saying this, what they mean to convey is that the Law is no more, and that Grace is pitted against the Law. That the Law is somehow inherently defective, so Grace had to come and replace it. But this is not the case. We will discuss this further in the “Right Side” section.

Legalists

The other group of the Wrong Side, which is the seemingly polar opposite of the Libertines, are the Legalists. The Legalists proclaim a love and binding nature of the Decalogue. They are quick to criticize their libertine brethren (rightly so) for their blatant antinomianism, but fail to see that their own belief and practice is also antimonianism. Why? Well, not because they believe that the Decalogue is still morally binding in this day and age, but because they believe they merit something before God by keeping the Law, and they diminish law-keeping down to a mere outward obedience. This is exactly what the Pharisees did, and is precisely why Christ preached what He did in the Sermon on the Mount. Christ was not bringing a new, better, higher, or more spiritual law. Rather, he was correcting the Pharisees abuse and misuse of God’s Law.

Consequent to this belief is a total insult to God’s standard as codified in the Ten Commandments.

So both the Legalist and the Libertines are antinomian in that they are against the Law. Either they are against its binding nature today (Libertines), or they are against the proper use, purpose, and function of it (Legalists).

Tomorrow, Lord willing, we’ll take a look at what the Reformed Faith constitutes as a proper view of God’s Law. Until then, Godspeed and Grace to all of God’s People!

Josh

The Virtues of Virginity

The Virtues of Virginity: The new Apologetics.com Radio Show (click for audio)

In our culture there is a war against virginity. It is viewed as a problem or even an aberration; something to be destroyed as soon as possible in order to be thought of as “normal” in the court of public opinion. The mounting pressures from educators, peers, and the media have become constant and brazen. Any sentiment toward a sensible purity is regarded with suspicion or out right animosity. Is it really such an offense to regard oneself as holy? To view our special createdness in the image of God as demanding that a tremendous value be placed upon one’s most intimate relations? There will always be those that refuse to think of intimacy as anything more than mere animal functionality. Some interpret every love as trivial or common. But the glory of God demands the same things that the educated conscience desires and our practice of purity, fidelity, charity, chastity, and continence while in the state of virginity is the means that God uses to prepare us for the graces of matrimony. The groundwork of who and what we are in Christ is to be laid in a state of virginal purity, apart from the cares of marriage, and certainly apart from the serial sexual relationships that have become the cultural prerequisite to marriage today. Virginity, Marriage, and Widowhood are particular stages in the developed life. Everyone begins their life in the virginal state and in that protected environment continues until ready for the creation of new life within the life long bond of marital fidelity. In Christian thought, there is a need to consider ourselves and our value within the gifts and tender care of God. He has held nothing back from us in His love and affection. And this means that we should see our holiness as something that is very important to what we are in Christ. We ought not to sell ourselves cheaply. There is, even today, a vital interest in the Christian retaining their purity and distinguishing themselves from the world as much by what we do as what we believe.

Neiswonger

http://www.apologetics.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=377:the-virtues-of-virginity&catid=43:kkla-995-fm-los-angeles&Itemid=74