The Blessed Path

A Case for God’s Law

In my first post (here), I made the claim that the majority of Christians today make most of their decisions without any serious regard for what God’s Word has to say about it.  I pointed out that most decisions are made on the basis of “community consensus” or “vague principles” that never enter the realm of the specific.  These decisions are made on this basis because the basic ethics and view of the average Christian is flawed.  They are out walking aimlessly about.  They will end up on the path to destruction.  I concluded with the claim that the problem that plagues the average Christian is a neglect of God’s Law.  I suggested that the only solution is the return of obedience to the Law.  This is not what most pastors in this country would suggest.  They might agree with the problem.  I suspect that if you polled 100 different church leaders, you would get 90 different answers to what the solution is.  They would all have one thing in common.  None would utter the word “law” as a part of the solution.  So how can I make such a claim?  Why do I suggest a return to the law as the solution?

First and foremost, it is not I that is making such a claim.  I am only attempting to discover and communicate what God has already revealed to us in His Word.  [Disclaimer: I confess that I have much to learn in this area.  In many ways, this blog is a reflection of my continuing efforts to live the simple life of faithfulness and devotion.  I am by no means an expert.]  That aside, I do not write or claim this on my own authority.  My claim that Biblical Law is the solution to our careless ways of decision-making is based on the authority of my Lord and His infallible Word.  It is reinforced by many heroes of the faith that were far removed from our time and culture.  If we desire to walk on the path that the Lord blesses, then we would be wise to listen to both.  I humbly present to you three reasons why God’s Law still has validity over your life as a Christian.

Duty

First, it is our duty to obey God and his Law.  He is the creator and ultimate authority over all things.  He makes the rules.  As created beings, we are subject to Him and His rules.  We are to obey them simply because they are His rules.  Psalm 95:6 expresses worship for God that is rooted in this Creator-creature relationship.  “Let us worship and bow down; and kneel before the LORD, our Maker!”  We are to obey Him, and all that He has commanded, as a consequence of the nature of this relationship.  He is our Creator.  We are the created.  This is reason enough for us obey all His commands.  A good example of this can be found in the very beginning of time in the garden of Eden.

And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, ‘You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.”[1]  

God gave Adam a command.  He gave Adam a law.   He also gave Adam a punishment for disobedience.  Adam had a duty to obey God’s command.  God didn’t make a deal with Adam.  He didn’t give Adam the option to opt out of this arrangement.  Adam had to accept and obey the terms presented because God commanded it.  It was an act of grace and love that God even offered a reward for obedience.  Adam was obligated to obey because of the nature of this Creator-creature relationship with God.  It was his duty to obey.  Of course, we know the outcome of this testing of Adam.  Let’s just say, Adam hasn’t been invited to come speak at any of our Christian conferences.  He didn’t get the opportunity to make the tour telling of his “garden experience.”  Why???  He died.  “He surely died!”  Adam had a duty to obey.  He had an obligation to obedience.

Lest you think that was a one time requirement, this point is made plain in the book of Deuteronomy.  Repeatedly throughout this book echo the warnings of Chapter 8:19-20,

“And if you forget the LORD your GOD and go after other gods and serve them and worship them, I solemnly warn you today that you shall surely perish.  Like the nations that the LORD makes to perish before you, so shall you perish, because you would not obey the voice of the LORD your God.”  

God had made Israel His special people.  He loved them.  He brought them out of slavery from the land of Egypt.  He led them to their promised land.  He gave them food (manna) for their journey in the wilderness.  He gave them promised victory in conquering.  He gave them specific instructions on how they were to live.  He gave them His Law.   He also gave them a promise.  If they didn’t obey His commands, they would “surely perish.”  Again there is a duty to obey His Law.   

“See, I am setting before you today a blessing and a curse: the blessing, if you obey the commandments of the LORD your God, which I command you today, and the curse, if you do not obey the commandments of the LORD your God…”[2]

Yes, but that’s the Old Testament right?  Well as Pastor Joseph Morecraft wrote, “Our obligation to obey God is rooted in our creaturehood before our Creator.  However, our obligation is intensified, not lessened, by virtue of our redemption in Christ by grace Having been bought with the price of Christ’s precious blood, we are not our own, therefore we are now to glorify God in the entirety of our lives”[3]  In other words, now that you have been freed from the penalty of God’s judgment, you are not excused from obeying God’s law.  Quite the opposite is true.  You are now expected to obey it, though not perfectly, because you have been bought with a price.  Let us not forget the words of Jesus, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.”[4] It is our duty as Christians to obey the commands of God’s Law.  Although most modern “pastors” may deny this, consider the words of Reformer John Calvin, “Because there is only one Lord and Master who has dominion over our consciences, and because his will is the only principle of all justice, we confess all our life ought to be ruled in accordance with the commandments of his holy law in which contained all perfection of justice and that we ought to have no other rule of good and just living..”[5]  The obligation to obey remains.  Jesus said,

“Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.”[6]

Direction

Secondly, the Law of God is a direct reflection of the character of God.  It defines for us what is right vs. wrong, righteous vs. evil, justice vs. injustice, etc.  It gives us some specifics on how to act in a way that honors Him.  It is tells us what is good and what is bad.  It provides us with direction.  “Biblical Law guides our sanctification.  God’s Law offers positive, infallible, and specific directions for Christian living.  He has not left us to our own subjective feelings to determine right and wrong.  The Law is the ‘tracks’ on which sanctification and spiritual growth run.  Do railroad tracks hinder or help a train to reach its destination?  What if a locomotive said, ‘I want to be free to roam as I please.  I want to be free from these tracks for they limit my freedom?’  Without the railroad tracks, a train has no freedom, no movement, no progress.  So it is with the relation between the Law and the Christian.”[7]  Or as Calvin wrote, “The law is the best instrument for enabling believers daily to learn what that will of God is which they are to follow.”[8]  Consider the fact that, God’s law will actually have a role in eternity.  There are different levels of punishment in hell (Luke 12:45-48).  It is determined by the level of rebellion to the Law of God.  Whether we walk in his direction or not has real consequences.  It matters now and forever.

Delight

Lastly, it should be our delight to obey the commandments of the LORD.  David in Psalm 119 gives us insights into how we should feel about God’s Law when he writes,

“Give me understanding, that I may keep your law and observe it with my whole heart.  Lead me in the path of your commandments, for I delight in it.” [9]

In this Psalm alone, David uses the term “delight” ten times in reference to God’s law or commands.  It is his joy to know, to understand, to keep and to share God’s law.  David cherished it.  He longed for it.  “Oh how I love you law! It is my meditation all the day”[10] was his heart’s cry.  David’s heart was inclined to God’s law because this is the natural effect of receiving the Holy Spirit.  As the prophet Ezekiel explains, God will put His Spirit within us and cause us to walk in His statutes.[11]  The Holy Spirit had come upon David[12] and wrote the law on his heart.[13]  He delighted in it.  As Greg Bahnsen writes, “The Holy Spirit works in the believer to bring about conformity to the inspired law of God.”[14]  It “does not oppose that law to the slightest degree but, instead, empowers obedience to it.”[15]  The Spirit makes obedience a joyful task.  It turns a duty into a delight.

“By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments.  For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments.  And his commandments are not burdensome.” – 1 John 5:2-3   

Another work of the Holy Spirit in the heart of a believer is that it should drive him into heartfelt gratitude for his salvation.  A “believer’s awareness that salvation is by sheer grace and not by the works of the Law and that they are eternally secure in Christ not only provokes intense gratitude in them, but that gratitude stirs them to greater care, greater determination, diligence and perseverance in conforming themselves-inside and outside- to God’s Law as their rule for obedience, for when Christ became their Savior He did not cease to be their Sovereign.”[16]

In other words, the Holy Spirit uses the Law of God to drive us to Christ.  This need of grace then produces gratitude in the believer.  This gratitude then drives the believer to greater obedience to the Law.  It is an amazing ministry of the Spirit that is rarely taught in our churches.  The Holy Spirit can stir in us obedience from the heart that is joyful obedience.  He gives in us new hearts that long to comply with His commands and by so doing He turns the Law of God from a burden into a delight.

Conclusion

It is out of a duty to obedience, a direction for holiness, and a delight within our soul that should drive us to understand and appreciate the Law of God.  If a Christian community has a disregard or apathy for God’s Law, it says more about them then it does about His Law.  I close with a warning for those that consider themselves Christians.  If when you read of the Law of God, you immediately begin to “check out” or dismiss it, you need to honestly re-evaluate the state of your soul before God.  One who does not concern himself with God’s Law is defined in the Bible as a fool.  “The wise of heart will receive commandments, but the babbling fool will come to ruin.”[17]  It is the sign of a rebellious heart and you are fooling no one but yourself.  If, however, you have a heart that longs to please the LORD, but you know you have neglected this area of your life, you are not alone.  Repent and purpose yourself to change.  Pray.  Ask God to help you love His Law.  Read God’s Law.  Connect with fellow Christians who love the Law.  Next post we will begin to examine and apply God’s Law.

“Blessed are those whose way is blameless, who walk in the law of the Lord!” Psalm 119:1


[1] Genesis 2:16, 17

[2] Deuteronomy 11:26-28

[3] Joe Morecraft, Authentic Christianity Vol.3, p517

[4] John 14:15

[5] RKS Reid, Calvin: Theological Treatises, p26

[6] Matthew 5:19

[7] Morecraft, Authentic Christianity Vol.3, p625-626

[8] John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion,2.7.12

[9] Psalm 119:34,35

[10] Psalm 119:97

[11] Ezekiel 36:27

[12] See 1 Samuel 16:13, Psalm 51:11

[13] Jeremiah 31:33

[14] Greg Bahnsen, By This Standard, p47

[15] Bahnsen, By This Standard, p50

[16] Morecraft, Authentic Christianity Vol.3, p621

[17] Proverbs, 10:8

The Path to Destruction

A Christian is faced with hundreds if not thousands of decisions everyday.  Most are instinctively made with little to no thought.  They are habit decisions and we often don’t even realize we have made them.  Others require a little more attention.  They require a quick pause and an internal evaluation.  In the span of a few seconds the decision is made with little to no pain.  Then there are the rarest of decisions, the really big ones.  These require much of us.  These are ones we can fret over.  These are the ones that we seek counsel in making.  These are the ones we worry about making the “wrong choice.”  In this category are the decisions like whom to marry, jobs to take, whether to move or not, college major, etc.  These are the life changing kinds of decisions.  These are the times when the Christian will finally ask, “what does God want me to do here?”  Here in lies the problem with the American Christian.  I suspect it is the same all over the world.  The average Christian makes most of his decisions without even thinking about it.  He spends little to no time considering what the Word of the Lord has spoken regarding the details of his life.  He lives on autopilot, an autopilot that was set with no regard to where the Lord has destined him to go.  How is the Christian to live his life and make his daily decisions in the light of his salvation? Sadly, this most basic of questions has either been ignored or poorly answered.

The Christian culture in America has failed to answer this question from a thoroughly Biblical basis.  The most common method is an appeal to “community consensus.” The answer to what is right and wrong is defined by the group. The “Christian community” tells us how to feel about abortion, work, marriage, war, politics, money, education, and every other topic under the sun.  A Christian will find a “Christian community” that is most compatible with the ethics that he already holds dear. There is very little change needed in his life.  He is comfortable.  If his life is mostly in line with his “Christian community” then he tends to feel at ease with his Christianity. The problem is that communities can get it wrong, even covenant communities.  Israel did on several occasions.  The history of God’s covenant people is filled with a record of the community doing “evil in the sight of God” or everyone doing “what was right in his own eyes.”  This is the echo throughout the book Judges.  You don’t think that is a problem today?  Christians are engaged in the same activities as their pagan neighbors.  They are encouraged by fellow believers to worship sports, have small families, send their kids to government schools, have debt, and yes someday retire.  Their community has confirmed that these things are Christian.  The problem is if the community does not turn to God’s Word and law it will not provide the right direction.  Our “Christian communities” rejected God’s law long ago.  The path they lead us down leads to rebellion and disobedience.

There is another way that a believer seeks to deal with the question of what should be his guide to his lifestyle and his personal decisions.  He knows he should live for God.  After all, we are talking about a true Christian with the indwelling Holy Spirit.  He desires to live a life pleasing to God.  He knows the Bible is the only source of truth and direction.  The problem with this believer is, he does not know how to apply the scriptures to his life.  He wants to live for God, but in the details of his life he doesn’t know how to apply God’s Word to the specific decisions he is faced with.  The sole guide for his ethics is vague Biblical principles that have no teeth on them.  Allow me to give an example.  Jesus said the greatest commandment is to “love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and mind.[1]  It is indeed the greatest commandment.  The command to “love your neighbor as yourself”[2] is a command that must be taken to heart, for it is “like the first.”  However, these commands are not useful if kept in the realm of generalities or overarching principles.  Yes, these commands are absolutely binding upon all Christian behavior, but to obey them takes more information than is found in these commands alone.  The principle to “love your neighbor” can and has led to all manners of unbiblical behavior.  “Love your neighbor” has been used as a carte blanche for all sorts of sins that the Lord hates (i.e. welfare, socialism, infidelity, penal system, etc.)  Well meaning Christians desire to fulfill the command to “love your neighbor.”  What they do not realize is that these two great commands are a summation of more specific commands found elsewhere in the Bible.  They do not know their Bible.  The details of what it means to “love your neighbor” that have been defined and spelled out in the Old Testament are not consulted.  They are left forming their personal ethics (making daily decisions) on the basis of very broad principles.  They have not seen how God has put teeth on these principles.  It is another path that leads to destruction.

So what is the solution?  We must turn the God’s Word for instruction, divine instruction.  R.J. Rushdoony pointed out that “torah means instruction, authoritative direction.”[3]  Torah is the Hebrew word for law.     

“The Biblical concept of law is broader than the legal codes…It applies to the divine word and instruction in its totality.”[4]

Thus it follows that if we want instructions from God on how we are to live, we must have some understanding and insight into Biblical law.  We must be honest about how we make our decisions.  Do we follow our Christian communities?  Do we follow some great high level commandment without the knowledge of how the Bible fleshes it out?  If we want to live a life that is pleasing to God, we must know what pleases God.  Jesus said, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.”[5]  The Blessed Path is a path of obedience to God and His commands.  Next post we will examine the usefulness of the law in guiding our decisions.

Blessed are those whose way is blameless, who walk in the law of the Lord!” Psalm 119:1


[1] Matthew 22:37

[2] Matthew 22:39

[3] R.J. Rushdoony, The Institutes of Biblical Law, p.6.

[4] Ibid, p.6.

[5] John 14:15

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