Tag: The Law

A Keepable Law

Hypocrisy and self-righteousness is the result of giving children a keepable law and telling them to be good. ~Tedd Tripp

That doesn’t only apply to children. We all want a keepable law. A law that we can obey in our own power. A law that doesn’t crush our pride and arrogance. A law that doesn’t necessitate a substitute. A law that doesn’t show us how weak and foolish we are. A law that doesn’t drive us to the cross.

Perhaps that’s why we are so emphatic about keeping the Ten Commandments. Or should I say, our Ten Commandments? Our Ten Commandments are a bit different from God’s—a bit more keepable. We water them down so that we can obey them in our own strength.

Here’s the APV (American Popular Version) of the Ten Commandments:

1. Don’t worship Buddha and company
2. Don’t make or own creepy little statues of gods
3. Avoid four letter words
4. Show up on Sunday
5. Have a decent relationship with your parents
6. Don’t kill people
7. Don’t sleep around
8. Don’t be a thief
9. Don’t lie
10. I don’t really know what this one means

But there’s a problem. It’s called God’s law. Jesus summarizes his teaching on the law by saying,

“You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Matt. 5:48)

That doesn’t square well with the APV of the Ten Commandments. Those commandments are keepable. But God’s standard is perfection. Even on our best days, we can’t hope to achieve that.

You see, properly understood, the law is a mirror in which we see how sinful we really are. It shatters our pride, crushes our arrogance, and shows us that we desperately need a Savior. This is the law we need to hear and teach. A law that sends us running to the cross. A law that requires us to trust in the finished work of Christ. A law we can now obey only because we have been given the Spirit who empowers us to do so. We need the perfect law of God.

The Words That Wreck Me

“You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Matt. 5:48)

There was a time when I didn’t know that this verse existed. I was probably hiding from it. After all, it’s a bit startling. I can handle the parts of the Sermon on the Mount where Jesus talks about hate being the same as murder and lust being the same as adultery (Matt. 5:21-30). Those words are uncomfortable, but they don’t wreck me. What wrecks me is the realization that God requires perfection. It’s non-optional, and I can’t attain it. Nothing I do can earn God’s favor. Nothing I do can make me perfect. That’s humbling. In fact, it’s downright scary.

If I’m left to myself, I am doomed. And the same goes for you, your spouse, your kids, and your neighbors. We’re all doomed if left to ourselves. We can’t be perfect as the Father is perfect.

But, that’s not the end of the story. There is a man who lived a perfect life. There’s a man who wrapped himself in flesh to come and save his people. The Shepherd who suffered the wrath of God in the place of his sheep. The Son who was perfectly obedient to his Father. The High Priest who became the perfect sacrifice. That man is the God-Man—Jesus Christ.

Christ has earned God’s favor on our behalf. He has imputed his righteousness to our account (2 Cor. 5:21). In him we have everything that we can’t hope to have in our own power. Let this be our prayer:

Lord break our pride and all our vain attempts to earn your favor
Help us to rest upon the finished work of Christ

The One Another Commands: “Love Each Other” (Romans 13:8)

There are over 50 one another commands in the Bible. This series of posts is a journey through all of them.

Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. (Rom. 13:8)

Love is at the very heart of the law of God.

Paul writes,

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. 13:9-10)

Think about the very structure of the Ten Commandments. The first four commandments deal with our relationship with God and the latter six address how we are to relate to others. These two tables of the law can be summed up in Jesus’ answer to the Pharisee’s question,

“Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” (Matt. 22:36-40; Mark 12:29-31)

We can sum up the Ten Commandments in a short phrase: love God, and love others. That’s it. Simple, clear, and yet immensely difficult to live out. Think back to Paul’s words in Romans 13:8-10. Loving others means that we will treat them as we are called to in the second table of the Ten Commandments. So, let’s look at each of the examples Paul gives to show us what this looks like.

1. To love others means that we will not commit adultery. If you’re committing adultery—whether that be through an affair, lust, or pornography—you are not loving your neighbors. You’re certainly not loving your spouse, and you’re not loving other men and women as brothers and sisters in Christ who are created in the image of God.

You’re lust isn’t an expression of love, it’s a vulgar display of the desire to treat men or women as objects created for your personal pleasure and satisfaction. It will kill your marriage, your relationships with those of the opposite sex, and chiefly your relationship with God.

2. To love others means that we will not murder. “Well, duh,” you may be thinking. But, assuming you’ve read through the Sermon on the Mount, you and I both know that there’s more to it than that. As Jesus said,

“You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire.” (Matt. 5:21-22)

We all know what this means. We’ve hated others. We’ve been angry just because someone interfered with our perfect plan for our life. There have been times that we’ve wished someone would disappear. In other words, we’re all murderers who deserve hell. We all desperately need the grace of God to love others and put our hatred to death.

3. To love others means that we won’t steal from them. We know that stealing is wrong, but we often forget that stealing isn’t just about taking an object that doesn’t belong to you. Certainly, it’s not less than that, but I believe it’s more. In stealing, we are hurting our neighbor. We are essentially saying, “I love myself more than I love you, so I’m perfectly fine with hurting you for my own benefit.”

4. To love others means that we won’t covet what they have. Covetousness is at the root of many of the problems we have in our relationships with others. We see what others have, and we want it, badly. Greed and envy begin to consume us. Eventually, our greed and envy invite their close neighbors bitterness and contempt to the party. And then, whatever love we had for our neighbor is strangled by the fact that they have something we don’t. The relationship dies, and all that remains is malice and gossip.

Paul makes it clear what love isn’t. But what does Christian love look like positively? In summary, to love others means to treat them as God calls us to treat them according to his Word. This is a sacrificial love that genuinely seeks the good of others. “Love,” as Paul writes, “does no wrong to a neighbor” (Rom. 13:8a). That’s radical. By its very nature, love is incompatible with our sin. Lust, covetousness, idolatry, and hate are diametrically opposed to it.

So, it’s silly to pit the law and love against each other. In fact, what we are called to is nothing short of holy love that seeks what is best for others to the glory of God.