Friday, November 30, 2012

God gave us the Law of Moses to make us sin more

What was the purpose of the Law of Moses?

Romans 5:20 is pretty clear.  “Now the law came in to increase the trespass” (ESV). 

Come again?  God gave the law in order to increase sin?  The NIV translation runs like this: “The law was added so that the trespass might increase.”  God’s Word translation seems starker: “Rules were added to increase the failure.”

Galatians 3:19 conveys the same idea.  “Why then the law?  It was added because of transgressions” (ESV).  Several scholars believe the idea behind the Greek word (translated here “because”) is to increase.  The Modern English translation by J. B. Phillips gets closer to the idea: “Where then lies the point of the Law?  It was an addition made to underline the existence and extent of sin.” 

Those who think that by obeying the law they will be saved miss the whole point of the law.  It wasn’t given to provide us a means of salvation.  It was added to highlight our need of salvation.  The law actually increased sin!  (Also helpful in this regard is Romans 7:7-13, where 13 says, “But in order that sin might be recognized as sin, it [the Law] produced death in me … so that through the commandment sin might become utterly sinful” [NIV].)

One of the primary points of Galatians 3 is that the only way to be saved—the only way to enter heaven, the only way to avoid hell—is by faith in Jesus Christ.  Obeying the Law of Moses doesn’t get you there, because it’s impossible to obey it perfectly; God knew that before he even issued the Law to Moses on Mt. Sinai.

“That seems wrong.  How can God be considered loving and good if he actually gave to us something that actually increases our guilt and condemnation?”  The truth is, it is because he is loving and good that he gave us something (the Law) to increase our guilt and condemnation.

Galatians explains:

“The Scripture [i.e., Law] imprisoned everything under sin, so that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe” (3:22 ESV).

“Now before faith came, we were held captive under the law, imprisoned until the coming faith would be revealed” (3:23 ESV).

“Or, to change the metaphor, the Law was like a strict governess in charge of us until we went to the school of Christ and learned to be justified by faith in him” (3:24 Phillips).

The purpose of the Law is to reveal the hopelessness of our condition—we are utterly sinful—so that we will feel the weight of our sins and the horror of our future (condemnation and punishment).  In feeling that, we God’s goal is that we will seek salvation, the only salvation there is, faith in Christ.  The NIV translation of 3:24 captures the idea: “So the law was put in charge to lead us to Christ that we might be justified by faith” (emphasis added).

We human beings are inclined to overlook our own faults and overemphasize what we do right.  If that is our habit, why would we seek salvation?  What do we have to be saved from?  We’re not aware of our utter sinfulness.  God gave the Law to make us aware.  Why do some people not want to go to the doctor?  They prefer the bliss of ignorance.  If they become aware of something wrong, then they have to deal with it.  So are the doctor and his x-ray machine a foul ogre or an agent of mercy?  We tend to see them as the latter.  Even though the news isn’t pleasant, at least it tells us the truth so that we can pursue procedures that will bring healing.

So the statement, “God gave us the Law of Moses to make us sin more” is true.  But it isn’t the whole truth.  Better: God gave the Law of Moses to drive us to seek salvation through faith in Christ.

The whole intent might be diagrammed as follows:

People ignorant of their sins and guilt
> God gave the law
> sins increased
> people became aware of their sins and guilt
> felt their helplessness and hopelessness
> sought salvation
> embraced by faith salvation offered through Christ

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Philosopher admits bias against God

In philosopher Thomas Nagel's recent work, Mind and Cosmos: Why the Materialist Neo-Darwinian Conception of Nature is Almost Certainly False, he makes his case for rejecting materialist naturalism.  His reasons for rejecting this contemporary creed of science would lead one to think, according to reviewer Alvin Plantinga, that Nagel would at least be "sympathetic to theism."

But he is not.  It seems that his statement in The Last Word (1997) still holds:

"I am talking about something much deeper—namely, the fear of religion itself. I speak from experience, being strongly subject to this fear myself: I want atheism to be true and am made uneasy by the fact that some of the most intelligent and well-informed people I know are religious believers.... It isn’t just that I don’t believe in God and, naturally, hope that I’m right in my belief. It’s that I hope there is no God! I don’t want there to be a God; I don’t want the universe to be like that."

Well, at least he admits his bias.

(Plantinga's full review is worth the read.  Nagel's case against Darwinism is fascinating.)

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Be with me and protect me

This lyric is a great prayer for Christ's presence and protection.

O Jesus, I have promised to serve Thee to the end;
Be Thou forever near me, my Master and my Friend;
I shall not fear the battle if Thou art by my side,
Nor wander from the pathway if Thou wilt be my Guide.

O let me feel Thee near me! The world is ever near;
I see the sights that dazzle, the tempting sounds I hear;
My foes are ever near me, around me and within;
But Jesus, draw Thou nearer, and shield my soul from sin.

O Jesus, Thou hast promised to all who follow Thee
That where Thou art in glory there shall Thy servant be.
And Jesus, I have promised to serve Thee to the end;
O give me grace to follow, my Master and my Friend.

(Author: John E. Bode)

Saturday, November 17, 2012

How to serve difficult people

Insights from Warren Wiersbe's On Being a Servant of God (chapter 4)

[W]hen … difficulties come, our tendency is to pray for deliverance instead of growth.  We ask the Lord, “How can I get out of this?” instead of “What can I get out of this?”  When we do that, we miss the opportunities God gives us to develop spiritual maturity.
You’ll meet problem people and problem situations wherever you go, so make up your kind to expect them, accept them, and let God use them in your life. The devil wants to use problem people as weapons to tear your down, but the Spirit can use them as tools to build you up. 

Many of us confess that we’re not capable of loving people the way Jesus loves them and us…. God doesn’t ask us to work up our Christian love in our own strength because He offers to create it within us when we need it: “The love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy spirit who was given to us” (Rom. 5:5); “But the fruit of the Spirit is love” (Gal. 5:22)…. When the people we serve irritate us or disappoint us, the first thing we usually do is pray for them and tell the Lord to change them. What we ought to do first is pray for ourselves and ask God to increase our love.

It’s always too soon to quit. 

Remember always to keep chin up and knees down! 



Friday, November 16, 2012

Memory verses that ministered to me today

The Lord has established his throne in heaven,
and his kingdom rules over all.  (Psalm 103:19 NIV)

Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.  (Romans 12:21 NIV)

Do not be afraid of what you are about to suffer. I tell you, the devil will put some of you in prison to test you, and you will suffer persecution for ten days. Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you the crown of life.  (Revelation 2:10 NIV)

For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to give strong support to those whose heart is blameless toward him.  (2 Chronicles 16:9 ESV)

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

4 simple actions that lead to success

Last year I heard a successful, retiring, Canadian pastor (Laurel Buckingham of the Wesleyan Church) speak on self-discipline. One of the disciplines he talked about was the discipline of the "can-dos."
He shared 4 things that are easy to do that contribute to the success of many successful people. There are certainly more keys to success than these 4 things, but these cannot be neglected.
He said most successful people do all 4 (or at least 3) well. Losers (my word, not his) are proficient in 2 or less.
They are:
1. Be on time.
2. Do what you say you're going to do.
3. Finish what you start.
4. Say "please" and "thank you." (i.e., be appreciative)

Monday, November 12, 2012

Good book

The Mauritius Command (Aubrey/Maturin, #4)The Mauritius Command by Patrick O'Brian
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I enjoy the friendship and interplay between Aubrey and Maturin; Captain Jack Aubrey who struggles like a fish out of water on land but who is at home on the sea (nicknamed in the Navy as "Lucky Jack Aubrey"), and Stephen Maturin, quite the opposite--injured twice just changing boats, but otherwise a capable physician, scientist, spy, and Renaissance man. The battles and constant life at sea did become a bit wearying for me about 2/3s of the way into the book, but still a good read.

This, book 4 in the series, was probably my second favorite thus far, with the first book (Master and Commander) being my favorite.

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Friday, November 2, 2012

Humility is great

HumilityHumility by Andrew Murray
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book was formative in my thinking and life several years ago. It was good to read through it again and be reminded of the centrality of, the path to, and the blessings of humility.

Some meaningful quotes from the book:

As God is the ever-living, ever-present, ever-acting One--who upholds all things by the Word of His power, and in whom all things exist--the relationship of man to God could only be one of unceasing, absolute, universal dependence. . . . Man need only look back to the origin of existence and he will acknowledge that he owes everything to God. (9-10)

To many of us it has been a new joy in the Christian life to know that we may yield ourselves as servants, as slaves to God, and to find that His service is our highest liberty--the liberty from sin and self. We need now to learn another lesson--that Jesus calls us to be servants of one another, and that, as we accept it heartily, this service too will be a most blessed one. It will be a new and fuller liberty from sin and self. At first it may appear hard; this is only because of the pride which still counts itself something.
If once we learn that to be nothing before God is the glory of man, the spirit of Jesus, the joy of heaven, we will welcome with our whole heart the discipline we may have in serving even those who try to vex us.... no place will be too low. No stooping will be too deep, and no service too mean or too long continued, if we may but share and prove the fellowship with Him who spoke, 'I am among you as he that serveth' (Luke 22:27).
Brethren, here is the path to the higher life. Down, lower down! (31-32)

The insignificances of daily life are the importances and the tests of eternity because they prove what spirit really possesses us. (44)

It is easy to think we humble ourselves before God. Yet, humility toward men will be the only sufficient proof that our humility before God is real…. When in the presence of God lowliness of heart has become, not a posture we assume for a time when we think of Him, or pray to Him, but the very spirit of our life, it will manifest itself in all our bearing toward our brethren.... (43-44)

The humble man feels no jealousy or envy. He can praise God when others are preferred and blessed before him. He can bear to hear others praised and himself forgotten, because in God's presence he has learned to say with Paul, "I am nothing" (2 Corinthians 12:11). (44)

How can I die to self? The death to self is not your work; it is God’s work. In Christ you are dead to sin. The life there is in you has gone through the process of death and resurrection. You may be sure you are indeed dead to sin. But the full manifestation of the power of this death in your disposition and conduct depends on the measure in which the Holy Spirit imparts the power of the death of Christ. And it is here that the teaching is needed. If you want to enter into full fellowship with Christ in His death, and know the full deliverance from self, humble yourself. This is your one duty.
Place yourself before God in your utter helplessness. Consent heartily to the fact of your weakness to slay or make yourself alive. Sink down into your own nothingness, in the spirit of meek and patient trustful surrender to God. Accept every humiliation, look upon every fellow-man who tries or vexes you, as a means of grace to humble you. Use every opportunity of humbling yourself before your fellow-men as a help to remain humble before God. It is by the mighty strengthening of His Holy Spirit that God reveals Christ fully in you. In this manner, Christ, in His form of a servant, is truly formed in you and dwells in your heart. God will accept such humbling of yourself as the proof that your whole heart desires it. He will accept it as your very best prayer for it, and as your preparation for His mighty work of grace. It is the path of humility which leads to perfect death, the full and perfect experience that we are dead in Christ. (75-76)

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