The Uses of the Law (90 Days...Part 3)
Last week’s blog post ended with a prayer for God to reveal how comforting, healing and rebuking His word can be. You might have read that sentence and felt a longing for the Bible to wrap you in a warm hug - but then you may have missed the word, “rebuking”!
A third of the way through reading this book I felt challenged by Psalm 119. David writes, “How sweet your word is to my taste - / sweeter than honey in my mouth,” There are certainly passages that taste sweet, but what about the bits that feel like a slap in the face? What about the bits that make even church-attending friends say, “I’m not sure I like the person who wrote this, I don’t know if I’m coming back next week, I need to wrestle with this.”
They’re heavy-lifting words: comforting, healing, rebuking - parental words. And I think they go together to paint a picture of God’s love. In Ancient Greek there are four distinct words for love: agápe (used 320 times in the New Testament), éros (erotic passion), philía (fondness, friendship), and storgē (natural affection usually for those you live with).
Agape is the really big one here, the one you would draw a giant pink heart around. It expresses the unconditional love God has for his children. It exists because “God is love.” (1 John 4:8). His arrows of love all point to us while we have not a single one pointing back: “God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8) It delights in giving and works for the good of the other. This is the kind of love that tastes like honey even as we endure bitter things.
Facing the Ten Commandments (Day 57-Day 69)
I found facing the ten commandments hugely challenging. Bullinger writes, “The use of the law of God can be said to be threefold: revealing our sin, teaching us the way, and restraining the ungodly.” (p.182)
It’s a good list, right? Most people would agree with several of the commands on that list. Particularly those in the right-hand column that relate to how we ought to live with one another. The ones on the left, however, explain how God wants to be worshipped and cut straight to the heart of our personal relationship with God. Do you worship him like that? All the time?
How does it make you feel as you look at that list? Have you, like me, literally or in your heart, broken every single one of these commands - not just once but repeatedly? Truly I can say with the psalmist David, “If only my ways were committed to keeping your statutes! / Then I would not be ashamed / when I think about all your commands.” (Psalm 119:6)
Big Things to Think About
There are such big things to think about here. Such a challenge to my persistent sins. Such a wake-up call for the ones I didn’t even know I had or had forgotten. Here are some of the thoughts I scribbled in my book as I travelled through the ten commandments:
- You will be given a beautiful reason to celebrate the Sabbath. When I found a beautiful reason to run I didn’t need to find the willpower to do it anymore. I had a beautiful reason: to enjoy my body in the space, to look at the water and the lorikeets and the pink and grey galahs feasting on children’s leftover lunches. To see all the other bodies out there: walking, cycling, running - moving through space. To be in my environment and feel a part of it. For that rush to my brain at the seven kilometre mark. I run to feel good. It renews me. The sabbath is like that too.
We are built for rest and reflection and remembering. The Bible is constantly calling on us to remember things. Survival would be impossible without remembering. So is salvation. Sometimes we are called to do less so that we can sit and be still, and know that “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.” Exodus 20:2 God has ordained a sabbath to remember that history.
- That God ordained marriage and he ordained it in paradise. Not something I often think about! Bullinger writes that wedlock’s knot was tied without the ministry of any person, God did it himself in the garden of Eden. Living in a time when the push to redefine marriage is so strong I was encouraged and reminded that God’s prohibitions are a call to faith: Will I trust what He has said, “No” to? Can I say with the Psalmist David and with Jesus, “The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places”? (Psalm 16:6)
- Don’t Forget the Other Side of the Coin. Where there is a prohibition there is also an opening to go deeper. Just as Jesus summarises that first column of commandments with, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.” (Mark 12:30) “Do Not Steal” also means, be generous! While explaining the good of a prohibition I appreciated the way Bullinger always pushed through to the other side. Justice requires us to use our riches well. How am I going at being generous with the abundance I have?
- Do Not Give Up Praying. We need to pray for ourselves as we study God’s word for it to be properly sown in us. The commandment: Do Not Lie struck me with force as Bullinger writes, “For the devil takes his name from wrongful accusing, and is called a slanderer (the Greek word for the devil, diabolos, means “slanderer”.)” How much I don’t want to be associated with the Devil! This made me look closely at James 3 and write in my book a prayer in ink, rather than give up on this struggle as too hopeless. “The tongue is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.” (James 3:8)
And then there are the things I don’t want to talk about.
No Longer Under The Law But Under Grace
“The law is a kind of looking-glass in which we behold our own corruption, frailty, stupidity, imperfection, and our judgment - that is, our just and deserved condemnation. Therefore the law also sets forth the true doctrine of justification, teaching plainly that we are justified by faith in Christ, and not by the merits of our own works.” (p.182)
The morning after a horrible fight my Christian life feels messy. My head hurts, my body - still reeling has lost its balance. I feel rattled by all the emotions: frustration, fury, disappointment that ripped through me last night. My muscles ache. I’ve got regrets: things I wish I hadn’t said. I’ve got things I’m grateful for, well one thing: it’s resolved.
But my sin has led me here again and I feel ashamed.
Awake in the blue light of 5am I just want to stay here, small, invisible. Then this simple truth floats into my mind: “I’m forgiven.” I know this, but this morning it’s different. It fills up all the space inside my head. The space between my relationships. The space where it’s still hurting. My simple belief in Jesus: in Faith Alone, Christ Alone, Grace Alone, is what saves me. Because my works surely can’t! Jesus is what God the Father sees when he looks at me and I can feel my shame dissolve into the weight of that, “Thankyou Lord,” I whisper, “Thank you so much!”
If looking at the ten commandments has made you feel ashamed of your sin, “Confess to God how you have left undone those things which you ought to have done, and done those things which you ought not to have done. Praise him for his mercy and grace towards you in Christ, despite your sin.” (p156.)
Writer | Katie Stringer is a lover of books, baking and beaches. She leads a Bible Study at her local Anglican church, All Souls Leichhardt and loves being part of the Leichhardt community. She is married to Andrew and they have two daughters and a son.