Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Sermon on the Mount Part 7: How I Love Your Law

Psalm 119 is a love song! "Oh, how I love your law! I meditate on it all day long." (vs. 97)
This is the theme of the entire psalm - the longest chapter in the Bible - being IN LOVE with God's Law.

The Law has gotten a bad rap in the church lately.

"Oh, we're not under the Law," people say. "We're under grace! Don't be so legalistic!"

We're missing the point.

True, we are not UNDER the Law. To the one who has been set free by Christ, the Law is no longer an oppressor. Instead, it has become
something else. Now that I've finally come to realize what the Law has become, I find that I have - like David - fallen in love with it.

"Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets," Jesus said. "I have not come to abolish them, but to fulfill them. I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished." (Mt. 5:17-18) In Jesus, the Law has been fulfilled - filled to the full. No longer does it stand outside and impose itself upon me against my will, condemning me for my inability to live by it. Instead, it has come to live within me as I live within Christ - it has become part of me, a welcome guest, a wise counselor, a trustworthy adviser.

"This is the covenant I will make with them after that time, says the Lord. I will put my laws in their hearts, and I will write them on their minds." (Hebrews 10:16, quoting from Jeremiah 31:33) My desire to live by the Law is not regression to legalism, but a sign that God has written it on my heart. The Law is God's Word, and Jesus is the Word, and really, it is hard to know the one without the other. It is hard to love the one without loving the other. "If you love me, you will obey my commandments," Jesus said over and over again. (John 14:15, 21; 1 John 5:3, etc.)

It is impossible to obey the Law without knowing and loving Christ. I believe the reverse is also true: it is impossible to know and love Christ without obeying the Law.

The Law is NOT just a list of do's and dont's. It is a reflection of God's character. That's why Jesus - and only Jesus - was able to keep it perfectly. The Law summed up WHO JESUS IS. By keeping the Law, he was just being himself. Now think about this: God has promised to transform us and conform us to the likeness of His Son (Romans 8:29). When this happens, the Law becomes our "second nature" (replacing our first nature - the sin nature) and following it is no longer burdensome (1 John 5:3-4). It is written on our hearts and guides us to walk the same path Christ walked. It empowers us to follow him, to find the narrow path and stay on it, to walk in the light, to be holy, to be perfect as He is perfect. The Law ceases to be a taskmaster and becomes instead a mentor.

I love the Law, because God gave it to me so that I might know Him better. All of its precepts are holy, righteous, and good (Romans 7:12). Why WOULDN'T I want to follow God's Law?

I am saved by grace.

But I am blessed by the Law.

I am blessed to know God's perfect will, so I don't have to guess what pleases Him. I am blessed to be protected by God's perfect counsel, so I don't have to suffer the consequences of wrong decisions. I am blessed to experience God's perfect freedom, for He has already made all of the difficult decisions - I don't have to wrestle them out; all I need do is abide by them, like a child who doesn't have to worry because Dad and Mom are carrying the burdens.

Before I knew Christ, I found the Law oppressive, harsh, unreasonable, arbitrary, and undesirable. I know many who call themselves Christians but still view the Law in this way, protesting at every chance that they have been set free from the Law and are no longer obligated to obey it. Obligated? Well, no, I guess not. You're not obligated to breathe, either, but you do it anyway.

I do not claim to obey the Law perfectly. I confess, I fall short every day. But I still try. Why? Because I want to be like Jesus. I want to live in a way that pleases him, that makes me an effective witness to his love and glory. I want the rewards that come from obedience to him. Will my obedience save me? No. Will it make God love me more? No. Will it bring me closer to God? Absolutely.

How I love Your Law.

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