Monday, September 25, 2006

The Operation of the Law of God

The Law of God. It was given by God through Moses and preserved in the Pentateuch. When Jesus started His public ministry He made clear that He was not coming to lay aside the Law but to fulfill it (Matt 5 ff.-Sermon on the Mount). As we move on into the Gospels we start to see a conflict that we often call Law vs. Grace. There is a lot of material in the NT about not living under the law. Many Christians today feel that the Law of God is not very applicable to them. This seems to be at odds with Paul's statement to Timothy that "all the writings are God breathed and are profitable…."

Obviously this is a large subject and I only want to touch on one small part of it today. That is the working of the law. On its face the law seems to be pretty straightforward. "Thou shall not do such-n-such." But Christ Himself peels away this veneer and reveals that there is much more there. Our Lord told the crowd that the prohibition on murder was really a prohibition on hatred. This could not have been something new that He was teaching; they should have known this already.

So what do I mean by the working of the Law. I think that in our fallen state we have real difficulty thinking like God. In our flesh we seek technical or procedural laws. We want an algorithm that says: "If you see X; then do Y." But God does not legislate like this. His law is "Love me; love others." The Decalogue is a series of refinements on the overriding principle of Love. Throughout the books of Moses we see "case law" given to exemplify how the principles of the 10 Commandments look in real life.

So the Law of God works on the basis of principle versus procedure. How does this impact the modern church? Well, when one looks at the 4th Commandment and says, "I am not bound to observe the Sabath!" then one can start to have Saturday services or call off evening service on Super Bowl Sunday. But when we observe that part of loving God with all our hearts, souls and and minds includes keeping the Sabatical Principle of the Fourth Commandment it leads us to a whole different mindset toward our Sunday worship.

Another example that hits close to home is the Second Commandment. Many Christians would be hard-pressed to imagine how they could violate this command of God. Again let us consider the principle embodied here that there is a right way and wrong way to worship God. I think we are commanded that we are not to allow the surrounding culture dictate how we worship the One True God. Does this not speak to so much to how we do church in America today?

This principle versus procedure thought brings to mind the example used by many including John Piper and Jim Berg to name just two. We would never expect to be given a list of procedures of how to behave in a marriage relationship. "When it is the anniversary, thou shall give the wife flowers." But we all understand how the principles of marriage dictate what we do on important occasions like anniversaries.

The essence of Christianity is to have a restored relationship with God through Christ in the power of the Spirit. Every relationship has rules or laws. Very few if any of them are the technical or procedural types; most are principial. That is how God's Law works.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

St. Paul on Blogging

When I first announced my entry into the Blogosphere my dad responded typically. He did not jump up and down with excitement; he did praise my first article (published on Stuff Out Loud); and he issued a warning. He challenged me to study II Timothy 2: 16 and allow it to inform anything that I was going to do in blogging. I have been doing that.

I find this advice of Paul to Timothy as one of those amazing places where a 2000 year-old document seems to speak as though it was written yesterday. Truely, this is the Word of the Lord! Paul has just told Timothy to be diligent in his ministry and to accurately handle the Word of Truth. Then he says, "But, avoid worldly and empty chatter, for it will lead to further ungodliness… (NASB)" WOW. Surely this speaks to those of us that blog.

Every time some new technology comes down the pike the church has to make a decision. It can take the Naysayer position. This is what the Amish did about 200 years ago. It is also what the Roman Church did during the Age of Enlightenment. Or the church can take the Naive approach. This is where it accepts every new thing as being morally neutral and tries to incorporate it into church. I can think of no better example of this than American Christianity with its Christian Rap, Christian Theme Parks, Christian Self-Help, and Redeeming Everything. In the middle of these extremes is the Wisdom decision. In wisdom the church evaluates new things, discards those that are useless and adapts those that are usable to spread the message of the gospel. The best example is how the early fundamentalists seized on the power of radio to make an end-run around the increasingly liberal denominations and take their message directly to the people. Radio was one of the cornerstones of early fundamentalism.

Along come weblogging, now known as blogging. It took a couple of years to catch on but by 2005 Sharper Iron, Pyromaniac, et al where a growing part of the phenomenon of Christian Blogging. Some have raised serious concerns about blogging and bloggers and have said that the church should not participate in this medium. They may have a point from Paul since there is much "worldly and empty chatter." There has been many unloving things said and much that is not true. Should Christians leave the bloggosphere or would that be throwing out the baby with the bathwater.

I believe that there is much good in blogging. I have read many great articles by young and mature Christians that I would not otherwise have access to. I have been encouraged; I have been provoked to think; I have been pushed to study by bloggers. I believe that blogging allows Christians that would otherwise never get to "provoke one another to love and good works" to do this over many miles and even around the world. I really think that blogging is going to change our view of information in the next ten years.

So where does that leave us with Paul's remark? Like so many things, (ie. meat, circumcision, wine) I think that he would conditionally say that we should blog. I see a parallel between the world of the blog and Mars Hill where Paul so boldly came with the gospel. But Paul never holds back from telling us what love should inform our actions. Love of God and love for the brethren must shape every liberty and every action. We must avoid "wordly and empty chatter" that attacks, confuses, discourages, and harms our brothers or sisters. We may not participate in any blogging that undermines the Kingdom. We must always "speak the Truth in love."

So early in the 21st Century we have a new technology. It can be used for good or ill. It cannot be completely avoided. Let us follow Paul's advice and "accurately handle the Word of Truth" so that the Truth can illuminate the world!

Saturday, September 02, 2006

My Way

This past week (August 25) there was another tremendous article over at PyroManiacs called "You can go your own way." In it Dan Phillips talks about the response of two men when told by God that they are to be allowed to go their own way. One is ecstatic; the other cries out for God to have mercy and not allow him to go his own way.

Dan's article reminded me of a point made by Jim Berg in his book Changed Into His Image. In the book Dr. Berg posits that all God would need to do to destroy us is to withdraw His grace and allow us to have our own way. This was and is a powerful thought that pops into the forefront of my mind from time to time. It needs to crop up much more often. My flesh and my heart are sinful enough that if God allowed me to have my own way I could and would destroy my very life.

Two things Dan brought out that really arrested me: first, the response of a Godly man when presented with the chance to go his own way is, "Oh Dear God, no, please no!" We must cultivate in ourselves a sensitivity to our own selfish desires and be quick to call for divine help when we start to pull in that direction.

Second, "Autonomy. It is the essence of Hell, it is sin's direst judgment, it is the Christian's most horrifying fear." What a great truth. Especially in America where autonomy is the end all and be all of our existence. I was reminded again of how much I need to depend on God; of how completely I must operate in the power of the Holy Spirit; of how I require the mind of Christ to do anything good.

In closing I quote Dan again, "The rebel's greatest fear is that he would be denied the desires of his heart. The saint's is that he would be abandoned to his."

O Lord, give me Your desires, Your thoughts, Your motives! All mine are worthless dust while Yours are glory, life, and benefit to all the World.