Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Love for the Law?

When I was a kid there were things about my parents that I absolutely loved. I loved that we spent time together, that dad would take me hunting and fishing, that they were both so encouraging and loving to me-so many things to be thankful for. But there were other things that I wasn't so thankful for-specifically, the rules they laid down for my brother and I. Seriously, what kid is grateful for the boundaries parents set? As a parent myself, it's interesting to see that tension again; and it's strange to be on the other side of it. Once I was the one grousing about the rules, now I'm the one making the rules. And needless to say, the kids aren't exactly thrilled about it. In fact, when Lily had reached the wise age of 5 she once told me, and I quote, "This house is like a jail." I swear I'm not making that up. Kids don't like the rules mom and dad lay down, do they?

And kids aren't the only ones. Adults have just as much disdain for rules as kids. For example, who is thrilled about the speed limit? Who gets a tingly feeling in their leg when they have to yield to oncoming traffic? Who gets all giggly when they are paying personal property taxes? We don't like rules.

All of which brings me to the point of today's post. In Psalm 119:47-48 David says something peculiar; "And I will delight myself in Your commandments, which I love. My hands also will I lift up to Your commandments, which I love, and I will meditate on Your statutes." See what he said? Look at the last part of each sentence again. David says that he loves God's commandments. Twice, in fact, he declares his love for the commands of God.

What's so radical about this is that he doesn't declare his love for God's word-many of us would gladly make that same profession. Richard Holdsworth said, "There are some parts of the will and word of God that even ungodly men will be content to love...all men gather and catch at the promises, and show love to these." That's not really out of the ordinary. Everybody loves to take hold of God's blessings. But David is declaring a love for God's commands; and as I read that I couldn't help but wonder, "Do I love God's law?" Do I love God's law so much that I worship Him for it? Do I worship Him for His commands in my life, the rules that He demands I live by? And I know that the answer is 'no.' I want to worship Him for the blessings He gives me, and rightfully so. But I ought to be able to worship Him for His commands as well. Anyone can worship God for the 'things' He gives us. But only as we grow and mature in our faith can we worship Him, can we 'lift our hands' to Him for the law He has given us. And I think the key to doing this is that we have to change our perspective regarding God's law; we have to look at it differently. Let me share with you some reasons we ought to worship God for His law.

First, it shows us our need of a savior. In Galatians 3:24, Paul says that the law was a tutor that brought us to Christ, i.e., the law shined the light of God's holiness on our lives and opened our sin-blinded eyes to our need. We wouldn't know the standard God has for us had He not revealed that standard to us-and that standard is His perfect law. We ought to worship Him for Hi's law because it shows us our need; it drives us to our knees, breaks our pride and our self-worth and causes us to call on the name of the Lord-and whoever calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.

Second, it teaches us about God. The 10 commandments are essentially God's self-portrait. It shows how we are to live by showing us who God is. We are to avoid taking murder and theft because God doesn't murder or steal. We are to abstain from bearing false witness because God doesn't bear false witness. We are have no other gods before us because there is no other god before our Great King. The law of God teaches us about the nature of God; that He is holy and righteous and just and loving and merciful and absolutely perfect. God wants us to worship Him in truth-the law demonstrates for us the truth by which we are to worship Him.

Finally, the law shows me how to please God. We understand that we are saved by grace through faith; not because we keep the law so well, but because we are unable to keep it and in repentance and faith we cry out for mercy. But after the divine transaction takes place God expects us to keep His law. Not to maintain our salvation, but to give evidence of our salvation, to bear the fruits worthy of repentance. The law is our guide-it shows us how God expects us to behave, how we are to interact with others, how we are to think and talk and move and live. And as we keep this law, we are become progressively more like Jesus. Charles Spurgeon said, "Where holy hands and holy hearts go, the whole man will one day follow." As we discipline ourselves, and surrender ourselves to obedience to God's law, we are made more like Jesus.

What an incredible blessing it is to have the law of God-we ought to thank Him for it, we ought to worship Him for it. And we ought to commit ourselves to being obedient to it.

Father, thank You for the perfect, eternal law You have given us. We acknowledge our inability to faithfully keep it; we admit to you that we fail daily. But we also know that You promise forgiveness when we confess our sins to You. And we confess that we are sinners and unable to walk in perfect obedience. But Father, our inability to perfectly obey doesn't indicate that we don't love Your law. Rather, we worship You for it. We thank You for revealing it to us. And we pray that You'll strengthen us to more faithfully obey Your perfect law-not because we want to earn salvation, not because we want to earn Your favor-but because we want to be like You. Continue to remake us into Your perfect image. Amen.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Finish Well

So according to news reports coming out today, Brett Favre is going to retire. Again. But this time it's for good. Or maybe not. But one thing we can be sure of is that he's possibly telling his teammates in Minnesota, and the Vikings ownership, that he's done. Maybe.

The Brett Favre saga has become something of a summer ritual over the last few years. And whether or not he'll return this year is unknown. But one thing that is known about him is that when he finally hangs up the cleats for good, he'll go down in history as one of the greatest quarterbacks to play the game. Love him or hate him, he was always fun to watch. And when he leaves, he'll take some impressive records with him. Brett Favre has thrown more touchdown passes than any other quarterback. He has won more games as a starting quarterback, and started in more consecutive games than any other player at his position-285. To put that into perspective, Favre hasn't missed a day of work in 18 years. In addition, he's thrown for more yards and completed more passes than any other quarterback.

All impressive stats, right? But you wouldn't have figured he would have turned out this way based on how he began. Favre was drafted in the second round by the Atlanta Falcons, a pick that the coach at the time didn't want made on Favre. And his first year stats were less than dismal. His first pass in the NFL was intercepted and returned for a touchdown. And his stats for the entire year were just sad; 5 attempts, no completions, 2 interceptions. But obviously, Favre bounced back from this start and went on to become one of the great ones.

What's the point of all this? It reminds us that how we start isn't nearly as important as how we finish. I know that's a cliche, but guess what? It's true. It's true for football, it's true for business, and most of all, it's true for our faith. What matters most as we follow Jesus isn't how we start, it's how we finish.

In Matthew 24:13, Jesus said these remarkable words: "He who endures to the end will be saved." Now don't read over that too quickly. Read it again, and consider what He's saying. Jesus doesn't say, "He who is a member of the right church will be saved. He who gives the most money, or lives the most morally upright life, or has the most dramatic testimony will be saved." He simply says that those who endure will be saved. What does that mean? We have to finish well.

The most important thing in following Jesus is following Jesus. Everyday we have to get up, deny ourselves, take up our crosses, and follow Jesus. Nothing flashy, nothing fancy. Just a daily death to ourselves. A daily surrender to the Lordship of King Jesus. He who endures will be saved.

I've heard many preachers say something like, "If you can go back to a time when you trusted in Jesus, you are saved." Friends, that's not what Jesus says. He isn't interested in a time in the past. He says, "He who endures to the end will be saved." If you trusted Jesus before, you'll be trusting Him now. If you gave Him your heart in the past, He'll have your heart in the present, and in the future. Doesn't mean we won't have times when we stumble into sin or turn away for a moment. But true followers of Jesus will always return to Him. And the promise is that all who endure will be saved. As followers of Jesus, we must finish well. Did you have a rocky start in your walk with Christ? Don't worry about it. Jesus is much more interested in how we finish than how we started. At the end of the day, when we're in the presence of Jesus, it won't really matter how we started, will it? All that will matter is that we finished the race, that we fought the good fight-not perfectly, but consistently. And when we bow before our Great King, when we fall before Him in adoration, basking in the glory of His splendor, all that will matter is that we endured to the end. My friends, let's finish well.

Father, thank You for loving us. Thank You for saving us. Thank You for Your infinite patience with us. Even though we stumble and fall, you continue to lift us up, to give us strength to endure. Help us to finish well. Help us to serve You consistently. Your word is clear-if we endure, we are saved. Give us the strength to endure; and when we can't walk, carry us into Your presence-for Your honor, and for Your glory. Amen.