law

Deuteronomy 4, Isaiah 32, Psalm 145

Today we’re reading Deuteronomy 4, Isaiah 32, and Psalm 145.

This devotional is about Deuteronomy 4.

In this chapter Moses transitioned from surveying Israel’s recent history to expounding on God’s law. Verses 1-14 form the transitional paragraph. In verse 10, Moses called on the adults who were children at the time to “remember the day you stood before the Lord your God at Horeb.” He reminded those who were there how terrifying it was to see the glory of God revealed on that mountain (vv. 11-13) and how God graciously stopped speaking directly to the people and, instead, mediated his word through Moses (v. 14).

In verse 15 Moses used the fact that God did not have a physical form to remind Israel of the fact that the Ten Commandments forbade them from making “for yourselves an idol, an image of any shape...” (v. 16). The rest of that paragraph (vv. 15-31) spelled out what would happen if Israel turned to idolatry. Israel’s history showed the complete fulfillment of what Moses described here. Then, in verses 32-34, Moses called God’s people to contemplate world history. What God did for Israel, redeeming them as an intact nation from Egypt, was unprecedented. God did this, according to verse 35, to demonstrate the first commandment: “I am the Lord your God.... You shall have no other gods before me” (Ex 20:2-3). Everything God did for Israel was proof that he was the only true God; therefore, according to verse 39, Israel should “acknowledge and take to heart this day that the Lord is God in heaven above and on the earth below. There is no other. Keep his decrees and commands, which I am giving you today, so that it may go well with you and your children after you and that you may live long in the land the Lord your God gives you for all time.” With these words, Moses reframed the Ten Commandments, which he will repeat in tomorrow’s reading in Deuteronomy 5. Moses’s point is that God’s commands are not a burden to Israel; they are gifts from the only being in the universe who knows absolute truth. If Israel would only reverence the Lord for who he is and what he has done, then God’s people will see his commands as a blessing that leads to greater blessings.

You and I are not Jews. We live under a different covenant. God’s power was not demonstrated to us on a fire-filled mountain; it was demonstrated to us in the resurrection of Jesus. God’s commands to us have many similarities and many differences to Moses’s law and his commands to us come with the power of the Holy Spirit. Still, like Israel, we are called to believe God and follow him in faith and obedience to receive his blessings.

Does the Christian life seem like a burden to you or a gift? Are God’s commands a crushing load that you don’t want to carry or are they a path of liberation from bondage to sin and its consequences? As believers in Jesus, we are called to obey everything Christ commanded us (Matt 28:20). Since we believe in Jesus, we must also believe that obedience to his word will bring good, not harm, into our lives. So is there anywhere in your life where you are resisting the commands of God? Will you, by faith, submit yourself to the Lordship of Christ and follow him in obedience by faith?

Psalm 119:41-88

Today read Psalm 119:41-88.

Psalm 119 is the longest (by far) chapter in the Bible. It is also unusual because the entire thing is one massive love-poem to God’s law.

Many people think of laws as restrictive and oppressive. Human laws certainly can be. Our sin natures within certainly view God’s laws that way as well. The Psalmist, however, felt differently. In verse 45 he wrote, “I will walk about in freedom, for I have sought out your precepts.” God’s law--because of God’s spirit within him--made him free to become a holy man rather than enslaved by the sinful passions which reside in all of us.

Can you look at God’s word that way? Instead of seeing it as something that binds you and restricts your freedom, can you believe by faith that obedience to it, by the grace of God, will help you evade the consequences of sin and keep you from being enslaved?

Philippians 3

Today’s reading is Philippians 3.

In many of the places where Paul founded churches, he faced immediate opposition and follow-up opposition. Immediate opposition refers to the persecutions he faced from locals--sometimes Jewish, sometimes Gentile--who were opposed to the growing gospel message. We read about these frequently in the book of Acts. Although there was much opposition, God saved his chosen ones and a new church was founded.

“Follow-up opposition,” as I referred to it in the previous paragraph has to do with the infiltration of false teachers in the churches that were established. It is in Paul’s letters, not the book of Acts, where we learn about this type of opposition. There were different types of false teachers--for instance, the church at Ephesus faced a different kind of threat from false teachers than the church at Colossae faced. But one type of false teaching that these new churches faced was from a group that has been called “the Judaizers.” This was a group of Jewish people who would come to these Gentile churches. They would tell the new Gentile converts to Christ that the men had to be circumcised (ouch!) and all of them needed to start obeying the Law of Moses. Here in Philippians 2:2, Paul warned the Philippian church about this group when he said, “Watch out for those dogs, those evildoers, those mutilators of the flesh. For it is we who are the circumcision....” The point of these words was to tell the believers that there was nothing deficient about their relationship to God. Christ fulfilled the Law so there was no need to be obedient to it any longer. We saw this in the remainder of verse 3 when we read, “it is we... who serve God by his Spirit, who boast in Christ Jesus, and who put no confidence in the flesh.” The phrase, “boast in Christ Jesus” is a short-hand way of speaking about how Christ has kept the law for us. Theologians call this “the active obedience of Christ” and, like his death (which they call his “passive obedience”) it is credited (imputed) to us at the time of our salvation. God wants his people to know that everything that was necessary for them to be right with God was fully accomplished in Christ. There is no act of positive obedience you must do to be declared right before God nor is there any personal sacrifice you must make to be declared right before God.

In verses 4-6 Paul described his personal religious credentials. More (v. 4b) than any Judaizer who might come to Philippi, Paul was religiously qualified under Judaism to obtain “righteousness based on the law” (v. 6b). But in verses 7-11, Paul described how being justified by faith in Christ was so much better than the (theoretical) righteousness a law abiding Jew might think he has. He wrote in verse 9 that he wanted to “be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith.” Because of this salvation by faith, he pursued knowing Christ and living for him (vv. 10-14) as all mature believers should (v. 15).

Today there are groups who call themselves Christians but emphasize the need to obey the Law. Some of these people are Jewish; others (like the Jehovah’s Witnesses or Catholics) are simply legalistic. Many people find a feeling of spirituality by performing rituals and rites or by obedience to some Old Testament dietary command. But the books of the New Testament--and this chapter is an excellent example--teach clearly that Christ has done everything you ever need to be right with God. Obedience to him is a matter of loving service, not a matter of earning his favor. So don’t ever let anyone tell you that you need faith in Jesus plus something else--some ritual or obedience to some command. Christ is all we need and in him is hidden all the riches of wisdom and knowledge. Our goal as believers, then, is “to know him” (v. 10). That’s what the Christian life is all about.

Romans 10

Read Romans 10 today.

In this chapter, Paul continued discussing the unbelief of his people Israel. He spoke directly about his desire and prayer even for the salvation of his countrymen (v. 1). Then he reflected on his own experience and said, yes, we Jews are very enthusiastic about God, but not according to knowledge (v. 2). And what was the knowledge they lacked? That righteousness comes from God (v. 3) to “everyone who believes” (v. 4b). Since they did not know this, they “sought to establish their own” righteousness (v. 3b).

Verses 4-13 contrasts the “righteousness for everyone who believes” (v. 4) with the “righteousness that is by the law” (v. 5). The righteousness that comes by the law is given to those who obey the law; as verse 5b put it, “The person who does these things will live by them.” That’s the promise of righteousness by the law--do what the law says and you will live.

Israel’s history--and yours and mine, too--shows that we can’t keep the law. Because we are sinners, as we saw in Romans 7, we can’t keep God’s law even when we want to--and most of the time, we don’t want to. That’s why Christ came. He is, according to verse 4, “the culmination of the law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes.” He kept the law we could not keep in order to give us the righteousness we could not earn. The way to righteousness (that is, “to be right with God”) is by faith in Christ (vv. 9-13). This has always been the case as we see from Paul’s quotations of the Old Testament here in Romans 10:

  • v. 8 quotes from Deuteronomy 30:14
  • v. 11 quotes from Isaiah 28:16
  • v. 13 quotes form Joel 2:32

This is why God sends his servants into the world--to spread the message, the good news, of righteousness before God in Jesus Christ (v. 15). As we share the good news, we must remember that people are saved not through our slick presentation or clever arguments; rather, “faith comes from hearing the message,(Y) and the message is heard through the word about Christ” (v. 17). The message itself carries the ability to create faith in those God has chosen.

So, let’s be faithful about carrying the message!

Romans 8

Today we come to the greatness of Romans 8.

And there is so much in this chapter that I could write more than a week’s worth of devotionals on it. I’ll stick, however, to the opening paragraph. In the previous chapters we were taught much about the Law and its relationship to humanity. On Friday, in chapter 7, we learned that God’s Law is great and holy; our problems with it are not with IT but with ourselves: “...the Law is spiritual but I am unspiritual” Paul wrote, “sold as a slave to sin” (7:14). As Christians, we are torn by our mental and spiritual desires to obey God’s law (7:21-22, 25b) and our sin nature which rebels against God’s holy commands and makes us subject to death (7:16-20, 25c). What is the remedy for this spiritual dilemma? Romans 8:1: “ Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” We are “in Christ Jesus” therefore the condemnation of the law has been removed from us. That removal took place through the atonement of Christ for our sins (vv. 2-3). The result of his atonement is that you are not guilty before God because God has credited to you the righteous life Jesus lived (his “active obedience”) and the atoning death Christ died (his “passive obedience”). Verse 3b-4 says that in these words, “And so he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.”

Did you notice that phrase, “in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fully met in us....” If you are in Christ, you’ve kept the law fully. The law has no beef with you because Christ has fulfilled it all on your behalf. He’s met every standard spelled out there and paid every penalty for your failures (and mine).

Many Christians live with a feeling of defeat. We beat ourselves up for our sin struggles and our failures. If that’s you, please take heart today. If you’re in Christ, it’s all good. Jesus has done all that you will ever need to cancel the law’s condemnation over your life and to declare you perfect in the sight of God. “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” so stop condemning yourself and live in the freedom of complete forgiveness!

Deuteronomy 21, Psalms 108–109, Isaiah 48, Revelation 18

If you’re following the schedule, you should read these chapters today: Deuteronomy 21, Psalms 108–109, Isaiah 48, Revelation 18. Click on any of those references to see all the passages in one long page on BibleGateway. If you can't do all the readings today, read Isaiah 48.

Sometimes well-intentioned Bible teachers say pretty stupid things. When I was a teen I heard more than one preacher say something to the effect of, “If you’re not going to follow Christ, you should go out there and live it up—party all the time, get as much pleasure as you can.” This never sat well with me and, unfortunately, at least one guy I went to high school took this advice. Those who said such things were well-intentioned; their logic was, “If you don’t follow Jesus, you’re going to hell; since your eternity will be ruined, you might as well have as much fun in this life as possible.” There is a certain perverse logic there, but it is completely wrong. 

The truth is that the best life you can have on this earth is one that conforms as much as possible to God’s commands and God’s ways. This is because God is the creator and his moral laws have consequences for obedience and for disobedience. The law of gravity works whether you believe in God or not; it works whether you believe in gravity or not. So it is with God’s moral law; those who break God’s laws only break themselves trying to defy it. 

It isn’t possible for an unbeliever to really obey God’s word, but you and I both know people who don’t believe in Christ but they do not kill (or hate others), do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not lie, do not abuse and mistreat others as a general rule of life. None of us can be perfectly obedient and no unbeliever can earn credit with God for whatever obedience they do have to God’s word. But insofar as they do obey God’s laws, they will not suffer the consequences in this life that disobedience always brings. Here in Isaiah 48 God tells his people, “If only you had paid attention to my commands, your peace would have been like a river, your well-being like the waves of the sea” (v. 19). While part of this statement is true based on God’s covenant with Israel, I believe it is also true because of the law of the farm—what you sow you will reap. It is always better to obey God than to follow the sinful ways of our nature, our culture, or the enemy. 

Now for your thoughts: What stood out in your Bible reading for today? What questions do you have about what you read? What are your thoughts about what I wrote above? Post them in the comments below or on our Facebook page. And, feel free to answer and interact with the questions and comments of others. Have a great day; we'll talk scripture again tomorrow.

Deuteronomy 6, Psalm 89, Isaiah 34, Revelation 4

If you’re following the schedule, you should read these chapters today: Deuteronomy 6, Psalm 89, Isaiah 34, Revelation 4. Click on any of those references to see all the passages in one long page on BibleGateway. If you can't do all the readings today, read Deuteronomy 6.

It is impossible for people to know how many federal laws there are that are currently in existence. Way back in 1982, the Department of Justice spent 2 years attempting to count the number of federal criminal laws; they came up with an estimate of 3,000. But that was a long time ago and many more criminal laws have been passed. There are also many, many civil laws and other regulations that have the force of law.

In other words, as one pundit put it, you’re probably breaking some kind of law right now. Although Israel’s law may seem oppressive and, in many cases, strange, it was a fairly simple law code. At least the laws can be counted and exist all in one place. Yet it is common for unbelievers and, sometimes, believers, to complain that the Old Testament law is oppressive. According to our passage today, however, God’s law is not oppressive but a gateway to freedom. Verse 2b tells us that God gave Israel the law so that, “…you, your children and their children after them may fear the Lord your God as long as you live by keeping all his decrees and commands that I give you, and so that you may enjoy long life.” Obey God’s law, and long life will be yours. Simple. 

Likewise, verse 25 says, “And if we are careful to obey all this law before the Lord our God, as he has commanded us, that will be our righteousness.” Want to be righteous before God? Keep his laws and all will be well—spiritually and otherwise—in your life.

If it is true that God’s law to Israel was designed for their good and that it is relatively simple compared to our system of laws, then why didn’t Israel just obey it and reap the benefits God provided? The answer, of course, is sin. While keeping God’s law perfectly could make one righteous in theory, in reality it could never make anyone righteous before God. One, nobody can keep God’s law perfectly because we will slip up and sin; two, even if we kept God’s law perfectly, we would still have original sin that was imputed to us when Adam and Eve fell. So, although God’s law offered his people a pathway to a long, economically prosperous and morally righteous life, in reality, it was an impossible pathway to follow successfully. This uncovers the real reason for God’s law: “Therefore no one will be declared righteous in God’s sight by the works of the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of our sin” (Rom 3:20). God’s law showed us what God demands of us morally but our attempts to follow it show us how completely we are morally damaged. When anyone realizes how impossible it is to keep God’s law—even though doing so offers many promised blessings—that person is ready to be saved because he or she will realize how much and how often we fall short of God’s law. Knowing that, then, prepares us to plead with God to save us from the penalties we deserve for breaking God’s law; Christ came to pay those penalties (his “passive obedience”) so that his perfect obedience to law (his “active obedience”) could be credited to us by faith. Here is something to encourage us; when we were utterly powerless to obey God’s law, Christ saved us from the law and its penalties through his active and passive obedience. Receive that salvation by faith never fear the law again.

Now for your thoughts: What stood out in your Bible reading for today? What questions do you have about what you read? What are your thoughts about what I wrote above? Post them in the comments below or on our Facebook page http://www.facebook.com/calvarybiblechurch/. And, feel free to answer and interact with the questions and comments of others. Have a great day; we'll talk scripture again tomorrow.