Watching Daily At Wisdom's Gates

A Yorkshireman's take on life, death, and eternity

Law Vs. Love ?

We might assume that Law and Love are opposed, or at least unrelated. We might assume that Love is a warm, fuzzy feeling, whilst Law is a cold, hard fact.

So I might Love speeding in my car. But the Law prohibits me from doing so. But if I love my neighbours out on the roads, I won’t speed, out of concern for their safety.

Biblically, there’s no contradiction between Law and Love. In fact, they’re intimately intertwined: God’s Law IS Love- to love Him wholeheartedly, and to love others as we love ourselves.

At first glance, the Bible might seem to contradict itself on Law and Love. After all it says,

when you obey the voice of the Lord your God, to keep his commandments and his statutes that are written in this Book of the Law, when you turn to the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul. “For this commandment that I command you today is not too hard for you, neither is it far off.

Deuteronomy 30:10‭-‬11‭ ESV

https://bible.com/bible/59/deu.30.10-13.ESV

But also…

For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.

Romans 3:20 ESV

https://bible.com/bible/59/rom.3.20.ESV

As usual with apparent Bible contradictions, the answer is in the context. So Paul goes on to say,

But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,

Romans 3:21‭-‬23 ESV

https://bible.com/bible/59/rom.3.21-23.ESV

So our loving law keeping isn’t good enough to make us good enough for God, but even in the Law itself, we’re given clues as to the solution. So those verses in Deuteronomy tall about “turning” to the Lord. We need to repent- to turn to God’s goodness from the filthy rags of our own self righteousness.

Deuteronomy 30 also talks about our need of heart circumcision by the Lord! Sounds pretty deadly- but it’s a spiritual illustration mentioned by Paul in Romans-

But a Jew is one inwardly, and circumcision is a matter of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter. His praise is not from man but from God.

Romans 2:29 ESV

https://bible.com/bible/59/rom.2.29.ESV

By God’s spiritual heart circumcision, Gentiles like me can become spiritual Jews, people of God.

By God’s Spirit we can keep God’s Law of Love.

But in conclusion, a visit to 1 John would be helpful-

If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.

1 John 1:8‭-‬10 ESV

https://bible.com/bible/59/1jn.1.8-10.ESV

And finally,

My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.

1 John 2:1 ESV

https://bible.com/bible/59/1jn.2.1.ESV

The Bible doesn’t assume that Spirit filled believers in God will sin. But if (and to be honest when) we sin, Jesus is our advocate.

A lot more could be said but I’ll leave it at that for now 🙂

Psalm 28: Work

Check out my latest blog post on Psalms…

https://bloggingpsalms.wordpress.com/2019/11/08/psalm-28-work/

Law

You have commanded your precepts to be kept diligently. Oh that my ways may be steadfast in keeping your statutes!

Psalms 119:4‭-‬5 ESV

https://bible.com/bible/59/psa.119.4-5.ESV

People tend to be negative towards the Law of God. They see it as unattainable at best, constraining at worst. But David in Psalm 119 writes a “love song” to God’s Law!

God has commanded His precepts to be kept diligently. We might not attain to God’s precepts, but that doesn’t mean to say we shouldn’t try. If we can’t keep God’s Law, the problem is with us, not God’s Law!

God’s Law in summary is to love Him and to love others. They’re the best things we can be doing. David recognised that and longed to fulfil that Law of love.

Instead of dismissing God’s Law as unachievable, we should uphold it as the standard to which we strive. Thankfully, where we fail, Christ has attained. Through faith in Him, we’re made righteous.

“Yahweh Most High, we acknowledge that Your Law is good, and we pray that You’d help us love as we ought. Thank You that where we fail, Christ is sufficient. In His saving name, amen”

Answer

Let those who fear the Lord say, “His steadfast love endures forever.” Out of my distress I called on the Lord ; the Lord answered me and set me free.

Psalms 118:4‭-‬5 ESV

https://bible.com/bible/59/psa.118.4-5.ESV

We tend to see fear as a negative emotion. But it isn’t necessarily so. If a child fears their dad’s punishment if they were to play out in a dangerous road, that’s a good kind of fear.

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. After all, He can cast soul and body into hell, so it makes sense to have a healthy fear of Him. But the love of the Lord is the enduring end of wisdom- He loves us enough to save us from the fate we deserve.

We tend to see distress as a negative thing, and rightly so. But if it drives us to cry out to God, it can have a good effect. The Lord answers those who cry out to Him in their distress.

The Lord set the Psalmist free from his distress. Even if a believer in God were to have a lifetime of distress, it would end the moment they met their maker. God sets us free from distress, sooner or later.

“Dear Yahweh, we want to thank You for Your unfailing love towards us. We praise You for setting us free from distress, help us to trust You to do so when we’re in the midst of it. In Jesus’ name, amen”

The Legacy of Luther: A Book Review

So I read The Legacy of Luther from Ligonier ministries. It was available as a free ebook, not sure if it still is.

There’s a number of contributors with a number of focuses, so naturally I appreciated some parts of the book more than others.

Some parts were more scholarly than others. Some early chapters seemed to overrely on secondary sources.

It was readable and enjoyable. However I seem to remember from my rather skimmed read that they glossed over the controversial anti Semitic writing that blighted Luther’s final years and helped to inspire the Nazis, along with his emphasis on obeying the powers that be, even though the Nazis were genocidal (of course, he could never foresee all that).

It’s important that we emphasise the positives in Luther’s legacy in reviving an understanding of God’s gospel of unconditional grace. But we mustn’t whitewash his failings to maintain an evangelistic heart to Jesus’ kinsfolk.

Still, if I was to be defined by my worst writing, I’m sure that wouldn’t be helpful or fair either.

The main thing is that Luther was a sinner saved by the grace of God who was greatly used for the furtherance of God’s Kingdom.

Soli Deo Gloria! (To God Alone Be The Glory!)

Fear Vs. Love ?

There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.

1 John 4:18 ESV

https://bible.com/bible/59/1jn.4.18.ESV

Are fear and love enemies? This verse would seem to suggest so.

Isn’t that a contradiction of the common old testament command to fear the Lord?

Even Jesus said to fear God. How does that fit with this verse?

Let me use an illustration. Fear has to do with punishment. So even my one year old daughter fears my stern voice and wagging finger! But I trust she loves me too! Fear and love coexist in an uneasy and restless heart (although she’s thankfully a generally happy kid).

So it is with fear and love of God. A child’s fear of punishment by their father shouldn’t drive them from him, but towards him in respectful obedience.

If the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, the love of the Lord is the end of wisdom.

Fear of God’s punishment should drive us to God to receive His love and forgiveness.

But as long as we live in these mortal bodies, fear and love will uneasily coexist in our restless hearts, until we enter our eternal rest in Christ Jesus our Lord, the Lamb who was slain for us and the all-conquering Lion.

I wouldn’t say that fear and love are necessarily enemies- more like gladiatorial combatants alongside us in the arena of life. We need to ally ourselves with fear in order to get to love, and then ally with love to ultimately overcome fear. And love is the ultimate winner, who in eternity to come casts out fear forever in the hearts of those who belong to Jesus, our crucified Lord.

Psalm 27: Lighthouse

Follow the link for my latest post on Blogging Psalms…

https://bloggingpsalms.wordpress.com/2019/11/06/psalm-27-lighthouse/

Communion

For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.

1 Corinthians 11:26 ESV

https://bible.com/bible/59/1co.11.26.ESV

To be honest, I often see the Lord’s Supper as a highly personal thing. I take that command in this passage to examine myself seriously. The danger is that communion becomes a navel gazing exercise.

We’re also told that we are to recognise the body of Christ. Christ’s body is His church, which throughout the world is often broken to this day by persecution. We mustn’t forget what our brethren are going through in parts of the world.

But Paul gives us another reason to partake in the Lord’s Supper. In doing so, we proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes. It’s a vivid visual aid to a watching world that the core of our faith is our crucified Lord on our behalf.

We eat in faith, that Christ died for us. We eat in hope, that He will return. And we look forward to the day when we will partake with Him of the wedding feast of the Lamb.

“Father in heaven, for the sacrifice of Your Son we give You praise. We thank You for the gift of Your Spirit, and the multisensory reminder of the Lord’s Supper, of what Christ did for us. In His name, amen”

My talk last Sunday…

Okay, so I’m not technical enough to give you the recording of my church talk this morning, but I’ll give you a summary. It’s from Matthew 10.

Jesus is King (amens from the congregation)!

Okay, so Jesus is King, but who’s welcome in His Kingdom?

And what does it mean to be part of Jesus’ Kingdom?

Surely a tax collector isn’t welcome into God’s Kingdom?

Okay, so nowadays tax collectors are unpopular because no one likes paying their taxes.

But in Jesus’ day, not only were tax collectors unpopular, but they were also seen as traitors to their own people, because they worked for the occupying Roman Empire.

Not only so, but tax collecting was seen to be a corrupt, greedy job, because tax collectors would take some for Rome and some for their pockets. They were seen as cheating, thieving no-gooders.

Okay, so tax collectors aren’t so badly thought of nowadays (on the whole!). But what about rappers, with their lyrics glamourising guns, violence, sex, drugs, money and power etc.?

Well my title “Jesus is King” comes from Kanye West’s latest album. He’s one of the most (in)famous rappers, but he’s become a Christian.

People casting doubt on his conversion remind me of those who cast doubt on Matthew’s conversion. We meet him in the previous chapter of his gospel, at the tax booth. Jesus says “Follow me” and he follows Him, leaving everything behind. It’s like Jesus coming to us in our day to day lives and calling us to leave everything behind for Him.

Following Jesus isn’t like following someone on twitter because you’re curious about what they might say (although you’ll take it or leave it). It’s about life transformation. Matthew gave up his livelihood for Jesus.

Jesus went to Matthew’s house where all his dodgy tax collector and “sinner” friends gathered round to meet Him.

The religious people were outraged. What’s Jesus doing eating with all these questionable people? He replied, “it’s not the healthy who need a doctor but the sick. ‘I desire mercy not sacrifice’ (equating Himself with God). I’ve not come to call the goody two shoes but sinners to repentance.

Matthew never forgot who he was before Jesus called him: a despised tax collector; like Kanye West the rapper. All the other gospel writers when they list the apostles, graciously gloss over the fact he was a tax collector, but Matthew remembered what he’d been when Jesus called him.

I personally was a little Pharisee in the making, from a churchy home, but arrogant, proud and self righteous. But then I came to realise that Jesus is King, and humbled myself before Him.

So tax collectors and rappers are welcome in Jesus’ Kingdom. But so was Simon the Zealot. Interestingly, he’s always referred to as a Zealot, even after Jesus has died, risen again, and sent His followers out on mission for Him.

We get the word “zeal” from “Zealot”- it means “passionate”. But in Simon’s day it was a political term. Zealots wanted to kick the Romans out of Palestine. So if it wasn’t for Jesus, Matthew and Simon would have been enemies- Matthew working for the Romans and Simon wanting to kick them out.

But they were united by the belief that Jesus is King. To the Romans, for whom Caesar was king, Matthew will have been seen as treasonous for claiming Jesus is King. For the Zealots, who hoped the Messiah would kick out the Romans, a crucified Lord was no Lord at all.

Okay, so everyone’s welcome in God’s Kingdom- tax collectors, Zealots and rappers alike. But once in, what’s our purpose?

(This post is long for me so I’m going to cut it down to note form)

– Fulfil the Great Commission

By – finding worthy people- not necessarily religious.

– Expect opposition- From family to the authorities

– Don’t worry- God will look after us

Freedom

“All things are lawful,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful,” but not all things build up.

1 Corinthians 10:23 ESV

https://bible.com/bible/59/1co.10.23.ESV

So when we become Christians, we’re set free from legalisticly trying to earn our salvation. We’re free to live for God, instead of being enslaved to our selfish desires. But having been set free, we’re not to become yoked again to legalism or selfishness.

We might be free as Christians, but not everything we’re free to do is helpful. A lot of social media, rather than being a helpful way of keeping in touch, is an unhelpful waste of time. How about instead of being on Facebook, we stuck our faces into the Book- that would be much more edifying.

A child might be free to play on the swings in the park for as long as he wants. But for the sake of the queue of other children, he lets them have a go. We’re not to always be selfish but to think of other’s best interests.

Maybe we’ve got into the habit of making snide remarks. Even if we claim to be just joking, it’s not beneficial to anyone. It’s much better to consider how we might build each other up, than to knock each other down.

“Dear God, having set us free, please don’t let us use that freedom as a license to sin. May we look to the interests of others rather than to always be self interested. In Christ’s name, amen”