12 October 2006

The (very practical) wonder of God's law

by Dan Phillips

I was in Starbuck's once, months ago. I was reading something, and drinking their overpriced, bitter coffee. I'd won a Starbuck's card at work, and free coffee is, ceteris paribus, good-enough coffee.

As usual, I glanced up every now and then, at the shifting waves of people. At one glance, I touched eyes with a lady across the room. Then went back to my book. And that was that.

Until later, when I was reflecting, and thinking about the role of God's Word in daily life. The Biblical Christian believes that the Bible is God's complete, sufficient, abiding, living revelation of His heart (cf. 2 Timothy 3:15-17). Our continuance in it is the proof of the reality of our claim to be students of Jesus (John 8:31f.).

We evangelicals rightly emphasize that the goal of redemptive history is a relationship with God (Exodus 19:4-6; Revelation 22:3-5), not the mere recitation of facts. But in our day, we also recognize the need to hammer on the fact that the Bible teaches us truth, true truth, and warns us away from deception.

At the same time, we mustn't lose sight of the fact that the Bible also calls us to spiritual, moral good, and warns us away from evil. God's Word is truth, and that truth makes us not merely smart, but holy (John 17:17). The Word lays out before us a way not only of thinking, but of deciding and of living (Psalm 1; Proverbs 6:20-23). While I may not be under the law of Moses, I am ennomos Christou, within the law of Christ (1 Corinthians 9:21).

What that means in practical terms is that the Word sets up directional signs and arrows for our path. It erects "Road out" and warning signs as well.

The Bible beckons us to holiness and to godly decisions, to saying "Yes" to loving truthtelling (Ephesians 4:15), to confronting and encouraging and helping (1 Thessalonians 5:14), to godly attitudes and behaviors towards our spouses (Ephesians 5:22ff.), and to a host of other patterns of living.

But the "Road out" signs are no less important to the details of life. They tell us, with the very voice of God, "This way has nothing you want. This way lies ruin, shame, horror, destruction." You learn it, sometimes, to the point where it barely even requires a conscious decision. You are aware of byroads and sidestreets as you pass them, but you just drive on. You stay on the road.

Selah. Are you sure you like this post as much as you think you do? Let's get more practical.

So let's say your husband disappoints you, or he crosses your will, or your pride is tweaked in some way. A bypath opens to you. You have, right before you, with easy access, the option of tearing him apart piece by piece with your tongue. You have that power. You can utterly devastate him, leave him a smoking ruin, and you know it. That road lies wide-open before you. Or does it, Christian sister?

Or let's say your wife has cut you, let you down, or disrespected you. A bypath opens to you. You have, right before you, the option of repaying her with icy coolness, with punishing distance, with frosty formality. You can tell yourself that your fingerprints won't even be on the (mataphorical) weapon. You know you can do it. That road lies wide-open before you. Or does it, Christian brother?

Your church has proven to be shockingly imperfect. (That is, it falls short of your standards.) Folks aren't treating you with the devotion and adoration you deserve. A bypath opens to you. You could seek out other disappointed, disaffected folks. You could lay all your discontented kindling on a pile together, and see what bitter bonfire blazes, and what it might consume. You know you can do it. That road lies wide-open before you. Or does it, Christian friend?

Do not each of these by-paths feature "Road Out" signs at their very mouths?

This is the practical wonder of God's law-word to the Christian. Is there a Christian who does not love God? And what is love for God, how does it express itself, if not in keeping -- not merely assenting to grand confessions of faith about, nor waxing eloquent in praise of, nor being hot in the formal defense of, but keeping -- His commandments (1 John 5:3)?

This is how we show our faith, or its lack. Not when the Bible tells us something we want to hear, or bids us do something we're eager to do. No, it's when a tempting bypath opens and beckons.

If you haven't a "gay" atom in your body, you've not much grounds for boasting over your lack of temptation in that area. But nowhere is the true cast of our character shown more clearly than when a sidestreet looks so much more enticing and rewarding than the way God's Word lays out. What do we choose? What do we do? Do we heed Him, continue on His way -- or do we stubbornly plow off onto our own?

Some roads are wide-open. Others are marked "Bridge out," right from the start.

No point even looking down them. And we know that only by the wonder of God's law.

Dan Phillips's signature


13 comments:

Tom Chantry said...

And don't forget: bypaths end in doubting and despair. The path to true happiness is through lawful service to God.

Great post!

centuri0n said...

Can I add something to Dan's point here without hijacking his excellent post?

What if we manifested the spiritual gift of a tamed tounge (you know: like it says in the book of James, in God's word) rather than claiming to have the gift of angelic tounges or whatever?

What kind of witness to this world would we be then? Would we need supernatural signs and wonders to prove the Gospel is true, or would they know us by our love for one another?

I'm askin'.

striving... said...

This is a great read for me. It hits many points in my life right now? By no means am I a perfect wife, mother, etc. But I struggle to "keep my eyes on the road," and not go down the side road. Even for just a detour. :) Good post.

Gordon Cloud said...

This is a very edifying post.

Frank, that is a very good thought.

sparrowhawk said...

Give me bitter Starbucks anyday if it'll result in brainpower like this.

Martin Downes said...

Such a helpful post. Thanks.

C. T. Lillies said...

Thanks man. That was one cool cup of water.

Josh

donsands said...

Nice thoughts. Always good stuff to read on this outstanding 'blog-site'.

"the spiritual gift of a tamed tounge"
Is a excellent point.

BUT, the tongue can no man tame; it is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison. How do we deal with this verse?

DJP said...

LeeC -- for some reason, I couldn't reach your web page. Email me, please.

Des71 said...

Thank you for the words of truth. Starbucks Char-Coffee is horribly bitter. Death to the Mermaid!

LeeC said...

Odd..

Mail sent.

Taliesin said...

But nowhere is the true cast of our character shown more clearly than when a sidestreet looks so much more enticing and rewarding than the way God's Word lays out. What do we choose? What do we do? Do we heed Him, continue on His way -- or do we stubbornly plow off onto our own?

Reminds me of two quotes from Charles Bridges commenting on Proverbs 10:9.

‘Show me an easier path’—is nature's cry. ‘Show me’—cries the child of God—‘a sure path.’

And

But to bend our rule to our own humour; to pervert our ways to escape trouble, or for some interested end, will shake our confidence far more than the heaviest cross.

Thanks for a good reminder Dan.

Freudian Slip said...

I really love it when I read a post and it sounds like it was written just for me and my life right now. Thanks for your thoughts!
Matt