The Law is Good (3)
““Surely I have taught you statutes and judgments, just as the LORD my God commanded me, that you should act according to them in the land which you go to possess. Therefore be careful to observe them; for this is your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the peoples who will hear all these statutes, and say, ‘Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.’ For what great nation is there that has God so near to it, as the LORD our God is to us, for whatever reason we may call upon Him? And what great nation is there that has such statutes and righteous judgments as are in all this law which I set before you this day?” Deuteronomy 4.5-8
During a recent prayer meeting with pastors from around the country, I was struck by one pastor’s prayer, lamenting the fact that the Church in our day is largely indistinguishable from the surrounding world.
Of course, he was not referring to our having worship services on Sunday, going to Bible study groups and other church programs, and singing Christian songs. Everybody knows Christians do such things. Rather, he was bemoaning the fact that, as church members are dispersed in the world, it can be difficult to see much difference between them – how they spend their time, do their work, choose their diversions, spend their money, relate to the people around them, and so forth – and their unbelieving neighbors and co-workers. For many Christians today – perhaps most – the condition Francis Schaeffer described in a previous generation has become all too true: The spirit of the naturalism, narcissism, materialism, and sensuality of the age has crept into our thinking, and we don’t even recognize it.
Contrast this with the situation envisioned by the prophet in Micah 4.1-8. Here, people are streaming up to the mountain of the Lord’s house, eager to learn more of the Law of God that they have encountered in those who go out from the Lord’s house into the world – living and speaking in ways that demonstrate the goodness of God as embodied in His Law. In Micah’s vision, something in the lives of those who carry the Law into the neighborhoods and workplaces of the world is so outstanding, that it piques the consciences and stirs the souls of multitudes to seek it for themselves.
This is God’s agenda for “the last days,” the days in which, as Peter explained, we are presently living (Mic. 4.1; Acts 2.14-17). So why don’t we see this happening?
Is it because what my pastor friend prayed is correct? That what unbelieving people see in the Christians they know is a way of life not sufficiently outstanding to command their interest or redirect their desires?
Christians are commanded to work at becoming holy (2 Cor. 7.1), growing in Jesus Christ (2 Pet. 3.18), walking in His Spirit (Gal. 5.16-23), following His commandments (1 Jn. 2.1-6), and in every way showing themselves to be a distinctive people in the world (Eph. 5.6-21). This was God’s purpose in giving His Law to Israel, as our text explains. As they learned and obeyed the Law of God, love for God and neighbor would abound in their communities, and so outstanding would be their example of holiness and justice and mercy, that the surrounding nations would wonder at their wisdom and admire their adroitness and understanding.
And that same holy and righteous and good Law of God (Rom. 7.12) is still given to the Church to make us a people who stand out – an outstanding nation and people – because of the wisdom, understanding, love, and holiness that obeying God’s Law engenders. Greatness in the Kingdom of God can be defined as standing out as a model of righteousness, a person of peace, and a source of joy in the Spirit; and this outstanding character and demeanor comes from learning and obeying the Law of God (Matt. 5.17-19).
God is good because God is holy; God’s Law is good because it, too, is holy. As we devote ourselves to reading, meditating in, and walking according to the holy and righteous and good Law of God (Ps. 1), we will become holy, because Jesus, Who is the end of the Law for righteousness, will reveal Himself in love in all our words and deeds.
But as long as we regard the Law as “a dead and a useless thing,” or simply neglect it, refusing to accept it as the acorn of divine revelation that it is, we will not know the power of that Law to grow us in holiness, and we will not stand out among the people around us in ways God intends.
Holiness is good
Christians today have conformed to the ways of the world because they have not been renewed in their minds with the pure and holy teaching of God’s Law (Rom. 12.1, 2). We seem to be of the mindset that it’s not good form to stand out as holy – to dress, work, converse, relate to others, make and use culture, and spend our time and money as a distinct people, a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a people who are possessed by and obsessed with God (1 Pet. 2.9, 10). We prefer to fit it. We don’t want others to feel uncomfortable around us, or like they have to be careful about what they say or do. And especially we don’t want them to think of us as odd or weird or some kind of goody-two-shoes.
Which is all just another way of saying that we do not believe that holiness is good, even though God is holy, and His Law is holy, and He intends to show His goodness to the world through a people who live holy lives unto Him (Ps. 81.13-16).
Holiness is good, and we know it, because God, Who is holy, is good. And since His Law is holy – a literary and legal corpus reflecting His character and will – then His Law is good for us, to help us become holy, and thus become a good people whose wisdom, compassion, justice, and righteousness will cause many to know the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.
1. Paul says the Law is holy (Rom. 7.12). What does he mean? Why did God give His people a holy Law?
2. Meditate on 2 Corinthians 7.1. Paul indicates that we must work at improving in holiness. Will this effort be aided by neglecting the Law of God? Explain.
3. How will you begin to fulfill the teaching of Psalm 1 concerning the Law of God?
Next steps – Transformation: As you daily read and meditate in God’s Law, make some notes concerning what it teaches about being a holy person. Take steps to fulfill whatever the Law requires of you on any given day.
T. M. Moore
Why is the Law so important? How can we understand it? What use does it have in our daily lives? These questions and more are addressed in our brief book, The Ground for Christian Ethics. This could be the most important book you’ll read this year. Order your copy by clicking here. Order several copies, and read and discuss it with some friends.
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Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.