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If you REALLY love God, keep His rules!

09 Nov

Psalm 119:1-8.

1How blessed are those whose way is blameless,
Who
walk in the law of the LORD.
2How blessed are those who
observe His testimonies,
Who
seek Him with all their heart.
3They also
do no unrighteousness;
They walk in His ways.
4You have
ordained Your precepts,
That we should keep them diligently.
5Oh that my
ways may be established
To
keep Your statutes!
6Then I
shall not be ashamed
When I look upon all Your commandments.
7I shall
give thanks to You with uprightness of heart,
When I learn Your righteous judgments.
8I shall keep Your statutes;
Do not
forsake me utterly!
(Scripture quotation taken from the NASB)

If there is one thing that can be said about David as one reads Psalm 119 – David longed to keep all the rules. He ties seeking God with the whole heart to observing (or keeping) His testimonies (rules). Essentially, David tells us, “If you really love God, keep His rules!”
Now before all you legalists jump on the bandwagon, and before all you ex-legalist, anti-legalists, and antinomians circle me in and take aim – hear me out. Many who have come out of a legalistic background, like me, can swing to the other side of the extreme and become a bit antinomian in their thinking. You see, we run the danger of throwing off all restraints and saying that the Christian life is so much more than just keeping rules. Which is true – the Christian life is much more than keeping rules, but it’s no less than that either. If Jesus were to stand before the antinomian today, He could very possibly say to them, as he did to the Pharisees, “These things are the things you should have done without neglecting the others.” Yet He could very possibly say the same thing to the legalists, because the Christian life is so much more than just keeping rules; and the legalists don’t seem to grasp that. Both extremes are guilty of forsaking part of the whole, and both are ditches that we believers are constantly to guard against as long as we are on the road of sanctification (basically, until we see Jesus Christ face to face).
If you’re like me – human – then you’re wondering “I thought legalism was bad, yet David sure sounds legalistic in telling us that if we love God we will keep the rules.” And you’re absolutely right! That is, IF you define legalism as merely keeping the rules. Legalism is far more complex than that. Some of the aspects of legalism that we don’t find in the law keeping king is the addition of rules that are extra-biblical (a setting a standard, passing it off as “real” Christianity, and attempting to place those rules upon others as mandatory) and/or the idea that his relationship with God must be peachy because he has checked everything off on the list (where there is love there will be law keeping, but where there is law keeping there is not always love). King David wasn’t a legalist; he was a man after God’s own heart. That pursuit of God brought him to pursue God’s laws and keep them. One may be able to keep the rules without a relationship, but one cannot have a relationship apart from rules. God’s laws show us God’s heart, therefore as we seek the later we will keep the former.
If you’re like the former me – human and legalistic – then you may be gun-ho about what you think is being said here. You may hear David saying, “It’s ungodly to not wear a suit to church, or to celebrate Easter, or to mention Santa Clause, or go to the movies, ad infinitum!” If you hear him say that, then you may be hearing Satan (don’t get too worked up…more than likely it’s your own flesh) but you’re certainly not hearing David. You are correct in that there are laws God has given us that we are to observe, but you are wrong in respect to what those laws are. You’re welcome to have all the personal, preferential standards you like so long as they don’t get muddled up with God’s laws.
So why all this talk about rules? Well, this is “R&M” and since I’ve been reflecting and meditating a bit on the topic I decided to write a bit. But there is also a deeper agenda to encourage you as it has me – to drive us to seek out what rules God has given us and keep them whole heartedly; and remind us of the two ditches in the Christian life when it comes to law: legalism and licentiousness.

 
6 Comments

Posted by on November 9, 2010 in Christian Life, Legalism

 

Tags: , , , , , ,

6 responses to “If you REALLY love God, keep His rules!

  1. susanne430

    November 12, 2010 at 9:53 pm

    So if you were teaching your children the rules God wants us to keep, what would you tell them? Muslims have their list of rules and they think by keeping them, they are pleasing God. They think we are foolish for forsaking the Law because Jesus said he didn’t come to abolish the Law. So I’m curious what you would tell them .. your children and the Muslims.

     
    • danielpulliam

      November 12, 2010 at 11:35 pm

      Good question! There are two key things to note:
      1. “Muslims have their list of rules and they think by keeping them, they are pleasing God.” Most mean by “please” that they are earning eternal life as a reward for that pleasure.
      2. We (Christians) don’t forsake the law. Christ said he came to fulfill not abolish. Paul even told us that just because we are saved by grace doesn’t mean we can live however we wish because God will forgive. Even in my post I mentioned keeping the law. So for Muslims to charge us with forsaking the law is a false accusation on Christianity. Now if they mean we have forsaken it as a means of salvation, then that is partly true, for we never accepted it as a means of salvation. Even in the OT it was not a means of saving men. It didn’t make atonement for intentional sins, only for accidentally touching a dead thing or eating something you didn’t mean to eat, etc. lying, rebellion, adultery, etc. was unforgiven by the OT sacrificial system/law. Intentional defiance of the law was death.

      so what I tell my children is that we are to obey God’s law, because He has created us and given us a standard that we are to meet. It is in obeying this standard that we imitate our God and that makes Him happy. We are saved by believing in Jesus Christ and His work on the cross and resurrection. We obey God’s rules to please Him, to live as He intended, not to gain any life-giving merit for our obedience.

      hope that helps a bit.

       
  2. susanne430

    November 13, 2010 at 7:34 am

    Yes, Muslims believe they can please God and earn His favor so He will be more likely to admit them into heaven. Kind of like a person wanting a promotion so he goes out of his way to do nice things and extra things so the boss will notice him.

    But about keeping the Law for your sons…what aspects of it do you tell them they must keep? The ones Jesus reiterated or all the ones mentioned in the Torah? I know we keep the ones about not committing adultery and not murdering or stealing, but what about the ones that seem more nitpicky like not eating shrimp or ham or mixing milk and meat at a meal or weaving two different types of cloth together? Plus the Law then prescribed some punishments that we would be unable to do here and live to tell about it (e.g. stoning our disobedient children).

    Just curious why we get to pick and choose which parts to obey? And why we pick some over others if we say Jesus didn’t abolish it. Even if it’s not a means to salvation, you admitted it’s how we please God. What if He disagrees with us ‘forgetting’ to do some of His rules? I ask this because people DO question Christians about such things occasionally on blogs.

    Thanks!

     
    • danielpulliam

      November 13, 2010 at 9:33 am

      Yes, they DO ask such questions. =)
      Well, Scripture uses “law” in different ways. Sometimes it refers to the moral code, and sometimes to the entire sacrificial system of the Old Covenant. I don’t think it’s accurate to say Christians pick and choose what we want to keep. I think Scripture tells us that the old system is gone. For example: Hebrews 8-9. Note Heb. 8:13. In ch. 9 we are taught, briefly, the sacrificial system and it is described by the word “Law”. it says that this was a shadow of things to come, and even says that it is temporary, until the time of reformation (NASB). The author of Hebrews goes out of his way to establish the fact to these Jews that to go back to the Old Covenant law system was to turn back from Jesus. The rules of no mixed clothing, no pork, killing goats and bulls, etc. were shadows (or pictures) to explain God to us. But once Jesus has come, He has shown us the Father, and there is no more need for the shadows.
      The law – used in the moral sense – isn’t a shadow of God, but a direct display of His character, and these are not temporary. The author of Hebrews uses the term Law to deal with the sacrificial aspect,not the moral aspect. I don’t see a picking and choosing going on, I see Jesus doing away with the shadows, and affirming the moral law. We see the kind of law Jesus revoked when He told Peter to eat all things as they are now clean (going against the OC).
      It doesn’t seem that the Jewish believers in the early church struggled with these type of questions. They struggled with forsaking the old covenant, but the author of Hebrews doesn’t seem to show any signs of them being able to distinguish between what was of the passing law and what was of the permanent moral law. I think we should spend more time in the OT to see how the Mosaic code was given. For there was a law that Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, all knew about and lived by, even Israel before God gave them the Mosaic law. The Mosaic covenant was meant to be temporary, until Jesus Christ. It could not perfect the conscience, only point us to the Perfect Sacrifice that could do so.
      In Matt 5:17, where Jesus says He came to fulfill the law and prophets (which is the entire Old Testament), it is obvious that He was claiming to be the Messiah; but He is is also making a statement of the moral law, which He addressed before that statement and addresses immediately after.
      Even Paul, in Romans 3:13, addresses the fact that faith doesn’t abrogate the moral law.
      So I think it’s very easy to get confused on law (ceremonial or moral)when the word is used, if we are not careful. There is a law of God, there are commands that are given for Christians to live by; and there was a law of God, a way of life for the people under the Old Covenant, which has passed away with the coming of Jesus Christ and the institution of the New Covenant.

       
  3. susanne430

    November 15, 2010 at 5:09 pm

    Thanks for the explanation. I agree with you, but maybe you’ll understand why I find explaining all that (e.g., ‘shadows’) a bit hard to those who are prone to disbelieve “Christianity” to begin with. (I.e…those who want to ‘prove’ Islam is superior., for instance.)

    Thanks!

     
    • danielpulliam

      November 15, 2010 at 5:40 pm

      But Scripture states the OC is but a shadow. If they ask for an explanation, and are presented with a clearly christian, biblical one and refuse to accept it, then they didn’t really want an answer – did they? Our job isn’t to find an asnwer our opponents will ccept, but to present them with God’s answer. Their acceptance of it, or lack of, doesn’t change the validity of the answer. People don’t believe because they don’t want to. Same with muslims. An honest seeker will accept biblically, logically coherent answers. A liar will not.

       

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