Do This in Remembrance of Me?

original photo credit: steakpinball via photopin cc
original photo credit: steakpinball via photopin cc

It’s easy to get confused when trying to understand how the Mosaic Law relates to the New Covenant of grace. I am intrigued by Romans 4:14-15 (NASB):

For if those who are of the Law are heirs, faith is made void and the promise is nullified; for the Law brings about wrath, but where there is no law, there also is no violation.

Our initial reaction upon reading this verse might be to think that it is impossible to sin now that we are free from the requirements of the Mosaic Law. We would do well to consider the context of this passage. Paul was writing to Jews about both Jews and Gentiles, and how they were to respectively gain their right standing before God. His point was that Jews could not be justified by their age-old reliance upon obedience to the Law. This does not mean, however, that the Christian faith is entirely void of all laws.

The kingdom of God is governed by one primary law—the royal law:

 If, however, you are fulfilling the royal law according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing well. James 2:8 (NASB)

Jesus raised the bar even higher in John 13:34 (NASB):

A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another.

City of Brotherly Love
photo credit: micholitzii via photopin cc

This is where our second Greek word for love, philia, comes into play. And in case you were wondering, this is where the name Philadelphia finds its roots as the city of brotherly love—although I’m not exactly sure how accurate that description is in our day. I’ll be perfectly honest here—the problem isn’t limited to the city of Philadelphia; I think that very, very few professing Christians pay any serious attention to Christ’s command for us to love our brothers and sisters of the faith with the same measure of love modeled by Jesus.

Why do I feel this way? Well, it may have something to do with the fact that heaping judgment and contempt on other Christians is more of a common practice than a rare exception. What we don’t seem to understand is that Jesus is personally affected by our treatment of His covenant children. (see Matthew 25:31-46). Whenever I look down my nose with contempt at one of my Christian brothers, I might as well have Jesus Himself in my sights. What a scary thought!

What happens when we transgress God’s royal law of love? We heap condemnation upon ourselves—especially when we profess our devotion to the New Covenant in Christ.

photo credit: Evan Courtney via photopin cc
photo credit: Evan Courtney via photopin cc

Therefore whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner, shall be guilty of the body and the blood of the Lord. But a man must examine himself, and in so doing he is to eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For he who eats and drinks, eats and drinks judgment to himself if he does not judge the body rightly. For this reason many among you are weak and sick, and a number sleep. But if we judged ourselves rightly, we would not be judged. But when we are judged, we are disciplined by the Lord so that we will not be condemned along with the world. 1 Corinthians 11:27-32 (NASB)

Does it really matter how we treat the body of Christ–our New Covenant brothers and sisters? Absolutely! Do you truly want to honor God with your life? Let love govern your behavior–all of it.

The topic is worthy of far more time and effort than a single blog post and so I will address it with more detail in my next book. For now, however, these are essential thoughts to ponder. The King of the Universe cares more about our love—or lack thereof—for one another far more than most of us will allow ourselves to believe.

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Jesus: Lord of Rest!

Carrot on a Stick
photo credit: Ben Sutherland via photopin cc

We all want it in one way or another, but some of us definitely more than others. I speak of our human need to be in control—that elusive capacity to get what we want, when we want it, and how we want it. Like a vain pursuit of the proverbial carrot on a stick, a quest for control will leave us both frustrated and exhausted.

But why does the need for control matter so much to us? Why do we invest so much time and energy pursuing it? Why do we exhaust ourselves trying to attain something that we might be able to only faintly grasp? Simply put, it is the way we are wired; and it has been that way from almost the beginning of time.

The Fall
Photo courtesy of Pitts Theological Library

When Adam and Eve ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, they were seeking to be like God apart from God. Who is God? He is the Sovereign King of the Universe. This means that our Creator is accountable to no one and that He has the authority and ability to get whatever He wants whenever He wants. God, however, has chosen to limit Himself in this regard as He relates to the human race. Because He wills it, we each have a certain degree of freedom to make our own choices. The King of the Universe then mysteriously directs those choices toward His sovereign purposes.

The human desire to be God operates quite differently. Although we seek the ultimate sovereignty possessed only by God, we lack the power and authority to fully engineer people and circumstances in directions that we deem to be favorable. Our natural tendency, therefore, is for us to try to control all that surrounds and affects us. And while the need to be in control is entirely natural, that does not necessarily mean that it is good for us. There is nothing artificial, for example, about poison ivy, but you won’t find a poison ivy beauty cream anywhere on the market.

Poison Ivy
Poison Ivy Photo by Puzzler4879 — CC BY 2.0

There is something about the human will by which we think that having our way will make our world bright and rosy, yet the opposite becomes our reality. For someone who is not God to try to play the role of God is nothing short of exhausting because there is so much in our world that we can never control. Rather than experiencing peace, joy, and an overall sense of fulfillment, we find ourselves frustrated, angry, resentful, anxious, and depressed—all while immersed in a deep sense of weariness. The older we get, the more entrenched this feeling of exhaustion becomes.

Once again, the Gospel provides the answer to all that ails us. God calls us to seek first His kingdom and to completely surrender our wills, not because He is on a power trip, but because it is what’s best for us. How we begin to experience fresh life when we finally learn to surrender our need to be in control! But letting go is much easier for some than for others. Those of us who have been through especially painful or traumatic experiences will find the desire for control to be a downright compulsion. This means that we must deliberately cultivate a strong faith in God so that our hearts will be free to let go.

The Nativity
Photoby Keith Williamson — CC BY 2.0

In this Christmas season when we so often focus on Jesus as Savior alone, we will gain so much more by recognizing that the good news of the Gospel is to also see Him as Lord. Allowing Jesus to take His rightful place as Savior and Lord over our lives is to experience a measure of freedom and rest that an envious world can only long for.

In the same region there were some shepherds staying out in the fields and keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord suddenly stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them; and they were terribly frightened. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people;  for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. Luke 2:8-11 (NASB)