Inconvenient truths about us mean magnificent things about God

by Kyle
published March 15, 2014


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Rules were made to be broken — sort of.

God’s standard is high. In Galatians 3, Paul builds a strong case showing how you and I have no hope of ever being good enough for God. It’s just not possible. No amount of holiness or piety or good works you or I could ever do will earn God’s favor or grace or generosity or whatever it is you want from him.

So why does the Bible have so many rules?

In the 12th century, a Jewish scholar named Maimonides identified 613 commands in the first five books of the Bible alone.

To make matters worse, Jesus said that even fantasizing about breaking one of these commands constituted actually breaking them. (Matthew 5:21-48) James adds that even if you were to keep every other command, but broke only a single point, God would consider it the same as breaking the whole thing. The murderer is not worse than the thief. The thief is not worse than the liar. Sinners are sinners, and there is nothing you or I can do to change that.

Why would God give so many rules that he knew we would never follow? Because obedience is not the point. It’s not the main point, anyway.

The Law was never given to restore anything. It was never meant as a basis for a relationship. (How would you like it if the people whom you love most just followed a list of rules instead of actually loving you back?)

Instead of telling us what to be, the Law shows us what we are. James compares it to a mirror. Paul, in Galatians 3:22, says, “the Scriptures declare that we are all prisoners of sin, so we receive God’s promise of freedom only by believing in Jesus Christ.” The first purpose of the Law is to show us that what we do is contrary to what God wants.

In fact, it isn’t just our behavior that’s the problem. It’s our hearts.

At our core, we don’t want to please God. We don’t want to know God. The problem is not what we do, but what we want. We need someone or something to show us why and how we have gone so far astray.

And that’s the purpose of God’s Law.

Galatians 3 goes on to say, “the Law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ, so that we may be justified by faith.” (Galatians 3:24) All of God’s rules show us what God wants, and they contrast to what we want.

But that’s not all! It doesn’t just show us how wrong we are, but how right Jesus is. As much as the Law exposes our wrongness, it exposes God’s goodness. Jesus, after he rose from the dead, had a conversation with some of his close friends. “Beginning with Moses and with all the prophets, He explained to them the things concerning Himself in all the Scriptures.” (Luke 24:27) “Moses” is a reference to the Law, the first five books of the Bible.

So often in scripture, we encounter a list of rules that we know we fail so miserably. This is a universal experience. Pastor Voddie Baucham said that in the Bible, “If you can’t say, ‘Amen,’ you gotta say, ‘Ouch.’” I say, “ouch” a lot.

In that “ouch” experience, we each have two choices. We can see who we are and who God is in his own words and turn away in denial. We can reject even the notion that we might be wrong. We can stand firm in our own conviction that we ourselves know what’s best. We can encounter the living God, spit in his face, and walk away.

This is a totally valid choice. People do it every day. The truth about your friend and pastor is that by my own actions, presuppositions and attitudes, I do this myself every day. It’s so comforting to know I’m not alone.

The other choice, the one that pleases God, is just to accept what he says. Remember Galatians 3:6: “Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness.” This means believing some inconvenient things about ourselves, but in the same breath, in means believing some magnificent and beautiful things about God.

So as we are confronted with the bad news of where our hearts lie, if we are willing to see who we are, that same unflattering mirror will turn into a window, and it will show us who God is, too.

What do you think?

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