(This week, I'm posting three articles written for the Union City Daily Messenger earlier this summer. In the "Soli Deo Gloria" column featured in Thursday's Religion section, we are working through the Heidelberg Catechism.)
Teach me, O LORD, the way of your statutes; and I will keep it as my reward. Give me understanding, that I may keep your law and observe it with my whole heart. Lead me in the path of your commandments, for I delight in it. - Psalm 119:33-35
The Heidelberg Catechism is divided into three sections: guilt, grace, and gratitude. We learned early in this series of articles that all men are sinners, condemned before a righteous God. Every one of us justly deserves God's eternal wrath.
Only by the grace extended to us through Christ's atoning work are any able to stand before the holy God. Jesus lived a sinless life, but then He traded places with us: He took upon Himself God's punishment for our sins, and gave us instead peace with God and the promise of eternal life in Glory. This promise is for all who have been given to the Son by the Father (John 17:24).
Last week, we read that true repentance involves not only dying to our old, sinful nature, but that it also involves a joyful coming-to-life concerning the things of God. (You can read that article - True Conversion - here.) In this new life in Christ, we long more and more to please God and to glorify Him in every aspect of our lives. God's will becomes the standard that shapes and influences our attitudes and actions.
"The Law of God" - how do those words make you feel? Maybe you feel guilty. You realize that you fail miserably at keeping God's Law with the purity and perfection He demands. The Law of God, as revealed in the Ten Commandments, is a burden too heavy to bear. As a son of Adam and an heir to Adam's sinful nature, you feel keenly your guilt and God's just condemnation.
Maybe when you consider the Law of God, you feel a desperate need for rescue. "There's no way I can keep the Law of God perfectly," you cry. "God, be merciful to me, a sinner!" That, too, is a right response to the Law of God, as it points us - even drives us - to our Savior, Jesus.
We have covered guilt and we have covered grace. What about gratitude?
Interestingly, the writers of the Heidelberg Catechism placed the lessons concerning God's Law in the section of the catechism dealing not with guilt, not with grace, but with gratitude. Have you ever read thoughtfully through the Ten Commandments and felt compelled to cry, "Thank you, Lord!"?
Thank you, Lord, that Jesus kept your Law perfectly! Thank you, Lord, that Jesus's perfect righteousness has been credited to my account! Thank you, Lord, that I no longer live under the guilt of being a lawbreaker! Thank you, Lord, that because Christ redeemed me and because I am safely and forever yours, the Law cannot condemn me!
Does this mean that Christians just throw the Law of God out the window? That it no longer has anything to say to those who are in Christ? On the contrary, to the Christian, God's Law is beautiful, precisely because God's Law shows us the character of the God we adore - what He loves, what He hates, what He desires for us and from us. The Law of God is like a hand-written letter from a beloved Father.
The recent movie Nanny McPhee illustrates the beauty of the Law to the believer: When Nanny McPhee arrived at the Brown house, she found seven wicked, disobedient children. The children saw Nanny McPhee as a dreadful monster, complete with big hairy warts and a scary stick. To the lawless children, she was a threat to their freedom and happiness.
Over the course of the movie, however, the children learned that it was their own terrible behavior that threatened to destroy their family and to separate them from the father they loved. As they learned to obey Nanny's rules, they found life grew pleasanter for everyone. They were also amazed to discover that Nanny - instead of being a scary hag - was actually very beautiful. The Brown children had fallen in love with the very rule and structure they once despised. They saw that their sinful lawlessness brought them heartache and bondage, not liberty; but the once-feared "law" brought life, joy, and peace.
Join us in the weeks ahead as we look at the beauty of the Law of God. Maybe you, too, will find God's Law to be a delight!
Oh how I love your law! It is my meditation all the day. - Psalm 119:97