Tag Archives: Holiness

God’s children forsake sin (1 John 3:4–10)

“Everyone who makes a practice of sinning also practices lawlessness; sin is lawlessness. You know that he appeared in order to take away sins, and in him there is no sin. No one who abides in him keeps on sinning; no one who keeps on sinning has either seen him or known him. Little children, let no one deceive you. Whoever practices righteousness is righteous, as he is righteous. Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil. No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s seed abides in him, and he cannot keep on sinning because he has been born of God. By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother.”  (1 John 3:4–10 ESV)

When we walk in ongoing, unrepentant sin, we walk outside of God’s good, right and protective law.  To walk outside of God’s provision and protection has grave consequences.  Jesus’ mission was not only to forgive us of sin, but to free us from its grip (Romans 6).  John goes boldly tells us that no one who abides in Jesus keeps on sinning – we can’t because He is light and in Him there is no darkness or sin.  He says that no one who walks in ongoing, unrepentant sin (that is evident for we all have sin in our lives) knows Him.  This may be a long and slow process, but ultimately God ensures His elect that they are His by the way that they walk.  Our actions always speak louder than our words.  It is easy to say we love God, serve Him and pursue Him, but only those who pursue the righteousness that is found in Jesus alone are truly His.  Don’t be deceived!  If you’re hanging your hat on having walked an aisle or having prayed a prayer, but have no real desire to know God or grow in holiness, then you need to ask if you are really His child.

We aren’t of God if we make an ongoing practice of sinning.  Growth in holiness, empowered by the grace of God is the most comforting thing in regards to our eternal security.  One cannot be regenerate and walk in ongoing, apparent & unrepentant sin.  Sin is of the devil.  We must be careful not to place timetables on this – for we have all walked in sin for a season.  But, it should always frighten us and move us towards the cross.  The regenerate person cannot continue to walk in open sin because the Word of God and the Holy Spirit dwell within him.  We can’t keep on walking in open sin because we have been reborn.  It is like being reborn as a fish and trying to live on land – you can’t for long.  The very air that we now breath is the grace of God through the Word of God.

The litmus test for faith (children of God versus children of the devil):  whoever does not practice righteousness or love his brother is not walking in the light.  This takes some serious unpacking because it sounds like external behavior modification.  We are recognized by our fruit (Matthew 7:16).  The Christian is transformed to the core by the Holy Spirit, so much so that he cannot walk in a pattern of continual sin for long periods.  John boils it down to the true barometer of where our hearts really are regardless of what we profess or what we’d like to believe.  If we don’t love others, we aren’t regenerate; we love because He first loved us (1 John 4:19).  This is at the top of the list of the fruit of the Spirit that Paul mentions in Galatians 5:22.  We can’t produce this, it is Spirit wrought.  Additionally, if you can’t forgive then you aren’t forgiven (Matthew 6:14-15).  This is slow and progressive, but will be a growing reality in the hearts of the elect.  God, help us!

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The Practice of Mortification

I recently read this in Sinclair Ferguson’s book, In Christ Alone: Living the Gospel Centered Life.  I thought that it was very good and was worth the time to post it.  I hope that you enjoy it!

“The aftermath of a conversation can change the way we later think of its significance. My friend-a younger minister-sat down with me at the end of a conference in his church and said, “Before we retire tonight, just take me through the steps that are involved in helping someone mortify sin.” We sat talking about this for a little longer and then went to bed; I hoped he felt as blessed as I did by our conversation.

I still wonder whether he asked his question as a pastor or simply for himself-or both.

How would you best answer his question? The first thing to do is to turn to the Scriptures. Yes, turn to John Owen (never a bad idea!) or to some other counselor dead or alive. But remember that we have not been left only to good human resources in this area. We need to be taught from “the mouth of God” if the principles we are learning to apply are to carry with them both the authority of God and the promise of God to make them work. Thus our Lord Jesus Himself believed (Matt. 4:4).

Several passages come to mind for study: Romans 8:13; Romans 13:8-14 (Augustine’s life-transforming text); 2 Corinthians 6:14-7:1; Ephesians 4:17- 5:21; Colossians 3:1-17; 1 Peter 4:1-11; 1 John 2:28-3:11. Significantly, only two of these passages contain the verb mortify (“put to death”). Equally significantly, the context of each of these passages is broader than the single exhortation to put sin to death. As we shall see, this observation turns out to be of considerable importance.

A Good Starting Place
Colossians 3:1-17 is probably the best place for us to begin. The believers in Colossae were relatively young Christians. Theirs had been a radical experience of conversion to Christ from paganism. They had entered a gloriously new and liberating world of grace. In fact, perhaps-if we may read between the lines-they had felt for a while as if they had been delivered not only from sin’s penalty but even from its influence, so marvelous was their new freedom. But then, of course, sin reared its ugly head again. Having experienced the “already” of grace, they were discovering the painful “not yet” of ongoing sanctification. Sound familiar? Just at this point keen young Christians can be all too vulnerable to “quick fixes.”

But as in our evangelical subculture, quick fixes do not solve long-term problems. Unless the Colossians gained a firm grasp of gospel principles, they were at risk of falling prey to false teachers with promises of a higher spiritual life. That was what Paul feared (Col. 2:8, 16). Holiness-producing methods were in vogue (Col. 2:21-22). Moreover, they seemed to be deeply spiritual, just the thing for earnest young believers. But, in fact, says Paul, such things “are of no value against the indulgence of the flesh” (Col. 2:23).

Not new methods, but only an understanding of how the gospel method works, can provide an adequate foundation and pattern for dealing with sin. This is the theme of Colossians 3:1-17.

Paul gives us the pattern and rhythm we need. Like Olympic long jumpers, we will not succeed unless we go back from the point of action to a point from which we can gain energy for the strenuous effort of dealing with sin.

How, then, does Paul teach us to do this?

NEW IDENTITY
First of all, Paul underlines how important it is for us to be familiar with our new identity in Christ (3:1-4).

How often, when we fail spiritually, we lament that we forgot who we really were.

Christians have a new identity. We are no longer “in Adam” but “in Christ”; no longer in the flesh but in the Spirit; no longer dominated by the old creation but living in the new (Rom. 5:12-21; 8:9; 2 Cor. 5:17).

Paul takes time to expound this:
• We have died with Christ (3:3; we have even been buried with Him, 2:12).
• We have been raised with Christ (3:1).
• Our true life is hidden with Christ in God (3:3).
• We are so inseparably united to Christ that we will appear in glory with Him (3:4).

Failure to deal with the presence of sin can often be traced back to spiritual amnesia-forgetting our new, true, real identity. As a believer, I am someone who has been delivered from the dominion of sin and who therefore is free and motivated to fight against the remnants of sin in my heart. You must know, rest in, think through, and act upon your new identity-you are in Christ.

SIN EXPOSED
Second, Paul goes on to expose the workings of sin in every area of our lives (Col. 3:5-11). If we are to deal with sin biblically, we must not make the mistake of thinking that we can limit our attack to only one area of failure. All sin must be dealt with. Thus, Paul ranges through the manifestation of sin in private life (v. 5), everyday public life (v. 8), and church life (vv. 9-11; “one another” and “here” indicate the church fellowship).

The challenge in mortification is akin to the challenge in dieting (itself a form of mortification!). Once we begin, we discover that there are all kinds of reasons we are overweight. We are really dealing with ourselves, not simply with calories. I am the problem, not the potato chips! Mortifying sin is a whole-of-life change.

PRACTICAL GUIDELINES
Third, Paul’s exposition provides us with practical guidance for mortifying sin.

Sometimes it seems as if Paul gives exhortations (“Put to death. – – ,” 3:5) without giving “practical” help to answer our “how-to” questions. Often today Christians go to Paul to tell them what to do and then to the local Christian bookstore to discover how to do it!

Why this bifurcation? Probably because we do not linger long enough over what Paul is saying. We do not sink our thinking deeply into the Scriptures. For, characteristically, whenever Paul issues an exhortation, he surrounds it with hints as to how we are to put it into practice.

This is certainly true here. Notice how this passage helps to answer our “how-to” questions.
1. Learn to admit sin for what it really is. Call a spade a spade-call it “fornication” (v. 5), not “I’m being tempted a little”; call it “uncleanness” (v. 5), not “I’m struggling with my thought life”; call it “covetousness, which is idolatry” (v. 5), not “I think I need to order my priorities a bit better.” This pattern runs right through the whole section. How powerfully it unmasks self-deception-and helps us to unmask sin lurking in the hidden corners of our hearts!
2. See sin for what it really is in God’s presence. “Because of these the wrath of God is coming” (3:6). The masters of the spiritual life spoke of dragging our lusts to the cross (kick and scream, though they will), to a wrath-bearing Christ. My sin leads not to lasting pleasure but to holy divine displeasure. See the true nature of your sin in the light of its punishment. Too easily we think that sin is less serious in Christians than it is in unbelievers: “It’s forgiven, isn’t it?” Not if we continue in it (1 John 3:9)! Take a heaven’s-eye view of sin and feel the shame of that in which you once walked (3:7; cf. Rom. 6:21).
3. Recognize the inconsistency of your sin. You have put off the “old man,” and have put on the “new man” (3:9-10). You are no longer your “old self.” The identity you had “in Adam” is gone. The “old man was crucified with Him [Christ], that the body of sin [probably meaning “life in the body dominated by sin”] might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin” (Rom. 6:6). New people live new lives. Anything less than this is a contradiction of who we are “in Christ.”
4. Put sin to death (v. 5). It is as “simple” as that. Refuse it, starve it, and reject it. You cannot “mortify” sin without the pain of the kill. There is no other way!

But notice that Paul sets this in a very important broader context. The negative task of putting sin to death will not be accomplished in isolation from the positive call of the gospel to “put on” the Lord Jesus Christ (Rom. 13:14).

Paul spells this out in Colossians 3:12-17. Sweeping the house clean simply leaves us open to a further invasion of sin. But when we understand the “glorious exchange” principle of the gospel of grace, then we begin to make some real advances in holiness. Sinful desires and habits not only must be rejected but exchanged for Christ-like graces (3:12) and actions (3:13). As we are clothed in Christ’s character and His graces are held together by love (v.14), not only in our private lives but also in the church fellowship (vv. 12-16), Christ’s name and glory will be manifested and exalted in and among us (3:17).

These are some of the things my friend and I talked about that memorable Sunday evening.”

Sinclair Ferguson. In Christ Alone: Living the Gospel Centered Life (Kindle Locations 1826-1877). Kindle Edition.

For further reading:
Putting off involves fostering a new affection
The Expulsive Power of a New Affection by Thomas Chalmers

Where broken people find true freedom (1 John 1:5-10)

“This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.” (1 John 1:5–10 ESV)

God is pure, perfect and totally holy, void of any darkness – He is absolute pure light. We are all imperfect and sinful people, but those who prove that they are His are the ones that make a pattern of walking in light versus walking in the darkness – though imperfectly, they chose light over darkness.  This is part of our progressive sanctification as we grow in holiness over time.

Our actions always speak louder than our words.  We can say that we love God and serve Him, but if we are walking in ongoing sin then we are not in fellowship with Him regardless of what we say.  We are lying to and deceiving ourselves.  Satan’s primary tool against Christians is his ability to manipulate & deceive – it is what he did to Adam & Eve in the garden and it is what he still does today.  Sin is always a declaration of autonomy, we just don’t want to submit to anyone; we want to be in control and to do what is right in our own eyes (Judges 17:6, 21:25).  This is marked by, “I think,” “I feel,” “my experience has been.”  We should never discount our thoughts, feelings, or experiences, but we should always weigh them in light of what is good, holy and right.  This is primarily revealed in the scriptures and applied in the context of Christian community.  We all have blind spots and we need others to help illuminate them and put them to death (Colossians 3:5).

If we walk in the light, we have fellowship with Him and with each other – and the blood of Jesus cleanses us from our sins.  As we walk in the light with other transformed believers, we experience increasing freedom from sin.  Walking in the light means walking in right doctrine, moral purity and not hiding sin from ourselves and from one another.  It means that we strive to put to death that which is sinful in us (Colossians 3:5).  We are to murder the sin that is within us, and not just the external symptoms, but the root from which it springs.  Extreme measures should be taken to kill sin in our lives (Matthew 5:29-30).  This requires others, but not just any “Christian Community” will do!  Putting sin to death requires a grace saturated Christian Community of people who are deeply aware of their own depravity and God’s great holiness and the unearned, undeserved, unmerited favor, approval & affection that bridges this chasm.  This community is marked by grace that is freely extended to other broken sinners who want to confess their sins & turn from them to find true freedom.

If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.  BOLD!  Indwelling sin is a reality of life on fallen planet earth.  Even John recognizes that He is still sinful.  The height of pride and blindness is to say that we have no sin – or to say we are sinful, but are unwilling to address it specifically.  No one is without sin, and the person who wants to downplay their sin and call it dysfunction or wiring or “just the way I am” is someone who is unwilling to acknowledge their sinfulness.  God help us.  There is a difference between walking in ongoing, unrepentant sin and saying that we are without sin altogether.  Indeed, the mature believer is coming to see just how deep the roots of sin run in his heart and is becoming increasingly more appreciative for the grace of God.

The gospel declares the good news that God is faithful to heal sinners who come to Him and confess their sin to Him.  Confession and repentance are all that are required to be clean and free.  But, we rarely want to confess and repent of the deepest, darkest parts of our hearts.  To confess it means the risk of judgement from others, but to hold it in is to walk in slavery.  To be free, you must find some grace saturated Christians to confess your deepest sinfulness to so that it can be put to death (James 5:16)!  There is no penance that you must do, however there may be consequences.  We are all shocked when a “tame” lion attacks someone who is close to it.  We say, “it was such a gentle and tame lion, I can’t believe he’d attack that poor person!”  What!?!?  He is an alpha predator, all he does is kill and eat things.  We are shocked when we keep our secret sins on a leash (like a tame lion) and they turn around and attack us and destroy our lives.  We must be willing to drag our pet lions out into the light of day and put a bullet in its head.  This is a community effort, we all need to get our guns and help each other kill our sin!

God’s Grace is the Foundation of the Christian Life

“May grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.
His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire.”  (2 Peter 1:2–4 ESV)

The grace that Peter introduces in these verses serves as the foundation upon which the entire epistle is written.  As Peter nears the end of his life, the grace of God in Christ Jesus is what he desperately clings to.  So should we.  We never move beyond or past the grace of God, like a building whose entire structure rests on its footings, so does our Christian life.  Our faith is built 100% upon the footing of God’s grace.

His divine power has been granted to us.  This infinite power accomplished our salvation and gives us ALL things that pertain to life and godliness.  What?  This infinite power saves us and empowers us to live a godly life in Christ Jesus.  Therefore, let us put Him on, let us wear Him (Romans 13:14).  This power is recognized by the knowledge that He called us to His own glory and excellence.  The knowledge that He has called us is the power that fuels our sanctification – it is grace fueled sanctification.  It is God who has copiously provided the infinite resources of His power to us because we could never do it ourselves.  John Calvin summarizes this section like this, “He refers to the infinite goodness of God which they had already experienced, that they might more fully understand it for the future. For he continues the course of his benevolence perpetually to the end, except when we ourselves break it off by our unbelief; for he possesses exhaustless power and an equal will to do good.”

More than just granting us His divine power, He has granted to us His precious and great promises.  He has promised to provide all things through Christ.  These are gospel promises.  The promise of forgiveness, of imputing to us Christ’s perfect obedience (making us positionally holy – as if we never sinned), of adopting us as children, of giving us Himself through the Holy Spirit as a guarantee of our future inheritance.  These are spectacular promises!  And these promises are what make us partakers (partners or sharers) of the divine nature.  As His image bearers we are already more like God than anything else in all of creation, though fractured by the fall.  As we grow in actual holiness by the power of His Holy Spirit, we become more like God – that is more accurate reflectors of Him.  We are to pursue holiness, not mere morality.

The Christian has been delivered from the corruption of the world that finds its roots in sinful desire.  These roots have been severed, though their shoots may still be growing in us.  Thus the call of scripture to put to death (Colossians 3:5) that which is sinful with in us.  The Holy Spirit indwells the life of a believer of Christ so that we are truly partakers of the divine nature.  Let us marvel at the unmerited favor of a perfectly holy God to a completely rebellious people.  When we were at our worst, He saved us.  When we didn’t want Him, He made us new.  When we were dead, He made us alive.  When we were His enemies, He made us His children.  When we were cold and apathetic, He gave us new hearts to desire Him.  When we were objects of His just wrath, He made us His friends.  The more you marvel at these great truths, the more you find yourself transformed in to His Image.

The Satiated Soul

“O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water. So I have looked upon you in the sanctuary, beholding your power and glory. Because your steadfast love is better than life, my lips will praise you. So I will bless you as long as I live; in your name I will lift up my hands.
My soul will be satisfied as with fat and rich food, and my mouth will praise you with joyful lips, when I remember you upon my bed, and meditate on you in the watches of the night; for you have been my help, and in the shadow of your wings I will sing for joy. My soul clings to you; your right hand upholds me.
But those who seek to destroy my life shall go down into the depths of the earth; they shall be given over to the power of the sword; they shall be a portion for jackals. But the king shall rejoice in God; all who swear by him shall exult, for the mouths of liars will be stopped.” (Psalms 63:1–11 ESV)

This psalm of David is not just a corporate song, but is intensely personal as well.  David writes this when he is a refugee, on the run for his life either from Saul (1 Samuel 23:14-15, 24:1) or from Absalom (2 Samuel 15:23-28).  It is more likely that it was written during his time fleeing from Absalom because He refers to himself as king in 63:11 and he also uses the same Hebrew word here as in 2 Samuel 16:14.  The Hebrew word (key 5889 }aœyeœph) means “weary,” “exhausted,” or “faint.”  Regardless of the time, he is hard pressed on every side, oppressed, tired and constantly looking over his shoulder.  Simple pleasures and luxuries are nowhere to be found.  David sees that the presence of God supersedes all earthly comforts & concerns.  So much so that he uses language that displays a desperation for God’s presence more than his deliverance.  He needs God as much as he needs food or water.  The question is, why don’t we desire God this way?  Is it because we are so distracted and have never really tasted His goodness?  Is it because life is so good that we don’t really see a need for Him?

David finds profound confidence in His times of trouble, a confidence that every soul longs for.  When life is difficult, it has the ability to push aside the periphery things that distract and cause us to have laser focus on ultimate things.  David sees that being in the presence of God, in His sanctuary, is a gift that He eagerly longs to partake in.  He knows that the steadfast love of God and being in His presence is better than life itself.  David recalls corporate worship as they are called to behold the power and glory of the LORD.  As we behold God’s glory, we become more like Him (2 Corinthians 3:18), Moses asked to see God’s glory (Exodus 33:18) and he shone with the glory of the LORD because he had been in God’s presence (Exodus 34:34).  There is something about being in the presence of the LORD when He reveals His glory to us that changes us; it marks us, it enables us to say (with David) that His “steadfast love is better than life.”  We should do everything that we can to get in His presence.  It is only through beholding the Lord through the power of the Holy Spirit that we are transformed over time into more accurate image bearers.  As we see Him more clearly, the Spirit sanctifies us more completely (Gen. 1:26–27; 2 Cor. 4:4; 5:17; also 1 John 3:2)

We have to ask, “do we have an insatiable hunger and thirst for God?”  Why not?  Is it because we’ve not partaken of Him in a way that has touched our souls deeply?  Is it because our faith has been largely intellectual?  Is it because we have rarely or ever seen His glory?  Lord, give us eyes to see, ears to hear and hearts to believe.  Show us your glory, fill us with your Spirit, give us believing hearts!  We don’t have the power to do this on our own – we are utterly dependent upon you!

Only an abiding relationship with God provides complete soul satisfaction.  David likens his satiated soul to that of being full after a fine meal (verse 5).  David remembers God and meditates upon His goodness not just in the sanctuary, but everywhere in His life.  What a gift, Lord please give us this gift of seeing you more clearly and desiring you more fully.  Satisfaction & safety are found in the presence of God as David proclaims “My soul clings to you; your right hand upholds me.” (Psalms 63:8 ESV).  God’s purposes always prevail, He wins.  We can trust in that!

Deconstructing Religion

“There were some present at that very time who told him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. And he answered them, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered in this way? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them: do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who lived in Jerusalem? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.”” (Luke 13:1–5 ESV)

Two seemingly obscure events are mentioned in this text that we find nowhere else in scripture.  In the first event, Pilate had apparently murdered a group of Galileans who were trying to offer sacrifices.  The second event involved what appears to be an accident at the tower of Siloam which was probably part of the wall in Jerusalem near the pool of Siloam.  Jesus, after each event, asks “do you think that they are worse sinners than you are?”

What is He doing?  He is deconstructing the popular idea that accidents, tragedies, sickness & suffering is directly traced to personal sin (see John 9:2).  Our common logic is that bad people get bad things and good people get good things.  Jesus deconstructs that belief with this story.  He presses on us to evaluate if we really are deserving of the good in our lives as we tend to look down on those who are experiencing hardship and travesty in their lives.  This is the same logic that Job’s friends used on him, “Job, you obviously have unrepentant sin in your life or else you would not be suffering like you are.”

We seem hardwired to look down on others who are going through difficult circumstances and reckon (though we’d rarely say it) that they probably deserve it.  Conversely, we think that we deserve to be spared from difficulties because we are pretty good people; we cry “foul” when things go badly, because we didn’t deserve that turn of events!  This belief is cancerous to our souls because when things are good, we become puffed up & self righteous, and when things are difficult we feel condemned (or unfairly treated) and jump on the treadmill of good works to remedy the situation and earn some of God’s blessing & favor.

Jesus shatters this thinking by saying, “no, but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.”  What?  Were those people blatant sinners?  They were no worse than His hearers and no worse than you or me.  Jesus connects this with the broader truth that a final judgement is coming and that we should be prepared.  This is jarring & sobering and should cause deep introspection because not all who proclaim Jesus as Lord are really redeemed (Matthew 7:21-23).

Nothing that you can do will earn God’s favor or affection.  Jesus earned that at the cross when He cried, “It is finished.”  When something is finished there is nothing else that needs to be done.  The beauty of grace is that we get what we do not deserve (and could never earn) based on the performance of Another.  Religion says, “you must work hard to keep the approval of God.”  Grace says, “there is nothing that you can do to keep the approval of God, it was secured at the cross and can never be lost.”

Lust filled hearts are not free hearts

“‘you shall not commit adultery.” (Deuteronomy 5:18, Exodus 20:14 ESV)

One can fulfill the external requirement of this commandment (and probably feel self righteous about it), but can utterly fail the internal, heart requirement of it – lust.  Though this commandment was about a man having sexual relations with a woman who is married to someone else, the broader context and teaching of the bible makes it clear that sexual purity (external & an internal purity of the heart) is what God is calling us to.  We should never long for & desire (lust after) anyone that we are not in a covenantal relationship with.  This gets to the heart and trusting God with the marriage that He has placed you in.  What fuels your fantasies?  Jesus unpacks the original intent of this commandment in Matthew 5:27-30 and the drastic measures He calls us to in killing it in our lives.  Staying free from the external act of adultery, but burning with lust within is not freedom of heart.

Moses the Mediator

“And you said, ‘Behold, the LORD our God has shown us his glory and greatness, and we have heard his voice out of the midst of the fire. This day we have seen God speak with man, and man still live. Now therefore why should we die? For this great fire will consume us. If we hear the voice of the LORD our God any more, we shall die. For who is there of all flesh, that has heard the voice of the living God speaking out of the midst of fire as we have, and has still lived? Go near and hear all that the LORD our God will say, and speak to us all that the LORD our God will speak to you, and we will hear and do it.’” (Deuteronomy 5:24–27 ESV)

In verse 27, the people request a mediator because they feared the glory of the Lord; their reverence & fear is appropriate because man does not get to speak with the Almighty and live, unless He is merciful.  The glory was too great for their souls to bear, this is reminiscent of Isaiah’s experience in the temple when he was struck with fear at the presence of the Lord (Isaiah 6:1-7).  Most people lack this awe of the Almighty today.  The people feared the voice of the Lord so greatly that that were content to have Moses listen to God and relay the message.  It is ironic that they were so moved with fear of the living God then they quickly left Him and complained against Him as if He were like the impotent idols of Egypt.

God deems their assessment as true and right (v28), but the Sovereign, who is out side of time, laments:  “Oh that they had such a heart as this always, to fear me and to keep all my commandments, that it might go well with them and with their descendants forever!” (Deuteronomy 5:29 ESV).  He knows the open rebellion that His people (and all people) will continue to walk in and the cost to buy back this rebellious lot.

God obliges the people and gives Moses His laws.  The purpose of the law was to reflect His perfection, to restrain sinful behavior in the community, to reveal our sinful hearts and to point us to the perfect Fulfiller of the law.  “You shall walk in all the way that the LORD your God has commanded you, that you may live, and that it may go well with you, and that you may live long in the land that you shall possess.”  God calls them to obey and He will protect & prosper them.  Ultimately, we know, the people could not obey.  Thankfully, Someone has obeyed on our behalf.  (Deuteronomy 5:33 ESV).

Moses is a picture of the perfect Mediator (Hebrews 9:15 & 12:24) that was to come – One who would stand between us and a holy & perfect God to resolve the conflict the existed due to our openly rebellious hearts.  We are not worthy, but He set His saving affections upon us anyway.  This Mediator not just intercedes on your behalf, but He also gives you His perfect obedience to law so you can stop strivingThe proclamation of the cross is “it is finished.”

Making the Holy Lowly

“You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain, for the LORD will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain.” (Deuteronomy 5:11 ESV).

We should never utter the name of the Lord worthlessly or deceitfully.  God prohibits using His name in oaths or vows when intentionally left unfulfilled; some take deceptive oaths and tack on God’s name as if to convince others that they are serious.  We should never make the Holy lowly and common by disconnecting His name from His majesty, power and person.  The name of the Lord is sacred & majestic and should conjure up worship and appreciation in us.  It should never be part of our commonplace vernacular like slang.

The mention of God carry’s glory (weight) with it; it should evoke reverence.  We should be aware of using it in a flippant or manipulative way; the Hebrew word for vain is also translated as false, empty, worthless, or lie.  God, and His name, are holy (different, separated & morally pure) – are you approaching Him that way or has He (and His name) become common and mundane?

You cannot obey well enough to secure God’s blessings

“What shall we say, then? That Gentiles who did not pursue righteousness have attained it, that is, a righteousness that is by faith; but that Israel who pursued a law that would lead to righteousnessdid not succeed in reaching that law. Why? Because they did not pursue it by faith, but as if it were based on works. They have stumbled over the stumbling stone, as it is written, “Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense; and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.”
Brothers, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for them is that they may be saved. For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge. For, being ignorant of the righteousness of God, and seeking to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness. For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.
For Moses writes about the righteousness that is based on the law, that the person who does the commandments shall live by them. But the righteousness based on faith says, “Do not say in your heart, ‘Who will ascend into heaven?’” (that is, to bring Christ down) “or ‘Who will descend into the abyss?’” (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead). But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith that we proclaim); because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. For the Scripture says, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.” For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him. For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”
How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed what he has heard from us?” So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.
But I ask, have they not heard? Indeed they have, for “Their voice has gone out to all the earth, and their words to the ends of the world.”
But I ask, did Israel not understand? First Moses says, “I will make you jealous of those who are not a nation; with a foolish nation I will make you angry.”
Then Isaiah is so bold as to say, “I have been found by those who did not seek me; I have shown myself to those who did not ask for me.”
But of Israel he says, “All day long I have held out my hands to a disobedient and contrary people.”” (Romans 9:30–10:21 ESV)

The Jews were not justified before God in their ardent attempts at keeping the Law.  They did not attain acceptance before God because they pursued it based on their own efforts instead of by faith; they, much like us, thought that they could perform well enough to earn God’s approval and blessing (9:30-32).  They were ignorant of the how to be righteous before God and worked tirelessly to establish their own righteousness.  But this was to no avail (and still is) because Christ has become our righteousness as a result of His perfect law keeping, and this is given to us by faith.
Paul exposes works based righteousness by quoting Moses in Leviticus 10:5 and says “that the person who does the commandments shall live by them” (Romans 10:5).  This is very attractive to our flesh, we like to point to this and say that if we try really hard we can merit God’s affection and favor.  The problem with this line of thinking is that Paul spends the first three chapters of this very letter unpacking that no one can keep the law perfectly, except Jesus.  The many passages in the Old Testament that tell us that righteousness comes from obedience to the Law are properly interpreted by seeing Christ as the perfect law keeper on our behalf, therefore making us righteous (10:6-8).  God’s requirement is not our perfect adherence to His perfect Law, God’s requirement is faith in the Perfect Law Keeper that attained right standing for us.  Belief in Christ, not our own works based righteousness is how we are justified before God (Romans 10:11).   The Gentiles who did not seek after God (like the Jews) are the ones that found Him – according to His sovereign plans for His glory (10:20).