A few days ago, my wife and I were still in a stupor after spending four precious days at Sanibel Island with our kids. Strolls along the beach, beautiful sunrises, starry-filled nights, shopping at the outlet stores (her not me), and indulging our appetites with freshly baked cheese-bread from Jerry's, coconut and almond Waffles from the Lighthouse Café, and cheeseburgers from "Cheeburger Cheeburger". Of course, any time at Sanibel is never enough and the indulgences soon ended.
During the drive home, my wife began to re-engage with the world. As she read about the Capitol siege she couldn't help but exclaim out loud, "What is going on in the world?" As is often the case, I quipped, "Well, that's what happens when a nation abandons God." She responded, "Well, yea... of course, but how has it come to this?" And that is a great question. What is the root cause for the break-down we're seeing in our country, our families, and in our churches? "Well", I replied, "I have a theory. And, while we can point to the structural decay in all of the institutions God has ordained, I suspect that the chief and underlying issue is that believers no longer believe in the Law of God or do not understand the Law of God." My response was intended to stretch-out the discussion for the next two hours of drive-time that was ahead of us. I now had an opportunity to make my case.
"Believers - why believers?", she asked. "Because it starts with the Church", I said. "With the New Covenant, God has ordained the Church to reflect the light of His Son on to the world. He expects us to proclaim to the world what God says is right and what He says is wrong. Jesus put it this way,
“You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt has become tasteless, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled under foot by men. “You are the light of the world". (Matt 5:13-14)
Eyebrows furrowed and looking at me partly inquisitive and partly skeptical, she bobbed her head and motioned for me to go on. "Do you remember what John the Baptist did?", I asked, "he preached the Law of God to Herod. And, how do I know that it was the Law he preached? Well for one, John was a prophet and prophet's preach God's word. Secondly, because Herod had taken his sister-in-law for his wife while his brother Phillip was still living. This action implies that he'd been - at minimum - seducing his sister-in-law into a relationship with him to the detriment of his brother which resulted in adultery and divorce. Moreover, it violated the Levirate laws of Israel." But I had one more point I wanted to make to my wife - a poignant point. "If, however, we only consider the actors in that narrative simply as individuals, then I think we miss something very important. John - the prophet - was representing God when he spoke. Herod - the King - was the head of State for Israel. I am convinced that those who represent God should and must speak to the State what God says and here's why I think believers are culpable in the decline of our culture - they don't know what God's Word says and especially not -the Law of God for they don't even think it applies to the Church." I went on to tell my wife how the Law of God is a restrainer of behavior even among unbelievers. I also noted that when people behave brutishly - as is increasingly evident in our nation - it is a clear indication that people have rejected God.
The "pièce de résistance" to my point would come by way of a survey that Ligonier Ministries conducted last year entitled "The State of Theology" The findings, startling. One finding that caught eye concerns salvation.
"Although more professing evangelicals seem to be embracing a biblical understanding of sin, there has been an alarming decrease in the percentage of those who express clear views on how sinful man can be justified in the sight of God. Given the centrality of this doctrine in the Bible, these results reinforce the need for clear teaching about the gospel and the doctrine of justification in local churches."
Why is this point significant? Because the gospel rests on this point. It is a necessary and grounding element for salvation. But to understand the doctrine of justification, one must first know and comprehend what they're being justified from - and it's not sinning. Sin is the result. They’re being justified from having violated God's holy nature - which is embedded in the Law that He proclaims to all people.
The Moral Function
As we discussed last time, I like the construct which divides the Law of God into three facets: ceremonial, moral, and civil. In part 1 of this topic, we discussed the ceremonial law. Now, let's look at the moral law.
The moral law is that aspect of the law that most evangelicals can refer to or identify with (The last six of The Ten Commandments) because it is that aspect of the law that gauges the internal condition of man. This is "the mirror" function that shows a man who he really when compared to God (since the Law is a reflection of God's character and nature). When we consider the Law summation verses of Matt.23:23, Micah 6:8, Deut. 30:16, it is the "Faithfulness, Walk Humbly, Walk in all His Ways" portions (Note: "Mercy, Love Mercy, Love the Lord" portions of the aforementioned verses correspond to the ceremonial function while the "Do Justice", "Keep His ordinances & judgments" portions correspond to the civil function).
There is no greater exposition of God's Law than that which Jesus preached commonly referred to as the Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 5 - 7). In this great treatise of the Law, Jesus clearly and expertly exposes the essence of the moral requirements of God's Law. Take for instance, how Jesus deals with the lust.
“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery’; but I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart." Matt. 5
Before this statement, men might have thought that ogling and conjuring sexually explicit scenarios with women in their minds was acceptable as long as they didn't act out their fantasies. But Jesus - the Law Giver - shows mankind that sin commences in the heart. Sin starts when a man desires to look - which is an action of the will to see - at a women inappropriately. The sin is inward and while men might want to limit the sin to an act of commission, Jesus shows that man must be morally pure - pure of heart - pure on the inside. But if that weren't bad enough, "looking" doesn't only defile us, but it ruptures the covenant which has been sworn to wives and the covenant-keeping God to whom it was promised. Keep this in mind the next time you're prone to disregard the "R" rating of a movie with its accompanying caption "Some Nudity".
Men, we're visual creatures. Women are too, but not as much like men. As such, whatever we see becomes ingrained in our minds and because we're fallen creatures, we'll replay these images over and over again. We also live in an image-based world. We're constantly bombarded by images that sometimes catch us off-guard when they breach our safety filters. When this happens, ask the Lord to erase the images from your mind. Ask Him to purge it from your remembrance. If you experience a moment of weakness, do not simply ask Him to purge the image, but in humility and contrition, ask Him for forgiveness and to strengthen you from doing that ever again. Then, as an act of love and fidelity to the Lord, take whatever actions are necessary to keep yourself from having that happen again. Be bold and take whatever preventive measures are necessary. For my family, it meant that I was insistent on internet filters for all PCs and phones (Qustodio). It also meant that we would reject any programming that contains nudity. Given that criteria, we would not subscribe to HBO, Cinemax, or any other media subscription that tempts me or my 17-year-old son to fall. Initially, my family griped. Eventually, it became a source of strength as it authenticated my faith to them. My children came to understand that I was not only trying to honor their mother but trying to honor God. They saw the commitment as my attempt to live out my faith before them consistently not just in "word or with tongue, but in deed and truth." (1John 3:18)