Is God’s Law Really Our Greatest Enemy?

We live in days when God’s law is often regarded as humanity’s greatest enemy. We’re not surprised when an unbelieving world longs to burst God’s “bands” and cast away His “cords” in the unbridled pursuit of “liberty” (Ps. 2:3). What is surprising, however, is when Christian voices assail God’s Law and portray it as the Christian’s greatest enemy.

The puritan pastor Ralph Venning seemed to have encountered similar misguided attacks upon God’s Law. In his book, The Plague of PlaguesVenning wrote a “just vindication of the Law of God.” He based his remarks upon Romans 7 where the Apostle Paul wrestled through the question of how something as good as God’s Law proved so deadly to him. “Did that which is good bring death to me?” (v. 13).

As he developed his argument, Venning said that the Apostle answers his own question “by way of negation and abhorrence, ‘God forbid!’ Far be it from me or anyone else to think so! No! By no means! To find fault with the law would be to find fault with God. The law is not to be blamed. What is, then? for something is to be blamed.”

He then explained “that sin is the true cause of death. The commandment condemns, or is death to man, not of itself, but because of sin.”

In good puritan fashion, Venning then clarifies the issue with a simple illustration.

It is as if a criminal said to the judge, Oh, my Lord, how cruel and unmerciful you are to condemn me to die!

No, says the judge, it is not I, it is the law. I am only the mouth of the law.

No, says the law, it is not I, it is sin. If you had not sinned, I would not have condemned.

So, by the commandment, sin appears to be a desperate, malignant thing, the proper, true and only cause of man’s condemnation and death.

From this brief yet clear account of the text and context, Venning draws the following conclusions:

  • The law of God as a whole and in every part is good. It is not only not sin, but good.
  • The law, good though it be, when abused condemns and kills.
  • Though the law condemns man’s fault, and man for his fault, yet still the law is good and not to be blamed. The law is as good as ever it was; it is to be justified by man, even when it condemns man.
  • It is not the law, but sin, that works man’s death and ruin.
  • Sin works man’s death and destruction by that which is good, namely, the law. When sin has used man to break the law, it uses the law to break man, to undo him by condemnation and death.

If I could bring this into the 21st Century a bit: Just because the 9/11 terrorists used plastic box-cutters to threaten and subdue the airline pilots and passengers, doesn’t mean we should direct a barrage of hostile verbal ammunition on box-cutters. Box-cutters are good and helpful; terrorists are evil and destructive. Lets stop targeting a friend and ally, save our hostility for sin, and send barrages of vocabulary against it.

Venning leads the charge with the following fusillade: “Sin is a most hideous, devilish and hellish thing, the most wicked, mischievous, virulent, villainous and deadly thing that ever was. Sinful sin! Worse than the Devil!”

Sin is our greatest enemy, not the Law. Time to re-direct our fire.

This post first appeared at The Christward Collective


Worldview

Superachievers Secret Power
Want to know what it is? Humility! The meek truly do inherit the earth. Well not quite. June Price Tangney, is a psychology professor and leading researcher of moral emotions and cognitions at George Mason University. She argues for a pride-humility balance and describes what she considers to be true humility this way: “Having the ability to acknowledge our mistakes and limitations, having an openness to new ideas, and being able to maintain a realistic perspective of our place in the larger world.”

Not quite the virtue of Christian humility, but still intriguing how God has so ordered the world that Christian virtues also coincide with our own self-interests. Just a pity the article rounded off with the example of…Alec Baldwin!

Miracle of Science
65 diseases are now being treated with adult stem cells. Biotech advances could make destroying human embryos for research a relic of the past. Although the scientists are still cautious about the outcomes, it would appear that Christian Medical Association CEO, David Stevens’s words in 2010 are coming true: “Compared to the speculative, controversial, and dangerous embryonic stem cell research that the [Obama] administration insists on funding illegally, iPS cell and adult stem cell research is a cheaper, faster, safer, more efficient and quicker path to the cures we need.”

US Pregnancy Rate Reaches 12 Year Low
Some good news and some bad news in a new government report.

  • The U.S. pregnancy rate has fallen almost continuously over the last decade and reached a 12-year low in 2009 (latest year for which stats are available)
  • The U.S. pregnancy rate fell 12%, from 115.8 pregnancies per 1,000 women in 1990, to 102.1 pregnancies per 1,000 women in 2009.
  • The total number of pregnancies in 2009 was about 6.3 million, which resulted in 4.1 million live births, 1.1 million induced abortions and 1.1 million pregnancy losses.
  • Women ages 25 to 29 had the highest pregnancy rate whereas in 1990 and 2000, the pregnancy rate was highest for women ages 20 to 24.
  • The age group with the biggest decline in pregnancy rate was 15- to 17-year-olds, for which the pregnancy rate dropped 53% and reached a new historic low in 2009.
  • The abortion rate in 2009 was 32% lower than in 1990 and was the lowest in more than three decades, according to the report. In 2009 there were 18.5 abortions per 1,000 women, down from 27.4 abortions per 1,000 women in 1990.
  • The 2009 abortion rate for teenagers was 16.6 per 1,000 women, a more than 50% reduction from 1990, when the rate was 37.4 per 1,000 women.

The study did not examine the reasons for this decline but two possibilities are the recession which began in 2007, and the fact that teens are more likely to use contraception when they first have sex.

I also wonder about the impact of the morning-after pill on reducing birth-rates among teenagers especially.

The Righteousness in Hobby Lobby’s Case
An Op-Ed in the LA Times no less argues that business leaders should not have to check their faith at the door. Referring back to the law President Clinton signed, the report says: “The Religious Freedom Restoration Act reaffirmed an idea that is deeply rooted in America’s history and traditions — namely, that politics and policy should respect and, whenever possible, make room for religious commitments and conscientious objections.” 

New York Times: 100 Notable Books
What a revealing window into our culture. What I find notable is that the great majority of the books deal in dark and dismal themes. There are some exceptions, but a quick scan of the titles and descriptions give a frightful insight into the sex, violence, chaos, and  is pouring into the minds of the educated. It’s HBO for the educated.

e-Wasteland
It’s a long way from the Apple Store to one of the largest electronic waste dumps. The article’s photos are even more shocking than the video. I think I saw someone sleeping there in my first computer. Seriously, though, it certainly makes you think twice about the wastefulness of our society and its devastating impact on others.


Check out

Role Playing for Jesus
An evangelism tip on how to deal with aggressive skeptics.

6 Questions To Ask Before You Share the Gospel
More helpful teaching on being a wise witness for Christ.

Answering Four Street-Level Arguments for Immorality
I seem to be in a bit of an argumentative spirit today.

Jesus, The Theological Educator
Long but very worthwhile Themelios article about how Jesus is the goal, the model, and the means of theological education.

5 Gossips You Will Meet
If you fancy some self-examination, click this one.

The Buffett Formula- How To Get Smarter
When asked how to get smarter, Warren Buffett once held up stacks of paper and said “read 500 pages like this every day. That’s how knowledge builds up, like compound interest.”


“Modern Moms Aren’t As Busy as Moms of the 1960′s”

You probably don’t want to share Atlantic article with your wife. It argues that although mothers may feel too busy to sit down, on average they are far more sedentary than moms were 50 years ago.

Since 1965, women with children have logged increasingly more time watching television and driving, and increasingly less time playing with children, doing chores, and exercising, according to a new report published this week in the journal Mayo Clinic Proceedings.

The Mayo Clinic! So it must be right. Right?

The statistic that forms the basis for their conclusions is:

In 1965, mothers of children aged 5 to 18 spent 14.2 more hours a week being physically active than being sedentary. In 2010, they spent 3.8 more hours a week being sedentary than they did on physical activity.

“Physical activity” was defined as time spent cooking and cleaning, along with playing with children and exercising. “Sedentary activity” was everything else non-work-related, so time spent in front of tablets, televisions, and computers, as well as time spent driving.

The report concludes with a warning: “If mothers set examples for children, they’re increasingly modeling a screen- and car-based existence, which probably doesn’t bode well for either their own or their kids’ health.”

So, men, is it time to get the whip out, yell a bit louder, junk the washing machine, and buy our (allegedly) lazy wives Insanity for Christmas?

I don’t think so.

Taxi Time
I believe the main reason for the change in the statistics is the amount of time moms spend taxiing their children to all the various school, church, and leisure activities. It’s possible that moms may not play as much with their children, but they certainly facilitate a lot of play.

Some of this non-stop chauffeuring is unquestionably excessive and unhealthy both for the moms and the kids. Increased mobility has increased opportunities, which can quickly get out of hand and take over our lives. However, on the positive side, that time in the minivan is often valuable relationship building time (as long as you don’t have a DVD player in the car!). Moms and kids are “forced” to stop and chat to one another, which can only be healthy.

And anyway, do any of us in our 30′s 40′s and 50′s really remember our moms being our play buddies? I doubt it.  Did any of us want or expect our moms to play goalkeeper or first base? I don’t think so. Yet we never doubted their love for us as they sacrificed and spent themselves for us throughout our childhood.

Screen Time
But if Mom’s Taxi Service explains some of this change, what about the increased screen time? Again, let me run to the defense of our moms.

Although, there’s obviously way too much daytime TV and time-wasting Facebooking in there in some cases, much of our moms’ screen time is also home and family related. If I take my own wife for an example, she hardly ever sits down and uses her iPad and iPhone for personal entertainment. Instead she is tracking finances, budgeting, gathering recipes, building meal plans, ferreting out bargains on Craigslist, looking for homeschool resources, organizing the kids, keeping in touch with family and friends, etc.

That sounds like work to me. It’s different work to my mom’s work in the 70′s but it’s still work and still selfless.

Service Time
The report “complains” that moms are spending less time cooking and cleaning. I say, celebrate and enjoy the blessed liberty that washing machines, vacuums, microwaves, and dishwashers have provided. The question is not “How much less time are moms spending on cooking and cleaning?” The question should be, “What are moms doing with the freed-up time that these modern conveniences have provided?”

Again, just going from personal observation of many moms in my own circles, I believe many of them are using that “free” time in the service of others. They visit the sick, they volunteer, they serve on committees, they help at school, they lead Bible studies, they help neighbors. No, it’s not cooking and cleaning, but it’s valuable work and service that blesses many people.

Guilty Statistics
The problem with stats is that an extremely serious problem in a minority of people can be generalized to a fairly serious problem for everyone. For example, if 20% of people are three times the weight they should be, the statistical average weight of the whole population looks grim. But 80% of us could be really quite healthy.

That’s what I think is happening here. I do think there are serious problems in a minority of moms, especially some poor moms (as the report does highlight at one point), and that problem is being generalized to all moms, creating false and unnecessary guilt.

To the vast majority of moms I say, Thank you for all you do for your children and husbands. 

And if you are feeling guilty, whether it’s false guilt or true guilt, take that painful burden to Jesus Christ to forgive you, comfort your conscience, and assure you of His empowering love.


Check out

An Illustration of Repentance at Work
Benjamin Shaw’s powerful illustration will not only help you understand yourself better, but also help you to patiently counsel others.

Can Any Good Come From Controversy?
Trillia Newbell: “Often the news that spreads the quickest is controversial—someone said something or did something that wasn’t wise, was hurtful, or shameful. We hear about it for about a week or so and then it goes away. So can any good come from controversies?” Staying with the subject of controversy, Mike Leake has a necessary reminder for bloggers that their focus is sometimes quite different to their congregation’s.

Preventing adultery
Rebecca writes from a woman’s perspective, while Tim writes more from the man’s side.

How to Preach Christ in all the Scriptures
Fred Malone gives us an example from Old Testament prophecy.

Prepare Now for Your Pain
Bryan DeWire describes how God prepared him theologically for day in December 2007 when his Dad died at the young age of 44. He concludes: “Begin preparing now, in the ‘normal days,’ knowing that some portion of suffering is coming, and God has made available the resources to get you ready.”

(Don’t) Say it With Flowers
Mike Wittmer: “Last night I attended my fifth grader’s school Christmas concert, and I noticed something I had never seen before. It seemed that every fourth parent was carrying cut flowers to give to their child. One even had a dozen roses. When did this start? And what does it mean?”


Special Offer: $100 of Free Old Testament Resources

UPDATE: TODAY AMAZON ARE OFFERING THE KINDLE VERSION FOR $2.99.

Jesus on Every Page provides 10 simple ways to seek and find Christ in the Old Testament. Following the success of the previous launch offer of $100 of Free Old Testament Resources, Thomas Nelson have agreed to make that available again for a limited period of time (until December 21) to everyone who purchases the book in paper or eBook/Kindle form. All you need to do is email your digital receipt or a scan of your shop receipt to jesusoneverypage@gmail.com before December 20 and you’ll receive instructions on how to access the following free materials:

  • Old Testament Introduction Course. My 63-lecture, 450-page introduction to (almost) every book in the Old Testament. Each Old Testament book is summarized and analyzed, with many Christ-centered applications.
  • Cross Reference – Angel of the Lord Video Curriculum and Study Guide: 10-video series on Christ’s appearances as the Angel of the Lord in the Old Testament, together with pdf of Study Guide.
  • God’s Home: A mini-novel with nine chapters that looks at the Christ-centered meaning of the Tabernacle from the perspective of a young Jewish girl, Jerusha. Also comes with study questions.
  • God’s Food. A five-part Bible Study on the Messiah-centered significance of the Jewish sacrificial system.
  • Jesus on Every Page Digital Posters: 8 Digital Posters presenting the content of the book in graphical form.
  • Jesus on Every Page Study Guide Answers.

That’s $100 of free Old Testament resources if you buy Jesus on Every Page before December 20!

There are also bulk discounts from Nelson’s and Reformation Heritage Books ($10 per book for 5 or more books) for small groups planning to use the book for Bible Studies.

If you do buy a bulk order, you will receive the free offer for each book you order. In other words, if you buy 10 books before December 20, you will receive 10 download codes for the free resources. When you send in your invoice to jesusoneverypage@gmail.com just put BULK ORDER in your Subject line.

You may also want to check out the Jesus on Every Page website and also the podcasts where the book material is expanded upon.