Proverbs 25:6-7 Do not put yourself forward in the king's presence or stand in the place of the great; for it is better to be told, "Come up here," than to be put lower in the presence of the prince.
We live in very confusing times. On the one hand, people say that everyone should be able to decide what they want to do, according to what we think is best. No one should decide for another, everyone should make up their own mind. We have a number of laws that are designed to do this, and the this is, to protect our civil rights. But wait a minute, if we should all be able to do what we please, why do we have laws to protect our rights? I guess thereís a qualification, you can do what you want as long as it doesnít bother us.
You see, on the one hand, we are free, and we are told we have these rights. But at the same time that we talk about freedom, we keep passing more and more laws, so many laws that no matter which way we turn, it seems we are always breaking some. It seems that those making laws have forgotten the purpose of the law. Whatís worse, because there are so many laws that are broken so often, the law is ceasing to work. You see, more laws, do not make people more lawful. The only thing that more laws do, is make more work for lawyers and psychologists. Its work for lawyers, because they right the laws, and they run the courts. Its work for psychologists, because when we break the law, we feel guilty, and psychology is there to help us to tell us that we donít need to feel guilty, psychology is there to teach us the art of making excuses. Having an excuse should make us feel better.
It wasnít always that way. God never intended for it to be this way. God has a very specific law in mind, and a very specific uses for that law. And so it is good for us to remember why did God give us the law. And even then, we need to remember that God did not give us the law, without also giving us the gospel, that is good news, that we can hope in, believe in and trust in.
As for the law, there is a 3 fold purpose of the Law,
1st. the law is a curb, to control violent outbursts of sin,
2nd. the law is a mirror, accuses us by showing us our sin,
3rd. the law is a guide, shows Christians how to lead a God-pleasing life.
Now the first 2 uses of the law apply to all people, while the 3rd use, is only for Christians.
If you live in a city, you might know what a curb is, for in cities, the sidewalks are raised, and the place where the sidewalk and the street meet is the curb. Its a raised edge, and youíll feel a bump if you leave the street and start driving down the sidewalk. The curb is designed to keep you driving in the street, and not on the sidewalk. But there may be a better example.
Suppose you imagine the law as an electric fence. An electric fence is to discourage you from going where you are not supposed to go. The shock is designed to bring us to our senses, and to keep us in our pastures. It seems to work pretty well, at least on animals.
You might also look at the law as a leash, or a chain. We have a lot of dogs that run free. But city dogs are either in a pen, or on a chain. They know that they can go this far, but no further. They might not know why, and they may fight against the chain that binds them. Never the less, the leash or chain keeps them where they are supposed to be. A chain or a leash may work for a dog, but not for cats, or for people.
This brings us to the second use of the law. A dog on a leash, is often on a choke chain, and when the dog misbehaves, the choke shows him his sin. Same with the cattle and the electric fence, the shock is designed to show them their sin. Dogs seem to learn to do good. Cattle seem to respect the fence. And people, when confronted with the law, still see feel their guilt. Unfortunately people havenít been told that the reason they feel guilty is because of sin. The world has worked hard at teaching people how to make excuses, and how be defensive. Why, because the world doesnít want people to know that when they feel guilty, and turn from their sin, and turn to God, that they can find forgiveness.
You see, once people see their sin, and feel its guilt, then they are ready to hear about what God in Christ has done. For in Christ there is a way of repentance, that is a way that this weight of guilt can be removed. The guilt is supposed to help us to turn from our sin, and to turn to God, and ask him to help us change our ways, and remove this guilt. Thatís what forgiveness is all about. That there is forgiveness, thatís the good news, because the debt incurred because of just one sin is a debt much greater than even the best of men could ever hope to pay in many lifetimes.
It is now to learn how the law works for those who are Christians. It still works as a curb, to restrain us from evil. The law still works as a mirror, for is daily shows us our sin, so that daily we may turn to our savior and seek forgiveness. But it does one thing more, it shows us how to lead a God pleasing life. That is it teaches us how to do good works.
Only Christians can do good works in the sight of God. Other people may do good things, but they donít count as good works, because they are only doing what the law requires. Christians can do good works, because Christians are not justified by works, but by the blood of Jesus Christ. Jesus blood washes away all our sin and guilt, and because Jesus kept the law perfectly in our place, when God looks at us, God sees Jesus righteousness, and that in Christ we have already done everything, so that the good we do, becomes good that is over and above the minimum requirement of the law.
So Christians have a 3rd use of the law, for it shows us how to lead God pleasing lives. The law is the same law, the thing that is different is the motivation. Because we want to show God our thank, our gratitude, and how much we love him, for all that he has done for us.
We call the 3rd use of the law, a guide, and I like to imagine climbing in the mountains, on a narrow trail, with danger on either side, I like to imagine that the law as a safety rope. Something that keeps us connected with our leader. And because we want to follow, it does not restrain us, or confine us, but comforts us, and helps us to follow, because in the world we travel through there is much that seeks to make things foggy and unclear. So the law becomes a lifeline to help us walk closely with our savior, and keep us on the path to life.
It is this 3rd use of the law, that makes us want to talk about the good news of Jesus Christ. And thought the law commands us to teach our children everything they need to know about God, as Christians we may well want to go beyond that, and so we become Sunday School teachers.
It is also the 3rd use of the law the motivates stewardship of our time talents and treasures. The law may tells us what we must give so that the church to which we belong may pay its bills. But as we consider all the blessings with which God has blessed us, and how we want the church to spread this good news, we want more than our bills paid, we want more people to hear, believe and be saved, and so we give from the heart, in gratitude for the salvation that is ours in Jesus Christ.
We donít often talk about this 3rd use of the law, partly because it should be obvious. But partly because there is so much trouble with sin, and with people who just donít know the way of salvation, by grace through faith in Jesus Christ, and if they don't know, they will surely perish. And partly, because the response to Godís love, in the hearts of a thankful people does not need to be taught, for God creates faith, and faith as it grows and matures produces the fruits of faith. Yet it is important, as indeed we see in the scriptures:
Colossians 3:15"And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in the one body. And be thankful."