There are a multiplicity of things that go through my mind in a day's time. I really don't know what I'll be thinking about from one minute to the next. But one thing that generally permeates my brain in some way, for most of every day, is the strong arm of the law and the sweetness of the gospel.
Martin Luther once said something like this: "Give the law to the hard hearted. Give the gospel to the broken hearted." I remember the first time I ever heard that statement. My heart leaped for joy because I understood the meaning behind the words. The more I've meditated on the phrase, the more I've combed through Scripture since then, the more I've seen it in action. The more true it has become.
The primary use of the law of Yahweh is not to curb evil or to instruct us in righteousness. The law does both of those things, and both of those are good things. The law itself is holy, just, good, and spiritual (Romans 7:12, 14). But the primary use of that holy, just, good, and spiritual law is to show us sons of Adam and daughters of Eve that we are not holy, just, good, and spiritual. The problem has never been with the law. The problem is with us. The law's number one function is to reveal our sin. It proves to us that we are transgressors.
I find it amazing that in the large scope of Christianity today we have various groups that believe jumping through their particular hoops makes them righteous. Each group focuses on one or two or maybe a handful of laws (some of which are not found in Yahweh's law by the way), and if they practice those it makes them better than everyone else. This isn't how it works. Yahweh doesn't operate like this.
Yahweh is perfect. He is without flaw. His law is the same because it emanates from His being (Psalm 19:7). He has told us in His law that a person is cursed if they don't continue in all the words of His law (Deuternomy 27:26). What the prideful heart does is read that and then fool itself into thinking he or she is not cursed. So long as a person doesn't smoke or drink, murder or rape someone, there a good person. Just vote republican instead of democrat and you're squeaky clean.
The Bible says that there's not a righteous man on earth who does good and never sins (Ecclesiastes 7:20). If Yahweh kept track of sins, no one could stand in His presence (Psalm 130:1-3). All have sinned and fallen short of His glory (Romans 3:23). And if even believers say we have no sin we deceive ourselves (1 John 1:8). If we keep the whole law, yet offend in one point, we are guilty of violating it all (James 2:10). Paul said it well by saying that the law is spiritual, but I am carnal, and in my flesh dwells no good thing (Romans 7:14, 18).
Until a person comes to grips with this, they need to keep hearing it over and over. The man or woman that hasn't come to terms about their sinfulness will not appreciate the gospel. They won't long for the gospel. The gospel will not be good news to them, they already think they are good. They've got it all ironed out already. They go to church once a week, and have the "read the Bible in a year program" in their wallet or purse for crying out loud.
This is what it means to give the law to the hard hearted. The hard hearted person, the person that has yet to fully realize their utter depravity, needs to keep hearing the holiness, perfection, and strong arm of the law. They don't need to hear that they are a saint, they in fact may not be. They need to hear that they are a sinner. A wretched sinner. A miserable soul headed for destruction.
But, at the moment we break. At the moment our heart crumbles of its pride and arrogance. The instant we admit we are doomed because we haven't met the law's requirements. It is then that we need to hear the sweetness of the gospel. That Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures (1 Corinthians 15:1-5). That he who knew no sin became sin for us (2 Corinthians 5:21). That he was bruised for our iniquities and the punishment for our peace fell upon him (Isaiah 53:5). That right there is some sweet news to a broken heart.
I see this at work in my day-to-day life as a parent. My children range from ages 6 to 16. Each day in some way I give someone the strong arm of the law, and each day in some way someone gets the sweetness of the gospel. I can see when my children "buck up" against me or their mother. I can sense when they are resisting authority. I can feel when their heart is hard, and when I feel it, I give them more law, more discipline. They must realize that they've not just disobeyed dad, they've violated the rules of the Creator of all things.
I often see their little hearts break. They tear up and grab me and say, "Oh dad... I'm so sorry." Just the other day one of my children hugged me, cried, and said, "I don't want to be like this dad." How did I respond? More law? Nope, they had heard enough law. I rather told them, "Take heart my child, your sins are forgiven."
Last evening I had the privilege of listening to a sermon on James 1:19-21. A good friend and brother of mine is currently doing an expository teaching through the book. I'm always encouraging him to take his time and not rush through anything. Last night was a perfect example of why. He threaded that needle in a way that I've never seen.
The teaching centered in on being swift to hear, slow to speak, and slow to wrath. What I had never gleaned though was the contextual meaning. It was all dealing with hearing the Word, Law, or the Message of Truth. I always took the text to be speaking in a general way, but that's what often comes when we take "one liners" out of context to make them say something they were never intended to say.
We should be swift to hear the Word. Eager. Ready. Willing. On the edge of our seat. Like the Bereans (Acts 17:10-11). We should want to listen in order to learn. When the Word is taught or read or sang, our antennas should go up for reception.
We should be slow to speak the Word. This is the context, branching out of James 1:18 and falling on the heels of being swift to hear. What does it mean, slow to speak the Word? Well, it means being careful and cautious. One doesn't need to try to explain something they don't understand. We must be willing to diligently study a matter out and understand it before speaking. This takes time. It's a slow process.
We must also be slow to wrath. Wrath (or anger) here means resentment when hearing the Word that "rubs us the wrong way" or "cuts." We may listen to someone speak from the Word and it may be the first time we've ever heard it. It may just go against our grain, but we must be slow to resent it before examination. When the Word cuts us, when the law kills us, when our sin is exposed, we must not try to stop the knife, but allow it to do what it needs to do.
As I was listening to this all be taught last night, my mind was racing. I knew it was all truth. It resonated with my spirit and was exegeted properly from the biblical text. The problem was that my mind always has the tendency to focus on others that I think need to hear the sermon. I sit there hoping that this brother or that sister, "gets it."
As I sat there last night and my mind wandered in this direction, I was rebuked by the Holy Spirit. I soon began thinking of myself. See, I'm not in charge of who else sees, but I know when I can see. I can't prick another's heart, but I know when my heart is pricked. I can't decide to obey with my neighbors mind, but I can make up my own mind. My focus must be on me. Not in a selfish way, that's not what I'm saying. I'm saying that instead of worrying about who else follows through with the teaching they've just heard, I should focus on making sure I make an effort.
I have learned (and am still learning) that people really aren't ready to listen until they are ready to ask. What I mean here is that I've been in places where I have tried to make someone see a biblical truth, and it's like trying to feed a steak to a newborn baby. However, if over time they observe me practicing my beliefs, they usually come to me and ask questions. The key is that this only happens if I've been focusing on myself. Focusing on myself enables me to be more effective in helping others. I tend to think it should be the other way around. "Let me focus on others. This is the way I will help THEM." But that's not how it works. You help others by focusing on yourself. I can't remove a speck from someone else's eye when there's a beam in my own eye.
I want to focus more on what Matthew should be doing. It's easy for me to point fingers at other people. It's easy for me to condemn and be judgmental, but that's pretty much doing no good. It's a mark of self-righteousness, not Christ-righteousness.
I'm sure I'll continue to struggle with this. Yahweh teaches us all lessons by allowing us to struggle, go through trials, and take tests. I'm just glad my conscience was pricked of my own sin last night. I never want to be in a place where I'm not sensitive to my sins and failures to measure up to Yahweh's perfect standard.
Blog by Matthew Janzen. Lover of Yahweh, Yeshua, my wife and 5 children. All else is commentary.