A Friday Reflection: Life and Walk with Jesus

Every heavy breath, every disappointment, every aching of the heart is a chance to come to Jesus, the one who said, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light” (Matt 11:28-30).

Every moment of rejoicing, every good thing, every gift in life is a chance to abide in the one who said, “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5). 

Every step of life is a chance to walk with Jesus in complete dependence and with genuine faith. We really can release all our cares, needs and desires to him. We can repent of all our sins and failures. We can hit the reset button of our lives and realign ourselves with the creator, sustainer and lover of our souls. We can bear our souls open before the Holy Lord Almighty whose glory fills the whole earth.

Jesus delights when we turn our faces to him, and he is always ready to embrace his beloved. He is benevolent and the giver of every good and perfect gift. His goodness is more than we could ever imagine or comprehend. We may not always understand what God is up to in our lives, but assuredly he is always working for our good. We need eyes that see and ears that hear and hearts that receive all his blessings and provisions. We need a greater vision and understanding of how much Jesus has done and will do for us.

As we experience Jesus more and as our perspective about him is heightened and transformed, we may reimagine a life lived with Jesus. We can rewalk over and over with him with renewal, restoration and rejoicing. We can reenter our Christian lives with light, life and love and in the power of the Spirit of Jesus reaching out to a dark and dying world in need of love, grace, mercy and peace.

Law of Christ

The phrase “law of Christ” is a notoriously troublesome genitive qualifier and is difficult to interpret considering it only appears twice in Paul’s writings (Gal 6:2; 1 Cor 9:21). In this post,  I will only focus on the phrase used in Galatians 6:2.

“Law of Christ” used in Galatians 6:2 occurs within a larger section where Paul is discussing life in the Spirit and love (Gal 5:13-6:10). He writes that Christians are to “walk in the Spirit” (Gal 5:18), “be led by the Spirit” (Gal 5:18), exhibit “the fruit of the Spirit” (Gal 5:22-23), “live by the Spirit” (Gal 5:25), “keep in step with the Spirit” and “sow to the Spirit’ (Gal 6:8).  Throughout the section, Paul delineates between what is not loving (Gal 5:15, 19-21, 26) and what is loving (Gal 5:22-23, 6:1-2, 6-10).

The key link for this discussion on the “law of Christ” is between Galatians 5:13-14 and 6:2. These verses have shared terminology which includes ‘fulfillment,” “law” and “one another.”[1] In Galatians 5:13-14, Paul explains that believers through love should serve one another, and then he cites Leviticus 19:18 which explains that the whole law is fulfilled in the commandment to “love your neighbor as yourself.” Love is the fulfillment of the Old Testament Law. This is what Paul has in mind when he writes in Galatians 6:2 “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” For Paul, the “law of Christ” is another way of describing the law of love which is enunciated in Galatians 5:13-14. The law of Christ is the law of love. With this view, the “law of Christ” includes the moral norms of the Old Testament Law, focusing particularly on the command to love one’s neighbor. Love is at the center of the law of Christ, and Paul argues, throughout the section, that it can only be fulfilled by the power of the Holy Spirit.    

[1]Gal 5:14  πεπλήρωται, peplērōtai, “fulfilled”  5:14 νόμος, nomos, “law” 5:13 ἀλλήλοις, allēlois “one another” Gal 6:2 ἀναπληρώσετε, anaplērōsete, “will fulfill;” ἀλλήλων, allēlōn, “one another’s;” νόμον, nomon, “law” 

The Old Testament Law for Christians

God said to the Israelites, “I will take you as my own people, and I will be your God (Exod 6:7). Then God gave the Law which set apart Israel from the nations as God’s special people. Obedience to the Law was to be the distinguishing mark of the people of God and it was to be what sustained them in their relationship with God. However, this was a temporary covenant with a new covenant on the horizon which was prophesied by Jeremiah and Ezekiel. The new covenant to come was to be written on the heart and could be kept by those who walk in the power of the Spirit.

The Law pointed to the coming of Christ and with his coming, the Law is fulfilled. After Christ’s coming, the Law is no longer the distinguishing mark of the people of God. Rather, the people of God are distinguished by their faith in Jesus and by their participation in the Spirit within the new humanity where there is no distinguishing between Jew and Gentile. Thus, the specifics of the Law that separated Israel from the nations are no longer binding for the believer in Christ. There is a discontinuity of the Law, but there is continuity of the principles, values and morality that governed them. In this sense, the Law is “useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness” (2 Tim 3:16). The NT believer is not obliged to carry out all the demands of the Law, but there are many lessons that can be drawn for Christian living from the Law.

Today’s Hymn: Telluris ingens Conditor

Earth’s mighty Maker, whose command

Raised from the sea, the solid land;

And drove each billowy heap away,

And bade the earth stand firm for aye;

That so the soil might herbage yield,

And blossoms fair to deck the field,

And golden fruit and harvest bear,

And pleasant food for man prepare.

Our spirit’s rankling wounds efface

With dewy freshness of they grace:

That grief may cleanse each deed of ill,

And o’er each lust may triumph still.

Let every soul thy law obey

And keep from every evil way:

Rejoice each promised good to win,

And flee from every mortal sin.

O Father, that we ask be done

Through Jesus Christ, thine only son,

Who, with the Holy Ghost and thee,

Shall live and reign eternally. Amen.

Doctrinal Musing On God: Part 1 of 3

From a Judeo-Christian perspective, the Christian community lives as part of the theo-drama of redemption that began with Act I: “Creation,” where God enacted his part of the drama through a series of speech acts in the creation of the universe, forming humans in his image and entering into covenant relationship with them. Act II: “God and Israel,” which enacts God’s relationship with Israel leading up to the pinnacle Act III: “The Life and Ministry of Jesus.” In Act III: Jesus performs his part of the drama of redemption through his redemptive life, suffering, death, resurrection and ascension. Act IV: “The Holy Spirit and the Church,” where the Holy Spirit continues Jesus’ ministry on earth by transforming, empowering and leading the Church in kingdom life and ministry until the “end of the age.” Act V: “Final Eschaton,” during this future act, Jesus will return to the earth and establish his eternal kingdom.[1]

This is the grand, ancient drama that governs the world. It is the drama that enacts the meeting of God and humans. By raising the curtain of the theo-drama, God has taken the initiative to unveil himself to humanity. Thus, it is through the drama of redemption that humans can know and experience God. John Frame writes,

[it] is that series of events by which God redeems his people from sin, a narrative fulfilled in Christ. It is the principal subject matter of Scripture. Redemptive history constitutes the mighty acts of God that he performs for the sake of his people, those acts by which people come to know that he is the Lord (Ex. 7:5; 14:18). When God brings Israel over the Red Sea on dry land, both Israel and the Egyptians come to know his lordship.[2]

Humans yearn and seek for the God of redemptive history, and they can find him by looking to the divine theatrical script (Bible) and ultimately through the redeemer—Jesus Christ. 1 John 1:1-3 states,

That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched—this we proclaim concerning the Word of life. The life appeared; we have seen it and testify to it, and we proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and has appeared to us. We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ. We write this to make our joy complete (NIV).

God initiated the theo-drama by performing the open act of creation. God is “the creator and sustainer of all things visible and invisible”[3] (Gen 1, Ps 104, Isa 42: 5, Mt 6: 25-30, Acts 17: 26-28, Col 1: 16-17). God’s creation of the universe is an important aspect of the biblical presentation of God. As the opening act of the theo-drama, creation informs the rest of the drama. Through the creation narrative, people can understand the nature and will of God and the nature and status of humanity, which is crucial information for understanding God’s interplay with humanity[4] throughout the theo-drama.

Moreover, creation is the general revelation of God. The natural surroundings and the universe communicate God “to all persons at all times and in all places.”[5] As people use their senses and rationality, they can begin to consider their natural surroundings and the workings of the universe. While exploring the natural order of things, this may lead people to consider metaphysical “moreness.” In other words, they may reason that there is more than just the physical aspect of reality which may lead them to reason that there may be a metaphysical “isness” or a metaphysical ultimate reality or deity. General revelation should lead one to a basic theism.

God is not merely the creator, he is also the sustainer. This is an important point because it prevents a deistic perspective, which posits that God created the universe to function according to its own inner natural laws, but after he set things in motion, he abandoned the universe and has no continuing involvement with it. The deistic perspective contrasts with the action oriented God of the theo-drama. God acted by creating, but he continues to act sovereignly and providentially in the universe. Gerald Bray explains the orthodox position by writing,

We believe that God controls the universe according to a pattern which we call the law of nature, but we also maintain that he is sovereign over it and can overrule it if he wishes to. God’s purpose is to preserve his creation in being and so he is actively present and involved in everything that happens in and to it, not a remote deity who does not care about it one way or the other.[6]

God governs the universe according to his will and purposes[7] and all of his doings in creating and sustaining the universe reflect who he is.[8]

God made himself known to humans as the “one living and true God.”[9] Yahweh revealed to Israel that “He is God; there is no other besides Him” (Deut 4:35 NASB), and he taught them the language of שְׁמַע “shema” which the opening lines states,  “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one” (Deut 6:4 NASB). As Israel believed in the one God, they were to be devoted to him “so that all the peoples of the earth may know that the Lord is God and that there is no other” (1 Kgs 8:60 NASB).

Jesus and the writers of the New Testament affirm that there is one God (Mark 12:32; 1 Tim 2:5) and that even the demons believe. James writes, “You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder” (James 2:19 NIV). God is not like the idols of the surrounding nations because he is a living and true God who draws living souls to himself (Ps. 42:2). He physically acts on behalf of his people (Josh 3:10, 1 Sam 17:26), the earth trembles because of him and “the nations cannot endure his wrath” (Jer 10:10 NIV). Furthermore, in the Gospel of Matthew, Peter declares to Jesus, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God” (16:16), and in the 1 Timothy 3:15, Paul explains that the church is “of the living God.” John writes, “Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God” (John 17:3 NIV). God is the one true source of light and life.[10] 

Footnotes: Continue reading “Doctrinal Musing On God: Part 1 of 3”

Sunday Prayers

Let your continual mercy, O Lord, cleanse and defend your Church; and, because it cannot continue in safety without your help, protect and govern it always by your goodness; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen. (ACNA Book of Common Prayer 2019, Sunday Collect, Proper 16)

O God, draw your Church to gaze upon your holiness and majesty, so that it may worship you with humble and awe-struck hearts. Help your Church to lean into your loving embrace and depend upon you for all its needs. May your Church walk in your ways as people of light, life and love declaring your utmost and glorious redemption through Jesus Christ. Fill your Church, O Lord, with hope and desire as it awaits your return and the final consummation of all things. Come, Lord Jesus! Amen. (My Prayer)