Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Obedience to Law is Worship of God

Obedience is Worship

Love of God’s Law is evidence of relationship with God. When we despise the law, it is likewise evidence of our relationship.  We do not have the right, nor should we have the desire, to change the law to conform to our behavior, but rather, should desire to make our behavior conform to the law. Obedience to God is true worship. Our Holy God desires, and requires, holy worship.

I desire to do your will, my God; your law is within my heart." ( ps 40:8)

We know that we have come to know him if we keep his commands. (1 John 2:3)

Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee. (Ps 119:11)

I delight in your decrees; I will not neglect your word. (Psalm 119:16 )

I teach college classes at both the Bachelor’s and Master’s Degree levels of learning, in three different Christian institutions. Usually, but not always, students who sit in my classes are either Christians, or at least are not hostile to the Christian Message and Doctrines. It is not uncommon to find students who, having been educated in secular and state-run high schools and colleges, subscribe to a belief that the U.S. Constitution should be altered or amended (or altogether replaced) in order to accommodate a changing culture and changing standards of conduct.  I absolutely agree with those students who argue that there is a great chasm between the principles of the Founding of the Republic and the practices of society today.   But I argue that the solution is NOT to change the rules to conform to our changing morals. Rather the rules (laws) are the proper standard by which we must judge our conduct.  WE must conform our behavior to the law, which we understand to flow from the authority of God through the institution of government (Ro 13:1-7)

If it is true that the principles of self-governance require self-discipline, and that that self-discipline is best achieved through a right relationship with Jesus Christ, then it is reasonable to conclude that the greatest success of our legal/political/economic system will be achieved through adherence to the laws of God.    Our Founders gave us a doctrine called the “Rule of Law” which presumes that legitimate authority comes from God, and is delegated by the people to a governing body, which is divided into three branches to achieve a balance of power.  Since the laws promulgated by that government are presumptively valid, originating as they do from the people, who are themselves acting in the constraints of their faith, then the law is presumptively good. (This is of course a rebuttable presumption since the government does not always operate within its legitimate constraints)  Starting with a presumption that the Law is good, then conforming our behavior to the law is therefore also good.  When our behavior departs from the standard of the law, our behavior is presumptively bad.  It will be therefore destructive of the government, and the law, and the authority from whence those derive, if we grant our behavior supreme authority over the law.  This NEVER works out well.

In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes. (Judges 21:25)

In those days there was no king in Israel; every man did what was right in his own eyes. (Judges 17:6)

Following the death of Joshua, there merged a new political model in Jewish history for over 200 years. For the first time in history, the Jewish people were independent in their own homeland. Perhaps more importantly they did not have a single, strong leader to unify and direct social interaction. Besides lacking central temporal authority (i.e. central government) at the time of the judges, there was also little reverence for religious law as well. Differences between people were resolved at the tribal level by leaders chosen from among the people of the tribe.  Sometimes this worked well, but often it did not because politics has not changed. History reveals to us that leaders who neglect the Law of God, and become a law unto themselves, will ultimately destroy their own system of governance.  In every case where man “does what is right in his own eyes” he will ultimately be destroyed.

The king is the actual and symbolic figure of authority which is presumptively established by the people and anointed by God and therefore “legitimate”. (Ro 13: 1-7) When there is no “king” (no law-no authority) then people are left to do whatever THEY think is best and the end result is NEVER happy.  Because when everyone follows their own path, and seeks only their own self-interests, there is no “community” (common + unity = community). The law “regularlizes” our relationships and gives predictability and stability to society. When it is absent, so is social stability.

“Thus you shall say to the house of Jacob, and tell the people of Israel: You yourselves have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself. Now therefore, if you will indeed obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession among all peoples, for all the earth is mine; and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.” Exodus 19:3-6
If thy children will keep my covenant and my testimony that I shall teach them, their children shall also sit upon thy throne for evermore. (PS 132:12)

The way that you show someone you love them is that conduct express that you are putting the other person ahead of yourself.   We worship God when we demonstrate that we are placing EVERYTHING in subjection to Him.  The First Commandment is that we shall have no other gods before the Lord God. All of the other Commandments illustrate the principle that God is supreme. His rules require obedience.  We demonstrate worship by honoring God and obeying His Commandments. Conversely, we dishonor God when we take matters into our own hands, and we pursue OUR interests above His.  The very idea that we should re-interpret the law (whether Scripture, or the U.S. Constitution which is presumably based upon His Holy Principles) is tantamount to “placing other gods” before Him. Trashing the Constitution and replacing it with something that reflects our godless, permissive, self-indulgent lifestyles would be the exact opposite of worship.  It would be the polar opposite of giving God Honor. It would be showing God our heel, turning our back on Him, rejecting Him. If we desire HIS blessings, we are to honor HIS Word.

Whoever has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me. The one who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love them and show myself to them." (John 14:21)

Jesus replied, "Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them. (John 14:23)

If your law had not been my delight, I would have perished in my affliction. (Ps 119:92

There is much hand-wringing these days about the state of our nation.  America is in decline and most people seem unable to propose a “fix”.   It seems clear to almost everyone that society is in a mess, yet the popular “solution seems to be to go even further away from God.   Suggesting that we abandon the fundamental principles articulated in the Declaration and the U.S. Constitution would be just another move in the WRONG direction. If we truly desire to correct the problems of our society, our ONLY answer is to return to the God of our fathers.

For this people's heart has become calloused; they hardly hear with their ears, and they have closed their eyes. Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts and turn, and I would heal them.' (Acts 28:27 )

My comfort in my suffering is this: Your promise preserves my life. (Psalm 119:50)

If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land. (2 Chron 7:14)

Because of our selfish and inward-looking nature, we have accepted the lie of the Devil that obedience to God is to hard, too cumbersome, too painful.  But those who walk in obedience soon discover that Jesus told the truth when He said, my yoke is easy, and my burden is light. (Mt 11:30).  We also read in 1 John 5:3 that “In fact, this is love for God: to keep his commands. And his commands are not burdensome.”  We will discover that giving God our due worship in the form of obedience to His Word, will reap enormous rewards in terms of Peace, Security, and confidence. That is the life to which we have been called.

John Sterling, MA JD    2/4/15/2015

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