RS: The message today that I want to share with you is what I call a post-Easter message. Every year during Easter week we usually don’t meet because we’re at the BCC for breakfast. And then generally the week right after Easter we’ll do this message, but, unfortunately, we weren’t able to meet last week because of spring break, so, that’s what I’m going to be doing today. You know, I had a man that I spoke to, I guess the day after the breakfast that we had at BCC, and I know this guy fairly well, he’s a church-going guy, I don’t know much about his spiritual life, but he said something that’s quite encouraging, he said, you know, of all of the presentations and sermons that I’ve ever heard, I learned more in that Good Friday presentation than any before that I’ve ever heard. And I share that because, if you were there, you know I spent a good bit of time talking about the Crucifixion, and I did that because sometimes I think we neglect it because we focus so much, and understandably so, on Christ’s glorious Resurrection.
“For the Word of the Cross, is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to those who have been saved, it is the Power of God.”
And so I want to go back to the Crucifixion. This lesson is not very long, but I want to focus, this is a kind of theology lesson, so to speak, and the first two, the one we did yesterday morning and the one we did this morning, were very well received so I think you’ll enjoy it, and I think you’ll get a lot out of it. What I want to do, though, is ask all of you to turn to the book of Galatians 3, go to the 3rd chapter, and while you’re doing that, I’m going to read to you some really important scripture as it relates to the Crucifixion from I Corinthians 1. So, if you would just listen to me as I read, I’m going to read I Corinthians 1:18, then I’m going to read I Corinthians 1:22-24. This is the apostle Paul, he says,
“For the Word of the Cross, is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to those who have been saved, it is the Power of God.”
What is the Power of God? The Word of the Cross. So, this is significant, and then Paul goes on to say,
“For indeed, Jews are looking for signs, and Greeks are searching for wisdom, but what do we preach? Christ Crucified.”
Not just Christ, but Christ Crucified.
“To the Jews, it’s a stumbling block, and to the Gentiles it’s foolishness, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, it is Christ the Power of God and the Wisdom of God.”
Now, John Stott, I don’t know if you know who John Stott was, he died a couple of years ago, but, just an incredible Christian leader. He was in the Anglican Church, he lived in England. I know St. Luke’s had him come over here about 15 years ago to have him speak. He was on Time Magazine, the cover of Time Magazine a few years afterward, and he was noted as the world’s most influential evangelical leader. And he wrote a number of books, but the book that I think is probably, I don’t want to say he’s the most famous for, but it’s probably, at least in my opinion, the most important book he wrote, was titled, The Cross of Christ and Stott believed that some of the most insightful scripture on the cross is found in Galatians 3. And he says this, these verses that we’re here to read, these five verses constitute one of the clearest expositions of the necessity, the meaning, and the consequences of the Cross. And so what I want to do, I want to read Galatians 3:10-14, and some of what he says, it’s kind of hard to get your arms around, therefore I think the best translation, of these five verses, is in the New International Version, the NIV. Who’s got that? Ben?
Ben: You want me to read all of that?
RS: Yes, ten through fourteen, if you don’t mind.
Ben: “All who rely on observing the law are under a curse, as it is written: “Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law.” Clearly no one is justified before God by the law, because “the righteous will live by faith.” The law is not based on faith; on the contrary, the man who does these things will live by them. Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: “Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree.” He redeemed us in order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus so that by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit.”
RS: Very good, thank you, sir. What we’re going to do is kind of spend some time working through these verses, and, if you look at verses 10 and 11, you may not realize it guys, but we see really the central issue of life from a Biblical point of view, when Paul says, no one is justified before God. Now I just want you to stop and think about that, no one is justified before God, regardless of the life you’ve lived, no matter how well you’ve followed God’s law, no one is justified before God, which leads us really to the heart of the Christian message. How do you get in right relationship with God? How do you get to the point where you can live in the presence of God, not only now, but in all of eternity, and that’s what the Cross is all about. But, as I work through this, as I go back to verse 10, and you look at the five verses, there is one word that stands out, it’s used five times, what’s that word?
RS: Curse, or cursed. That’s not a real pleasant word that we like, to be under a curse, and yet, you see this in Paul’s letter because he’s referring back to the Old Testament, and this is important to grasp guys, and I want to be sure we understand it, because when you do, it helps to understand, really, the heart of the Biblical message. And so, I’m going to ask you to do this, keep your finger in Galatians, and let’s go back to Deuteronomy, the fifth book of the Bible, Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy 21:22-23. We’re going to look at verses 22 and 23. How are we doing everybody? Bill, you want to read those?
Bill: “If a man guilty of a capital offense is hung on a tree, you must not leave his body on a tree overnight, be sure to bury him that same day, because anyone who is hung on a tree is under God’s curse. You must not desecrate the land the Lord your God has given you as an inheritance.”
RS: He’s talking about people who are executed, for breaking certain laws. There are certain laws in the Jewish tradition that basically if you violated them, they executed you. You know the way they executed you back then, don’t you?
Unknown: Crucified you?
RS: No, that’s Roman.
Unknown: Hanged them?
RS: No, stoned. They stoned them. And then, based on what you just read, they would then take the body and they would hang it on a tree, but the body, it was only temporarily done, basically it was for people to see, and it was a symbol of being a curse, it symbolized Divine rejection. And it was not that the person was cursed because he hung on a tree, rather, he hung on a tree as a sign to the people that he was accursed. Now what Paul is doing in these verses in Galatians, he’s drawing a connection between Christ, whose execution was on a cross, but, as you’ll see, the significance He was hung on a cross, that was made out of a tree, made out of wood, to show that Jesus experienced the curse of divine rejection, and the reason that is so important, is that He experienced the curse of divine rejection so that you and I would not have to.
Now, everybody still in Deuteronomy? Go to Deuteronomy 27:26, and if you go down to verse 26, it says,
“Cursed is the man who does not uphold the words of this law by carrying them out.”
Paul is telling us that Christ’s death on the cross redeemed you and me from the curse of not following God’s law perfectly. Basically, He took the curse on Himself. He was our substitute. He received the curse that we had earned. Let me stop here. Any comments or questions? Are ya’ll with me on this? This is the heart of Christian theology right here, and you can see where the Old Testament fits into this. Anybody?
Well, let’s go back to Galatians 3. Now, in these verses, Paul clearly distinguishes between two types of people. He says you have those who live by faith, and he says these who live by faith, they rely upon Jesus’ death in order to live in God’s presence. And then you have those who rely on observing the law, and you may think that’s not very common today.
You know, it really is. R.C. Sproul, is a very famous theologian, he’s getting on up there in age, he’s in his eighties, but I heard, I used to hear some of his speeches, and he shared about this study that was done, really it was a survey, a very comprehensive survey, with a wide range of people and they were asked this one question if you died tonight and you stood before God, and He asked you why should I let you into my Kingdom, what would you say? That was the survey, that’s what was asked in the survey. That one question. Guess what the predominant answer was? I’ve lived a good life. Somebody else want to say something? I’ve lived by the law. What would you think, and we talked about it this morning, what does it mean to live a good life, what do you think they’d say? I mean, it’s kind of, it really would get back to what God says is good, I’m following the law.
So, this is what was going on back then, it is like today, a guy asked me this week, he put it to me, the good in my life outweighs the bad. As if that’s what God says in the Bible is what salvation is about. But that’s the mentality of humans. But it’s understandable because that’s the way generally life works. You earn what you deserve, and we carry that on to theology, you know, I’m going to get what I deserve. But, as I’ve said, guys, if we get what we deserve, we are in trouble. We’re in big trouble. I know I am.
And you know what, this just came up this morning, is that if you think a person is really a pretty good guy, a really good person, you know if you think about it, you’re basing it on what you see outwardly. It’s kind of like what my wife, they say, Holly, you’re married to such a fine man, and she says, “You don’t live with him.” But in my life, where the real flaws are, where the real sin is, is in the thoughts, and the intentions, and the motives of the heart that people can’t see. And if you look at your own heart, and you see what’s in there, and you realize, man, I certainly don’t deserve, let me put it this way, thank goodness I don’t get what I deserve as a believer. Comments or questions?
Audience member comment: What is the answer?
RS: What’s the question?
Audience member comment: What is the answer?
RS: Answer to what?
Audience member comment: What do I do to deserve to get into your Kingdom?
RS: How do I get into Your Kingdom? That’s really what we’re talking about. That’s the ultimate issue, and it’s by, you rely on faith in Christ.
A guy asked me this morning; and said, you get to a fork in the road, and understand what it means to try to rely on following the law, what does it truly mean to rely on by faith, what does that mean? And just to articulate it well, is that I am relying on Christ and His death, because I put my faith in Him and the question was, what does that mean, to put your faith in Him? To me, it means, the Greek word that’s used when it comes to faith, is the word Pisteuo, which, in English, would translate into believe. John 3:16,
“For God so loved the world that He gave His own beloved Son, that whosoever believes in Him will not perish, but have everlasting life.”
Which leads to the question, what does it really mean to believe? And the Greek word Pisteuo means so much more than to believe something intellectually. It means to entrust yourself to, and to me, the best picture of a person coming to faith is in Jesus’ parable of the prodigal son. You see, the prodigal son had chosen to live his life his way. He was living for himself. He was a picture of a sinner, and he has to do two things to get back in right relationship with the father. The first part of faith is, he had to acknowledge, I’m a sinner. Father, I’ve sinned against you. And that’s what we have to acknowledge, I’m not a good person, I’m a sinner. But the second, and the most important thing that I emphasize, and I don’t think it’s emphasized enough, is that there are two components to faith, recognizing that we’re sinful, you need God’s forgiveness, but the second thing the son had to do is he had to leave the pigsty and go back to the father. In other words, he had to turn, and change course, and go, and no longer live by his will, but live by the father’s will, live under the father’s terms. That’s what we call surrender, and the Biblical word for it is repentance. So, that’s what faith is, but ultimately we’re relying on Christ and His death, and not on our following the law, and that’s the two types of people you see here, those who live by faith, and those who try to gain entrance into the Kingdom by following the law. Comments or questions? Was that helpful? John?
John: It seems to me like the overwhelming sense is that that you have to be a good person to get into Heaven. Why is that true, I mean, the Church does not teach what you’re describing?
RS: Hold that question, I’m going to cover that in a minute with a real-life example. That’s a really good question. Everybody follow that? Is that what the church is? A lot of people think that, but I’m going to come back to that. In verses 11 and 12, there’s an important phrase that’s used, and that phrase is, and it’s used in both the NIV and the NAS, and that phrase is “live by”, in eleven, it says, live by faith, and then, on the contrary, he’s talking about those who live by following the law. And that word live by, as one commentator says, it’s what we rely on as far as for meaning in life, or what we rely on as the foundation for our spiritual lives, and it gives you confidence and security in the future. And people who live by following the law, their security is, I’ve lived a good life, but the real question always, is, and it has to trouble them, and it is how good enough do you have to be?
Because I’ve talked to men who really believe this, and they have no sense of assurance that they have salvation because they don’t know if they’ve lived a good enough life. Which leads to a really good question that we should ask here, you know, what do we live by? Do we, when it comes to really the foundation of our lives, the foundation as far as our eternal security, are we relying on, man, well I sure hope I’ve lived a good enough life, or are we relying on Christ Himself? But, you know, these are really good questions to ask, because it’s good to look at your life and say what is the foundation of your life because these questions lay bare the foundation of your soul, they really do.
Now, I need to say this, I don’t know if you noticed, but Paul is quoting that verse that we read in Deuteronomy 26. You know, that everyone is required to keep all of the law if we’re going to avoid condemnation if we’re going to avoid the curse. Now, guys, as you can imagine, it struck me, the idea of being under God’s curse, is not a real popular teaching. Now, have you heard your minister or priest teach on this? You know, a lot of ministers don’t want to talk about this because they don’t want to drive people away; this is not a pleasant message. You know, where’s the love and the grace. I mean, it’s there, but the love and the grace aren’t worth anything until you understand the curse, but, in reality, the word curse expresses the reality of what the entirety of the Bible teaches about God in relation to sin, and that is that none of us can sin with impunity.
I mean, God is not this sentimental grandfatherly figure, I mean, we talked about this a couple of months ago, the Bible says that He is the righteous judge of men and that we are all under the curse, and this is why, when it gets right down to it, Paul and the apostles, and this message, was hated by this Jewish culture, particularly those who were self-righteous. To be told that you’re under God’s curse, you can see why in the early church, that wasn’t really popular. But, you need to understand this, guys, in verses 12 and 13, you see this contrast of these two different approaches coming into right relationship with God on faith versus observing the law. And this is why you see that phrase live by.
Another way to understand it is what do I rely upon. What am I relying upon to get into right relationship with God? And it’s been interesting for me, guys, and I’m going to address your question right now John, it’s been interesting for me, to recognize, or to watch, as I have gong through the Investigative Study with literally hundreds of men over the last 20 or 25 years, I love to do it, and I’m going through it with a couple of guys now, I love to do it. And yet, I find sometimes that men that I meet with have relied all of their lives on I’m a pretty good man, I’m a good American, I’m a good citizen, I’m a member of the Church, and they’ve relied on this their whole life, and they come, and we go through the Gospel very thoroughly, and very slowly, give them a lot of time to think about it, take five weeks, and it’s interesting to watch, sometimes this happens, not all the time, but when men come to the realization, for the first time, I’m spiritually lost, I’m under God’s curse, and I had no idea, and maybe I mentioned this, but one guy got angry about this, he got angry. He said why didn’t anybody ever tell me this. I remember having dinner, I think it was maybe three couples, it’s been a while, and there was this one couple who I don’t know really well, I mean, I know them to see them, and they, the husband, really good guy, real laid back, a really laid back kind of fellow, but he’s married to a wife, he’s married to a woman who ain’t laid back. She’s real feisty. Any of ya’ll married to a feisty woman? I am.
Well, we got into a conversation, very committed Christian couple, they tell me their story, they tell me about it, and they said, we were members of this large mainline church all of our lives, we loved the church, I mean, we were there every Sunday, you could count on us being there, and we thought we were pretty good people, and then she said, but we joined this couples’ Bible study, and the person that was leading it, this is as I recall, they said basically the person that was leading it was laying out the Gospel. And she said, after a while, my husband and I looked at each other and said, you know, we’ve never heard this before. And then we realized, we both came to the conclusion, that, you know, we’re not really Christians. And, ultimately, they gave their lives to Christ. They put their faith in Christ. The husband was content to just leave it at that. Not the wife. She wanted to go talk to the minister of the church, and ask him why haven’t you ever told us this? You talk about putting a guy on the hot seat? And finally, according to her, the minister stammered out, well, I just assumed everybody who was a member of this church was a Christian. The woman shot back, well, let me tell you something, you would have assumed me right into hell. And she walked out the door. She walked out the door.
Now, I don’t know the rest of the story with them and the church and the minister, but John asked a good question. Does the church not teach us, well, I don’t know, it depends on the minister. You know, some people don’t want to talk about sin, and separation from God, and being under a curse, because that’s not a pleasant message, but that’s the message you’ve got to hear before you hear the good news of the Gospel that makes any sense. And this is what Paul had to continually battle within these early Churches when you read his letters. So many of these people that were becoming Christians, predominantly they were Jewish, and they became Christians and they understood it, but then they had this tendency to kind of creep back and feel like, I’ve got to follow the law also before I can have salvation.
Basically, what he’s saying is, if you’re relying on following the law, then you’re accursed. You’re under a curse, now let me just say this. Paul was not being harsh, he was just being truthful. It’s kind of like when you go to the doctor and you know there’s something wrong with you, you don’t want him to beat around the bush and say go home and take a couple of aspirin, you want to know what’s wrong, tell me the truth, you want, shoot straight, what’s wrong with me. So you can deal with it.
That’s the thing about Jesus; most people think, Jesus sure was harsh on those Pharisees. Those poor Pharisees; it’s almost like He didn’t like them, He couldn’t stand them. But, as someone pointed out, everything Jesus did, believe it or not, He did out of love. And then, in one sense, that’s probably the only way He could get through to them, is to speak the hard truth. You know, that’s what we talked about at the BCC, the importance of loving the truth, the importance of speaking the truth. The importance of being committed to what is true. Comments or questions, anybody? John?
John: I’ll try to keep this short. When I think about, when we talk about following the law, I think the law, is basically two different things. One is all the little regulations and the other is the basic principles, the Ten Commandments and all. When you say, I’m going to follow the law to get to Christ, to get salvation, that ain’t going to work, but when you have faith in Christ, it will result in you following the law.
John: And then, what was interesting to me, is Paul, many times, in his letters, says, study the scriptures, the scripture in the Old Testament, because there’s not even a New Testament at that point, so then, you go back and say, what scriptures do we know about? Well, in Luke, wasn’t it in the walk to Emmaus, is when Christ asked that question, and he walked and taught all the scriptures and broke it down to them. Some of that I learned this morning from my daughter because I had that question, so, I really think that the law that is the principle law, not just the little laws, is really, really important, and we end up following the law, but that’s not them vs. me, or the me vs. them type distinction.
RS: Now, if you’ll remember, Jesus overturned a lot of the ceremonial law which was symbolic, the idea, the importance of being cleansed. Remember, we talked about it they were so strict about what they would eat. And, remember, Jesus and His disciples were being criticized because they weren’t washing their hands, and Jesus said, what enters into your body, enters into your stomach, is not what corrupts you. Because what you take into your body just goes into your body, your stomach, and it’s passed out. He said, what you need to be more concerned about is what enters into your heart.
And the scripture, right there where He says that, is Jesus was basically saying, that so much of the ceremonial law didn’t even apply anymore because of His coming. And then, so much of what you see in the Old Testament points to Him. Which I’m going to come back to in a minute. That’s why, and it’s hard sometimes to do, Christians still need to know the Old Testament still today is important. I mean, it’s part of the Bible. We have a tendency more to emphasize the New Testament, but the Old Testament is just a treasury of incredible wisdom and truth, as we’ve looked at and studied Proverbs 1 and Psalms 119.
Now, let me keep going here, and I’m going to stop here in a minute and see if you have anything else. Now, in verse 13, there’s a crucial, in Galatians 3:13, it says Christ became a curse. We need to figure out what does that mean. In 2Corinthians 5:21, it’s a great verse. It says, He, being God, made Him, talking about Jesus, He made Him, who knew no sin, to become sin on our behalf that we might become the righteousness of God in Christ. In other words, we have a record and our record is sinful. Jesus took our record at the cross and He exchanged it and gave to us His record, He was sinless. He made Him who knew no sin; He became sin on our behalf, so that we, in the sight of God, could become righteous. This is worth me reading. These are Keller’s words as it relates to the curse. He says,
“When Christ becomes the curse, it means He was treated legally as if He were a sinner, He was treated as liable for all that a wicked person would be liable for.”
Now he’s talking about liability. We can understand that. That’s a term that we get. “Thus, he became sin legally. Why is that so important to realize? Because it shows the stunning claim regarding what happens to us when we put our faith in Christ. If Jesus becomes a sinner for us, then we become righteous in the same way. In His taking the curse, He is regarded by God as a sinner, and therefore our receiving the blessing means that we are regarded by God as if we are perfectly righteous and flawless. In short, this means that salvation means much more than forgiveness. We do not simply have our slate wiped clean, rather, we become perfect in God’s sight. As Paul says in Romans 8:1,
“Now there is no more any condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”
Now I don’t know about you, but I find those words, that He became liable for all that a wicked sinful person would be liable for. Now we understand how this could happen. How this could work.
I have a 17-year-old daughter, let’s just assume that she goes and runs into somebody and totals their brand new $75,000 BMW and she’s at fault. She’s at fault, she should have to pay for it. But guess who ultimately accepts the liability. I do. It’s my car. I didn’t do anything, I didn’t have any wreck. My daughter should have to pay for it. But that’s not the way it’s going to work, and that’s not the way I would have it work. I assume the liability. Somebody has to pay. And so I pay for it. And fortunately, my insurance company pays for it, but it’s paid monetarily.
This is exactly what happens at the cross. Jesus paid for our sins and took the liability by paying with His own blood. That’s why the blood of Christ had to be shed. There is no forgiveness of sin without the shedding of blood. Now, it’s important to remember this, and then, I’m going to end with something that’s fantastic, worth you coming today at 11. But it’s important to remember what we read back in Deuteronomy, hanging a man on a tree for all to see was an outward sign in Israel of a person who was under the divine curse of God. And that’s why Peter, in 1Peter 1:24, he really referring back to that, when he says,
“He Himself bore our sins in His body”, and it says in the NIV, “on the tree.”
Interesting, isn’t it? Peter uses the word tree, and the NAS says cross, and I said, well what is it, cross or tree? Well, generally when you see the word cross, in the Greek, it’s the word stauros, but that’s not the word used by Greeks, I can’t pronounce it, the Greek word, but it’s xulon, and that means tree. That’s significant because he’s referring back to the Old Testament, and that’s why it’s so important guys. This is why the Jews rejected Jesus. You know before the Crucifixion, they loved Him. That’s why they killed Him because everybody was flocking to Him.
But what happened was it’s not just that He was crucified as their Messiah, but their supposed Messiah was divinely cursed, he was hung on a tree. And that’s why back when we started those verses that we read in I Corinthians, it doesn’t say that Jesus was the stumbling block for the Jews, what did it say? Christ crucified was the stumbling block for Jews. It says, for the Jews, it was a stumbling block, for the Greeks, the learned; it was foolishness, which is still true today.
So many people think, you mean to tell me somebody who hung on a cross 2000 years ago, has something to do with my eternal well being? That’s foolish. That’s what the Greeks thought. But the Jews, it was a stumbling block because a Messiah could not be divinely cursed, and therefore, it was not Jesus who was the stumbling block, it was Christ Crucified. Anybody have a comment, question, you with me? You see, this is important.
In closing, as you look at verses 13 and 14, it says that Jesus became a curse that we might inherit a blessing. Isn’t that what it says. And this is the same language that Moses says in Deuteronomy 30:19, where he says, “I have set before you,” this is your choice, guys, he says,
“I have set before you life and death, a blessing or a curse, and you must choose.”
You must choose. And, of course, we all scratch our heads and say, how could anybody choose death and a curse? But that’s what you do, particularly if you’re relying on following the law, living a good life, being a good American, being a good citizen, being a member of a church, doing good. Now, I want to close by talking about the lost.
Audience member comment: Deuteronomy 30, what?
RS: Deuteronomy 30:19.
Audience member comment: Richard, I’ve heard people in the past say that the tree and the cross were kind of interchangeable, sometimes they crucified people on trees.
RS: Yes, that’s true. That’s correct.
Audience member comment: But you’re saying something a little different than that, though.
RS: Well, what I was saying is that the word that Peter used, when it says that they hung Jesus on something, the Greek word is really a tree, even though we know it was a cross, and basically I think Peter said that symbolically because of what was said in the Old Testament. That Christ was really hanging up there on this piece of wood, basically it was a divine curse, and He was taking the curse that we deserve so that we don’t have to. But your question is right on.
Audience member comment: And we know that they were in a hurry to get Him down off the cross because they didn’t want the sun to go down.
RS: That’s a great point. Does everybody hear that? Because that’s what is said in Deuteronomy. Interesting. Now, I want to talk about the law, because, I have to tell you guys, this is very enlightening and incredibly profound, and it doesn’t come from me, I found it in my research, but I want to talk about the law. I really learned something here, and it really gave a new perspective on the importance of the law, because, as John pointed out, you look to Christ to get into God’s presence, but that doesn’t mean you discard the law.
The law still has importance. The ceremonial law, no, but, basically, like the Ten Commandments, yeah. In fact, Paul makes a real major point at us, because a lot of people are starting to think, I’m saved by grace through faith, I can live however I want, and he says, no. May it never be.
What is the purpose of the law? It reflects the nature of God and who He is. That’s why being truthful is part of the law because God is a God of truth. As it says in James, He’s incapable of lying, so the law is a reflection of God, it’s not just a bunch of arbitrary rules that He pulled out of the air. But the law is also, it’s like a mirror that shows us we are sinful and have the need for a savior. In other words, the law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ so that we may be justified by faith.
So, the law is important because it helps us to see our sin, because, without the law, how would I know that I have violated it?
Some of you have heard me share this, I’ve used this, it’s a great illustration I think, it’s like, over at the Y over here, they have a real nice track to walk or run on and they have this big sign, Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, you go this way. Ever seen those? Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, you go the opposite way. I’m sure they have a reason for it, but I haven’t quite figured it out, and I walk almost every day over there, so guess what, I’m an expert in the law. I’m like a Pharisee. And you know what, it really bothers me when I’m walking the right way, and somebody is walking the other way. And sometimes they’ll look at me and say, am I going the wrong way, and I’ll point to the wall, and say look, and they’ll turn around and go the right way.
Audience member comment: You know why?
Audience member comment: Because they don’t want you always going the same direction because your hip might wear out.
RS: Oh, now I learned something. Did ya’ll know that, did you know that Beau?
Audience member comment: You might pull out a knee doing that.
RS: That’s really good to know. All right. The problem that came up over at the Y is that they painted the gym, and they took down the law. There was no law. You know when they did it? Right around January 1st, and you know what happens on January 2nd? Everybody has a new lease on life, I’m going to start exercising, and nobody knew which way to go, it was just a mess. I knew which way to go, but they had no idea until they put the law back up and you could see it. The law is kind of like that, it shows us, the right and wrong, it shows us our sin.
Audience member comment: When you say, the law, are you referring to the Ten Commandments?
RS: Yes, I’m referring more to the law that’s laid out that governs your behavior and what have you.
Audience member comment: The Ten Commandments.
RS: Yes, there’s more … the law began with the Ten Commandments.
Audience member comment: Well, I know the Jews had hundreds of laws.
RS: Yes, they did, and so many of them are basically ceremonial laws that no longer apply to us. Now, this is where it gets good guys. This is important stuff. This is the question. Where does the law fit into my relationship with God? Most people think the law is just a bunch of rules you follow and God is doing it to basically keep you from getting into trouble. But how does this relate to my relationship with Him? Well, Donald Miller, I read this in his book, Blue Light Jazz, he says,
“When we break the law of God, most people don’t connect this violation to a relational exchange with Jesus. For instance, when I run a stop sign, I’m breaking a law against a system of rules and laws. But if I cheat on my wife, I’ve broken a law against a person. The first, running a stop sign, is impersonal. The latter, cheating on my wife, is intensely personal.” He says, “But, we don’t see it that way, do we?”
We don’t realize that basically, and think the law is kind of impersonal, but it’s very personal. In the book of Deuteronomy, we see the word curse, or cursed, used often for violating the law, and then we read of all types of blessings, for following the law. What’s that all about?
Well, this is where I got this teaching I’m going to read to you, it’s going to take me two or three minutes. I read, so many of the transcripts of Tim Keller‘s sermons, and this is one he did 18 years ago, this comes from a sermon he did 18 years ago, about the law, and he said,
“In the Bible, law is never abstract. Law is always covenantal, and therefore, the law is always relational.” He says, “Bear with me, I have to say this a few times before it will really sink in. The law of God is never given just to be obeyed. The law of God always forms the stipulations, the basis of a relationship. That’s the reason there are curses and blessings. The curses are always the loss of the relationship, the loss of intimacy; the blessing is always the intimacy and the love of the relationship.” And then he says, “At the heart of every relationship is law, and, at the same time, the purpose of law, really, in God, is relationship.”
Then he says,
“Let me give you an illustration to show what I mean. It’s kind of funny, but hang in here. Let’s say there is a man and a woman, they’re dating and they’re really getting serious. They’re thinking about each other all the time, and they start thinking about marriage, and so one night they sit down and say, let’s really find out what our passions are, and what’s really important to each of us, as we consider this huge step of entering into this covenant relationship called marriage. So, she begins to pour out her heart, and she says, well let me tell you three things that are very important to me. She says, some may seem trivial, but first of all, you need to know this, I can’t stand cigarette smoke. You need to know that. My nose, my eyes, I just can’t be in the same room, I’m just in trouble with it, I can’t stand it, I can’t be around it, and you need to know that. He said, well, as you probably know, I’m a smoker, and I’m going to smoke three packs a day, I’m going to smoke all the time, and I like to smoke in bed, I smoke after a meal, I like to smoke. I sure am glad we talked about this, but I’m going to smoke. She says, well let me tell you something else I feel very strongly. You make a whole lot of money, and I make a whole lot of money, and together we’re going to have a boatload of money, but this is what I believe, I feel very strongly that we should set our living expenses significantly below that which we could afford and I’d like to be deliberately and creatively intentionally significantly generous with our money. I’d like to be very intentional in finding causes and charities we can be involved with and we can give our money in significant portions. She says it’s very important that we do this. He’s listening and he says, well, that’s not what I want to do with my money. I want to buy a couple of houses in these luxurious places, and I like cars a lot, and I love boats and motorcycles, and if I have to go into debt to do this, I’m willing to do it. And then she says; well let me tell you one more thing. I’d like to live in an interracial neighborhood. I believe in cross-cultural relationships. I think that’s very, very important. He says, no, no, no, no. For goodness sake, you can’t trust those people. I’d have to lock my doors all the time. We’re not going to do that at all. Then he says, you know, I’m really glad that we had this little talk. This is wonderful. Now, let’s get down to business. Will you marry me? (Laughter) What do you think she would say?
…you can’t just live any way you want, and, as a Christian, you can’t just live the way you want, and this is why, basically, when it gets right down to it, a relationship with your spouse, and a relationship with God, are both covenant relationships with certain laws attached to them.
Then Keller says this,
“At the very heart of every relationship is law. What do you mean by law? Well, if you’re in love and you want to have a loving relationship, you can’t live any old way you want. You have to get to know the passions and the convictions of the person you love, and the only way for you to possibly have that love relationship is to honor that. You can’t just live in any old way, and just trample on and assess the laws of love and the passions of the heart.”
Then Keller says,
“In the Old Testament whenever there’s a relationship between a man and a woman in marriage, between God and a human being, its always covenantal, they say we have a relationship, but they won’t have a relationship unless there are some rules, or some guidelines, or some commonalities that we agree to, and we honor those, and when we do honor them, there’s blessing, there is love, there is embrace, there is intimacy, but if we don’t there will be a curse in this relationship and we’ll be cut off from each other because that’s what curse does, it separates.”
And, guys, that’s what hell ultimately is, it’s really nothing more than being cut off from God and His goodness, to be separated from Him, and therefore when Keller says, “if you’re in love and you want to have a loving relationship, you can’t live any way you want. You have to get to know the passions and the convictions of the person you love, and the only way for you to possibly have that love relationship is to honor that. You can’t just live in any old way.”
And this is where repentance comes in when you decide to become a Christian and surrender. But that’s also what you do when you get married, do you not realize that? You know, some people are horrified at the thought of surrendering my life to God, you’ve got to be kidding? But that’s what you do when you enter into a covenantal love relationship.
Next time you go to a wedding, listen to the vows, guys. They are serious stuff. Basically what you’re saying is that you’re giving all of me, and all that I have, I’m giving it to you. And they received you, and then they turn around and do it to you. You enter into a covenant relationship, but you recognize, as Keller says, they are clearly, in a love relationship, you can’t just live any way you want, and, as a Christian, you can’t just live the way you want, and this is why, basically, when it gets right down to it, a relationship with your spouse, and a relationship with God, are both covenant relationships with certain laws attached to them.
Richard E Simmons III is the founder and Executive Director of The Center for Executive Leadership and a best-selling author.