WORD FROM THE CENTER: MONDAY, AUGUST 23, 2021
Welcome to “Word from The Center” MONDAY, a devotional word from the Center of our faith, Jesus Christ, with reflections on His Word. I’m Gregory Seltz. Today’s verse is Mark 7:8, where Jesus tells the religious leaders of His day,
“You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to human traditions.”
God’s “NO” and God’s “YES” – THEY BOTH MATTER FOR OUR LIFE!
G. K. Chesterton wrote the following:
Take another case:….Charity is a paradox, like modesty and courage. Stated baldly, charity certainly means one of two things--pardoning unpardonable acts or loving unlovable people. But if we ask ourselves what a sensible pagan would feel about such a subject, we shall probably be beginning at the bottom of it. A sensible pagan would say that there were some people one could forgive, and some one couldn't….That again is rational, and even refreshing; but it is a dilution. It leaves no place for a pure horror of injustice, such as that which is a great beauty in the innocent. And it leaves no place for a mere tenderness for men as men, such as is the whole fascination of the charitable. Christianity came in here as before. It came in startlingly with a sword, and clove one thing from another. It divided the crime from the criminal. It was not enough that those who stole wine inspired partly anger and partly kindness. We must be much more angry with theft than before, and yet much kinder to thieves than before. There was room for wrath and love to run wild. And the more I considered Christianity, the more I found that while it had established a rule and order, the chief aim of that order was to give room for good things to run wild.
In Mark 7, Jesus is challenging us to keep God’s Word in its proper place. In 2 Timothy 2:15, the Bible also urges this:
Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be
ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.
Dividing the word of truth involves receiving God’s “Law” and His “Gospel,” His “NO” and His “YES,” on God’s terms alone for our very lives and salvation. His Law is immutable, calling for righteousness on His terms. His Gospel, the good news of forgiveness and salvation, is pure gift.
When we take God’s Word and try to “domesticate” it, as if it were something within our ability to manipulate and our efforts to accomplish, we do as the Pharisees did, only to be unmasked and exposed by Jesus. Such confusion creates a false religion based on human rules and works. Jesus says clearly, “You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to human traditions.” Replacing God’s Word with human observances is empty at best and, at worst, destructive of the eternal life and salvation God desires us all to have.
Unfortunately, we generally have a different problem in our culture than the pharisaic religiosity which Jesus confronted in his day. Many believe that God’s Law is unnecessary, and even unjust. We face the grand deception that God doesn’t really care about righteousness and holiness at all. Then we falsely comfort ourselves with the notion that God actually condones our libertinism and wishes for us to be and do whatever we want. As a result, we don’t even try to follow a domesticated version of God’s Law; we merely do as we please. We are tempted to domesticate God’s Gospel “good news” as well. We evacuate it of any notion of the cross because we imagine we can solve the problems of the human heart with our money, our technology, and our efforts.
In the work I do on Capitol Hill, I see that confusion and arrogance every day. Many of our political leaders assert that we can solve poverty, dependency, crime, homelessness, and disparity on our own, even as we jettison God’s Law and domesticate God’s Gospel. In the quotation above, Chesterton reminds us that Christianity comes in and places God’s “No” and God’s “Yes” into their proper spheres. In that sense, God both demands perfect justice for sin and then He alone creates the proclamation of perfect mercy as His gift of grace. He does that in the perfect life, the saving death, and the glorious resurrection of Jesus Christ, God-in-the-flesh FOR US and for our salvation.
Jesus teaches us to let the Law of God have its say in our life. First, it “curbs” our sin so as to prevent humanity from destroying itself with libertinism. But, even more importantly, it shows us our sin in order to reveal our need for a savior so that we might receive His Gospel gift of forgiveness and life which Jesus has earned for us. Then His commands guide us in ways that love God and serve our neighbor in response. May whatever traditions we follow also be firmly rooted in God’s Law and His freeing Gospel properly proclaimed so that there is “room for good things to run wild” in our lives both now and forever.
PRAYER: Dear Lord Jesus, give us wisdom to know that both Your “No” and Your “Yes” have been revealed to us out of Your love for us. Give us confidence in Your saving Word and teach us through it each and every day. AMEN.