Monday, April 22, 2013

The Hope of America

 My daughter participated in a 5th grade program that gave tribute to our armed forces, fireman and policeman who protect our liberties.  After cheering loudly for Jeanie's "Golden Girls", and being quite impressed with Green Man Group, I walked away more grateful for the freedom I enjoy.  I also walked away more grateful for the laws we have been given to govern us.   There was however, one thought that filtered through my mind again and again that night.  The thought was this.  “What is the true source of our freedom that these men and women fight so hard to protect?”  My answer was clear, “Jesus Christ gives us freedom”.

 In studying the life of the Apostle Paul, I have concluded that this must have been Paul’s unique message to those saints wherewith he had labored.   Understanding how liberty, laws, and Jesus Christ are connected is an incredible journey I want to take.  These are my thoughts so far. 
Paul teaches that we are not justified by the deeds of the law (Romans 3:20).  He claims that all have sinned and come short of the glory of God, and that man is justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus (Romans 3:23-24).
 The law, although not a way to justify entrance into God’s kingdom,  is a way to bring one to Christ, who then offers his grace and mercy to justify entrance into heaven.   If dependence on the law is sought to justify the blessings of eternal life one hopes to receive, then one will surely be disappointed, for Paul teachers that “whosever of you are justified by the law; ye are fallen from grace” (Galatians 5:4).  “For in Jesus Christ neither circumcision (keeping the law)availeth any thing, nor uncircumsion (not keeping the law); but faith which worketh by love” (Galantians 5:6).  Or in other words, Because of Jesus Christ, the law is dead.  No matter how hard one tries to gain blessings from obedience to the law, one will not obtain what is needed to gain eternal life. 

Why the commandments then?  Why give commandments, if the keeping of them can in no way justify one’s entrance into heaven?  Is this what Paul means when he invites the Galatians to “stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free” (Galatians 5:1)?  Because Christ fulfilled the law, and the law is dead, do we now have the freedom to break those laws?  One would hope not.  Thou shalt not kill, should always remain a law as all commandments given of God should.  The conclusion must be that God has another reason of why He would, from the beginning of time give commandments.  Paul helps us understand this. 
 Fact:      Freedom or liberty comes through Christ.  (Galatians 5:1)
Fact:      Obedience the law brings blessings (Romans 2:6)
Fact:      Disobedience to the law brings punishment (Romans 2:8-9)
Fact:      Freedom from the law means that there is freedom from blessings and punishment of law

“Do we then make void the law?”, Paul asks.  God forbid: yea, we establish the law (Romans 3:31)
Why establish the law then?  Galatians 3:24 states: “Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith”.  When Christ came as the Messiah and redeemer of the world, he came with a new law, a higher law.  Matthew 5:17 says, that Christ came not to destroy the law, or the prophets, but he came to fulfill.  The law isn’t done away or forgotten, it is fulfilled.  In keeping the law, the actions undertaken by one to fulfill the law, should have brought one closer to the God who gave that law (Jehovah of the Old Testament who is Christ of the New).  His teachings then in Matthew 5-7 on the Mount, were to help men understand that the laws they were keeping were to bring them to this very mount, to the very place and the very person who would justify their entrance into the kingdom of God.  He would be the one to free them from the bonds of the law.

This makes sense if one follows this thought:
The very commandments one keeps today, one tends to seek blessing after blessing because of obedience….yet the blessing sought…the promised blessings [because of the law]don’t come.  If they did, then because of the law (or one’s obedience to it), and the attendant blessings, one would be held captive to the blessing of the law.

Just as the law (might) hold one responsible for the blessings given, the law will hold one responsible for punishments deserved (which are many).  In this case, life would fair.  But since all break the law, a loving Heavenly Father wouldn’t give a law just to break it, knowing that none would remain worthy to walk back into his presence.

  He loves his children enough to give the law, not for the blessings associated with keeping it, but as a schoolmaster(Galatians 3:25), a teacher, a way …a guide to show the path to liberty.  Where does that path lead to?  Christ!
It makes sense then that the law will never justify anyone , because if it did, all would all be doomed, because….again…none ever keeps the law…always….but if one lets the law lead them to Christ, then he takes the ‘curse of the law’ (Galatians 3:13) away. 

Paul always comes back to this idea of Christ making us free and this whole justification and law thing in his letters.  Why is he so adamant that the Saints understand that only in and through Christ can we be saved?  Paul was one who kept the law…and we should say…perfectly.  He studied under Gamaliel, who was a master of the law.  When Paul studied the law, he must have read Deuteronomy 21:23 (His body shall not remain all night upon the tree, but thou shalt in any wise bury him that day; (for he that is hanged is accursed of God;)…… see why Paul was so against the church in the first place?  He knew the law so well, that to see a man like Jesus Christ hanging from a tree…he knew what the God taught…”he that is hanged is accursed of God”.  Obviously if Christ was hung from a cross, and God did nothing to stop it, then the law of God was right…Christ was accursed and therefore not a servant of God and worthy of death, and all those who preach of him should also be put to death (Stephen – Acts 7) 

As Paul journeys to Damascus to “breathe out threatenings and slaughter” against anyone else preaching Christ, he discovers that the law he so perfectly knows is perfectly right…except he has been a servant of the law and has missed the purpose of the law….Explanation?  When the voice comes (Acts 9:4) and says is essence, “What the heck Paul, why are you persecuting me?”  Paul has no idea that the person he is persecuting (Jesus) is the Lord.  His questions in Acts 9:5 demonstrate this.  “Who art thou Lord?”  Can you see the eye opening moment here for Paul?  Oh….my….gosh…are you kidding me?.......You are Jesus Christ?.....uh…..uh…oh…….”What wilt thou have me do?” (Acts 9:6) 

Why didn’t he know it before?  Because he was so focused on THE LAW (he that hangs on a tree is curse), he failed to see Christ, and all he saw was a cursed man.  Well fast forward to Galatians and Paul is teaching with enthusiastic courage and zeal that YES, CHRIST WAS CURSED, HE HUNG FROM A TREE AND [BEING MADE A CURSE FOR US] , he has redeemed us from the curse of the law.  See how the law brought him to Christ?  The law was right…he that does hang from a tree is cursed…Christ was cursed….for us…he takes the curse of the law(the captivity and punishments from disobedience) away.  Literally…he took upon himself the curse….our infirmities, afflictions and temptations of every kind, our sicknesses and pains, our sins and death (Alma 7:1-12).  Everything the curse of the law brought with it, he took away. 

You see why Paul so valiantly taught that faith in Christ is the answer?  Because Christ gave Paul freedom.  What Paul thought was blessings from God for keeping the law, was a captivity to the law

Blessed be his name for this life and throughout all eternity for his grace and mercy for an underserving soul like myself.  I love him and hope to come to know him perfectly, so one day that “glass darkly”  where “now I know in part” (1 Cor. 13:12), will be “done away” (vs. 10), and I shall see him as he is.  I will hold fast to Christ in all things.  And even though life may reward me with hopelessness and  fear, I know that the love of Christ (charity), never faileth.  He will not fail me, nor forsake me (Joshua 1:5, Deuteronomy 31:6).   Paul saw firsthand the mercy and love for someone who did not deserve in the least the Atonement.  But because it was done for all (even those who don’t deserve it ), Paul received that grace and dedicated his life and gave his life to preach Christ. 

God bless this country who celebrates the freedom to worship this beloved man, who gave his life for me.  The hope of America and the world is Him.  Let freedom ring in our hearts today for his matchless love and mercy.

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