Tuesday, July 29, 2008

The Law of Liberty

James 1:25 But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing.
Scripture uses many terms to describe the Word of God, more specifically, the commands of God in the bible. James refers to God's Word in several ways also, the "Law of Liberty" is a description unique to him as he uses it twice in his sermonic letter (1:25 and 2:12). That's right, law that involves liberty.

When people think of God's Law or the "commands of God", it is not unusual for them to have a negative reaction. Liberty or freedom is not what comes to mind when people think of rules, laws, statutes, or commands. The law of God seems so daunting, so impossible to fulfill. Certainly a key purpose in the law of God is conviction of sin in order to turn us to Christ. Still, it would be a mistake to think of God's commands as solely convictive or condemning. As people who are "in Christ", we have had the righteousness of Christ imputed to us by faith and no longer stand condemned under the righteous standard of God. We stand before the righteous God with the merit of Christ, clothed in His righteousness, not our filthy rags. Instead of being depressed or despairing when we think of the many commands, statutes, and precepts of the Word of God, in Christ we can view them with delight just as David did in Psalm 119:97-99 (among other places)-

Oh how I love your law!It is my meditation all the day. Your commandment makes me wiser than my enemies,for it is ever with me. I have more understanding than all my teachers,for your testimonies are my meditation.

David understood a very important point- the Word of God and it's commands are a righteous reflection of who God is, not haphazard rules designed to trip us up. As people created in God's image, fallen then redeemed, living according to God's law will help us navigate life in a way that brings glory to God and joy to our souls. In a very real sense, the Word of God gives us freedom to be who we were intended to be. The Word of God shouldn't be seen as unnecessarily restrictive or as a mechanism to rob us of freedom. Instead it makes us free to obey and glorify God.

Think of it like this- a major league baseball pitcher has quite a few restrictions placed upon him. In the course of a normal season a team will only allow it's starting pitchers to pitch every 4 days. Further, he is restricted to approximately 100-110 pitches each game. Over the years sports medicine doctors and coaches have discovered this pattern to be most effective in enhancing and extending a pitcher's career. Throwing a ball 80-100 mph puts tremendous stress on the elbow and shoulder area. The body is able to handle such stress if it is limited. The body needs time to recuperate between each pitching episode (a game). A pitcher may feel ready to pitch after two days, however studies have shown it takes 72 hours for the arm to be fully ready to go again. In a bygone era of pitching it was not uncommon for guys to have their arms turn to rubber before they were 30. Since the newer practice of pitching every 4 days and limiting the pitch count, it's not unusual for guys to pitch well in to their late 30's with minimal loss of velocity and some even in to their 40's (Roger Clemens and his artificial enhancement not withstanding).

So, do modern day pitchers complain about how restrictive the guidelines are for them? Do they moan and groan that they are not allowed to pitch every night? No, of course not. They have realized the rules and guidelines have been made for their benefit. They are not restrictions so much as they are safeguards. Even more than safeguards, the rules preserve and promote their success.

We should see the statutes of the Lord in the same way. Obedience to God's Word safeguards, preserves, and promotes our well being for His glory. Commentator J.A. Motyer says it well- "True freedom is the opportunity and the ability to give expression to what we truly are. We are truly free when we live the life appropriate to those who are created in the image of God. The Law of God safeguards that liberty for us.”

May we share the sentiment of King David regarding God's commands-

Psalm 119:129-137 Your testimonies are wonderful;therefore my soul keeps them. The unfolding of your words gives light;it imparts understanding to the simple. I open my mouth and pant,because I long for your commandments. Turn to me and be gracious to me,as is your way with those who love your name. Keep steady my steps according to your promise,and let no iniquity get dominion over me. Redeem me from man's oppression,that I may keep your precepts. Make your face shine upon your servant,and teach me your statutes. My eyes shed streams of tears,because people do not keep your law. Righteous are you, O Lord,and right are your rules.

(there is an irony about the above picture and the pitching illustration I used here. Can anyone guess what it is?) UPDATE: See comments for the irony revelation


Frontier Forest said...

This morning during my devo time I was praying for our mission team in Jaurez and Norma and Mary, preparing to venture with Pastor Pavel to Moldova. As I read one of my devotional books, "Extreme Mission" by "Voice of the Martyrs", these words spoke to my heart and reminded me of your words on “The Law of Liberty”.
"What we do for the Lord is not just a job .... it is HIS Mission! A mission is never about a single person's responsibilities. It is singly focused on Christ and His kingdom work. Therefore, someone at the helm of God's work in a particular area may leave, but the Mission itself never dies. God's work is never left undone. It goes on forever to its completion. Those who are willing to undergo persecution for their faith teach us about the meaning of Mission. They recognize that there are only three things that last for all eternity--- God's Work and God's Word and human souls. When we are willing to invest our lives in all these things, we are involved in His Mission of eternal significance."

AliGirl said...

I'm taking a stab at the picture's irony: is that the switch-pitcher who can pitch both right- and left-handed?

I thought he played for the Yankees farm-league, but it was worth a shot!

Rick Calohan said...

Joe Torre is gone and Mike Mussina is still pitching for the Yankees.

Reepicheep said...

Nice try Ali. Too much thin air up there in your RMNP exploits?

If Rick doesn't see it, no one will, so here's the irony-

The picture is from 2005 when Joe Torre yanked Pitcher Carl Pavano because of shoulder pain.

The further irony is Carl Pavano himself. He was notoriously injury prone prior to coming to the Yanks, however, one injury free season with the Marlins (and a WS title) prompted Cashman to sign him to a 4 year, $40 million deal. He was injured 7 games in to 2005, played a few more games that year, then has been on the DL for 3 straight seasons! He has collected $10 per season from the Yanks and hasn't played in three of the years! He's supposed to come of the DL in a couple of weeks, but you can be sure something else will come up.

Rubber arm.

Reepicheep said...

That's $10 MILLION per year...on the Disabled List.

Rick Calohan said...

Ah, Carl Pavano was the pitcher. The picture did not enlarge enough for my myopic 41-year-old eyes. Therefore, I checked the Yankee roster for Right Handed Pitchers and Mussina came to mind. Still Joe Torre is gone. Perhaps the Brothers Felich needs to stop kicking the soccer balls and start throwing baseballs. I know that each time I catch a game on the tube 5 month old and future shortstop for the Yankees John Patrick Calohan is captivated to his future career and a chance to give his dad season tickets not to mention the $10 million a year contract. However, most importantly John Patrick and those of us among the Covenant who place our faith in trust in Jesus Christ alone for our salvation have Liberty in the Law, praise God that where sin abounds, GRACE abounds more!

Reepicheep said...

As much as I enjoy Yankees baseball, the sport itself ranks 3rd on my list. I do appreciate that fat guys can play the game, but in the end I agree with 9/10 of the world that soccer is the greatest sport on earth.