Loopholes in Laws

June 14, 2011

An author I admire is Ed Welch. His following post at CCEF analyzes the fact that people change over time, as they grow in their faith. We all try to find a loophole in the rules we try to follow, and try to bend the rules to meet our own self interests. But when we have the focus of a relationship with God, our bending rules, and finding loopholes becomes less.
“Biblical counselors, of course, believe that Scripture is true. But like everything else in the Christian life, we grow in this conviction. We believe it is true right now, and we expect increased confidence in Scripture next year, perhaps with a few doubts and questions along the way.

And this growing confidence is a big deal. If you listen to novice counselors talking about Scripture, and then put those same words into the mouths of growing veterans, they will sound very different. The difference might be that the vets have a more tested confidence that Scripture is, indeed, the very words of God. I have noticed the same thing in sermons. When sermons are inspiring, it’s because the preacher’s confidence in the Word of God is contagious. With this in mind, we are always eager to grow. We are on the prowl for evidences that Scripture is trustworthy.

One evidence is this: Scripture gives fewer laws over time.

When I was in seminary I drove a school bus. Little did I realize that I was actually conducting a sociology experiment in which I was the society’s king, or despot in this case.

The first day there were no rules. After all, the cherubs could do no wrong and they would, no doubt, do right simply to please their benevolent bus driver.

By the end of the day there were two. No standing while the bus is moving. No sticking anything out a window.

By the end of the second day there were two more. No profanity. No bullying.

By the end of the third day there was one more. No fighting.

After two weeks I simplified the growing list of laws back to one. You must do whatever the bus driver tells you to do. This wasn’t actually one law. It was a way to add another thousand or so laws in order to exert my supreme will.

Governments follow this same pattern. Religions do too. We are unruly people who find loopholes in the existing laws, so more are added as a way to keep society running smoothly. Sometimes there are so many laws that they become summarized as, “do whatever I tell you to do.”

With this in mind, when you read Leviticus you have reason to be concerned. Here are a lot of laws, and we are only at the third book of the Bible. Add a few more years and Scripture will be a very big book, and everyone will be a lawyer. Who would have thought that so many laws would run their course and be discarded when Jesus Christ came to us as a human being? The details of the sacrificial system had served their purpose. The moral laws too received a severe editing.

For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love. (Galatians 5:6)

For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. (1 Corinthians 2:2)

A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. (John 13:34)

A book of human origin will multiply laws. A book of divine origin will always take us by surprise, and this is a surprise. Laws are abolished and fulfilled in Christ. Those that remain are decidedly minimalist. Is this any way to run a kingdom? Yes, if the citizenry has changed its mutinous ways.

When you leave kids home alone for the first time, you leave a long list of do’s and don’ts. But when they are older and can figure out their responsibilities, we leave them with a simple, “See ya later.”

Christ has come – that’s one reason there are fewer laws.
The Spirit has been given – that’s the other (Ezekiel 39:29).

I will give them an undivided heart and put a new spirit in them; I will remove from them their heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh. Then they will follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws. They will be my people, and I will be their God. (Ezekiel 11:19-20)

We are not morally superior to the Old Testament saints, but we do have advantages over them. We have the Spirit. We are no longer like the children on the school bus with an ever increasing list of rules to follow.

This is what lies behind Augustine’s exhortation, “Love God and do as you please.” The ethic for those who have the Spirit is to love God and then get creative in expressing his self-giving love to others. No one could invent such an ethic. No one would trust us with such a minimalist ethic. No—the ways of God are different, his scripture reflects that, and our faith is built up.

Edward T. Welch, M.Div., Ph.D., is a counselor and faculty member at CCEF and holds a Ph.D. in Counseling Psychology with a neuro-psychology specialty from the University of Utah as well as a Master of Divinity degree from Biblical Theological Seminary. Ed has been counseling for over twenty-six years and has written many books and articles on biblical counseling.


Beware of Acting Like You Know Too Much

August 11, 2010

“Above all things beware of letting your tongue outrun your brains. Guard against a feeble fluency, a garrulous prosiness, a facility of saying nothing…My brethren, it is a hideous gift to possess, to be able to say nothing at extreme length.”
(Charles Spurgeon in Lectures to My Students)

Growing Older

August 6, 2010

Kevin DeYoung
Growing Old Ungracefully

Then Asa was angry with the seer and put him in the stocks in prison, for he was in a rage with him because of this. And Asa inflicted cruelties upon some of the people at the same time. the same time Asa brutally oppressed some of the people. (2 Chronicles 16:10)

Most of us will grow old. Only some of us will do it gracefully.

2 Chronicles 16:10-14 record the last stubborn days of a great king. Asa was a grumpy old man. His major offense? He got a disease in his feet and didn’t ask the Lord for help. Now, there’s nothing wrong with going to doctors. God wants us to be wise. But he also wants us to trust him–more than counselors, therapists, doctors, and pills–and trust him to the end.

There are two types of old Christians. There are those who fret and fuss about how bad things have gotten and how rotten kids are these days. These cantankerous old rascals don’t like the church’s music, people, or pastor.

But then there are Christians who, like fine wine, get better with age. They pray more. They get wiser and kinder. They understand what really matters. They love the Lord and everyday they read their big print Bibles with the devotional tucked in as a book mark. They pray for their kids and grandkids without ceasing. They’re a pastor’s best friend and they long to be with Jesus. These are the un-Asa-like believers the church desperately needs.

So for all those out there heading into life’s last lap, what type of senior saint will you be–crotchety or Christlike?

Real Change

November 9, 2009

Do people really change for the better as they experience difficulties? Or, do people merely become more of who they already are? What makes a person become a better person? How can you help someone become a better person? Counseling / psychology theories emphasize overcoming childhood hang ups while others emphasize finding ways to meet a pyramid of needs under conditions of acceptance and optimum resources. Whatever happened to the idea of sin? Does each person have an inner tendency to do the wrong thing, even though they know what is right? Consciously doing wrong, thinking that one is only accountable to self, pursuing only selfish physical, emotional or material goals is a strong theme today. Self sacrifice for others, pushing for goals that out last this life, looking beyond the here and now is a rare attitude. It is hard to admit, but each person needs help. Self sufficiency and independence lead a person away from community, from strong emotional bonds, and away from the Creator. The only way to achieve lasting healthy chance is to be aligned with the Creator. He is in pursuit of us. He created each of us, and wants us to be what He intended. He is willing to provide what we truly need. Relying on His leading, not our own, is a must. This must be done daily, moment by moment; not a once for all of time decision, but based on a deep intimate commitment to follow His teachings. The only hope for change is constant renewal, trusting the grace He provides. The more we discover this grace, the more we can see the direction and path to follow. It’s as if we had suffered amnesia, in retrospect, but now we see dimly. One day, we will see fully, clearly, and completely.

Broken Down House

September 19, 2009

I’ve just finished Broken Down House, by Paul David Tripp. There are many applications to daily living. The following review comments are part of a post by Jason Taylor. ?Picture a broken down house. We’ve all seen them sagging and dilapidated dwellings that look as if they are in physical pain. You wonder what the house once looked like, who lived in it, and how it got into such a miserable condition. Some of us look at this kind of house and are simply overwhelmed. We quickly move on, not for a moment considering the possibility of restoration. Others of us immediately see potential. We can’t wait to get our hands on the mess and restore it to its former beauty. Sin has ravaged the beautiful house that God created. It sits in slumped and disheveled pain, groaning for the restoration that can only be accomplished by the hands of him who built it in the first place. The good news is that the divine Builder will not relent until everything about his house is made totally new again. The bad news is that you and I are living right in the middle of the restoration process. We live each day in a house that is terribly broken, where nothing works exactly as intended. But Emmanuel lives here as well, and he is at work returning his house to its former beauty.

Often it doesn’t look like any real restoration is going on at all. Things seem to get messier, uglier, and less functional all the time. But that s the way it is with restoration; things generally get worse before they get better. Someday you will live forever in a fully restored house. But right now you are called to live with peace, joy, and productivity in a place that has been sadly damaged by sin. How can you live above the damage? Even better, how can you be an active part of the restoration that is at the heart of God’s plan of redemption? That is what Broken Down House is all about.”tripphouse

September 10, 2009

My eyes are upon You, O God the Lord;
In You I take refuge; You will not leave my soul destitute. (Psalm 141:8)

I cry out to You, O Lord,
And say, “You are my refuge,
My portion in the land of the living.” (Psalm 142:5)

Hear my prayer, O Lord,
Give ear to my supplications!
Answer me in Your faithfulness and righteousness. (Psalm 143:1)

Let me hear Your unfailing love in the morning,
For I have put my trust in You.
Show me the way I should walk,
For to You I lift up my soul. (Psalm 143:8)

May I not withhold good from those to whom it is due,
When it is in my power to act. (Proverbs 3:27)

May I not plan evil against my neighbor,
Since he lives trustfully by me. (Proverbs 3:29)

May I not strive with a man without cause,
If he has done me no harm. (Proverbs 3:30)

May I not enter the path of the wicked
Or walk in the way of evil men. (Proverbs 4:14)

May I put away perversity from my mouth
And keep corrupt talk far from my lips. (Proverbs 4:24)

May I not wear myself out to get rich;
Give me the understanding to cease.
May I not set my desire on what flies away,
For wealth surely sprouts wings
And flies into the heavens like an eagle. (Proverbs 23:4-5)

Lord, I thank You for Your eternal word and for the power and wisdom of Jesus Christ. I thank You for the joy of Your presence, and I ask that I would grasp the brevity of life and desire to overcome evil with good. I pray that I would view my interactions with others with careful intention, seeking to reflect your character, your will, pointing them in a clear direction toward you. May you be honored by my efforts, and that credit be given to you.
(adapted from ‘Daily Growth’ for September 9th, by Ken Boa)

Beyond Good Intentions

September 1, 2009

After reading and listening to Dr. Tim Keller, I have been evaluating my own intentions and motivations. Keller states that there are three ways to live your life: 1) anti-Christian / atheistic; 2) intently desiring to be a Christ follower; 3) following the rules of being a Christian. These methods for living are outlined in the Parable of the Sons. One can have a ‘live and learn’ attitude like the prodigal, a ‘you owe me’ attitude like the elder son, or an intent desire to live, similar to the father. Another way to illustrate ‘beyond good intentions’ is to develop a heart of a warrior, not that of a spectator. A warrior’s heart is characterized (Doug Shada) by being dissatisfied, devoted, directed, determined, and disciplined. Mark Driscoll’s video on being a ‘good soldier‘ is well worth watching.