The month is nearing an end, but I’m going to plug through; I’ve decided not to rush it with multiple catch-up posts each day. I’m excited about all I’ve been learning through this process, and even more excited about the interview with Hannah Anderson and book giveaway that will wrap up my 31 days series, Know Thy God, Know Thyself.
In her book, Hannah Anderson makes the following claim:
She quotes Sally Lloyd-Jones who writes, “God’s rules are his gift to us. To help us be who we really are” (Thoughts to Make Your Heart Sing). It’s taken me a long time to be able to think about God’s Law in positive terms. Several years ago, my family attended a church that preached rules from the pulpit. Forgiveness was something that happened when you asked Jesus into your heart, and after that, it was an up-by-the-boot-straps kind of life. As a junior high student asking a lot of questions and making a lot of mistakes, I fluctuated between trying really, really hard and embracing full-out rebellion. It was a cycle that continued through college and beyond until a little over four years ago when I sat in the back of a church that preached a Gospel I had never heard. And it’s been mostly sweet ever since. With this newfound discovery of the good news of Christ, the Law took on a new form for me. As Paul teaches in Romans, “Yet if it had not been for the law, I would not have known sin” (7:7). So the Law serves to point me to my need for Christ–to show me the many ways in which I fall short. This understanding opened my eyes to the depths of my sin. No amount of trying could make me somehow “good enough.” The despair I felt beginning in junior high was legit. But as I grappled with my true state of sinfulness, I could finally delight in the goodness and mercy of God who provided his very Son to obey perfectly in my place. There was no “and then,” only “It is finished.” But then comes the question of sanctification. If God’s rules only show me what I’m incapable of doing, then what is it that I’m supposed to do? The best explanations I’ve heard come from that discussion of indicative/imperative I mentioned at the start of the series. Because of who we are in Christ, because of all that He has done to secure our redemption, because of His great and precious promises including his ongoing power and presence in the form of the Holy Spirit (indicatives), we can obey his commands (imperatives). Our obedience comes from a place of humble gratitude. We are at rest from our striving to earn any favor with God because we know we have received all of His favor in Christ, and yet we continue to strive unto holiness because with grateful hearts we see that He has created us to live in a way that pleases him. And yet again, as we strive, we look back and humbly realize that any obedience is only by the power of His Spirit at work in us. My effort? His work? That’s the mystery, my husband says. But I still get a little nervous when we start talking about God’s Law. Psalm 119 is 176 verses declaring love for God’s Law, and Anderson’s words made me want to think about it a little more. Is it truly possible to declare with the Psalmist, “Oh how I love your Law!” and mean it in a way that I’m not drowning under a list of rules nor living under the weight of legalism? The ESV Study Bible offered these notes:
“We can’t know what it means to live as image bearers, apart from clear, direct revelation from God. We can’t know ourselves apart from His perfect Law as it is revealed in Scripture…
Instead of a barrier to keep us from being ourselves, God’s Law is intended to guide us back to our true selves.
(Made for More, chp. 3)
This psalm reflects the view that the Lord, who abounds in steadfast love and faithfulness and who therefore freely and fully forgives his people when they confess their sins (Ex. 34:6–7), loves his people without limit, and therefore also guides the faithful in the way of life that is genuinely good and beautiful (cf. Ps. 119:124). The psalm speaks the language of one ravished with moral beauty, to which there is only one fitting response—to try to reproduce this beauty, as much as possible, in one’s daily life. There is no pretense of perfection here (cf. v. 5), only yearning, and trust (vv. 41, 176), and dependence on God (v. 125). To say that these commands are “true” (v. 160) is to confess that, with all their elements geared to a particular culture and phase of redemptive history, the principles that underlie them are founded on the very nature of things, and of God.I love this. I have never considered pairing the doctrine of imago dei with the idea that God’s Law reveals His nature. I am still deeply aware of my shortcomings as revealed in the Law. With Paul and Hannah, “I am completely, utterly incapable of being the very thing I was made to be!” But then it makes me so grateful–that God chose to reveal to us His true nature and in so doing, also reveals to us in the midst of a broken world who we are meant to be. It makes me so thankful for the new identity He has graciously bestowed on me in Christ, where I am being “renewed in knowledge after the image of [my] creator” (Col. 3:10). But more than anything, I am grateful that God chose to reveal His image in the person of Christ, who perfectly fulfilled the Law in my place. Take a moment to marvel at the Image of God:
He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross. Colossians 1:15-20/////////////////////
To learn more about the book that inspired my series, visit Hannah Anderson’s blog.