The Bible’s repeated, clear-cut designation of the Law of Moses as “THE Law” adds a compelling degree of force to its existence. If God saw it as the only Law, it might surprise us to find another Bible passage which would suggest another law’s preeminence. And yet, this is exactly what we find in Hebrews chapters 8, 9, and 10. There, as he expounds the fact that Christ is God’s better plan for redemption in every single way, the writer continually makes passing remarks about The Law’s passing, changing, and fading glory (cf. 2 Cor. 3). In its place, the Bible writers continually elevate what they call “the law of Christ” (1 Cor. 9:21, Gal. 6:2). What is the difference? What does this mean for us?
The difference is simple: Christ.
Christ is the ultimate manifestation of all the necessary tenets of the sacrifice system codified under the Law of Moses. He is the perfected manifestation of moral law-keeping outlined in the Law of Moses. He is the accomplishment of the Laws promises to bless Israel for their faithfulness. He is, in all things, the completion of the Law’s purposes.
And this is why there is a law “of Christ.” Not just because he is the sovereign power behind this law (although he is), but because he is at the center of this law. The law under which Christians live, then, is governed by him as he extrapolates, explains, and fulfills “The Law” that God’s people have lived under for thousands of years hence. This means, of course, that some of our moral obligations have changed to reflect his superiority to the old system—especially, though not exclusively, the need to offer animal sacrifices. But understanding him as the completion of the Law is healthy in that it keeps us from wholesale abandonment of the principles of holiness outlined in The Law for such a long time.
The Old Testament literally contains thousands of years worth of theology as God revealed himself at various times and in various ways, and we would be foolish to disregard it as though it were only a relic of a bygone time. Rather, we revere The Law because we revere the God who conceived it, the Spirit who inspired it, and the Christ who fulfilled it. To be sure, there are elements of it which no longer bear on our behavior as individuals and groups of believers. But equally sure is the value that it has in teaching us to be holy because he is holy.
- Dan Lankford, minister
I was recently asked, “Is it true that the Holy Spirit only works thru the written word today?” Simply and confidently, my answer is, “No.” He is, in fact, active in the lives of believers every day.
First, he is active through the written word. “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ” (Rom. 10:17). The word of Christ was clearly and completely revealed through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. His work in revealing the Scriptures brings about faith in those whose minds & hearts are open to the word.
Second, he is active in our lives in a transformative way. This idea should sound familiar to any who are familiar with the hymn that asks God to “be with me, Lord. [For] I cannot live without Thee.” If the Holy Spirit is God [and the Scriptures teach that he is (Matt. 28:19, Eph. 4:4-6)], then believers should understand that God—in his entire personality—is living in us every day. Various passages make specific mention of all three personalities of the Godhead dwelling within the hearts of believers (2 Cor. 6:16, Col. 1:27, 1 Cor. 3:16). And we must believe this to be true, because only when our hearts are filled with the Spirit of God will we bear the proper fruit that comes from a life led by the will and word of God (see Gal. 5:16-25).
Thirdly, he is active in our prayer lives. In Romans 8:26-27, the word says, “Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.”
Indeed, God the Father, the Son, and the Spirit is with his people. And as a result, we have a great deal for which to be thankful! Our God is with us!
- Dan Lankford
The Greek word is EXOUSIA. “From the meaning of leave or permission, or liberty of doing as one pleases, it passed to that of the ability or strength with which one is endued, then to that of the power of authority, the right to exercise power” (W.E. Vine, Expository Dictionary of NT Words, page 91).
This is a general word referring to many different levels of authority. It can include governmental rule or the power of a landowner over his own property. There are two uses, however, that we wish to emphasize.
First, it speaks of “the power of one whose will and commands must be obeyed by others” (Vine, page 91). In this context, it most often refers to the authority of Jesus in religious matters. It shows that we must obey Christ if we want to live in a right relationship with the Lord. See Matthew 28:18; John 17:2; Jude 25; Revelation 12:10.
Only Christ has “legislative” authority. He makes all the rules, as the Lord of lords and King of kings and the Head of the church. He is called the “one Lawgiver, who is able to save and to destroy” (James 4:12).
Second, as representatives of Christ, the term sometimes refers to apostolic authority. See 2 Corinthians 10:8 and 13:10. Because their message came through revelation from God, Paul said, “If anyone thinks himself to be a prophet or spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things which I write to you are the commandments of the Lord” (1 Corinthians 14:37)
To please God, we must abide in the authority of Christ. “And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him” (Colossians 3:17).
The following thoughts were presented by one of our senior brothers to draw our minds to the cross before the Lord's Supper this past Sunday morning. They are shared here for their excellent quality of thought.
"Then he said to them, 'My soul is exceedingly sorrowful, even to death. Stay here and watch.' He went a little farther, and fell on the ground, and prayed that if it were possible, the hour might pass from Him. And he said, 'Abba, Father, all things are possible for you. Take this cup away from me; nevertheless, not what I will, but what you will." (Mark 14:34-36)
I am sure that most of us can, in some small way, indentify with what Jesus was feeling. We have fallen to our knees in agony, praying to God, "Hear my prayer," or "You can do anything," or "take away this pain," or "lift this terrible burden."
Maybe we weren't even asking on our own behalf. Perhaps we were praying for a loved one, or a dear friend, or a child, or a companion or a parent. The fact that we were praying for another person hardly made the anguish any easier to bear. We may even have begged, "Father, if someone has to bear this burden, let it be me. Take it from that person and let it be me who bears it."
Usually, it is a great comfort knowing that God is almighty. But there are moments when that knowledges adds to the agony. "All things are possible for you." The question isn't "if God?" But "will God?" And that leads us to ask, "why God?" If God can, then why doesn't he?
This question has been a major stumbling block for those who do not believe. If God can end suffering, why doesn't he? If he is all-powerful, why doesn't he stop tragedy, or feed the hungry, or do something about cancer or aids? Why must men drink so deeply and so often from the cup of pain and suffering? I DON'T KNOW.
But we do know that at one great moment in history, the Son of God came to earth to take the world's burden upon himself. We know that he fell to the ground beside us in Gethsemane, bearing the pangs of impending doom and death in his heart. We know this Lamb of God wrestled in agony, despising the shame that loomed ahead, crying, "Abba, Father! All things are possible for you; remove this cup from me."
Above all this, we know that Jesus uttered his prayer in unwavering trust in the Father's will: he said, "YET NOT WHAT I WILL BUT WHAT YOU WILL."
His faith could hear a promised of glory despite the awful silence of God that weighed so heavily in the garden. His faith enabled Jesus to see beyond the grave to the joy set before him. And because of this, we know that when we fall to the ground in our Gethsemane, WE ARE NOT ALONE BUT HE IS THERE WITH US. Having overcome death, he sits at the Father's right hand making intercession for us.
- Jim Largen
Consider the following excerpts from Psa. 109 as if written from the perspective of Jesus on the night of his betrayal, arrest, and crucifixion:
“For wicked and deceitful mouths are opened against me, speaking against me with lying tongues. They encircle me with words of hate, and attack me without cause. In return for my love they accuse me, but I give myself to prayer.”
Consider these words as if they were a prayer against Judas Iscariot for his betrayal of Jesus:
“Appoint a wicked man against him; let an accuser stand at his right hand. When he is tried, let him come forth guilty; let his prayer be counted as sin! May his days be few; may another take his office! May the creditor seize all that he has; may strangers plunder the fruits of his toil! May his posterity be cut off; may his name be blotted out in the second generation! For he did not remember to show kindness, but pursued the poor and needy and the brokenhearted, to put them to death. He clothed himself with cursing as his coat; may it soak into his body like water, like oil into his bones!”
Finally, consider these words as if they were from Jesus’ eternal perspective on the cross—knowing that the Lord’s will is being done in spite of the appearance of evil’s predominance:
“Help me, O Lord my God! Save me according to your steadfast love! Let them know that this is your hand; you, O Lord, have done it! Let them curse, but you will bless! They arise and are put to shame, but your servant will be glad! May my accusers be clothed with dishonor; may they be wrapped in their own shame as in a cloak!”
These words, penned by King David over 700 years before Christ and Judas, give a clear understanding of God’s perspective on both good and evil. He always watches over his holy One and his saints. And, in His time, he will always punish evil.
- Dan Lankford
“Now therefore write this song and teach it to the people of Israel. Put it in their mouths, that this song may be a witness for me against the people of Israel... And when many evils and troubles have come upon them, this song shall confront them as a witness, for it will live unforgotten in the mouths of their offspring.’” (Deut. 31:19, 21)
Since he is the Creator of music, it should not surprise us that God would make use of song to draw people toward himself—both by moving us emotionally and instructing us doctrinally. This song, penned through Moses, was designed to do both. As it would witness against the children of Israel, it was to teach their later generations of the great evil they would inevitably do by departing from God’s ways. As our songs and hymns are meant to do, it would be used for “teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom” (Col. 3:16).
The assembled masses of God’s people must be thoroughly attentive to the quality of the hymns that we sing. If we are aware enough to appreciate them, they will often challenge us, convict us, and therefore sadden us into repentance. In many cases, they witness against us as they teach us and admonish us. And we must let them continue to do this.
In the event that our hymnody were to become unidimensional so that we we lost sight of the true exhortation and “witness” we are to receive from them, I fear we would incur a perspective from God similar to that which he described in the time of the prophet Amos. While the nation’s souls morally decayed into idolatry and injustice, they continued to sing songs of praise and self-confidence to God. And God said, “Take away from me the noise of your songs; to the melody of your harps I will not listen” (Amos 5:23).
Hymns which only validate us—even while we are in our sins—do a disservice to the true power God would exhibit through song.
Let us then be judicious in choosing hymns for worship assemblies and in actively participating in our hymns. Because we need them to accurately praise the Lord of hosts. And we need them, on occasion, to witness against us and pull us back into his glorious presence.
- Dan Lankford, minister
A bit of advice for Christian parents (self included): let's read the Bible to our kids and with our kids.
Somewhere along the line, many Christian parents got the idea that the best way to share the word of God with our children was to change it. So we eliminated details, we added artist renderings of the stories which are very often historically inaccurate, we inserted punchlines and jokes all along the way, and we only told them the Bible stories that have happy endings.
Let me be clear: I'm not necessarily opposed to all the things in that list individually. And I'm not necessarily opposed to the use of all children's Bibles.
But as Christian parents who value the words of God himself, let's be sure we are sharing the words of God himself with our children. When God commanded the Israelites to teach their children, he said, "these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise." (Deut. 6:6-7) He intended them to share his very words with their children.
Islamic parents understand this as a crucial part of sharing their faith. Their children are taught the Quran from the time they can talk. Most devout parents read passages to them multiple times daily. And as a result, they have one of the highest retention rates of all faiths. In other words, children from devout Muslim households very often grow up to be devout Muslims. And when asked why, they frequently cite a strong attachment to their holy book and the god (Allah) it describes.
We must do the same. If our holy book truly is the words of God (and I believe it is), and if the God in it truly is the author and perfecter of our faith (and I believe he is), then we must share THAT with our children—even when it challenges them, when it seems to bore them, and when they don't seem to appreciate it. Certainly, a simplified version of God's word will be easier and more entertaining for a child. But it won't have the same life-shaping power as the Gospel itself. Let's not neglect to share the God-breated word with them. "For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart." (Heb. 4:12)
- Dan Lankford, minister
Christians often talk about the 'storms of life' when we read Jesus' admonition that:
"Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock." (Matt. 7:24-25)
As Hurricane Matthew is making landfall in Haiti this morning, weather experts and social aid volunteers are already calling the storm a worst-case scenario for the people of that country. A large number of homes there are built on loose mud surfaces. Many of them—simply because many families are too impoverished to afford anything more—are built of mud and sticks or just stacked cinderblocks. With that being the case, their houses are in great danger from the category 4 storm.
The destruction in Haiti ought to give us a clear picture of how bad the loss of a soul really is—how bad the situation is which Jesus describes in Matthew 7. We'll be seeing people lose the little bit that this life has to offer. Many will be homeless. Many will flounder not knowing their next steps or plans for moving forward. Many will weep for themselves and their families.
Is it not the same when we think of souls lost without God? Let's continually be sure that our own lives are founded on the rock—living the Gospel. And let's continually be reaching out to others in effort to save them—sharing the Gospel.
- Dan Lankford, minister
Three times in the book of Genesis, Abraham rose early in the morning. In each case, he was seeking the will of God.
In Gen. 19:27, he rose early in the morning to see God's will accomplished against Sodom & Gomorrah.
In Gen. 21:14, he rose early in the morning to send Hagar & Ishmael on their way to make room for Isaac—the child of promise—to flourish.
And then in Gen. 22:3, Abraham rose early in the morning for what surely could have been the hardest thing he ever did in his life—the journey to where he would kill his own son.
From Abraham's example, I learn an important lesson about the vitality of a life that truly seeks God. When Abraham sought God, he sought him from dawn to dusk. On these days, even though it might be difficult, he began his day with a determination to see God's will done around him.
I want to encourage you to do two things. First, whenever you wake up, set your mind on the will of God first. Start with a focus on him before you give assent to anything else in the day. And second, try getting up an hour earlier than you have to [or staying up an hour later than you typically do (Psa. 119:62)] and giving the extra time to God. Pray, read your Bible, take a walk, or just meditate on who he is and who he calls you to be.
Let's all make a deliberate effort—to go out of our way—to seek the will of God.
- Dan Lankford, minister
In Jesus’ story of the lost and found son, the younger son demands his inheritance from his still-living father, he goes to a far country, and he wastes his fortune. And Jesus says, “when he had spent everything, a severe famine arose in that country, and he began to be in need. So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him into his fields to feed pigs. And he was longing to be fed with the pods that the pigs ate, and no one gave him anything.” (Luke 15:14-16).
It took a fall to the depths to make him realize the true heights he had enjoyed while still with his father. And the young man’s story of deprivation and degradation must surely remind us of our own lives.
Unfortunately, our best perspective on the heights of good comes when we fallen to the depths of evil. For us, the depths may come in the form of infidelity, financial hardship, physical sickness or disability, or any number of other strains which life places upon us.
It’s there that our minds become intuitively aware of not only the possibility but the absolute certainty that there must be something better. Our sense of the divine allows us to perceive a benevolent God’s presence through the created world and even hard-wired into our own consciousness (see Rom. 1:20, Eccl. 3:10).
When the darkness is so thick that it can almost be felt, we long inexpressibly for light. When the emotions are so heavy we can barely stand them, we want support the most. When we are so hungry as to genuinely be starving, we need food all the more urgently.
As the son in Jesus’ story realized his dire need for his father when he bottomed out in life, we often realize the true extent of our need for God the Father when we are at our lowest points.
If that’s where you are, you should know that there is something better. There is a Father who will welcome you with open arms. And there is a whole family of His children at this place who will do the same! In the depths, look to the heights, and know that God can—and will—save!
- Dan Lankford, minister