Growing in God’s Law

#17 January 14,2022

Law is the framework of a peaceful, successful society. It describes to the people both what makes them strong and what can destroy them. Laws set limits. Laws create both standards and boundaries. They define for the people abstract concepts such as good and evil. Boundaries, limits, standards, and definitions shared by a gathered people lead to a directed commonality we call purpose, and within that purpose society begins to grow. Without these shared boundaries, limits, standards, and definitions there is no common purpose, chaos reigns, growth ceases, and the society dies.

If we seek to be people of God we must know, understand, and accept His laws for the truth of justice they are meant to be. The best place to begin is by reaching out to God for understanding based on His laws given to His people Israel, through Moses.

Exodus 20:1-17
20:1 And God spake all these words, saying,
20:2 I am the Lord thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.
20:3 Thou shalt have no other gods before me.
20:4 Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth;
20:5 Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them; for I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me;
20:6 And showing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments.
20:7 Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain; for the Lord will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain.
20:8 Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy.
20:9 Six days shalt thou labor, and do all thy work;
20:10 But the seventh day is the sabbath of the Lord thy God; in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates;
20:11 For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day; wherefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it.
20:12 Honor thy father and thy mother; that thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee.
20:13 Thou shalt not kill.
20:14 Thou shalt not commit adultery.
20:15 Thou shalt not steal.
20:16 Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor.
20:17 Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbor's.

These are the Ten Commandments given the people through Moses. They open the hearts of man to that which God calls sin. They are directives to a people that they might begin to form a righteous society wholly committed to the ways and the concepts of God, but it is sad to say that in my heart I felt them to be incomplete and insufficient, because they only define sin. They offer no way to allow righteousness to grow in our lives.  

I am sure that this statement sets "red flags" waving. Rest assured that these commandments are foundational to my belief in God. In fact, they are just that. They are the foundation on which my understanding of how to live my life in a way that is acceptable to God. I am convinced that God gave them to me for just this purpose, and He seeks for me to reach out to Him that I might understand fully the concepts of sin, judgment, repentance, and redemption that are the fullness of the ministry of law He offers. 

Let's first approach laws and commandments in a way that might be familiar to all of us. If you have raised children, are raising children, or were once a child yourselves, think back to the early stages of teaching young ones to live in a world full of "do(s) and don't(s)". How was that accomplished? Very basically it amounted to, you can do this but you can't do that, and most of them were presented as absolutes with very little explanation. Now scan the verses of the Ten Commandments and you will find a commonality of "thou shall not" without explaining why. Our God is a loving God and I am sure we can understand why they were given with no reasoning besides an implied, "or else". Clarity can be gained if we allow ourselves to understand the true nature of who was to receive His laws. His people Israel were little more than children in their understanding of true nature of this awesome voice speaking to their leader from within a fiery tornado. Do it or else was quite applicable. 

Now, let's grow in our understanding by comparing the actions of God to our own ways of training our children. Say you have a three-year old child obsessed with an electrical outlet. My reaction to that was to tell them, "Don't do that or else". Was I wrong? Of course not, my three year old lacks the life experience to recognize the power of electricity, but he can understand when I am displeased. So I go for the quickest most effective way to keep my child safe. At eight or nine they will be able to understand how misusing that same outlet could kill them. Until that age I am wise to keep it to something they can understand. Such is the way of our Heavenly Father. This has been my theory for many years and I am now able to share the truth He has allowed to grow in my heart. He set me on a path understanding His ways with this scripture.  

Genesis 6:57 And the Lord spake unto Adam, saying, Inasmuch as thy children are conceived in sin, even so, when they begin to grow up sin conceiveth in their hearts, and they taste the bitter, that they may know to prize the good.

This is God explaining to us the use of "don't do this or else", and for the longest time I felt that God's relationship with us was that of a disobedient child and an angry parent. I will tell you honestly, I was hurt, challenged, and disheartened, because by those standards, God and the His Kingdom were unattainable for me. There was no way I could ever live-up to the standards of virtue voiced in His commandments. So I gave up trying and lived my life as best I could sure that Heaven was out of my reach, but I am pleased to say that God was not done with me yet. 

Shortly after I was introduced to the fullness of the Gospel through the teachings of the Restored Church, God showed me this verse, and I grew.

Isaiah 7:14-16
7:14 Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and shall bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.
7:15 Butter and honey shall he eat, that he may know to refuse the evil, and to choose the good.
7:16 For before the child shall know to refuse the evil, and choose the good, the land that thou abhorrest shall be forsaken of both her kings.

This prophecy brought through Isaiah speaks of Christ. God uses Christ to showcase the lessons He wishes us to experience as we grow to understand His true nature and the love He seeks to express to us. He wants us to grow from "don't do this, or else" to "yes, that is a good idea let's try it together". For us to be all God wants us to be we must move beyond our need to fear His judgment. He wants us to be able to see the good, understand the good, and chose the good within our own hearts. We need to grow beyond our fear of God and seek out the true nature of love He has to offer. This was made abundantly clear to me when my mind was opened up to the two Kings underlined in verse 16.

Isaiah 7:16 For before the child shall know to refuse the evil, and choose the good, the land that thou abhorrest shall be forsaken of both her kings.

Those two Kings are the fear and doubt that rule the world of man. God is telling me that before I can recognize the true nature of God as my loving Father, I must rid myself of both fear and doubt. How did I arrive at that? Well it was two passages. One was written by the disciple John, at the beginning of his journey with Christ as his leader. The Apostle John wrote the other in a letter as he traveled reaching out to the world with the Gospel of the Kingdom.

John 3:16-17
3:16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his Only Begotten Son, that whosoever believeth on him should not perish; but have everlasting life.
3:17 For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.

God gave us the Ten Commandments that reeked of implied condemnation, and here was the same God telling us how much he loved us by sending His own Son on a mission to save all of mankind with a ministry that was not to include condemnation. 

I was confused until I found this passage from 1 John.

1 John 4:15-19
4:15 Whosoever shall confess that Jesus is the Son of God, God dwelleth in him, and he in God.
4:16 And we have known and believed the love that God hath to us. God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him.
4:17 Herein is our love made perfect, that we may have boldness in the day of judgment; because as he is, so are we in this world.
4:18 There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear; because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love.
4:19 We love him, because he first loved us.

These two passages confirmed that God seeks for us to grow in His ways that we might replace "don't do this, or else" with "yes, that is a good idea let's try that together". I was elated but still leery. Was my foundation solid enough? I reached out to God and about a week later this was the subject of a sermon at church.

Matthew 22:35-39
22:35 Master, which is the great commandment in the law?
22:36 Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.
22:37 This is the first and great commandment.
22:38 And the second is like unto it; Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.
22:39 On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.

Notice that Christ clarified God's commandments and in the process transformed "thou shalt not" into "thou shall". In this not only did He eliminate the implied fear; He made the whole situation our choice. The commandment no longer offers to force us; it instructs us to choose. In that choice, we grow, and in that choice we are invited to see God in a whole new role. Christ wants us to grow beyond the need for a judgmental God ready to send us to hell for our disobedience. He is instead teaching us that we have within our grasp a loving Father that seeks for us to come be with Him.

That which created a truth within my heart worthy of sharing was this passage from proverbs.

Proverbs 9:9-10
9:9 Give instruction to a wise man, and he will be yet wiser; teach a just man, and he will increase in learning.
9:10 The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; and the knowledge of the Holy is understanding.

First of all recognize that wisdom is an attribute that when given the chance, builds on itself. Wisdom is not an understanding that just magically appears it is a construct. It is built and is the end product of both knowledge given and learning exercised by the comparison of what is known to what is received. Secondly understand that our fear of the Lord is only a beginning. God is hoping that the fear we have will grow into both trust and love as we gain knowledge and exercise it by applying it to our lives. We kept the toddler safe by using fear. That same child at 8 or 9 allowed the fear to become trust when they were offered the chance to turn knowledge of judgment into wisdom based on love and understanding.

Enos 1:46 And I rejoice in the day when my mortal shall put on immortality, and shall stand before him: then shall I see his face with pleasure, and he will say unto me, Come unto me ye blessed, there is a place prepared for you in the mansions of my Father. Amen.

This is what I wish to share. God is a God of love and he seeks for His children to recognize all that He wishes us to have. In the beginning it is a mandate, but as we grow in His ways mandates grow useless and insufficient. We want to know why, and the glory of it all is that He wants us to know.

My recognition of the truth of God's laws underscores our need to open our hearts to all He is offering, and to seek it out and allow it to become wisdom in our lives. He has promised us that our labors will not be fruitless. 

Luke 11:10-11
11:10 And I say unto you, Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.
11:11 For every one who asketh, receiveth; and he that seeketh, findeth; and to him that knocketh, it shall be opened.

Ponder what is given and grow in the effort.

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