Written by Rev. Nicholas Davelaar
Published in the Courier of Russellville, Arkansas on February 20, 2015
Last time we noted that a person comes to recognize sin from the law of God. God’s law — God’s Word, the Bible — shows us our sin and misery.
That raises another question: what does God’s law require? More specifically, what does God’s law require of us?
Jesus Christ gave this summary of God’s law in Matthew 22: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”
Many of us have heard those words before. Even if we haven’t, they probably don’t surprise us much.
What is more, each of us probably has a general sense of what those words mean, even without someone explaining them to us. We understand at least vaguely what loving God looks like, as well as what loving other people looks like. Thus, when we hear this summary of God’s law, our minds typically go straight into compliance mode.
We begin thinking about how our lives could or should change.
Today, however, let’s step out of compliance mode a moment and consider a more basic question: can we obey these commandments? Can we fulfill God’s law?
God’s law, as summarized by Jesus, requires us to love the Lord our God. Can we do that? Can we do that perfectly?
Notice Jesus didn’t say God requires us to try our best to love him.
God’s law requires us actually to love him with all our heart, soul and mind. Can we do that? Do we do that? Every minute of every day?
And how about loving our neighbor? God’s law, again as summarized by Jesus, requires us to love our neighbors as ourselves. Can we do that perfectly, every minute of every day?
The answer to all these questions is no. Even our best efforts to love God and our neighbor fall short of what God requires. Personal experience alone makes that clear.
Yet, more importantly, God’s Word makes that clear. Romans 3:10: “None is righteous, no, not one.” Later in verse 23 we also read, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”
Jeremiah 17:9 similarly declares, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?”
In short, here’s the diagnosis of God’s law concerning us and our hearts: by nature we do not and cannot do what God requires.
Think about that. Ignoring it isn’t going to make it go away.
For further study, read Ephesians 2:1-3. For a word of hope, keep reading Ephesians 2:4-9.
Written by Rev. Nicholas Davelaar
Published in the Courier of Russellville, Arkansas on February 13, 2015
We noted last week that a person must know three things to live and die in the joy of belonging to Jesus Christ. According to one of the Protestant Reformers, the first of these is “how great my sin and misery are.”
That said, how does a person come to recognize his or her sin and misery? In fact, what do those words even mean?
That’s hard to know because of how our society has played Humpty Dumpty with the word “sin”.
Everyone has heard of Lewis Carroll’s book Alice in Wonderland. In Carroll’s lesser-known follow-up, Through the Looking Glass, Alice meets Humpty Dumpty (yes, that Humpty Dumpty—the one who sat on a wall and had a great fall).
At one point we hear Alice question Humpty Dumpty about how he used certain words. At first she thought she simply didn’t understand him, but after a bit it became clear that he was redefining words significantly.
“‘When I use a word,’ Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, ‘it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.’
“‘The question is,’ said Alice, ‘whether you can make words mean so many different things.’
“‘The question is,’ said Humpty Dumpty, ‘which is to be master — that’s all.’”
Our society would largely agree. Together we have exerted a Humpty Dumpty sort of mastery over various important words, including the word “sin”.
The word “sin” now merely refers to an act many of us disapprove of.
According to that definition, we come to recognize our sin and misery by asking other people what they think. Or we take cues from movies and television shows.
But how can we be sure they are right? How can we be sure there isn’t more to sin than what we’re being told?
How do you come to know your sin and misery?
If you suspected you had cancer, you would want to know for sure, wouldn’t you? Of course!
You would submit to whatever tests a doctor prescribed so that you might gain an accurate picture of your situation, in the hope that you could then do something about it.
Even if you had heard something helpful on Oprah or from a co-worker, you’d still go to your doctor to make sure.
So how do you come to know—truly know—your sin and misery?
Over 400 years ago one of the Protestant Reformers asked that very question.
Answer: “The law of God tells me.”
God’s law—God’s Word—teaches us our sin and misery.
Think about that. Have you heard God’s diagnosis?
For further study, read Matt 22:37-40 and Rom 3:9-20.