I’m wore out and tired. After two weeks of intensive courses (15 weeks of material in 1 week), I decided to get up today and help my wife have a yard sale while I trimmed bushes and did so much needed grounds keeping around the parsonage and church. I haven’t felt this good in a long time. I really have enjoyed my day being outside, even though my skin is now fried on my face and arms.
While I was out today trimming hedges, rose bushes, and a tree, I was reminded of scriptures that tell us about the trimming that needs to take place in our life.
I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman. Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away: and every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit. (John 15:1-2)
Purging, pruning, or trimming is the act of taking away something that does not promote growth, and not just any growth, fruitful growth. We can grow but it may not produce fruit. We can grow financially, physically, or intellectually. None of them, however, can produce fruit when they are not centered around our spiritual growth. Sometimes we need to cut back in areas in order for the main issue in our life, which is our relationship with God, to grow and become fruitful.
The most amazing thing that happened today though happened with another plant and some water. Abbie, my wife, had left out a plant in the sun to long that didn’t need quite that much. I seen it this morning and saw how pitiful it looked in its dried state. I knew it was dead but decided to water it anyways to see what would happen. When I came back to the house from my other work, to my surprise and Abbie’s rejoicing, the leaves that were withered were flat and the stems that drooped where standing tall. It was an amazing act that took place.
That spoke to me. We sometimes get dry and withered in our spirit, in our mind, in everything we are. Yet, the Lord speaks to us and like water we are restored, refreshed, revitalized. Yes, Lord, I know I’ve been at school a lot this week hearing about the wonderful work of God, but now I know I must continue to receive the water of your word for my dry and thirsty soul. I thank you Lord, for your Word from heaven that you have given us.
As cold waters to a thirsty soul, so is good news from a far country. (Proverbs 25:25)
That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word (Ephesians 5:26)
Had a friend ask me concerning about the use of the law today. How do we view it? Why does it seem we follow some Old Testament law and not others? This was my answer and a link I found regarding this same thing.
The law itself was never intended to save. It served two other purposes. First, to give guidance in how people should approach God and secondly, how to live peaceably and equally among others. When God gave the law it was a way to help the people to understand how they were supposed to live in freedom. In Exodus 19, the chapter before the ten commands are given, God tells Moses in verse 3-6 that God’s grace bare them out of Egypt on eagles wings (vs. 4) and that they are to respond with obedience (vs. 5). The purpose is that the people would be the model God wanted all people on earth to follow (vs. 6).
The Moral Law. The Ten Commandments are also know as the moral law. Ten commands of God that form the foundation of those that would live faithful and obedient to God. By study and by the help of Jesus (Matt. 22:34-40), we see that the ten commandments were divided into two parts. The first four commands lays the foundation for a proper relationship with God. The Last six commands lays the foundation for a proper relationship of respect to other people. The next two divisions of the law, the Ceremonial and the Civil, build upon those two sets as guidance and principles to live by.
The Ceremonial Law. Found mostly in Exodus 25-40 and Leviticus 1-17, 21-24. These laws deal with how a people in an unholy world could approach a holy God. The ceremonial laws deal with the concepts of holy and unholy, clean and unclean, pure and impure. The book of Hebrews though does a thorough job of explaining why the ceremonial law is now no longer practiced by those of the faith. Speaking of Jesus, “but this man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down on the right hand of God.”
The Civil Law. Found mostly in Exodus 21-23 and Leviticus 18-20, 25-27. This one was for the citizenry of Israel. It would help them find and retain their identity in a world of pagan culture as they did not do the things of the world. Galatians 2:14 gives us an understanding of the separation of Jewish and Gentile lifestyle. “If thou, being a Jew, livest after the manner of Gentiles, and not as do the Jews, why compellest thou the Gentiles to live as do the Jews?” Hebrews, Galatians, and Romans all are excellent sources for understanding not only how we are delivered from ceremonial law but also civil law, and it is simply, we are not Jewish. Those who are Jewish do not have to live that lifestyle either, if they choose to follow Christ. Though a Jew that does not follow Christ would be practicing the civil laws in vain.
The moral remains intact as it represent the the two greatest commandments. To love God and to love neighbor. The ceremonial and civil laws find their fulfillment in Jesus (Matt 5:17). The ceremonial or how we relate to God is fulfilled in the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus. The civil or how we relate to others is fulfilled in the life and ministry of Jesus. We place our faith in the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus. We live in obedience to the life of Jesus. The Old Testament ceremonial and civil laws are written for our instruction. To develop our view of holiness and relationship to God and others.
Something that I have observed in many churches and individuals is what I would like to call, “Catch-Phrase Christianity.” I have no problem with sermons and Sunday school lessons that have to deal with a word study or a nice little phrase out of a scripture. The problem though is that many times we see this done as purely motivational. Disregarding any context in the scripture.
We must be on the guard when we read our Bible for personal devotion and study, prepare a sermon, and a lesson to always be mindful of the context of scripture. How does this word, phrase, or verse fit into the whole of scripture. What is happening to the writer, the characters mentioned, the audience in the context of history. Then and only then can we find our place in the grand narrative of salvation history. It is good to have life or seasonal verses but in order to be Christians that stand strong we must become well acquainted with scriptures, their context, and their application to us. Not in part but the whole.
I’ll end with a quote from Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s book, Life Together.
“There can be equally little doubt that brief verses cannot and should not take the place of reading the Scripture as a whole. The verse for the day is still not the Holy Scripture which will remain throughout all time until the Last Day. Holy Scripture is more than a watchword. It is also more than ‘light for today.’ It is God’s revealed Word for all men, for all times. Holy Scripture does not consist of individual passages; it is a unit and is intended to be used as such.”