Monday, October 17, 2011

The Preventative Use of the Law

There is a traditional, protestant way of speaking about the Law - that the Holy Spirit puts it to three uses:

1st - A Curb - whereby God curbs outward evil, even in society, by the threat of punishment. (This is generally thought of the use that hit unbelievers).
2nd - A mirror - whereby God reveals to us our sin and our need for repentance and forgiveness.
3rd - A Guide (or Trellis) - whereby God reveals and teaches what is good, so that believers might grow in the right fashion.

Now, the handful of readers of this blog know that often 3rd use talk annoys the tar out of me because most 3rd use talk gets twisted. It's not how I as a preacher use the law --- I can't change my tone and make something 3rd use... the 3rd use is a Holy Spirit thing.

But today I have a qualm with the 1st. As it is generally taught the assumption is that the first use of the law doesn't really apply to Christians (after all... we are good people, we don't need to be curbed).

I will tell tales on myself. I was a bit anxious today. I was getting ready to tell off someone who had been messing me with. I was even visualizing it - I knew how I would take him down a peg, I knew how the conversation would go and it would end with me being victorious and this person a smoking ruin. And then I came to Church - and last week I had written up next Sunday's sermon (who knows when my first born will come, and there is a pastors' conference this week), and in the sermon draft is the following:

"Consider this for a moment – someone wrongs you. Hates you, reviles you, mocks you. As a Christian, what are you called to do? To show love, to serve, to pray for the one who persecutes you. Why? Because that is what Christ does, because that is what Christ does to you, and that is what Christ makes you to be. Christ makes you to be His own agent of love – you speak, you show, you give Christ and His love to the people you come across in your life. When you care for another, that is giving them the care that God would have them receive."

Bam. Is this just then applied to me as a mirror, to show me that my thoughts were wrong? No... it showed me that what I was planning to do was wrong - it prevented me from sin - it got in my way, it led me not into temptation and delivered me from the evil that I myself was planning on doing.

You know -- it acted like a curb. Not with threats of punishment, mind you - but still a curb.

I think sometimes we get this daft idea that as Christians, since we know the law, since we know right from wrong, we don't need a "curb" function - we don't need the Law to get in our way and keep us from sinning -- it can just be the kindly guide, because after all as Christians all the time we are thinking about what we ought to do.

That above chunk of law -- it hit me 1st use - might hit others that way this Sunday as well. Some on Sunday, it will hit 2nd use, and the Holy Spirit reminds them of how they have been cruel. Some on Sunday it will hit in a 3rd use fashion - it will guide and prepare them for the unexpected anger they encounter in the week to come.

I don't have to know how it will. That's the Holy Spirit's job -- and He does His job even on the pastors who write the sermons.

Don't be afraid to let God act as your curb - don't think that you've outgrown that need. Or do you not realize that "Thy will be done", and "lead us not into temptation and deliver us from Evil", or the Psalms where you are asking God to go before you are all... preventative pleas to God?

1 comment:

Tony said...

Amen. Well said. Thank you.