…gives us wings

For the last week or so I’ve been reading The Discipline of Grace by Jerry Bridges, which forms part of my preparation for Relay. I think it’s about the 20th book I’ve read so far this year, and with the possible exception of The Cross of Christ it is the best of them all. I highly recommend it to any Christian who hasn’t already read it, something I’d say about very few books. In it I came across a nice rhyme which, although I had heard before, I’d forgotten:

Run, John, run, the law commands
But gives us neither feet nor hands.
Far better news the gospel brings:
It bids us fly and gives us wings.

Attributed to John Bunyan

The injustice of it all

A recent article in the metro newspaper brought to my attention the abuse of official credit cards by a large number of police officers. For a few days after the article was published the letters page was full of indignant contributions from readers, appalled at the news that most of the officers involved would not be disciplined, but given more training. The story brought to the fore the strong sense of justice clearly felt by the metro’s readers (who all conveniently ignored the facts that all the officers who broke the law are being prosecuted, and the ones being given training have either paid back the money, or were justified in making their purchase but should have followed a different procedure).

Even though laws were not broken, it was felt that the officers had behaved wrongly and should therefore be punished. We have all, as people, done wrong, breaking God’s laws. Despite this, many people don’t think they deserve any punishment from Him. We are happy to point the finger at others and highlight their wrongdoing while defending our own. Trevor Carlisle, the pastor of the church I am part of in Reading, often uses the example of left over food to demonstrate this point. My left over food is merely a few chips I didn’t want, but someone else’s is a disgusting mess of vile rubbish they couldn’t be bothered to eat. We love to point out the error of others, but not of ourselves.

God does not do this. He is an impartial judge, and will not turn a blind eye to wrongdoing. It doesn’t matter how small the crime. It doesn’t matter how important the culprit. All are equally culpable before God, and will be punished. Unless, of course, the punishment has already been taken.

Further reading on the theme of justice, from one of my favourite blogs:

Make a battlement

The morning service yesterday included an excellent sermon from Jonathan Northern, pastor of Baldock Baptist Church, so I thought I’d share the main points here.

It was taken from Deuteronomy 22:8 which says (in the AV, which is what the sermon was preached from):

When thou buildest a new house, then thou shalt make a battlement for thy roof, that thou bring not blood upon thine house, if any man fall from thence.

This was a civil law for the nation of Israel, and the custom at the time was to build houses with flat roofs which would frequently be walked on, so this law is not as ludicrous as it could seem to us. The law does not directly apply to us, but it shows us two important things. One is a principle for living, which does apply to us. The second is that it shows us one aspect of God’s nature. 1 Corinthians 9:9-11 shows the apostle Paul quoting an old testament law and saying that its primary purpose was not the rule it made, but the principle behind it, so we are perfectly free to look for an application to ourselves.

Obviously the battlement was for protection. A more modern version of this law might be to build a railing round a balcony. The principle behind it is that we should be careful that our lives do not put others into danger, but should show concern for the well-being of those we come into contact with.

Firstly we can apply this to ourselves. Are we putting ourselves in danger? Are you planning your life without thought to God and spiritual matters? Choosing a job in a location with no good church would obviously put us in spiritual danger. Similarly our choice of friends could have similar effects.

Having applied it to us individually, Jonathan moved on to apply it particularly to parents and church leaders, both of whom have a responsibility to protect those in their care. I won’t go into detail as I don’t expect many parents or church leaders to read this.

Finally, Jonathan pointed out that if we are on a balcony with a railing, it would be foolish to lean over as far as possible. Most of us would probably not go particularly near a high drop even if there was a safety railing. Similarly, we should not be trying to get as close as possible to danger, but keeping as far away from it as possible. If something has the potential to lead you away from God, why not shun it completely?

It was an excellent sermon, and this blog post certainly does not do it justice. When the audio is put online I’ll post the link here. [Edit: mp3]