Advent 2017: Joy to the World: Day 9

The Law of God We Cannot Keep

by

Today's Text: Exodus 20:1-17, Matthew 5:17-19, Romans 8:1-4

Scripture Reading: Exodus 20:1-17, Matthew 5:17-19, Romans 8:1-4

Are you an innie or an outie?”

Belly buttons thrive in the economy of middle school locker rooms. As if zits and parents and slow dances weren’t enough to make our lives as dramatic as we thought they were, navels had to get involved. And although we’d lived with the same inward or outward belly button postures our whole preteen lives, suddenly, it mattered. We became expert navel-gazers, which is just as strange and gross as it sounds. I was (well, still am) an “innie,” but when we discovered that my friend Tiffany was the only “outie” in our class, her reign as 7th grade queen began. Who knew that was all it took to gain power?

“Innies” and “outies” are created by the leftover scars of our umbilical cord—the one that once connected us to our mothers. The difference in their shape matters much less when we remember they all once served the same purpose—keeping us alive. We all need to be connected to something else to live. We cannot sustain ourselves.  

But all too often, we are quick to look down at our own flesh and see power instead of need, strength instead of weakness. And when we do that, it’s easy to think that all we need to become better is a nice set of rules. The law was a pretty great set of rules—the best around!—except, while it could keep us in line, it couldn’t keep us alive. Minister Matthew Henry described the law like this: “It could neither justify nor sanctify, neither free us from the guilt nor from the power of sin, having not the promises either of pardon or grace. The law made nothing perfect: It was weak.”

The law was weakened, not by the strength of our flesh but by the weight of its sin (Romans 8:3). We’re all born sinners, after all (Romans 5:12).

But one person wasn’t. One child was born into weak flesh to bear sin’s weight for the rest of us and do what the law could never do. Jesus Christ came not to abolish the law, but to fulfill it (Matthew 5:17). He did not come to leave us in death, but to give us life.

Regardless of whether we’re “innies” or “outies,” we are united to Christ by faith. When this happens, theologian John Stott said that “something so tremendous happens that the New Testament cannot find language adequate to describe it. It is a new birth, yes, but also a new creation, a resurrection, light out of darkness, and life from the dead. We were slaves, now we are sons. We were lost, now we have come home. We were condemned and under the wrath of God, now we have been justified and adopted into his family.”

The law of God we cannot keep. But the love of God is ours forever, without condemnation. May we live and breathe this truth today. Amen.

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  • Today’s reading reminded me of Ann Voskamp’s devotional in The Greatest Gift… she says “The Ten Commandments are more than God saying ‘Here is my law for you’- they are God saying, ‘Here is my LOVE for you.’ Here, I take you to be Mine, to be my treasured possession- have no other gods, no other lovers that woo you, that take your attention or affection, but Me. Here, I give you my name, my very name to make you mine- do not use it in vain. Here, I long to spend time with you, holy time for you and Me- set apart the Sabbath day as holy time for you and Me…”
    May we rejoice in God’s abundant love and may our hearts be inclined to obey Him because of His love for us. No, we cannot keep the law, but as we fall deeper in love with the Lord, our actions will be more in tune with his commands.

    • Ashley Williamson

      That is a beautiful way of reading the 10 Commandments! What a lovely way to see our actions—to be in tune with His commands when we fall in love with the Lord.

    • Jessica Skaggs

      Thank you for this reminder, Jordan!

  • God point Kristena! Satan is the accusing voice that tells us we’re not good enough. And he sneaks into our Bible study and twists conviction into condemnation. But we have God’s mercy and grace. It is our faith in Jesus that saves us. And with Him, there is no condemnation.

  • Pearl Linn

    Dear SRT,
    Why did Jesus say what he said in Matthew 5:19? I have been struggling with this since yesterday (and quite honestly forever) when I read it. I break the commands even though I try really hard not to. I am a single mom with 5 kids. One about to be married, one in college, and triplets that will be driving in less then a year, therefore I work 7 days a week to make ends meet. That’s just one thing I do wrong. I know my sin is forgiven through Christ, but I don’t want to be one of the “least of these” in heaven. How can I ever be “great” in heaven if I still can’t even go one day without breaking one of the commands?

    • Natalie

      I’m not sure that working seven days a week is “wrong.” It would be worse to not provide for your family, right?
      In Matthew 5:19, I think the emphasis is on one who sins “and teaches others to do the same.” Everyone sins. But the problem is with one who sins and thinks it’s ok to keep sinning. They even tell others it’s ok.
      We should strive for holiness, but it’s a bar that can never be reached by us humans, not on this earth anyway. Even Paul himself struggled with choosing the flesh over the spirit. In Romans seven, he talks about doing what he does not want to do, and not doing what he wants to do. We are earthly creatures, as long as our earthly bodies are alive, we will struggle with choosing the right thing.

    • Kristena

      Remember, the scripture is there to convict us but not for us to beat ourselves up with it. God wants our hearts and our worship. Prayer, songs of worship, reading scripture are all worship. Focus on that each day and your He will lift your heart

    • Morgan Lancaster

      Praying for you Pearl! There isn’t a soul on this earth that won’t go a day without sin, other than Jesus. Don’t beat yourself up. You are loved, and you are worthy, and you are enough ❤️

    • rebecca wann

      Hi Pearl! Every time I am struggling with whether something is “right” or “wrong” in the eyes of the Lord, I go back to what the Lord told Samuel when he went to Jesse’s house to anoint the new king. (1 Samuel 16) The Lord told Samuel that men look on the outside but He looks at the heart. This is the question that I ask myself in situations “what is the posture of my heart?” and “what is my motivation for doing this?” If Jesus knows my heart is in the right place that is what He cares about I think. I could (and still) can get caught up in whether or not something is right or wrong and the debate go on forever. So now I just use that perspective and try to look at everything through where my heart is in that situation. Praying you find peace and discernment in this situation.

    • Rebecca

      Hi Pearl, I have read this passage with similar concerns before. And I had a pastor help to explain it to me. It’s important to read this particular verse and passage in context. Jesus makes this statement in the middle of the Sermon on the Mount. A message where he also states it is better for people to gouge out their eyes than to sin and says “be perfect, therefore as your Heavenly Father is perfect.” Jesus is using extreme language to drive home the point that none of us are capable of following God’s law perfectly. That’s where Jesus comes in. Jesus who, by Grace, makes us holy. If you have trusted Christ as Savior you are now holy. Not by striving not to sin, but through grace. The manifestation of that is that we live lives that are honouring to God and point others to him. Matthew 5:19 is just another way for Jesus to so clearly show our need for a Savior.

    • Dancee

      The law points out why we need a Savior. If you are a believer in Jesus Christ that’s all you need. Though it is wise to follow the 10 commandments, keeping the big 10 is impossible. There is a difference in deliberalty disobeying and sinning vs seeking God’s heart and following Christ.

  • The Old Testament shows the heart of God. God does not change from Old to New. Thankfully, our Salvation status does! Praise Jesus!

  • YeshuasSoldier

    I understand the point that is trying to be made in this article, but cannot stand in agreement fully .

    1. Nothing and I mean NOTHING that came from the Father is weak! It is man that was weak and inadequate. The Law is perfect because of the Law Giver.

    2. The Law is still good for us to keep. It’s funny how we will use 9 of the 10 commandments when trying to show a sinner their faults and then turn around and proclaim that same law that just conivted them has been done away with.

    3. If you love Him keep His commandments.

    Please discover how the Old and New connects, so that you don’t wrongly divide the Word.

    • steve c

      Faith in Christ Jesus plus and minus nothing,

    • lisa

      I think they intended the wording “weak” not to mean God’s word wasn’t capable.. instead simply that the law itself can not provide salvation. Following the laws day in and day out will not make you clean and able to enter heaven. The law needed Jesus to come to make everything complete and to abolish the penalty of sin that comes from breaking the law.

    • Amanda

      I think you didn’t quite read it correctly. You’re missing two things:

      1) SRT didn’t say the Law was weak. That’s what the Bible literally says in Romans 8:3. They weren’t making it up, just quoting Scripture.

      2) One of the verses from today’s reading was Matthew 5:17, which says Jesus didn’t come to abolish the Law, but to fulfill it. That’s the entire point — that’s how the OT and NT connect.

      I think claiming that SRT is “wrongly dividing the Word” is harmful.

  • Kathy Martella

    The love of god is ours without condemnation. Thank you jesus

  • Does anyone else sing “The Perfect Ten” kids’ song in their head when recalling the Ten Commandments? Hehe.

    • AKA-ART

      If your going to keep the 10 Commandments then you need to keep all the Commandments, all 613 of them which are all of the Old Testament commands. Unless you want to live under the New Testament, then you’ll also need to put all the 10 Commandments to bed with the 603 commands because we don’t live under the Old Testament because Jesus fulfilled the law when he nailed it to the cross when he died.

      • April M.

        I understand your point and you are right in saying that Jesus completely fulfilled the Old Testament commandments, but I also see value in learning and teaching the 10 commandments because they guide us in knowing how to live a life that honors God. No, we cannot keep them perfectly and our ability to keep even some of them some of the time is not what saves us nor is it even possible that they could save us. However, as followers of Christ we are a new creation and we are to reflect Christ’s holiness through the power of the Holy Spirit within us, and the 10 commandments clearly show us what a holy life looks like.

      • YeshuasSoldier

        So we can now murder , lie, steal commit adultery, covet, worship other gods, make graven images, disobey parents, take the name of the Lord in vain. And dishonor the Sabbath?

        Certainly not!

        No you are not required to keep all 613 commandments. If there were commandments for Levites and I was from Asher, then the commandments concerning Levites don’t apply.

      • Lizzieb85

        Jesus says to love the Lord with your whole being, & to love your neighbor as yourself. The former encompasses the first 4 Commandments, the latter the last 6 Commandments.
        So by loving God & loving others, we are keeping the 10 Commandments. Only Christ’s death fulfills the law, but we are to desire to keep them- with the help of the Holy Spirit. God does not change. His perfect law does not change. His standard of Holiness does not change. The only thing that changes is our actual ability to keep the law by trusting in Christ as Lord & Savior and through the power of the Holy Spirit at work in us. We will never be able to perfectly keep the law until we are resurrected with a new body. BUT sanctification is the process by which we say no to sin more & more than we say yes. The law, the 10 Commandments show us what we are to say no to.

    • Kristin Barry

      Yes! Great way to remember them!

    • Bethany Clark

      I was raised on that song!

  • Jennifer Anapol

    We can’t be Christians on our own, we need God’s power to walk out our faith.

  • Mary Burge

    We can keep the letter of the 10 commandment laws of God by the power of Christ living in us. His Spirit leads and guides us day to day minute by minute as we attend to the will of God in Christ, in all things pertaining to our daily life. Christ came to free us from sin = the transgression of His moral law, not freeing us to sin freely.
    By faith through His sufficient grace we are given the same strength to overcome as He had of the Father when He walked as we walk in human weakness.
    He could have called twelve legions of angels to deliver Himself. but Christ made it though as our perfect example, telling us to “go and sin no more,” and “be ye perfect as your Father in heaven is perfect.”
    Jesus doesn’t lie. So if He said it can be done it can be done.
    We need to surrender self in a battle of the wills everyday. I choose His will, not my own. I look for the day when I will see Him face to face in perfect harmony, praying for His strength here so I will enjoy His kingdom to come, the New Jerusalem coming down from the Father of lights. Looking up! For my redemption draweth nigh. The dead in Christ shall rise first, then those who remain will be caught up to meet the Lord in the air. And we will forever be with Him. Still serving Him as I did here on earth. and the faithful (John 14:15; Revelation 12:14) will put on immortality, and at that time never to hurt again. Amen.

    • AKA-ART

      If your going to keep the 10 Commandments then you need to keep all the Commandments, all 613 of them which are all of the Old Testament commands. Unless you want to live under the New Testament, then you’ll also need to put all the 10 Commandments to bed with the 603 commands because we don’t live under the Old Testament because Jesus fulfilled the law when he nailed it to the cross when he died.

      • Valerie

        In Christ you don’t have to worry about following every letter that f the law because the Holy Spirit will guide you. He convicts you when you are doing something wrong.

        • Valerie

          Correction: we don’t need to worry about following every letter of the law, because the Holy Spirit leads and guides. This is the freedom we gained when Christ fulfilled the law. Yes we still have to abide by the law but the burden to always get it exactly right is no more.

  • Thank you to everyone who shared wisdom and wrote these great devotionals! I appreciate your faithfulness to the Lord. I have a question that has been bothering me lately, and I would love to gain wisdom on the verses from Day 6 in Numbers 24:17-18 where it says “He will smash the forehead of Moah and strike down all the Shethites. Edomite will become a possession; Sier will become a possession of its enemies but Israel will be triumphant.” What does this mean? It came right after the verse saying “A star will come from Jacob and a scepter will arise from Israel.” Did Jesus do this? Who are they referring to? Thanks so much for your help!

    • Donna

      Amen!

    • Lauren

      Shannon the Expositors study bible tells you what every single verse means, including history. So absolutely helpful in understanding. I buy copies used on Amazon for $30-40. Worth every penny.

    • Lauren

      Numbers 24:17-18 is talking about Jesus and the coming kingdom age when Israel will occupy most of the area of the middle east.

    • Valerie

      It is the foretelling of the Messiah, Jesus. He will be triumphant and victorious taking down every enemy against Israel. We know that Christ was victorious when he died and rose again. Although Israel did not see the physical victory they were looking for, spiritually the war is won for those who believe in Jesus.

      • Shannon

        Thank you so much for your helpful response! I appreciate you giving your time to clarify that for me. God bless you!

  • Carol Whitlock

    Sorry Romans 8:13…not John 14 th chap…lol I am human

  • Susan Thayer

    This is a good reminder … and it seems to be reoccurring theme for me today. Our flesh and all it can muster up is not good enough to save our souls. “One of the most beautiful paradoxes in God’s wisdom is Sovereign Grace. The same Grace that is unmerited is also unstoppable.” John Newton.

  • #shereadstruth!

  • James Delinois

    We are saved by grace but not by works also Jesus still wants us to keep His commandments.
    Jesus says if you love me keep my commandments.
    We need to keep the law of God. Then We need to have the Testimony of Jesus Christ to get saved and to be called the chosen one.

    • Carol Whitlock

      The scripture says in John 14 the chapter that if we love our neighbor as ourself, n love the Lord God with all soul, mind n body, we have fulfilled the law.. Paraphrase)

  • Katy Dennis

    I enjoyed continuing on and reading the rest of Romans 8. “For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on things of the flesh, but those who live according to the spirit set their minds on things of the Spirit.” Recognizing that if we continuously focus on and practice our faith, it will become our center.

  • Thank you for this beautiful reminder. How grateful I am for this TRUTH.

  • Churchmouse

    Pursuing a deepening relationship. So sweet to be loved by Jesus. So in awe of His willingness and obedience to save even me.

  • I am reminded of the verse “not by might not by power, but by My Spirit, says the Lord of hosts” (Zechariah 4:6). I would be foolish to think I can muscle my way through life staying strong in God and His law. My own power will never be enough to overcome temptation, it is by God and His Spirit that I overcome.

  • Crystal Mendez

    This reminds me of the children’s song, “Jesus Loves Me, This I Know.” When I am weak, He is strong. May we remember this when we feel our weaknesses or failures are too great for God to extend mercy, grace, and love to us. He is sufficient!

  • Lindsay Dee Billington

    Love the idea that our union with Christ can’t be pinned down in one explanation. The idea that the New Testament writers described it so many different ways, because all they could do was compare it to a bunch of different things to try to get at what it really is. The complete picture of salvation is so incredible and it takes our minds and hearts highest efforts as we seek to understand and internalize it. Thank you Jesus for such a beautiful and complete salvation!

  • I am so thankful right this moment for His unconditional never ending love for me.

  • Carol Statella

    Thankful for this truth.

  • Our BSF lesson this week is the first part of Romans 8. The “law” has been heavy on my mind all week as I did my lesson. I guess i never truly understood the law and its implications in our life so i have had many wondrous “ah ha’” moments. Then I wake up this morning to do the SRT devotional for the day and there it is again. I feel like God is saying “one more time just to make sure you understand “. The timing of God is amazing! HE is amazing!!

  • So much of today’s readings touched me in different ways. I’m praying for awareness and conviction with idolatry (I’m looking at you iPhone), with envy, with the power of my thought life, and the fact that rules are just rules but God is infinite, divine, limitless, and perfect. Jesus was sent to show us how to live, if we set our sights on him, he will show us how to live and will bring true contentment to our lives.

  • We have the love of God forever! I am so grateful for His love ♡

  • Karen From Virginia

    The wonder of the cross. May it never grow old. Thank you Jesus for being my sin bearer. Thank you also for being my perfect righteousness. I am at my best when I am so aware of the amazing work that Jesus did for us. There I rest and know the things that concern my heart Will be OK however it turns out. Thank you Jesus.

  • Thank you Lord for sending your great love to secure my salvation…something I couldn’t do in my own. Lord, I pray I would look to you for strength rather then relying on my own self, or rules to lead the way. May my heart always be tuned to you.

  • Wonderful devotion. Loved the part about the law not being able to keep us alive. I am so thankful for the birth of Christ. God has given us the perfect gift of His Son. ❤️

  • Really great devotional!! It’s easier to pursue a lesser set of rules than relationship with Christ. Yet reading this devotional, the quotes by J. Scott and Matthew Henry, is so refreshing and wonderful, reminds me of the wonder of Christ!!

  • Deborah Armstrong

    I am encouraged by changing up the Matthew Henry quote a bit. For each aspect of what the law is powerless to do I substituted what Christ has done for me. So Christ has justified and sanctified me, etc. Great way to begin the week.

  • I laughed out loud reading about “innies” and “outies” – wasn’t really sure where that was going. But, this was just the right devotion to begin my week. “What the law could not do since it was weakened by the flesh, GOD DID.” I love those two words – GOD DID! I’m thankful that we have the law in that it points us to our need for Jesus. But, I am even more thankful that, because of Jesus, when we fail to keep all of the law we have a way back to Him. The verses from yesterday tell us to “…rend your hearts and not your garments. Return to the Lord you God, for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love.” (Joel 2:13) I have this comment written beside this verse – “The call to return to God isn’t written alongside a long-list of to-do’s; an attainable checklist so I can feel sure I’m returning correctly. No, there’s only one qualification – to return with all my heart…He wants the whole messy, confused, narcissistic, achy thing.”
    Reason enough to celebrate this Advent season! Be blessed, sisters!

  • My heart is just painfully aching this morning. Prayers for comfort and peace are much needed. So thankful we have a sweet and merciful God who not only saved us but also sympathizes and comforts us.

  • Kezia Goodman

    Or being politically correct- doing all the right things and hoping to get to Heaven, that’s what this devotion reaffirms to me

  • Kezia Goodman

    Christianity isn’t solely based upon a walk of ‘splitting hairs’ erring on the side of caution

  • Like Songbird I too am awake in the wee hours. But it’s a glorious time to read my bible study. I loved today’s lesson and am reminded, so often, of the story of Martha & Mary. Trying to make everything perfect & right vs just sitting at his feet and loving him.

  • Whitney Moore

    It’s so easy to focus on obeying the rules… sometimes i lose sight of becoming like Christ bc I’m so concerned with doing the right thing. Law-focused instead of Christ-focused

    • Kristine L

      Your comment reminds me of the cheesy but still timely message of “what would Jesus do?” After all, Jesus was a law-breaker, a law-rewriter. To be Christ-focused means just that to me. To stop and think, really think, how would Jesus have handled this?

      • Suzanne Shirley

        Just to clarify Jesus may have “broken” the laws or traditions that the religious men set up but he was the only One who could and did keep God’s law perfectly, which is why only he could die in our place.

        • Kristine L

          Thank you for clarifying. Yes, I meant that Jesus broke the power of the law over us through his death in our place. He rewrote the rules of salvation for us.

      • Jamileh

        Jesus was none of those things.

  • Rachel Nordgren

    “The law can keep us in line, but it cannot keep us alive.” Oof, that hit home.

  • Love the quote by John Stott. How easily we forget what an incredible and transformational thing our salvation in Christ really is.

    • Kelly R Smith

      Same! I read it several times, hope and joy growing with each word. We have a reason to celebrate this Christmas. Not just a little—an all-out, throw your head back, let it all go, dance ‘til you drop kind of celebration. We live in the light! We are sons and daughters! We are home! Amen!!

  • Courtney Renee

    Thank you, God, for your unceasing love for us. We are nothing without You.

  • Hello ladies, wow being so far east from most women in this community often makes me one of the first. Especially when I wake up so early. So a week ago I shared that I had some (albeit exciting) uncertainties coming up making me in need of the Christmas holiday rest. Sadly I seem to have started to enter a cycle of insomnia which I really can’t use. I just don’t fall asleep easily and then I wake up much too early. Even if I could do with some extra sleep rather than a little less. Not sure how long this will keep me upright… So I could really do with some prayers. Basically just for the right hormones to let the tension go and the sleep come…. There is one upside on being in such insecure and unstable times like this (I’ve gone through it before) and that is that I feel more drawn to putting trust in God’s word, turning to him in prayer and bible reading (and anyway I wake up early enough these days to have time to read SRT ;) )

    • Melissa

      Just lifted you up in prayer. May you find your strength in the Lord today and may He give you sweet sweet sleep tonight. I’ve experienced many months without rest due to a cholic baby and I know you need the Lord to give you what you need each day.

    • Mari

      Prayed for you as well songbird. I know the feeling! I try to drink Sleepytime tea about an hour and a half before bed. Praying for sweet dreams tonight sister

      • songbird

        thank you Mari. Yup I’m a fan of it too. With lavender, valerian, camomile etc. And some valerian tablets… Thankfully there’s a lot in nature ;)

    • Christina D.

      Praying for you songbird. I know how elusive sleep can be and how it takes a toll on you in every aspect of life. Praying that this season of insomnia would just end and sleep and rest would be restored. Also praying that you would feel sustained by the Lord and your sisters in prayer.

    • Kassie Ramirez

      Psalm 127:2 says He grants sleep to those He loves! Trust in the Lord, He loves you and desires to grant you sleep. Praying for God’s peace, the one that surpasses all understanding, to cover you tonight. May you rest in Him and be overfilled with his grace and peace. Xo

    • songbird

      Thanks ladies for your overwhelming support!

      • Jamileh

        This article says we cannot keep the Law (which Paul calls good)..why not?? The Law is love!

    • songbird

      I had a blissfully deep and uninterrupted sleep last night :)

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