John and I moved to the United States in 1999. As I have mentioned, we did not know where to go to church and ended up at First Baptist of Atlanta, with Charles Stanley, for a year or so.
We had many interesting experiences there, both theological and cultural. (My daughters could not get over seeing girls head to the restrooms between church and Sunday School with blow driers!)
But what I remember most vividly is the struggle Susanna had in the college and careers group. What? Why?
She insisted that it was important to God that, as Christians, we live according to his law. The other young people simply could not accept this. Christ had come to set us free from the law and we now lived according to ‘love’. They saw Susanna as judgmental and heretical – a legalist.
My children grew up in a church where the Ten Commandments were read every Sunday as the rule for life. Of course. For what are they?
They describe God’s own unchanging moral character. And they can be summarized as, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength’ and ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’
Or they can be expanded into particulars – those Ten Commandments.
Like an accordion, as I used to tell my children. It can be ‘pushed together’ or ‘stretched out’. But it remains the same instrument. Likewise with God’s law.
I have a friend who thinks that inattention to God’s law is the single greatest weakness of the modern church. Maybe he is right.
Those young people at First Baptist of Atlanta had no idea there was a clear standard by which they could assess their spiritual state. Not just the nebulous one of ‘love’. And, also, a clear standard for spiritual growth.
What an odd state of affairs!
How can you live as a Christian without understanding the holiness, the righteousness, you are striving for? How did you come to see your sin in the first place if it had little definition?
And, most of all, how can you properly love a Savior who came to die for us – yes. But who had to live for us first by actively obeying those very laws in perfection – to fulfil all righteousness on our behalf.
J. Gresham Machen said to John Murray just days before his death, “I am so glad for the active obedience of Christ. There is no hope without it.”