The Great Shoot Out

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“For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believes.”  Romans 10:4

Remember all those old cowboy movies where there would be a showdown in the end?  You’d have the good guy who represented law and order, facing off against the bad guy, who was the absence of law and order.  They would shoot it out to see who would get to stay in town because “This town isn’t big enough for the two of us.”  And that’s pretty true, where there is law, you can’t have chaos, and where you have chaos, you can’t have law.  And maybe in the old western movies, if they had chosen to throw us for a real loop, they could have ended the good guy’s life and law with it, but I’m so grateful that there is a law that will never end in that way.

Paul, in Romans 10, is sharing his concern for the nation of Israel to place their trust in You, Lord, as their Lord and Savior, to see You as the promised Messiah and fulfillment of God’s prophecy.  And Paul makes this statement:  “For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believes.”  So was there this Biblical shoot out between You, Jesus, and the law in the Old Testament?  Did You put an end to the Old Testament law?  Was the world not big enough for the two of You?

As Paul would say, “Absolutely not!”  What if that word “end” didn’t even mean end like we think of?  What if it doesn’t mean “terminate”?  What if it means that something has been brought to the point that was aimed at, or that the goal that was set out was reached?  What if it signifies the termination or culmination of what was started?  What if it implies the uttermost result or purpose of the original intent?  Would that change how I feel about the law of righteousness?  Would that change how I feel about the law?

My question is, if You never change, which Scripture tells me is true of You, then how could Your law change?  Isn’t Your law just an extension of Your character so that I can come to understand You from the basis of my humanity?  I mean, You certainly didn’t institute the law for Yourself.  You didn’t need it.  I needed it to know You, to understand You, after sin perverted my whole knowledge of You.  So the law was always intended as a tool to get me back to knowing You and back to You.  But the law was created in two parts.  I think I’ll call them the first and second parts, because that’s what they are.  It’s not an old, archaic law that was replaced by a new law in Christ.  There was a first part for a divine reason, and a second part for a divine reason.

So, Paul is concerned about the salvation of the nation of Israel.  And what he says here about Israel’s zeal can be true of many people and can apply to many of us today.  “They have a zeal of God, but not according to knowledge.”  See, a lot of us have a zeal for God.  We want to be pleasing to God.  Most of us would like to spend eternity with You, Lord, in heaven.  We want to do what’s right.  We want to be good enough.  We follow doing good.  We’re even adamant about it.  So what’s the problem?  Knowledge.

Israel and many of us don’t really KNOW who we are dealing with.  We’ve put You into our little boxes for so many years, even in the church, that we can lose sight of who You really are and what You really want.  We wind up knowing about You, even when we really know a lot of Scripture.  But we’ve come out knowing a lot of facts about Scripture and facts about You without really KNOWING YOU and discerning the intents of Your heart.   It’s like we think we know You without ever really acknowledging Who You are and what You know.  Yet we think we know it.  And call it knowing You.

But Paul continues: “For, being ignorant of the righteousness of God, and seeking to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness.”  See, the problem is that we don’t really see or recognize or percieve Your righteousness though we think we do.  We are calling something righteousness, just like the nation of Israel did, but it’s our own “righteousness” that we’ve established.  It has nothing to do with submitting to You, Lord, and submitting to Your righetousness.  I mean, how many times have we heard people say, “How could a loving God do that?”  Well, what about a righteous judge who is also loving?  Would that make a difference?  Wasn’t it Thomas Jefferson that cut out parts of Scripture that he didn’t agree with?  Well, news flash here, this has been going on since before Paul wrote this truth today.

Sometimes we ignore what we don’t want to hear.  Sometimes we don’t have enough information.  But this isn’t because we don’t have the intelligence to understand.  But it’s not intelligence that can bring us there either.  I mean the scribes and Pharisees and Sadduccees and Thomas Jefferson had lots of intelligence going for them.  So what was the problem?  Maybe the whole problem lies in “submission.”

Paul said “they have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God.”  Lord, You don’t have to line up with me or my thinking.  That was Mr. Jefferson’s problem.  He wanted a God who lined up with his thoughts.  I suppose he invented a couple neat things.  But You way surpassed that in just Your creation of the universe and of man.  Why would You ever have to line up with his thinking?  What are we thinking when we think that?  Isn’t that absurd?  But submission is a hard thing for us.

The Greek word is “hupotasso.”  Who wants to subordinate themselves under someone else when we can be in charge, or at least seem in charge?  Who wants to obey someone else, when you can be the one giving the orders?  Who wants to be subject under someone else?  Subjection, that’s a scary word.  Submit, submit, submit.  Does it give you the shivers?  Is it a scary thought to not be in control?

Let me ask a question.  How did Moses give us the law of righteousness?  Hmm.  God wrote it down on two tablets of stone.  Why did You write the law on two tablets of stone first, Lord?  Was that to teach me that I couldn’t be righteous on my own?  I had to keep trusting in the sacrifices You instituted because I wasn’t sufficient and I could never attain to sufficiency on my own.  And then You completed the picture for us.  You didn’t rewrite the picture.  The goal of the law was always faith.  With the first covenant under Moses, men were to trust in the promise of Christ through the sacrifice, that He would bring the law to pass in our hearts.  Jesus, You didn’t rewrite anything, You just brought it all together.  You were the goal from the beginning.  But believing is more than acknowledgement.

So Christ is the goal of the law of righteousness to every one that believes.  And what keeps someone from believing?  A lack of submitting ourself to Your righteousness.  If I want to be Yours, if I want to know You and be known by You, I must submit to Your ways.  I must submit to more than Your ways.  I must submit to You and under You.  I must line my thinking up with Your thinking.  I’m the one who must change.  And I must live in You.

I can’t go to You.  I must let You come to me.  So, God, You did that.  You did it Your way.  You sent Christ to do what I could not.  I must be willing to accept Jesus, Your way.  I must let the God of Heaven’s Armies come down and minister to me.  I have to let Him instill Your word in me.  “The word is near you, even in your mouth, and in your heart: that is, the word of faith…”  I have to be willing to let You put Your word in me.  But sometimes we only want what we want.  That needs to change.  Lord, I want Your word in me.  I want You in me.  I want to think like You and live like You and love like You.  My way stinks.  It just doesn’t cut it.  But the more of Your way I experience, even when it comes with pain or hardship, I wouldn’t trade it for anything!

See, it’s all about Your work, Lord, and not ours.  But it is about our submission.  Paul said that understanding this would lead to knowing You.  Because as You begin to write Your word in our hearts, instead of just in books or tablets of stone, then we can know You for ourselves and experience You.  Your work in our hearts gives us the ability to confess with our mouths that You, Jesus, are Lord, my Lord, and Lord of all.  And with that working in our hearts, we come to believe in our innermost being that God raised You from the dead just as He promised and just as Scripture said.  And You lead us to salvation in You.  Because You do this work of righteousness in our heart that brings us to know and believe and live out our lives in You.  And the beautiful thing is that this has always been Your goal for each of us.

“So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.”  You have always been speaking to us.  But it’s not enough to just listen.  I must listen and decide, and I must listen and submit.  Faith only comes when we submit.  It’s not like putting on a set of headphones unless those headphones control our every action.  Lord, You are the goal.  And You must be my goal in everything.  And I’m still working on what that looks like in my life and thank You, Lord, for the people You are placing in my life to help me walk this road with You.  And I can’t imagine not having Your fire burn inside of me.  I pray that You’ll allow me to share Your fire with others.  And, I’d be more than overjoyed if You continually increased Your fire inside of me.  And one more thank You, I am so grateful that You put Your word and Your Spirit inside of every believer so that when I spend time with You in Your word, I hear You whisper in my heart, and as I walk with You, I feel Your presence, and I even know You’re there when I get to spend times intimately with You with other believers.  That’s so much better than anything carved in stone.  I’m so grateful that it was always Your intent to have Jesus write Your law in our hearts.  There is nothing like being alive in You!

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