Why meditate on the commands of Scriptures? Doesn’t this lead to a legalistic mindset? The author has been amazed at the reluctance of many believers to take seriously the need to know and understand the commands in Scriptures that God expects us to practice.
The primary way that we can “do all to the glory of God” (1 Cor 10:31) is to know thoroughly what He tells us to think and to do, which essentially means the commands that He gives us.
Jesus said, “If you love me, obey my commands” (John 14:15). He expected us to know what He taught us and to practice it in our lives, yet few Christians can even state the Ten Commandments, much less the hundreds of commands in the New Testament. It seems in Jesus’ way of thinking, that He is no more important to us than His commands are important to us.
Many modern Christians refuse to submit to rules or regulations (like covenants in church constitutions or standards of conduct in Christian universities or Christian ministries or businesses) under the argument that they are legalistic, therefore to be avoided. This attitude leads some to an antinomian (no-law) lifestyle where they believe that all is or will be forgiven anyway, so it does not matter what we do. When grace is used as a license to sin, wrong beliefs will lead a person to self-destruct.
Legalism has two major errors. The first error is when the unsaved believe that by being perfectly obedient one can become holy enough to be acceptable to God. Every religion in the world teaches this false notion. Sinful man can never become holy, regardless of the discipline attempted. Man is selfish, self-centered and proud to think that he can be righteous enough for a holy God. We are warned that our “righteousness is as filthy rags” (Isa 64:6) and that we are saved “not by works of righteousness which we have done” (Tit 3:5), but by His “grace we are saved through faith. Not of works lest any one should boast” (Eph 2:8-9), that is, to think proudly of himself. Legalism is self-deceiving. The truth is that no one is good enough to be acceptable to a holy God. Man’s only hope is a forgiving and righteousness-granting God who can make us acceptable to Himself.
The second error of legalism occurs when believers think that they can become “more acceptable” or spiritual by avoiding certain sinful practices (however defined) and by doing spiritual acts, especially before others. In the first place, our standing before God as believers is clothed in the perfect righteousness of Christ, which can never be improved upon. Nothing we do can make us more acceptable to God or loved more by God. He accepts us and loves us as He does His own Son (we are “accepted in the Beloved” – Eph 1:6). This is a subtle error that perverts the Christian life into a competition to see who is the most “spiritual.” Some symptoms of this error are the pride of being more “godly” than another believer, or a critical spirit of other believers who may not practice the same rituals or behaviors. Pride and self-righteousness is always a symptom of false beliefs and spiritual legalism.
On the other hand, a correct view of the commands have nothing to do with what we can acquire or attain before God, but rather does become a statement to our God that we value His opinion and His Word. Jesus said, “He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me. And he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and manifest Myself to him.”(John 14:21). The first verb is to “have” (echo), which means to “have in hand in the sense of wearing, to have possession of the mind… to hold ones self to a thing, or be closely joined to a thing.” The second verb is “keep” (tereo) which means to “attend to carefully.” This shall be the scope of this study and meditation: to understand the clear meaning of the commands and be encouraged to make practical applications to our lives.
No one is born with the right way to live; rather it is quite the contrary. We are told that our natural tendency from childhood is foolishness: “A youngster’s heart is filled with foolishness, but physical discipline will drive it far away,” Prov 22:15 NLT. This foolishness is evident in the child’s attitude toward instruction or correction: “A fool despises his father’s instruction, but he who receives correction is prudent”(Prov 15:5 ). When a fool gets older his attitude does not change, it just becomes more sophisticated. When a fool becomes a Christian a major transition is necessary.
The believer’s transition begins with a change in attitude about himself and his sinfulness before a holy God, which means that he must exchange his love for sin for his love for Jesus and his false notion of being good enough to being totally unworthy in himself of acceptance before God then to a utter heart-trust in Christ’s payment for his sins to make him acceptable to God. This trust in the promise of His Word, when genuine, extends to a trust in all that He says.
The measure of foolishness that remains in a believer is evident by how he responds to correction. “A fool despises his father’s instruction”(Pro 15:5), which is an attitude that can be extended to how he responds to God’s instruction or commands as well.
Once a person becomes a believer he is told, “Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect”(Rom 12:2 NLT). The key to a successful Christian life is to think biblically and learn God’s will through His commands. Paul wrote, “we take every thought captive to make it obey Christ”(2Co 10:4 NET) as He has commanded us.
Foolishness is overcome by consciously deciding to trust in, and to commit to practice, the will of God as expressed in His Word. The quest of the believer’s transformation is to “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus”(Phi 2:5) which follows a series of His commands (see Phil 2:2-4 practical instructions, which describe His mindset).
If we love Him and believe that He is the most fulfilled, realized, and complete Person in the universe, then we will want to be as like Him as much as possible. He is God, and our Savior as well. Whatever He tells us to think, believe, value or commit to, we will obey gladly. We’ll take whatever correction or exhortation we read or experience as God’s instrument to transform us from foolish people to be more like Him in attitude and actions.
Throughout this meditation we will learn the meaning of each command, then be challenged to incorporate each instruction into our daily lives. This is the process of meditation: wrestling with the meaning and application to our personal lives. Nothing can more profitable than to be transformed into His likeness. Follow them daily at www.obeythecommands.com.