The Law as a Mirror

evie fussingI am the proud dad of two little girls, Eden (5) and Evie (3). When Kaye and I were first married, if you would have asked me if I wanted sons or daughters, I would have responded sons. I imagined rough wrestling matches, basketball games, and guy talks. Instead, I play Barbies, enjoy tender pillow fights, and paint pottery. But I would not trade my girls for any sons in the world. I love them terribly and must constantly check my heart to be sure I am not turning them into my idols.

Because we are sinful at birth, sinful from the time our mothers conceived us, I have two little girls who sometimes fuss. And many times they don’t realize that they are failing to be sweet and kind. So I have learned to use my phone to take pictures of them to show them that they are indeed fussing. For example, at Christmas we volunteered at an assisted living center near our house to decorate cookies for the kind folks who live there. When we arrived, Eden was not being sweet at all. I was worried the trip would be disastrous, so I pulled her aside and said, “Baby, I want you to be happy and sweet to these people.” She thought she was. So I took a pretty bad picture of her, showed her, and asked, “Do you think this looks sweet and happy?” I needed her to see the reality of her attitude so she could change, so she could be sweet and love on the people at the center. A few weeks ago, Evie was fussing and whining while simultaneously insisting, “I am not fussing.” So we took this pic to help her see what fussing looks like.

Now before you write me off as a cruel dad, this is essentially what God did for us in giving us the law. The law, the commands God gave us in the Old Testament, was not given to us so that we could obey all the rules and earn everlasting life. The commands were not given to us as a road map for everlasting life, as if we could find our own way. They were not given for us as a rulebook, as if we could effectively keep all the rules. The apostle Paul wrote in Galatians 2:21, “I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness comes through the law, then Christ died for nothing.” We are utterly incapable of obeying the law perfectly, at all times. If we could, then the death of Jesus was for nothing.

The law is more mirror than roadmap. The law was given to show us God’s holiness and our sinfulness. The law was given to be a mirror—a way for us to see our need for Christ. As we look at His law, we see our need for Jesus. As we understand our inability to stand before Him, we long for Jesus and His perfect life and sacrifice. We need Him. The early church leader Augustine said, “The law orders, that we, after attempting to do what is ordered, and so feeling our weakness under the law, may learn to implore the help of grace.”

As we look at the commands of God, we must not be the self-righteous who insist we are not fussing, who insist we are able to stand before Him in our own goodness. We must not set aside the grace of God. We must instead throw ourselves fully on the grace of God.