Wyatt Earp: What makes a man like Ringo, Doc? What makes him do the things he does?
Doc Holliday: A man like Ringo has a great empty hole through the middle of him. He can never kill enough, or steal enough, or inflict enough pain to ever fill it.
Wyatt Earp: What does he need?
Doc Holliday: Revenge.
Wyatt Earp: For what?
Doc Holliday: Being born.
And so the script of the western "Tombstone" (Directed by George P. Cosmatos, A.D. 1993) provides some solid, basic Anthropology: the Study of Man…"human-ology", so to speak. What is said about the character Ringo by the Doc (both, like Wyatt Earp and his brothers, were men who really lived) was preached of old by the holy prophets of God, with an authority cinema cannot assert:
But the wicked are like the troubled sea, when it cannot rest, whose waters cast up mire and dirt. "There is no peace," says my God, "for the wicked." (Isaiah 57:20-21)
The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it? (Jeremiah 17:9)
And to some who were woefully mistaken about the source of human corruption and misery, the Lord Jesus Christ Himself said:
"Do you not yet understand that whatever enters the mouth goes into the stomach and is eliminated? But those things which proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and they defile a man.
For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies. These are the things which defile a man, but to eat with unwashed hands does not defile a man." (Matthew 15:17-20)
Saint Paul further comments under the inspiration of the same Holy Spirit by Whom the prophets and his Master spoke:
"…the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be." (Romans 8:7)
How does the man (or woman) in this natural state, namely dominated by and fully controlled by rebellious enmity against his or her Creator, relate to His holy and pure law? Having been questioned about that law, Christ condensed it into two universal, perpetual, all-pervasive precepts:
Then one of them, a lawyer, asked Him a question, testing Him, and saying, "Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?"
Jesus said to him, " 'You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.' This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.'
On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets." (Matthew 22:35-40)
Standing out in bold characters and bas-relief form to this relationship which the natural born rebel has with the Sovereign of the universe and His law is the new relationship which obtains for those who have been reconciled to Him:
"For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law but under grace. What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? Certainly not! (Romans 6:14,15)
The sense of that little word UNDER is the burden of this meditation.
Some discussions about law and grace smack not of Biblical thinking but of Chinese philosophy's Yin and Yang. Law and grace are pitted as two equal forces eternally opposing each other. That is not accurate. Law and grace and are NOT like the light and dark sides of "the Force" we learned about from the character Yoda in George Lucas' Star Wars.
The aforementioned rebel is indeed UNDER the pure and holy law of God as a weight lifter doing a snatch press is under the bar bell. If he makes the lift, he trembles, he strains, he sweats, his veins bulge out and finally he drops the weight lest it crush him. (The analogy breaks down in that the rebel sinner cannot even hoist the weighty law in the first place.)
Being UNDER grace, however, is not like that.
"…for the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made the redeemed one free from the law of sin and death. For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin: He condemned sin in the flesh, that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in those who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.
For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace." (paraphrasing from Romans chapter 8)
So in that glorious place of liberty UNDER grace, the law is not summarily set aside or abolished; certainly not!, as the apostle had written in the same letter to the Romans, cited above. For those who dwell in that realm of triumphant grace (the real "Graceland" for which Elvis Presley's mansion in Memphis perhaps is named) the law of God is a delight and guide, for they are partakers of that Spirit of life in Christ Jesus. And:
…the Holy Spirit also witnesses to us; for after He had said before, "This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, says the LORD: I will put My laws into their hearts, and in their minds I will write them," then He adds, "Their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more." (Hebrews 10:15-17; Cf. Jeremiah 31:33)
Moreover, the written law is not only the perfect codification of man's duty toward God and his fellow man, but it is also God's TESTIMONY about Himself, just as the TESTIMONY of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy, Revelation 19:10.
In other words, the same law document that proclaims the commandments of Almighty God to man is also the divine testimonial; it expresses God's holy character for all mankind who are made in His image. A redeemed man is a man being re-created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness (cf. Ephesians 4:23, Colossians 3:10). God has predestined him to be conformed to the image of His Son, in order that He, the unique eternal Son of God incarnate, might be the firstborn among many brethren, (cf. Romans 8:29).
"And as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly Man." (1 Corinthians 15:49)
The man of dust, in his fallen condition, is indeed under a ponderous weight that he cannot bear. Those who have the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus are not so constrained, but are UNDER grace where the law of God is known in an entirely different perspective, and embraced. Those who have that Spirit are longing for the fulness of their redemption…being perfectly conformed to Jesus: the One Who was perfectly obedient to the law. The believer is no longer UNDER the law as an intolerable burden, but neither has he cast it aside as worthless. He joys to walk by it. And he both mourns his own abiding inability to meet the mark, and is vexed like Lot as he sees the world around him despising the law. Being thus poor in spirit, he is paradoxically blessed. (cf. Matthew 5:3, Psalm 119:36, 2 Peter 2:7,8)
So while he is no longer UNDER the law, being crushed by its holiness because of the abject weakness of the sin nature, the same law becomes a delight to the redeemed partaker of God's Spirit! So it was for the redeemed Psalmist, in whom was the mind of Christ. When overshadowed by that eternal and all-wise Spirit of inspiration, he penned the deep and rich 119th of those inspired writings:
Oh, how I love Your law! It is my meditation all the day. (vs. 97)
I hate the double-minded, but I love Your law. (vs. 113)
I hate and abhor lying, but I love Your law. (vs. 163)
Great peace have those who love Your law, and nothing causes them to stumble. (vs. 165)
The redeemed man recognizes God's law as the King's highway of love:
"Owe no one anything except to love one another, for he who loves another has fulfilled the law…Love does no harm to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law." (Romans 13:8,10)
For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this: "You shall love your neighbor as yourself." (Galatians 5:14)
This is love, that we walk according to His commandments. This is the commandment, that as you have heard from the beginning, you should walk in it. (2 John 1:6)
With another apostle, he counts it to be regally majestic:
"If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself," you do well. (James 2:8)
Doc Holliday was a dentist, one of a breed of men given to having us open our mouths. And God Himself, able to heal and preserve and save to the uttermost not only our teeth and gums but our whole being says:
"I am the LORD your God, Who brought you out of the land of Egypt; open your mouth wide, and I will fill it." (Psalm 81:10)
April 15, A.D. 2011
Pastor Keith Graham
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