I have been enjoying the many layers of beauty in the iris. I fold back petals only to find more. It’s not just the layers of petals that entice me to investigate, but also the incredible detailed handiwork on the petals. Yellow fuzzy lines sit on the middle of each inner petal like sleeping wooly bear caterpillars. Unexpected brown veins surprise me as they run through the the pastel smooth flesh. The inner smaller petals defined by smooth straight lines beautifully contrast the outer soft floppy petals defined by perfectly ragged edges. Just one amazing piece of God’s creation!
My investigation of the beautiful vibrant living iris then turned to the dead iris. Such a vast difference. Each spring I marvel at how quickly the change happens. Overnight they go from holding supple outward petals to shriveled nasty oozing mass turned inward.
This is one aspect of the iris I do NOT want to be like!
I look at His word. I see this: that He is a compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger abounding in love and faithfulness. Maintaining love for thousands and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin. But He does not leave the guilty unpunished. Just but also love.
These words, though strong and beautiful, only give me a glimpse of His great righteousness. His perfect holiness. Such a vast difference between myself and Him.
Yet I’m called to be more and more like Him.
The same week I investigate the iris, I’m also pondering the book of James.
James 1 states that anger does not produce the righteousness of God.
Anger is the opposite.
Anger produces fire, chaos, heartache and brokenness.
I don’t need to look far to see anger and what it produces. It’s all around me in this world and it, yes, comes out of me.
So I am to receive, in meekness, the implanted word. (James 1:21)
That word that saves our souls.
Those who consider themselves religious and yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongues deceive themselves, and their religion is worthless.” (James 1:26)
“But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do.” (James 1:25)
There has been a movement…an expectation…maybe a demand by some for pastors and church-goers to ONLY talk about God’s love.
They say that talk of sin and God’s law is legalistic.
But isn’t the other side to that licensure? License to sin because God is love. “What then? Are we to sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means!” (Romans 6:15)
A professor of mine had a good illustration for these two concepts. A long narrow road with swampland on both sides of it. One side of the road was legalism and the other, licensure.
Licensure forgets that God is also just which makes Him perfect.
Even in church, talk of the law can make some cringe.
“Do we then overthrow the law by this faith? By no means! On the contrary, we uphold the law.” (Romans 3:31)
Because the beauty of Jesus is that He followed the law perfectly and was, therefore, our perfect sacrifice.
The heart of obeying God’s commands is that we do it out of love for Christ and His obedience.
The beauty of our faith is that, in Christ, we are now able to live like He lived. Growing in that every day.
Without the law, how do we know what Jesus died for?
How do we know what He LIVED for?
The law is really liberty.
In Christ, we are FREE to love the Lord and others…to obey the law. We are no longer under the dominion of sin. Ruled by it.
We are ruled by the Lord.
Though we sin, we are always free in Him to stop and yield to the Holy Spirit.
We are not imprisoned, chained or in need to be freed. If we are in Christ we are free INDEED!
He gives us wisdom on this journey when we ask and believe.
“If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God,who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.” (James 1:5)
He gives us mercy. It triumphs over judgement. This is our staple food on the journey.
“Mercy triumphs over judgement.” (James 2:13)
In James, I am confronted with sin. I hear a call to look in the mirror and see and say…”But…I do get angry. I don’t bridle the tongue. I don’t treat everyone equally…if I’m really honest. And I even look in the mirror and walk away unchanged.”
Legalism is saying that, in order for God to love me, I need to change and follow perfectly the law which stands against these sins instead of relying on Christ’s perfect righteousness and atonement for them.
Christian obedience to the law is, BECAUSE God loves me, I desire to change and follow the law which stands against these sins as I rely on Christ’s perfect righteousness and atonement for them.
So I can look honestly into the Word and into my sin and not be afraid of legalism because I trust in Christ’s perfect life and there is mercy.
Even though I can go from beautiful to ugly overnight…or in seconds…mercy triumphs over judgement.
And there is wisdom for this life. Wisdom to honestly look into the Word and the Law, see my sin and seek to be changed by boldly approaching the throne of grace.
“…gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.” (Titus 2:14)
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