Perhaps you’ve felt like the rich young ruler.
He came to Jesus asking what he should do to gain eternal life. Pointing him to the commandments, Jesus led him, yet, “all these I have kept from my youth” (Luke 18:21) he declares.
Then, Jesus extends an invitation: sell everything, and follow me.
The man he just addressed as “good teacher,” presents him with a bold summons. A step of humility, obedience and trust, revealing it wasn’t so much about the rules, as it was about the desires of the heart. Yet, he went away “very sad, for he was extremely rich” (Luke 18:23).
The ten commandments are familiar to those who have grown up in the church. So familiar that we mentally check off the list, with a false sense of righteousness for what we seem to have accomplished through following the moral law. Building for ourselves, with some ease, a faith of outward actions.
But how much deeper are the things of the heart.
Jen Wilkin’s new book, “Ten Words to Live By: Delighting in and Doing What God Commands” invites us to explore the ten commandments, not merely as rules for our adherence, but as truths to believe, enjoy and follow. She teaches us the historical context of the commandments, as the people of Israel understood them, and encourages us toward a deeper, expansive obedience, leading us to wrestle with the issues of our own hearts.
She writes, “while legalism builds self-righteousness, lawfulness builds righteousness.” The journey to righteousness is not found in ourselves, but in Christ alone, through the salvation he purchased for us through his life, death and resurrection. We have what he has freely given us.
Yet, while we have been saved by grace, through faith, we keep on stretching our obedience in faith, by repenting of our sin, and pursuing Christlikeness. This is where the law helps us, because, “obedience to the law is the means of sanctification for the believer.”
Why does it matter?
Enticed by the trend of self-sufficiency, we seek measures and checklists to define our qualifications as followers of Christ. Longing to be affirmed and validated by our works we observe the commandments and give ourselves a ‘gold star’ for meeting the criteria.
But is Christianity about rules, or is it about relationship?
Jen answers this by saying, “the Christian faith is absolutely about relationship. But while that faith is personal, it is also communal. We are saved into special relationship with God, and thereby into special relationship with other believers.”
The Ten Words instruct us to live as a people who honor God and others, in our thoughts, words and actions. This is how we learn to become more like Jesus, by clinging to the Word, thus guarding our heart, “for from it flow the springs of life” (Prov 4:23), and, “out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks” (Luke 6:45).
What do I think?
“The Ten Words show us how to live holy lives as citizens of heaven while we yet dwell on earth. For the believer, the law becomes a means of grace.”
I appreciate Jen’s books; her teaching challenges me to dig deeper in the Word, and to reflect on my own journey to Christlikeness. If you’re looking for teaching on the law, and how it applies to your life today, I highly recommend this one! 5 stars from me!
**A big thanks to Crossway and Netgalley for a copy of this book, and the opportunity to post an honest review!