Drawing Near

A Pastoral Perspective on Biblical, Theological, & Cultural Issues | The Personal Website of James B. Law, Ph.D.

Theology Archive



February 2021



The Paradox of the Christian Life

Written by , Posted in Church Life, Devotional, Faith & Culture, Theology

Life Altar 4x3 1Deitrich Bonhoeffer was a German pastor martyred in a Nazi concentration camp in 1945. His death came by hanging in the gallows a few weeks before Germany’s unconditional surrender in World War II. Through his writing, Bonhoeffer warned against “cheap grace” which he described as “preaching forgiveness without requiring repentance….grace without discipleship, grace without the cross,…grace without Jesus Christ.”

Perhaps one of the most arresting statements Bonhoeffer made was in regard to the cost of discipleship, “When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.”  Bonhoeffer’s words echoed the strong demands given by Jesus in the gospels, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.  For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.” (Luke 9:23)

Those who heard Jesus teach understood that he was referring to a radical call of self-denial, including actual death, in the pursuit of following him as his disciple. The demands of discipleship require a daily, moment-by-moment surrender of our goals and aspirations in order to live for Christ.  A perusal of the New Testament, as well as church history, reveal that this includes potential rejection, betrayal, mistreatment, severed relationships, the rage of crowds, physical mistreatment, and even a martyr’s death. (2 Corinthians 11:23-28; Acts 7:51-60)  Jesus defined discipleship as bringing every area of our lives under the umbrella of his Lordship. Far from our best life now, to follow Jesus Christ is a call to live for him and to be willing to die for him, “So then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s.” (Romans 14:8b)

The New Testament writers were unified in their message that if we would know Christ in a saving relationship, there was no getting around the complete presentation of ourselves to God through denying ourselves, taking up our cross, and following Christ in obedience through the life we live.

In the gospel accounts, we find a number who were either disgusted by the demands Jesus gave, or they left his presence sorrowful because they loved their life more than the prospect of following him. To be clear, we will never achieve complete obedience to Christ in this life. We will continually want to crawl off of this altar of obedience for offerings that are less demanding. However, true assurance of salvation is extended to every believer whose hope is in Christ alone, and in turn who live surrendered to him as the trajectory of their life. (more…)



November 2018



His Commandments Are Not Burdensome

Written by , Posted in Church Life, Devotional, Theology

Some years ago media mogul Ted Turner suggested that we ditch the Ten Commandments and hold a contest on who could come up with a better set of guidelines. To put forward the idea of replacing God’s standard of righteousness, and the foundation of jurisprudence, with pithy progressive ideas is the epitome of what C.S. Lewis called “chronological snobbery.” Lewis was referring to the danger of saying that things are better because they are new, and deficient because they are dated.

Ted Turner is not the only one who advocates jettisoning the Ten Commandments. Pastor Andy Stanley in his recent book, Irresistible, writes,“The Ten Commandments have no authority over you. None. To be clear: Thou shalt not obey the Ten Commandments.”

Stanley sought to establish that any contamination of the old covenant commands upon the new covenant life found in the grace of Jesus Christ would be a corruption of the whole relationship. However, Stanley ignores that the Old Testament is full of examples of God’s grace and compassion for His wayward people. (Exodus 34:1-6; Psalm 103)

When Moses received the Ten Commandments on top of the mountain, Israel was below breaking covenant with the golden calf. Upon seeing this Moses shattered the stone tablets. (Exodus 32:19) However, God’s grace is on display when He commands Moses to cut two new tablets, and again He would write these wonderful words of life for His wayward people.

In Exodus 34, this is how Yahweh, the Lord God, is described and revealed, “The LORD passed before him and proclaimed, “The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin.” (Exodus 34:6-7)

Stanley’s view of the Old Testament directly contradicts the teaching of Jesus Christ who never once questioned the authority and trustworthiness of the Old Testament. The commandments that Stanley calls his readers to not obey are all affirmed and commanded in the New Testament. The exception would be the Sabbath command which is presented as fulfilled in the rest found in Christ. (Hebrews 4:1-11) (more…)



September 2015



Gospel Centrality

Written by , Posted in Church Life, Leadership, Theology

I mentioned in my last post that I would be sharing a series of articles on pastoral convictions that have been forged in the context of local church ministry. In my case, a twenty-two year journey with the same congregation.

These brief articles will be based on the book of I Timothy where the Apostle Paul wrote to Timothy on how to fulfill faithful ministry in a local body. In what seems to be his purpose statement, Paul wrote to his spiritual son,

“I am writing these things to you, hoping to come to you before long; but in case I am delayed, I write so that you will know how one ought to conduct himself in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and support of the truth.”                                                                                  ~I Timothy 3:14-15

Paul explained to Timothy that he desired to come for a personal visit, but that he was writing in case that didn’t work out. He wanted Timothy to have specific instruction and guidance on how to lead a local church, specifically, “how one ought to conduct himself in the household of God.”

In reading the New Testament, clearly the Church is not a civic club but a redeemed family with an eternal purpose. In God’s redemptive plan, the local church is the hope of the world because of the message that is to be proclaimed through the ministry of God’s word and the lives of God’s people.  (more…)