‘Imitators of God’: A Theocentric Approach to the Christian Preaching of Old Testament Law

Bible“His law is not graceless, and his grace is not lawless.”

Below is a link to my latest academic article, published in the Fall 2014 volume of the Evangelical Journal. The title is, “‘Imitators of God’: A Theocentric Approach to the Christian Preaching of Old Testament Law.”

Thesis Paragraph

For many pastors, the Old Testament laws are tedious, confusing, strict, arcane, defunct, or utterly irrelevant to the Christian life (except, perhaps, for the Ten Commandments and a few other so-called “moral” laws). Yet the Apostle Paul asserts in 2 Timothy 3:16 that every part of Scripture—including, presumably, each of the 613 laws—is of great value to the New Testament Christian. But declaring the law’s value is much easier than demonstrating it. Moreover, that it should be demonstrated “is by no means assured” among evangelicals. In this paper, we will explore why the law is seldom preached, and how we might go about doing so if we are persuaded that it should be. We will conclude with an example of the proposed methodology in action (Exod. 22:16-17).


Christians today will find much value in reflecting deeply on the ancient laws that God gave to Israel. By focusing on what those laws reveal about God and his ways, Christians will have access to a vast repository of theological insights that can enrich their devotion to God and provide an ethical context for the outworking of their salvation (cf. Phil. 2:12). Since Christ perfectly kept—and is the fulfillment of—the law (cf. Rom. 10:4), knowing the law more fully will give Christians some vital insights as to why the Father was so well pleased with his Son (cf. Matt. 3:17; 17:5). It will also give them a moral framework for what it means to “walk as Jesus did” (1 John 2:6) and be “imitators of God” (Eph. 5:1). Ultimately, when I come to the law of God, I encounter the God of the law. My desire in this sacred meeting is to discover his character and then allow that character to shape my own by the power of the Holy Spirit. His law is not graceless, and his grace is not lawless.

Full Article

‘Imitators of God’: A Theocentric Approach to the Christian Preaching of Old Testament Law

The Foolishness of Preaching

WilliamWillimon“Imagine being asked to stand before a grand gathering of the good and the wise and being asked to make a speech about goodness, beauty, the meaning of life, the point of history, the nature of Almighty God, or some such high subject and having no material at your disposal but an account of a humiliating bloody execution at a garbage dump outside a rebellious city in the Middle East.”

So wrote William H. Willimon in his his book Proclamation and Theology (p. 66). The Apostle Paul put it like this in 1 Corinthians 1:21b: “God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe.”

To this I have given my life—that others might live. The question is not, “Have I been foolish?” The question is, “Have I been foolish enough?”



Willimon, William H. Proclamation and Theology. Horizons in Theology. Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, 2005.

Paperback, 112 pages
ISBN-10: 0687493439
ISBN-13: 978-0687493432

Red Lights on the Dashboard of Life


red.light.dashboardI’ve been renovating our bathroom lately. Actually, for two and a half months. It’s looking pretty good, but I’m not very good at this kind of work. It doesn’t come easily or naturally to me. Sometimes my construction efforts are a comedy of errors (think, Lucille Ball), and sometimes they’re a tragedy of agitation (think, cauldrons of bubbling beef stew).

Last night was more on the volcanic side of the emotional spectrum. My tools weren’t working right, the house is grossly out of plumb, and—as I said—I’m not very good at this kind of work. The lava was so hot I frustrated myself nearly to the point of tears. That was embarrassing. And disappointing. It was also a red light on the dashboard of life. “What’s wrong with me?” I wondered.

Pride. Impatience. Irritability. Plain old sin and “remaining corruption.”  Continue reading

Why Does God Want Our Praise?

man in praiseIt is clear from Scripture that God is worthy to be praised, but why does he want to be praised? Indeed, why does he demand to be praised (cf. Deut 6:13)? The first commandment allows no room for any other gods besides Yahweh (cf. Exod 20:3). Such a claim seems narrow and exclusive in an age of pluralism and tolerance. Here’s a God who says that alternatives and substitutes are off limits to his people.

That raises the question of whether God is ego-heavy after all. Is he not humble? Is he needy in some way? Is he insecure? Why must he always get top billing? People who act like that are considered narcissistic. C. S. Lewis pondered the question, and he was troubled for some time by its possible implications. Is God, he wondered, like “a vain old woman seeking compliments?” After soaking his head in the book of Psalms, Lewis came to an insightful conclusion. In Reflections on the Psalms he writes:

“I think we delight to praise what we enjoy because the praise not merely expresses but completes the enjoyment; it is its appointed consummation. It is not out of compliment that lovers keep on telling one another how beautiful they are; the delight is incomplete till it is expressed. It is frustrating to have discovered a nReflectionsPsalmsew author and not to be able to tell anyone how good he is; to come suddenly, at the turn of the road, upon some mountain valley of unexpected grandeur and then to have to keep silent because the people with you care for it no more than for a tin can in the ditch; to hear a good joke and find no one to share it with. . . . The Scotch catechism says that man’s chief end is ‘to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.’ But we shall then know that these are the same thing. Fully to enjoy is to glorify. In commanding us to glorify Him, God is inviting us to enjoy Him.”

Continue reading

A Candidate for Father of the Year?


Is this the best Dad, ever? We often speak of the need to “create memories for our children” as one aspect of our parenting. I doubt these kids will ever forget this particular playdate with their father. Come to think of it, the wife will probably remember this event for a long time, too. (Sorry for the OMGs at the end.)

HT: Kevin DeYoung.

Turning the Tables, Part 4: Breaking Bread at Bethsaida (Luke 9:7-20)

Turning the Tables_t

 Kingdom hospitality is letting Jesus be gracious through you.


One day Jesus was walking along the road, and he came upon a man who was weeping. Jesus said, “What’s wrong, my child—why are you crying?” The man said, “I am blind; I cannot see.” So Jesus healed him, and he went away rejoicing.

Jesus then came upon a second man who was weeping, and he said, “What’s wrong, my child—why are you crying?” The man said, “I am lame; I cannot walk.” So Jesus healed him, and he went away rejoicing.

Jesus then came upon a third man who was weeping and he said, “What’s wrong, my child—why are you crying?” The man said, “I am a ministry volunteer at my church.” So Jesus sat down next to him and wept with him!

If you’ve ever given a significant amount of your time and energy to serve the Lord and help his church accomplish its mission, then maybe you can identify. And maybe your theme song goes something like this:  Continue reading

When Bronchitis Is a Blessing

webmd.bronchitisThere’s been a lot of sickness in Northern Berks County these past several months, and I’ve had my share of it. Thankfully, I’m feeling a whole lot better these days, and it feels good to be productive again. I’d say I’m about 90 percent or so, which is a huge improvement.

Right before Christmas I had the same stomach bug that so many people around here seemed to get, but I healed up from that just in time for Christmas Eve, for which I was grateful. It was a long but wonderful evening, and I was able to enjoy our seasonal worship over the course of three services.

Then, on Christmas day, Sonya and I drove to North Carolina after serving at the Evans Retirement Home. That’s when I got a horrible case of bronchitis—away from the comforts of home. That condition led to a round of intense ear pressure, upper respiratory distress, and a near perforation of my right eardrum. I’ve had several perforations over the years, and they’re never fun.

After recovering from bronchitis, I thought it was time to go see the ENT doctor since the pressure in my ear had been so excruciating. This past Monday was the appointment. The doctor took one look in my ear and said, “Oh, Jesus!” I said, “Yeah, I really need him!”  Continue reading