January 31, 2008 was the release date for J. I. Packer’s latest short book, Keeping the Ten Commandments, published by Crossway. I was notified by Amazon.com a few days before its release and immediately placed the order. Now that it’s in my hands, and I’ve begun reading it, I would like to recommend the book to you as a great introduction to the Reformed theology of the relevance of the Ten Commandments in the Christian life. At the same time, it will serve as a great antidote to the man-centered, motivational self-help pop-psychology that passes itself off nowadays as teaching on practical Christian living, or the victorious Christian life. In other words, set aside your “What Would Jesus Do” moralism, Osteen’s “Your Best Life Now,” and anything else that fits in that category and go straight to the source, the Ten Commandments, and learn how to properly apply it to your life as a Christian.
Some may wonder what place the Law has if Christ has fulfilled the Law, and the New Testament says simply to “love one another.” This book will explain it to you. The New Testament didn’t eliminate the Christian’s need to be regulated by God’s moral Law. True Christ-centered living involves a certain kind of reference to the Ten Commandments. I call it the “Law-Gospel Cycle”: The Law points to the Gospel that sinners may be justified by grace through faith; the Gospel points saints to the Law that they may be sanctified by grace through faith which works by love. But enough of my misadventures in exposition, I want you to see some excerpts from Packer himself.
Rightly, Reformation theology did not separate God’s law from God himself, but thought of it personally and dynamically, as a word that God is continually publishing to the world through Scripture and conscience, and through which he works constantly in human lives. Spelling out this approach, Reformed theologians said that God’s law has three uses or functions: first to maintain order in society; second, to convince us of sin and drive us to Christ for life; third, to spur us on in obedience, by means of its standards and its sanctions, all of which express God’s own nature (p. 110).
For the Commandments are God’s edict to persons he has loved and saved, to whom he speaks in “I-you” terms at each point. “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out . . . You shall . . . ” The ten directives, which embody the Creator’s intention for human life as such, are here presented as means of maintaining a redeemed relationship already given by grace. And for Christians today, as for the Jews at Sinai, law-keeping (that is, meeting the claims of our God, commandments 1-4, and our neighbor, commandments 5-10) is not an attempt to win God’s admiration and put him in our debt, but the form and substance of grateful, personal response to his love (pages 30-31).
Place your order soon. It’s a great eight-to-ten dollar investment in Reforming your best life now for God’s glory.