Keep Your Head Up

Only be strong and very courageous, being careful to do according to all the law that Moses my servant commanded you. Do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may have good success wherever you go.

—Joshua 1.7 [ESV]

Dear Travelers,

I was six-years-old when I learned to ride a bicycle without training wheels. My father gave me one simple, cardinal word of instruction before my first training wheel-less ride, “Keep your head up, Mike.” Then he gave me a push and sent me pedaling down the street toward a future of adventure and discovery. It was a wobbly start, but, remembering my father’s instruction, I lifted my chin and my head came up. Almost immediately, the wobbling stopped and I rode smoothly straight down the middle of the street.

I kept my head up for about half a block. Inexplicably, at the halfway point, I looked down at the front tire. And as soon as I dropped my head I swerved to the right, hit the curb and crashed. My maiden voyage, albeit thrilling was brief. As I rubbed my bruised elbows and knees, I pleaded my father to put the training wheels back on. He refused. “You’re old enough to ride without them,” he said. He encouraged me to try again, repeating his cardinal piece of instruction, “Just keep your head up, Mike. If you keep your head up, you won’t fall.”

Several falls later, but determined not to give up, the tumblers all fell into place and the combination to my liberation from training wheels was complete. Trusting my father’s advice, I kept my head up and my balance improved. The training wheels gave me confidence to ride a “two-wheeler,” but in the end they were an intermediate step to help with the transition from riding with them to riding without them.

With Israel on the verge of entering the Promised Land, the LORD exhorted Joshua “be strong and very courageous, being careful to do according to all the law that Moses my servant commanded you.” Additionally, the LORD exhorted Joshua, ”Do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may have good success wherever you go.” For Joshua to be obedient he had to keep his head up. The Law would act as “training wheels” insuring he would not swerve to the right or to the left.

Careful observance of the Law will keep you on the straight and narrow. The LORD exhorted Joshua to be meticulous about being careful to do according to all the law that Moses, the servant of the LORD commanded him. Ultimately, however, the chief ministry of the Law consists in constantly reminding all who try to keep it that they are following God with training wheels on their heart, their mind and their soul.

Now before faith came, we were held captive under the law, imprisoned until the coming faith would be revealed. So then, the law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith.

—Galatians 3.23-24 [ESV]

Enter Jesus as author and pioneer of the New Covenant. His sinless perfection as the Son of God guaranteed His perfect obedience to the Law. His perfect obedience to the Law guaranteed the perfection of His death as the propitiation, (the atoning sacrifice) for our sin. His obedience to the Law is the basis for our justification by grace through faith (see Ephesians 2.8-10). His resurrection from the dead is the confirmation of God’s acceptance of His death on our behalf. Before Jesus came we were captive to the Law. Now that Jesus has come and fulfilled the Law, keeping it when we could not, He has given us a new law to follow—a new commandment wherein we are to love one another as He has loved us (John 13.34).

This new commandment gives us the freedom to discover the depth and the riches of God’s glory. This freedom, like learning to ride a bicycle without training is a bit risky, but the risk is worth it. In truth, there is no risk since the perfection of Jesus guarantees that our faith will be rewarded. All that we must do can be summed up in the counsel my father gave me, “Keep your head up.” And if we should we fall, His Spirit is there to pick us up and get us started once again.

You think about that.

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