Am I Free To Sin? [Part 1]
This is the first in a series of posts discussing the relationship between the law of God and the gospel. Hopefully this will bring some clarity to how we understand grace and obedience. If you have questions, ask them in the comments section below!
"Why am I just now getting this???"
One of the most common things I hear in our church is something to the effect of "I have been in church my whole life and am just now understanding the gospel." It is sad, it is crazy, it is scary even, to think that a person could grow up in the church, learn about Christianity, and at the same time never hear the message of grace, the good news that God does not deal with us according to our sins (Psalm 103:10), that Jesus justifies the ungodly (Romans 4:5), that God purchases and redeems a people for his own possession (Titus 2:14, 1 Peter 2:9), not because we deserve it, but because he wants to make known the riches of his grace for vessels prepared for glory (Romans 9:23). It is the truth that God loves and forgives me, Aaron the sinner, and His love does not increase the more I obey Him. It is immeasurably deep and wide and high and far and there is no place I can run to escape it (Psalm 139:7).
This is the best news in the entire world, how can the church not preach this week in and week out!?
During our staff meeting on Monday, we read this article by Jen Wilkin called "Failure is not a virtue."
After reading it, a few of us, me included, pretty much agreed with the point the author was trying to make. The section that Pastor Matt and I began to converse over was this:
"These lists [the law of God, the ten commandments, etc] crush the unbeliever but give life to the believer. They make straight the paths of those who love them, and though this way is narrow, it leads to life. The Law becomes a gracious means of conforming us to the image of the Savior."
Does the law have any power to change your heart?
What do you think? Would you agree or disagree with the statement above? Does the law of God have the power to make you change?
Tullian Tchividjian wrote an article in response that I think helps answer this question. Here is a quote, but the whole article is worth reading:
"Things get very confusing when you don’t properly distinguish God’s law from God’s gospel. Theodore Beza (John Calvin’s successor) rightly said that, “Ignorance of this distinction between Law and Gospel is the principal source of abuse which corrupted and still corrupts Christianity.” Both God’s law and God’s gospel are good but both have unique job descriptions. As I mention here, Paul makes it clear in Romans 7 that the law endorses the need for change but is powerless to enact change—that’s not part of its job description. It points to righteousness but can’t produce it. It shows us what godliness is, but it cannot make us godly. The law can inform us of our sin but it cannot transform the sinner. It can show us what love for God and others looks like, but only love can produce love for God and others (1 John 4:19). Nowhere does the Bible say that the law carries the power to change us. The law can instruct, but only grace can inspire."
So there you have it. The Law is good but it has no power to change us. Only the love of God can change us. Ask yourself, what are you struggling with right now? Do you need someone to tell you to stop doing that? Probably not. You already know you need to stop sinning. What you really need is good news. What you really need is the grace of God in Jesus Christ. What you really need to know is that God loves you. You need to look at the cross and behold your crucified savior. You need to hear Jesus say "Father, forgive them" and to know that "them" is YOU! You need to see your old self nailed to that cross with Christ, and you need to see Jesus raised from the dead for your justification. You need to know that there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ and if you are in Him, there is no sin that can separate you from His love (Romans 8). You need to hear the radical message of grace!
"Grace messes up your hair."
Grace is counterintuitive. Grace messes up your hair. Grace is that fire hydrant of life that springs forth and floods the whole neighborhood. Grace makes the pious uneasy and nervous. Grace makes ME nervous! Grace is that uncontrollable whirlwind that plucks up entire households and makes Dorothy say "we aren't in Kansas anymore." When the church brings the gospel of grace to a city, people begin to say things like "These men who have turned the world upside down have come here also! (Acts 17:6). Grace is not tidy and confined. Grace makes Type-A people fidget in their seats. Grace is a debit card attached to the King's treasury, you are his child after all. We should not sin that grace may abound, but when we sin, GRACE STILL ABOUNDS. Grace is amazing, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me!