POSTED ON JULY 18, 2012:
The Grounding of Our Doing
The delicate link between the law and the gospel
When most crack open the Bible, it reads like a harried how-to catalog of dutiful obligations. A compliance manual for the Christian. Do this. Don't do that. Believe in this. Don't believe in that.
A familiar (and anemic) acronym using the characters of the word "Bible" states in its first two letters (B and I) that its purpose is "basic instructions."
This baseline narrative of the role of the Scriptures is emblazoned on the conscience of those in the church -- and those in society at large. And we endorse the concept that Holy Scriptures are nothing more than a laundry list of ordinances and directives through the way we live.
So what do we do with the commands of Scripture? "You shall have no other gods before me" or "be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger" are God's attempts to guide the moral imprint in all of us, are they not? But is it as simple as pulling up our collective bootstraps and as Nike incites us, just doing it?
We inherently know the answer to that question. We know to obey all of God's law is arduous. It is a standard that sits above us and stays above us. So what do we do with the impervious benchmark that Scripture calls us to strive towards?
To navigate the call to obey with the certainty that we just can't seem to do it, we need to understand the delicate relationship between the law and another Biblical concept: the gospel -- the good news of what Jesus has done to deal with our primary alienation (sin) with God through his sacrificial life and death.
Here is how it works. In James 2:10, the bar for our commandment-keeping is set: "For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it." Ouch.
That means if even if we fall once, we are under the curse -- which is physical death (Romans 6:23) -- of all the law. This is how grave sin is in the eyes of God. Our sinfulness and his holiness can't ever co-exist. They are incompatible. It's perfection or death.
The weight of the reality leaves us in a hopeless position because we know we can't and don't keep the law perfectly, right?
The criterion of the law should drive us somewhere. The law is intended to push us towards one thing -- namely, the gospel. It is in the gospel that we find the remedy to pursue obedience. But how?
In the gospel, Jesus lived the life we couldn't live -- he obeyed God's law to perfection. In the gospel, through the death of an unblemished scapegoat in Jesus, the wrath that God had towards our sin was absorbed in full (Romans 5:9).
When we hear that we could have never obeyed God's law perfectly and that we could have never atoned for our own sin but Jesus did in our place -- it should overjoy us to receive this gospel message.
All of this -- the curse of the law, Jesus taking the curse in our place -- doesn't mean that we don't obey God's commands though. Jesus did not come to eradicate the law but to up the ante on it.
Here is the linchpin: The law drives us to the gospel but once we receive the gospel, it actually frees us up then to obey the law. Did you catch that progression? The weight of the law leads us to gospel that leads us back to the law to be obeyed freely in light of the gospel.
When God saves us from our sin, he gives us the Holy Spirit to come and live within us. This means that the same power that raised Jesus from the dead now lives within us. We are now free to obey anything that Jesus commands us to do by his grace and power at work in us.
Our motivation to obey the ways of Jesus are now grounded in the gospel. It's grounded in Jesus. It's not a "just do it" posture but rather a "Jesus did it now I get to do it" attitude towards God's law.
When you make a decision to follow Jesus, you are admitting your works don't save you. Jesus' work saves you. When that's settled, in the power of the gospel, you can just do it.
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