Two dangerous responses to rules

You’ve heard it a million times, but Christian, stop and consider: we are under grace, not the law.

We have a hard time figuring out what to do with that crazy law. Our sinful flesh has two pendulum swings: (1) to trust the law to save us. (2) to blame the law for our sin.

The law is not the source of life.   Sin uses the law to deceive us by convincing us that you and I can find worth and value and life through obeying God’s commands.

Very few of us today attempt to keep the law of Moses, but we have laws of our own.  We trust in our actions, we trust in our church attendance, our moral status – thinking that these things can save us.  But they can’t.

If we respond to any form of command with any of the symptoms below it might be that we are being deceived by sin through the law.

  • Instead of feeling joy when someone holds out accountability or suggestions for your life, you feel anxiety and planning coming on…
  • You panic when you fail and feel pride when you succeed
  • You tend to compare yourself to others either leading to judgement or self-hate

However, there’s another way sin deceives us through the law: rebelling against God’s commands.

The law is not the source of death.  As soon as we learn that we live under grace, we tend to rebel against any suggestion of law.  People suggest accountability and we freak out.  ‘We’re under grace!’ we shout.  God forbid anyone actually call us to holiness: ‘we’re creatures of grace not law!’

When we hear the great news that we live under grace, it shouldn’t make us enemies of the law.  The law is good and holy, and it accomplishes two things:

(1) Shows that sin is sin. There are things we do that we wouldn’t have known were sin if not for God’s commands.

If your kid is hitting his brother, that’s not good.  It doesn’t make it worse if you tell him it’s not good, but it does make him aware that it’s not okay.  Now he knows that what he’s doing is wrong.

Sin was in the world before the law, but it couldn’t be pointed at and clearly named.  Because of the law you and I can know what is sin in our lives.  We can see it.  We can identify it and label it.

(2) Sin becomes sinful beyond measure. Here’s how sinful we are: it’s not just that the law opened our eyes to the sins that we were already committing   When the law came, our sin actually increased.

Imagine that your kid is sitting there doing nothing, and you walk by and say ‘by the way, buddy, don’t hit your brother.’  He hadn’t even thought of that, but now that you’ve said it, he looks up and you, turns to his brother, and slugs him.

Our flesh HATES being told what to do.  We want to be autonomous.  We want to be our own gods.

John Piper describes the law as a sharp scalpel, an instrument designed to perform an intricate and life-giving surgery. But when our sin sees the scalpel it sees a murder weapon.  We’re so evil that when we hear commandments from God – designed for our good – and we use them to harm ourselves and others.

When my roommate encourages me to fight for my purity and my reaction is resistance, the way she spoke to me is not the problem.  I’m the problem.

When my coworkers hold me accountable to be in the Word, and my instinct is to label it ‘legalistic’, they are not the problem: I am.  We can be walking around reading our Bible’s and loving it, but the minute someone tells us we should read our Bible, we flip out, throw down the book and refuse.  How dark we are to buck instruction designed to help us know God!

These two pendulum swings are warning lights – flashing at us to let us know something is deeply wrong in our hearts.  The reveal to us places that we are living under the law.

Under grace, we have a third option.  We don’t look to accountability or rules to save us, but nor do we reject them as the problem.

Instead, we find ourselves fully justified, our worth already secured by the blood of Jesus.  We find the great reward of that miracle inside of us: the Spirit of God.

We walk by His guidance.  He leads us into the commands of God without panic, insecurity or anxiety.  We have nothing to prove, no new worth to gain, nothing to lose.  We walk by His commands because His Spirit leads that way.

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