Tuesday, February 14, 2012

His Grace Is Enough


When I was growing up my grandmother on my father's side lived with us six months out of the year. I liked this arrangement, mostly. What I didn't like was her legalistic judgmentalism. She had her way of doing things, and would express her disappointment with me if I wasn't measuring up. For example, in her mind there was a way I should look, physically. It was not good for me to have facial hair, like a beard or moustache.

I was 22 years old, had just found Jesus, but had grown a moustache. I had flunked out of college, been doing drugs every day of the week, had screwed up a lot of relationships, but was met by God, gave my life to Him, was reading the Bible, working as a youth leader in my Lutheran church, and was back in school and doing well. Nevertheless, grandma was not thrilled with me.

One day she came to me, took my hand (she was only 4'10"), and said "Johnny, I want to show you something." She led me to my high school senior picture which was hanging on the wall. In that photo I was clean-shaven. She looked at the picture and said, "Johnny, you looked so nice in that picture."

I loved my grandmother. I did not love her rules of acceptance. She believed in Jesus. She read her Bible every day. Somehow she had missed the core Jesus-idea of grace.

The apostle Paul writes, in his letter to the Galatians, that following the rules of the Law cannot justify a person. We are only justified (made acceptable to God) by placing our faith in Christ. If rules could make people righteous, then we'd have been there a long time ago. Giving rules and laws cannot change a person's heart. They only imprison a person. (Paul says the Law functioned as a "guardian" that immature Israel needed until the time was right and Messiah came.)

Having a moustache has nothing to do with acceptability to God. You could grow a large Amish beard (men only, please) but this would have neither positive or negative affect on your justification before God. Your many failures do not cause God to love you less; your relative successes do not cause Him to cherish you more. The love of God is not a function of any conditions you must satisfy. If even only one "rule" was needed to gain God's acceptance than, Paul writes, what Jesus did on the cross was not sufficient. This means that "rules-righteousness" is heresy. This is what Paul is desperately combatting in Galatians.

The result of Christ’s "it-is-finished" work is that anyone who trusts in Him and surrenders to Him is declared fit before God. We are given a new status (no longer held accountable for sinfulness) and, through his act of accepting us, God grants us the Spirit so that we have a transformed character; that is, the person who is justified (Gk. dikaioo) also inevitably lives a consistent life of righteousness (Gk. dikaiosyne)."

Rules bring condemnation and judgment. But now that Messiah has come we are set free from condemnation. "Christians" who don't get this and remain in "rules-righteousness" are the reason a lot of young people today want nothing to do with "church."

The Good News is not: "Come to church - we've got a bunch of clothing, appearance, and behavioral rules to lay on you." The Real Good News is, and has always been: "Welcome - His grace is enough." Thank God for setting us free from the law of sin and death! 

If you're still looking for some law to follow, try the law of love. This is the greatest commandment. All the other commandments hang on this one. Do this:

  • Trust Jesus
  • Embrace Jesus
  • Abide in Him
  • Be filled with His Spirit
  • Live by the Spirit
  • "Fruit" will come forth, from your heart
  • The first fruit will be "love"
  • When God's love is in you you won't need a rulebook to tell you that love does not steal or lust or envy or commit adultery or hate