There is a tendency for those of us who’ve been burned-or flat out abused-by a church experience to almost violently reject any kind of encouragement to do something or change anything and then label it legalism or a kind of pharisaical religiosity. I get it, I truly do. But when the light of the Gospel of Grace opens your eyes and the shackles of trying to prove yourself worthy of that falls off, the bible still contains words that encourage us. Some of the “do’s” are still there. They are still there, but they’re now divorced from any worry of meeting the high standard set by them, or trying to hold up your “obedience” as a trophy to prove your worth to God, or as the key that grants you entrance to His kingdom. In other words, sometimes, even as we relish our freedom under the banner of God’s Grace, we are encouraged to do things.
Now, when we are commanded to do things, we’re immediately at war. We’re at war because we know in the light of God’s truth set forth regarding the law and Jesus’ words about what it means to break the law, even if only in our thoughts, we don’t keep the law. We can’t keep the law. At least not the way anyone should. The Old Testament saints knew the truth of this because they had sacrificial laws to cleanse them of sins and promised forgiveness in light of repentance. So we have this war within us that is no different than any other human, whether they care to admit it or not. The battle between, how can I do what’s commanded if I can’t do it as required and simply going out and doing it.
In the faith and hope we have in Christ Jesus, there is grace…
Right there all along is grace, allowing you to fail and make mistakes and yes, sin. It’s grace that calls us back to God, bends a knee to God, and receives forgiveness from God, with no fear of being cast out, with no fear of being erased from God’s book, and no fear of being called an unbeliever. Grace is not telling you to sin all you want. That would be you making grace mean what you want it to. It’s grace that is reminding you that God has forgiven you your sin and is strengthening you in your weakness going forward. Grace is saying, before you “follow”-before you “do” anything- I’ve seen past your imperfect ability.
Well, maybe that’s not quite right.
It’s not that God sees past it, but it’s that he cast it on his Son, Jesus. Every sin, every moral failing, no matter how small. It was Christ’s burden to bare on your behalf. Combined with that is Christ’s perfect law-keeping, which is now cast upon your shoulders and its yoke is easy. So, God is not seeing past your inability to keep the law, but looking to his Son, who is your advocate before God and who says, “I have both paid the cost and kept the law for this one who belongs to you.”
Now to those things we are encouraged to do? Go and do them!
If someone tells you, as a brother or sister in Christ, you should cook or buy a meal for a needy family, does that command make it any less a good thing to do? Of course not. What I am asking you to do, is to hear those words divorced from your prior experience. Read them with eyes unfiltered by old legalistic teaching. I know it’s hard, and I know it takes time. I’m still learning this as well. But “should” is a word, it’s not a bad word or a good word, it’s a word. If you’re going out, you should brush your teeth in the morning. That right there can be an act of grace for all those you come in contact with throughout your day.
Please hear this EXAMPLE:
If you hear, from a person you know to be a solid, Gospel-preaching, grace-saturated, Christ-Centered pastor, say, “if you’re a Christian, you should find a local church to belong to.” What is your immediate thought? Read those words slowly and carefully. Is the person saying it a part of a “cult-like” organization, where everything is about mindless unflinching obedience? Or is it coming from someone who makes a point to regularly focus in on the truth of the Gospel and it’s one-way love implication? It may be true that they don’t know your background of abuse, hurt or pain but shouldn’t that be an opportunity, under the banner of grace, to give them the benefit of the doubt in light of all that person has preached prior and taught up till that moment? If the most grace-saturated preacher encouraged you to “do” anything, do you judge him a legalist based on that one statement or do you understand it under the constant banner of grace he has proclaimed, that frees you to do it?
These encouragements, first and foremost coming from loving, nail-scarred hands are not meant to be burdensome to your rest in Christ. They are opportunities. Opportunities to care for others. Opportunities to recognize our inability and come to God and rest in his forgiveness as we fall short. Opportunities for God to use our imperfect obedience for his purposes. These are encouragements to go and do something separated from fear and disconnected from gauging the worthiness of our lives before God. Those “commands” under grace, give us the ability to look at the law of God and say, “This can help my spouse, children, friends, co-workers and neighbors.”
We have an obligation, from God in scripture, a command, to test everything. I ask you, I implore you, when you come across a teacher, preacher or theologian, gauge what is said in light of the grace given you by God. Gauge it in light of all that was taught by that person previously. Gauge it by what scriptures says. In some instances, You may come to see those things to do as gifts to give to all around you, instead of burdens to bear. Gifts to help you love others, instead burdens that frustrate you to follow. Grace encourages us to love for the sake of loving someone, as we remember how God has loved us.
Who could argue with that?