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Thursday, September 23, 2004

Oh Grace!

In reflecting over my post on one of the lies that I used to believe in, that OT law is opposed to NT grace, it occured to me that I did not make myself clear why it was so important to understand the centrality of the grace of God throughout Scriptures, from the first pages of the Bible, when God clothed Adam and Eve with the animal skins to cover their shame, through to the final pages of Revelation when the Lamb of God is gather the redeemed together in the new heaven and new earth. It came back home to me when I read the JollyBlogger's struggle with his understanding of the gospel.

He tells how, as a younger Christian, he was under the impression that while it was by faith through grace that he was saved, it was through the works of obedience that he was to maintain his standing in Christ. Then, later in life, a pastor lovingly and gently took him aside and helped him to grasp the truth of the gospel:
"He explained to me that salvation was all of grace but so was sanctification. In thinking that the gospel justifies, but obedience sanctifies I had gone down an inevitable road of legalism that was destined to ruin my relationships, sap my joy in following Christ and hear me out."
I believe the problem the dichotomous idea of law vs. grace gives rise to an inaccurate understanding of law and grace. When Paul says that we are no longer under law, too often we equate this idea that "law" belongs to the Old Testament. We get this idea that in the Old Testament, God desired that his people should keep the Law in order to attain a proper relationship with Him. However, since people failed time and gain to do this, Christ came to fulfill the law. However, now that Christ has come and has given us this free gift of salvation, and imparted in us the free gift of the Holy Spirit, we should now be empowered by the Holy Spirit to keep His law and obey His word. Right? If we failed, then there must have it is because there is something wrong with our faith, or lack thereof.

We mistakenly hold onto the view as the JollyBlogger says, even though the gospel is free, sanctification is not. So, we come to Christ and salvation by faith through grace, but we must attain our relationship with God, and our "goal" and "rewards" through faithful works of obedience. So we fill up our lives with lists of do's and don't's and false measurements of spirituality, such as keeping our devotions, church attendance, not smoking, not drinking, and so on... After all, didn't Paul say that we have to work out our salvation? And James say that without works our faith is dead? But, when Paul contrasted the Law as opposed to Grace, he was not contrasting the way of the New Testament against the way of the Old. He was contrasting the way of Christ against the religion of the Judaizers and the Pharisees

That's why it is so important to understand that grace permeated throughout scripture and it is always through grace that God relates to us. Grace is about relationship, intimacy with God, getting to know Him, and walking with Him, the way He did with Adam ian the garden. Law on the other hand is about meeting external standards, unrealistic measurements, and it's about me and whether or not I measure up.

When we come to fully appreciate this Grace that is given to us through Christ, we see how blessed we are each day of our lives, that we have the privilege to know God, and to relate to Him and to let Him be involved in our lives. We see that throughout Scriptures, God's greatest desire is to know us, and for us in turn, to know Him. Intimately.