Law vs. Grace

Hello Everyone,
I’m sitting here very excited. The last 7 weeks have been a very challenging study of the “law” portion of Exodus. I’m very grateful to God for His guiding in this time because as I said when we started this – I was not looking forward to teaching the law. He has been very faithful. With this said – let me invite you to not let your study end there. There is always something to learn from God’s Word and I invite you to go deeper with this. There are great online resources and commentaries out there that can help you grow deeper in your study of any passage of Scripture. I truly hope you have been blessed and challenged in this study. To be honest, I’m still being challenged from the sermon on murder and adultery. The study for that sermon – preaching it and my own reflections have continued to speak to me and it has honestly been unsettling to me at times. (I referred to this earlier in one of my 2nd looks.) I hope that God has touched your life through our study as He has touched mine.
    Okay – so what is our second look this week?  Well – on Sunday we spoke about a lot of things – basically we spoke of lessons we can learn from the law.  As Christians, the Old Testament law has a different significance for us than it did the ancient Israelites.  There are many wonderful things we can learn from the law but it wasn’t necessarily written to us.  The law doesn’t save us – it’s not designed to.  Following the law doesn’t make God happy with us so that someday we’ll go to heaven.  If anything, the law can show us how guilty we truly are.  The law for us as Christians – is a beautiful portrait of a perfect and holy God – calling His people – who He redeemed – to follow Him. This is a powerful lesson to learn from the law: to see the holiness of God in its words and to see that Redemption leads to a calling. Let me repeat that – Redemption leads to a calling.  This has been something I’ve been thinking about for quite some time.  Like many of you; I’ve grown up in the church – grown up around Christianity.  For much of that time – I thought God was angry and displeased with me because I wasn’t following the “rules.” Then when I entered my late teens and early adulthood, I began to bristle against. this.  I was tired of feeling like a screw up – tired of feeling guilty.  I began to lean away from the law; to lean away from feeling obligated in my faith – to God. I didnt want to read books by anybody who made me feel bad about myself or my faith. In my early twenties I discovered “grace.” I became this big “grace” guy – God has given us grace and even if I screw up and don’t follow Him He will still love me…. So…. this means it doesn’t really matter what I do.
      But then addiction entered my life and there was this huge battle between grace that gives me permission to do whatever I want – and the law written in me that said I need to be perfect to please God. I couldn’t balance this. Is God mad at me for all the ways I stink and fail Him – or is He happy with me even though I hurt myself; Him and others?  Which is it???
      Now here I am in the last year of my thirties and beginning to see that my picture of grace can be destructive.  Dietrich Bonhoeffer, one of my heroes writes in his book- “The Cost Of Discipleship”; that there are two kinds of grace: Cheap and Costly.  He says Cheap grace is actually at war against the church and it is an incredibly destructive force.  Cheap grace basically is the kind of grace that says:  “It doesn’t matter what I do – God will always love me anyway – so I don’t need to follow Him or submit to Him.” Costly grace; the right kind according to Bonhoeffer; basically says:  “We didn’t deserve Christ but in His grace God gave Him to us and as a result we are no longer our own but we belong to Him.  We don’t live any way we want because we have received God’s costly grace and are His now.  Our redemption leads to a calling“.
     This is something we need to think about and ponder as Christians. The Apostle Paul writes about this when he says: “You are God’s workmanship created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” The law reminds Israel and us that they were redeemed for a purpose.  Paul reminds us we have been redeemed for good works – to be God’s masterpiece. Think about it – when we don’t do these good works that God has set aside for us – we aren’t living the ” God’s workmanship” life that we were meant for. I can’t help but wonder the untold amount of good deeds left undone – all that has been lost.  Have you heard of the principle of compounding interest?  It basically says – if you invest a little bit of money in a savings account – or some kind of investment account; and you do this over a long time – the interest will grow and compound and you can become quite wealthy as a result. But if you don’t do this – it will be that much more difficult to raise money in the short time. You can likely lose thousands or millions of dollars in compounding interest! I can’t help but wonder how many good deeds have gone undone and have been lost – in my life; many of them small deeds that over time compound our impact for the kingdom – like compounding interest; and when we fail to do these small deeds – the impact is lost.  We are redeemed by Jesus for a purpose! The law teaches us that. What is your purpose? And what are the things that hinder you from pursuing that?
        Maybe this week is a great time to bring this question before God – Lord, what are the good works You prepared for me to do in advance? Is there anything hindering me in that process? Take this before God and let Him lead you in this; but be ready because this question usually results in action.  He’s got plans for you my friend.  Have a great week!
 
Pastor Ryan