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Turning grace into law!
- Jacob Ninan
Grace is so amazing that God loved hopeless sinners like us so much that instead of letting us have what we deserved--hell and punishment--He sent Jesus down who took our punishment, washed us from our sins, clothed us with robes of righteousness and adopted us as His children. It is such a gesture of magnanimity that has no parallel. We receive grace as an unmerited, undeserved favour from God when we acknowledge our sins and trust and accept Jesus as our Saviour and Lord. This the exact opposite of the Old Testament (covenant) where blessings and curses depended on people keeping the law, or in other words on their performance.
But grace is so amazing that we sometimes find it difficult, even after we accept it as a doctrine, to accept it as a way of life. Behind our actions there seems to be an underlying assumption that there must be something we must do in order to deserve it or earn it! In other words, we turn grace itself into a legal system!
Just look at one example. The Bible says that God opposes the proud and gives grace to the humble (Jas.4:6;1Pe.5:5). This states a fact from the point of view of God's sovereignty. But what if we think that humbling ourselves is the means to receive grace? The more we humble ourselves, do we receive more grace? If so the implication is that grace can be earned, has to be earned, and the way to earn it is by humbling ourselves! What a mockery of grace! The very thing that is meant to be undeserved is being made into a reward for good behaviour!
God tells us that we should not allow any part of our body to be used as an instrument of unrighteousness or allow sin to have dominion over us because we are under grace now and not under the law (Ro.6:13,14). But what happens if we turn this word around to mean that if and when sin overpowers us it is because we are not under grace, and that (not being under grace) is because we are not humble enough? We are back under a legal system even though we proclaim that Christ has redeemed us from the law (Ga.3:13;5:4).
Why do we get back into the law? Grace is too amazing to believe, and we are too self-righteous to receive salvation as being totally free. We are looking for some way by which we can show ourselves better than the others, and here is how we can humble ourselves more than the others!
What are some of the symptoms of treating grace as a legal system? When we don't feel adequate sometimes to go to God in prayer. When we feel that we need to 'appease God first' before we can request something from Him. When we think that we need some recommendation from pastors to get God's ears. When we think God has left us or stopped loving us after we fell. Etc.
Having lived a long time 'under the law' believing that it is our performance that makes us acceptable or otherwise to God, we need to understand the depth, breadth and length of God's love for us. This will come only as we meditate on grace and get our mind renewed (Ro.12:2).