C.S. Lewis said that the safest road to hell is the one without signposts. You might say the same thing about the road that leads back to the law. It’s gradual and unmarked.
Can you imagine the Galatians saying, “let’s set aside grace and re-instate circumcision” or “let’s stop trusting Jesus and try earn our salvation”? Of course not, for if they had thought about what they were doing in such terms, they would’ve resisted the yoke of slavery. So would you. No one willingly goes back under law, yet it happens.
Paul said the Galatians were bewitched. Some translations say they were under a spell. Paul wrote to set them free from the spell of the law and that meant asking a few pointed questions. Did you receive the Spirit by doing the works of the law or by believing what you heard (Gal 3:2)? Are you trying to complete with human effort that which God began (Gal 3:3)? Does God manifest his presence among you because of your moral striving or because you believed what you heard (Gal 3:5)?
If the road to law is unsignposted, then one way to remain free in grace is to erect some clear signposts. This is exactly what Paul does when he flags grace-killers like human effort (Gal 3:3), the traditions of men (Col 2:8), rules and regulations (Col 2:21-23).
In my last article I listed seven signs that reveal when you are in danger of trading grace for law. Here are seven more…
1. You feel rejected, guilty, condemned, or unworthy
Condemnation is the number one symptom of a law-based life for the law is a ministry that condemns (2 Cor 3:9). Before the cross, Adam’s sin meant condemnation for all men (Rom 5:18). But now there is no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus (Rom 8:1). Before the cross, God held us responsible for our sins and not even sacrifices could clear a guilty conscience (Lev 5:17; Heb 9:9). There’s only one thing guaranteed to clear a guilty conscience and that is the blood of Jesus (Heb 10:22).
By God’s perfect standard, all of us are unworthy, all of us fall short. Not one of us deserves what God has given us and that’s why it’s called grace. He qualifies the worst of us and makes us his beloved sons. A life captivated by his grace responds with “thank you Jesus!” But a life under law ignores what Jesus has done and chooses to remain under condemnation.
2. You think working out your salvation means working for your salvation
Jesus’ work on the cross was perfectly perfect and completely complete. Because of his sacrifice you have been made perfect forever (Heb 10:14). As he is, so are you in this world (1 John 4:17). Your work is to rest in him and work out in your life the good gifts he has given you.
3. You treat the Bible as a road map or instruction manual
We are to live by the Spirit, not by the book (Gal 5:16). God wants us to have a relationship with himself, not with his love letter to the world.
Jesus gave us a pattern for Bible study on the road to Emmaus when he pointed out in the Scriptures all those things concerning himself (Luke 24:27). Don’t read the Bible to find out what to do. Read it to discover Jesus.
4. You think the remedy for lukewarmness is to get zealous for God
Contrary to what you may have heard, we are not in a Mr or Miss Enthusiasm contest. God is not watching you on Sunday morning to see if you’re singing or clapping louder than the person next to you. Jesus is not going to vomit you out if you don’t get up and dance or hand out a gazillion tracts.
Carnal zeal gets you nowhere with God (Rom 10:2). Genuine enthusiasm comes not from what you have done for God, but from appreciating what God has done on your behalf. And what has he done? He has made you, a born sinner, righteous and acceptable through the blood of Jesus.
There is no middle, lukewarm ground. You are either “the people” of God or you’re not (1 Pet 2:10). We don’t declare his praises to become a people belonging to God. We praise him because we are a people belonging to God and he is praiseworthy!
5. You are conscious of your debt to God
What debt? You were in debt but Jesus redeemed you. On the cross, the righteous demands of the law that stood against you were fully satisfied. If the debt had not been met in full, Jesus would not have risen from the dead (Rom 4:25).
Or perhaps you think this unfathomable act of grace now obligates you to God, that he bought your debt and now you owe him. A law mind-set will always get you to focus on what you have done, or what you have not done and cannot do. But a perception of indebtedness will cripple you and make you grace-resistant.
God didn’t redeem you because you deserved it or because he was looking for an army of indentured servants. He did it because he is your Father. It’s his nature to love on us.
See every good thing in your life as a gift from God (Jas 1:17). He gave you his Son (Jn 3:16), his Spirit (Acts 2:28), his life (Rom 6:23), his righteousness (Rom 5:17). Even your faith is his gift to you (Eph 2:8). Stop trying to repay him for his priceless gifts – it’s insulting. Just bow your grateful head and just say “Thank you, Jesus!” And tell others the good news so they can enjoy his gifts too.
6. You think your illness is God punishing you for your sin
It’s possible that your illness is a result of choices you have made, but God is not making you sick. A law mindset says you reap what you sow, that if you do bad (eg: sin), you get bad (eg: sick). But grace declares that God judged all your sin at the cross.
Jesus went around healing people. If God the Father is making people sick while God the Son is healing them, then they’re a house divided. Jesus provided for your healing at the cross. A person under grace won’t take sickness lying down but will proclaim the Lord’s death over their infirmities.
7. You think there is too much emphasis on the goodness of God
And let me guess – not enough emphasis on the badness of God?! “He is the Rock, his works are perfect, and all his ways are just. A faithful God who does no wrong, upright and just is he.” (Deut 32:4). There is no variation, no shadow of turning with God. He is good all the way through and he is good all the time!
It’s no more possible to overemphasize his goodness than it is to grasp the width, depth, height and length of his love (Eph 3:18). (But go ahead and try!) We need more emphasis on the goodness of God, not less. It’s only a revelation of his goodness and kindness that leads men to repent.
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