If you know me, you know me as a champion of the grace of God. I have dedicated my ministry to preaching and teaching the truths of God’s amazing grace. Along with that, I’ve dedicated my life to destroying legalism. I hate it, in Christian love.
You also know I haven’t blogged for a while, so this is something important to me. Thanks for reading.
Today’s post is prompted by a conversation with my wife. In her business ethics class at a Christian university, she asked her students how many of them would hire someone they knew was cheating on their spouse. Most students said they would. Then she asked how many would go into a business partnership with someone cheating on their spouse. Most opted out, but still quite a few said they would. When Margi pointed out that a man who would cheat on his most important relationship would find it easier to cheat on you, few were swayed. The class discussion moved on to plagiarism. Most were in favor of forgiving the plagiarist and letting him/her write a substitute paper. When it came to Bible majors or seminary students, most were still tolerant, though a reluctant few brought down the hammer of justice.
Bottom line: grace has been morphed into an ultra-tolerant, indiscriminate leniency. I have written on that before (Why Grace Isn’t Leniency) so I won’t cover that old ground again.
What I want to say today is simple: our culture is dissolving before our very eyes because we have removed GOD’S LAW FROM THE CHURCH. Yep, this is me, a Champion of Grace, pleading for grace-oriented Christians to restore the law of God to its rightful place in the grace-oriented church of Jesus Christ today. Yes, it’s the age of grace. Yes, Christ brings grace. Yes, we are saved by grace and live by grace.
But does that mean we throw out the Law? Does that mean the Ten Commandments no longer have a place in our lives?
No and no. Here’s why:
1. Under grace, the goal of the Christian life is conformity to Jesus Christ.
God is committed to reproducing the integrity and love of Christ in his people. This happens by God’s power; it is not something we work up for ourselves. Only Jesus can live the WJJD lifestyle and he will do it again through his people. If you have been born again, Christ lives in you. He constantly exerts an inward force to make you more and more like himself. And he doesn’t come with an off-switch. Grace is the power of God, by the agency of the Holy Spirit, reproducing the character and love of Christ inside of Christians.
You can’t read the epistles of Paul without bumping into this truth (I use Paul because few would argue against the assertion that he is the apostle of grace). For example:
- “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me. (Galatians 2:20, NKJV).
- But God forbid that I should boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. (Galatians 6:14, NKJV).
- For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. (Romans 8:29, NKJV).
2. Under grace, Jesus Christ was a Ten Commandments kind of person.
He did not come to destroy the Law and Prophets, but to fulfill them (Matt 5:17). You can’t understand the life of Christ without accepting his dedication to fulfill every “jot and tittle” of God’s law. His character reflected the character of God’s law, his knowledge reflected the wisdom of God’s law, his actions reflected obedience to God’s law, his preaching reflected the supremacy of God’s law. Nothing Jesus said or did contradicted even a syllable of God’s law. There are two important reasons for this…
3. The Laws of God reflect the heart of God.
God’s laws are God’s laws because God’s heart is God’s heart. The commandments of Scripture are not random, disconnected requirements — they are expressions of the deepest truths woven into the universe and our psyches by the God who made us. Because God’s laws reflect God’s heart, they share a quality that is absolutely essential for our happiness and joy…
4. The Laws of God describe a life of LOVE.
Don’t forget how Jesus summarized God’s laws: “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?” Jesus said to him,” ‘You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ “This is the first and great commandment. “And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ “On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 22:36-40, NKJV).
Translation: TO CAST ASIDE GOD’S LAW IS TO CAST ASIDE THE ONLY SURE GUIDE TO LOVE WE HAVE. We are fallen, depraved people. We have no clue about what true love is. Until God explains that love means honest scales at the butcher shop (Lev 19:26), not sleeping with another man’s wife or another woman’s husband (Ex 20:14), and not committing incest (Lev 18:6). Love means kindness to widows and orphans and maintaining your own integrity. Love means true worship, true speaking, true care for others. All of these things and more are in GOD’S LAW — covering every aspect of life. God’s law is a book of love, the New Testament even says so:
- Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. (Galatians 6:2, NKJV).
- Owe no one anything except to love one another, for he who loves another has fulfilled the law. For the commandments, “You shall not commit adultery,” “You shall not murder,” “You shall not steal,” “You shall not bear false witness,” “You shall not covet,” and if there is any other commandment, are all summed up in this saying, namely, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (Romans 13:8, 9, NKJV).
- So speak and so do as those who will be judged by the law of liberty. (James 2:12, NKJV).
5. Jesus lived a life of love because he obeyed God’s laws.
He was a Ten Commandments kind of person. The Ten Commandments, along with all of God’s laws, are like an FBI profile of Jesus. That’s how he lived. That’s what he was like.
If you want an emotionally healthy life, if you want great relationships, if you want good boundaries in your life, you will keep the Ten Commandments. God’s laws describe the LIFE OF YOUR DREAMS. God is not interested in constricting your life; he wants to set you in a realm of true freedom and perfect liberty. His laws describe the heart of Christ… which leads us back to #1…
6. Under grace, God is reproducing the life of Christ inside you — and he lived a life in perfect harmony with God’s laws.
If Jesus lived a Ten Commandments lifestyle, and if God is reproducing the life of Christ in us by his Spirit, then God is reproducing a Ten Commandments (Law Affirming) life in all his children today.
We desperately need to know the whole Bible, including the Old Testament, including the LAW, if we are to ever have a clue what Christ is trying to reproduce in us. We need the Law as our map, our guide, the lamp to our feet. We need to know where God is taking us so we don’t fight him. We need to know what God has said so we exercise faith in accordance with his Words. To throw away the Law is to throw away THE ENDGAME AND OBJECTIVE OF GOD’S GRACE AS IT FUNCTIONS IN OUR LIVES. Says who? Says Paul himself:
- that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. (Romans 8:4, NKJV).
He is saying that what God has been trying to create in your life since the beginning is what the Law has always taught.
What does this mean? It does NOT mean that we live UNDER the law. We don’t. “UNDER” is the wrong preposition. It does mean that the law is fulfilled IN US through Christ. As we abide in Christ, as we turn to him in dependency and faith, we will put into practice the laws of God day by day… which will produce a life of love… which will produce the life of our dreams… which is what the age of grace is all about.
It is not legalism, because it is not our power. It is not legalism because it is not external, it is Christ, by his Spirit, from the inside out. It is not legalism because it is not UNTO justification, but FROM justification, unto sanctification. It is not legalism, because it is not a demand on us, it is a demand on God. It is not legalism because it is a gift put into us through Christ himself at salvation and every day thereafter.
Jesus, Paul, James, Moses, and all the writers of Scripture were ANTI-LEGALISM but PRO-LAW. LEGALISM is humans by human effort seeking to merit the approval of God. But GRACE is God, by God’s effort, doing in and through us what we could never do for ourselves: making us like Christ.
We Christians made a big fuss about how the government has censored the Ten Commandments from our classrooms and the public arena. But haven’t we beaten them to the punch? Haven’t we so misconstrued Scripture that we’ve censored the Ten Commandments FROM THE CHURCH? We need — our young people especially — a return to the Law of God as a guide into a life of grace.
Have we as Christians become so tolerant in our attempts to be PC that we are hard to recognize as Christians? Do we live as if there are no rules, no laws, no absolutes? Have we morphed grace into bland leniency? Have we adopted antinomianism? The general rudeness in society, the lack of moral values, the embrace of any prodigal while still in the far country, the mushiness of our faith, and the miniscule difference between our lives and the lives of unbelievers, can all be traced to a departure from the whole counsel of God, including the Law of the Lord, which is perfect.
God bless Tim Tebow, Kirk Cameron, and those in the public eye willing to stand up for Jesus, for the Bible, for truth . . . For the law of the universe which happens to be the law of God recorded in Scripture.
Bring back the Ten Commandments, not as a way of salvation, but as a way of self-respecting love for God and others.
How do we reconcile grace and works? Simple: being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ; (Philippians 1:6, NKJV). God’s work — not ours alone– will create a life of love, a reproduction of the life of Christ in our lives. A life of God’s good, holy, and pure law which is, by definition, a life of love, which is by definition, the life you’ve always dreamed of.
Grace and law have kissed each other in Jesus Christ. May they kiss each other in your life too.
Let’s preach GRACE as the only means of fulfilling the law through the power of Christ in us.
Let’s preach LAW as guardian and guide of a life dedicated to God and his heart of love.