Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Bookends

In the Christian life, as described in the New Testament, one thing is remarkably absent: the notion of scorekeeping. There is no focus on performance or ability or even our inability. The focus is Christ and living for Him as ones who have been freed and adopted as sons. Yes, we, like Paul, have a real battle on our hands that is marked by inability to do the good we truly want to do. This is true. But overall the measuring of our deeds is absent. Why? Because we have died to the Law, and therefore, our living in Christian obedience has zero to do with keeping the Law to meet a standard of righteousness and has everything to do with striving toward holiness (which the Law codifies) out of love and gratitude. So it is that the Law and the Gospel serve as bookends. The Gospel, on one end, gives us our motivation for living in obedience: love and gratitude and honor for God and the Law he has written on our hearts. The Good News produces these things in us. The Perfect and Holy Law of God, on the opposite end, serves to kill that ever-encroaching flesh which likes to pride itself in doing good or view obedience in terms affecting a standing before God. The requirements of the Law remind us of the futilify of observing the Law for righteousness because the requirements are too pure, too lofty, too holy, too perfect for us to imagine capturing. Thus, that scorekeeper within us is killed once again by the Law, and we return to Christ and live by His righteousness that is ours through faith -always warring against the flesh, seeking good, and loving holiness despite our failures, knowing that we are freed from the condemnation due to them.

Failure to keep these bookends on either side, and to keep them distinct from each other, leads to disastrous consequences. I believe it leads to legalism and a religion of doubt, despair, and hardness of heart.

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