After a big-picture, vision-stretching blog posting like last week’s, the temptation for many of us is to be emotionally challenged to enthusiastically set out to “make it happen”—to become a self-conscious “kingdom-extender.”
That is exactly what Satan would love to see happen. The temptation to fall off the wagon of faith and relapse back into living by the drug to which we are all addicted, the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil (the law), is always only one decision away. The urge to try to help God do His job of making sure His kingdom is growing is almost impossible for a committed, earnest, enthusiastic Christian to overcome.
1. Law and Grace – Fraternal Twins. Martin Luther believed that the essence of Christianity is clearly distinguishing between the law of God and the grace of God (the Gospel). God preaches both of these two messages clearly in the Bible, as together they make up God’s word.
Law and grace are like two twins, not identical, but fraternal, with two contrasting personalities, doing two distinct jobs in our lives and proclaiming two opposite messages to us from God. Both twins are vitally necessary in our lives, and it is crucial that we hear and understand clearly what they are saying.
When the law twin speaks to us, it is always to tell us what we are to do—how we are to act, speak, and think as God’s kingdom comes “on the earth as it is in Heaven” (Luke 11:2). Without God’s law, we have no clue what living life here on earth is all about or how we should live it.
On the other hand, when the grace twin speaks to us, it is never to tell us what we must do, but always what God has already done in Jesus Christ at the cross for us. There is absolutely no mixing of these two messages; the twins are not identical but fraternal.
Can you see why both twins, as they are constantly going about their jobs in our lives, are absolutely necessary? Without the law, fallen man would have no idea why God created him or how He designed for him to live. Without grace, he is stuck in an endless cycle of failure as he attempts to keep an impossible standard. That standard is summarized by Jesus: “You therefore must be perfect (according to God’s law) as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:48 ESV). Any takers?
As these twins deliver their equally essential messages to us, Satan is desperately working to keep them both from us. Interestingly, his main method of doing so has not been drugs, murder, adultery and all the other obvious sins into which mankind has fallen. That approach appeals only to the rebels among us, i.e., those who, for whatever reason, have given up even trying to follow God’s ways. How does Satan deceive and defeat those who want, with all their hearts, to please God?
2. The Grace Twin’s unique message – Satan has masterfully fooled, not only the rebels, but sincere Christians as well, who make up the vast majority of those in the church today. He has blurred the distinct difference between the two twins’ messages until we have assumed they are identical. In church we enthusiastically sing “Trust and obey, for there’s no other way, to be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.” This reinforces what we are teaching from the pulpit as well; faith and obedience are the same. They are like two wings on an airplane; there is no difference between law and grace in my Christian life. We think the twins are identical.
However, they are not only not identical, but they are exact opposites! The law says “do,” grace says “done;” the law says “try,” grace says “trust;” the law says “measure up,” grace says, “you have already arrived;” the law says, “make it happen,” grace says, “let it happen;” the law says, “work hard to achieve,” grace says, “relax and receive;” the law says, “fear the unknown,” grace says, “expect God’s provision,” the law says, you should “worry with a furrowed brow;” grace says, “rejoice with a radiant countenance.”
The law has nothing to do with our relationship with God “above us.” That relationship is by grace alone. We are never the initiator, always the responder; never the actor, always the one acted upon; never the subject, always the object. This is the message of the unconditional grace of God poured out at the cross, the message of the Grace Twin.
3. The Law Twin’s unique message – However, the relationships that make up my daily life in my family, my church, my job, in the civil government, etc. all function successfully by the law. They all necessitate authority, responsibility and accountability, all characteristics of the kingdom of God, and they are possible only when the law is present and actively being kept. The kingdom advances and our civilization exists based on our performance—our ability, diligence, initiative, and perseverance—all qualities that I must work to acquire and develop.
However, what if I discover that I have little ability, and I am slothful, unambitious, and a quitter? That insight is compliments of the law twin. “I would not have known sin except through the law. For I would not have known covetousness unless the law had said, YOU SHALL NOT COVET.” The law’s message “to do” constantly forces me to face myself and my failure “to do” realistically, even though I desperately resist looking in that mirror and then invariably make excuses when I finally do. God will be faithful to dial up pressure, difficulties, and calamities (whatever it takes!) until I finally see I am a hopeless sinner who cannot “do” but can only repent—the prerequisite to living by faith.
This law twin’s message to me “to do” is an internal one, speaking to me in my heart about who I am. It is a mirror to show me I am incapable of ever truly measuring up, in my heart.
However, that message “to do”, Paul says, first acts as a fence, externally, speaking to what I do to hold me until God gives me the courage to look in the mirror honestly to see who I am (Galatians 3:23)! Because of who I am, my efforts to keep God’s laws are always imperfect and often unsuccessful, but as little children discover, the sanctions for breaking them applied faithfully by the authority in charge (parent, police, employer, etc.) actually act as a fence to hold me and protect me externally. until the law, acting as a mirror, does its job of bringing me to repentance and faith! Then I am “no longer under a guardian (the law)“ (Galatians 3:25).
So, in the adventure of “walking by faith,” “rightly dividing the word of truth” is crucial (2 Timothy 2:15). Not experiencing the distinction between the fraternal twins, Law and Grace, keeps sincere Christians from a life of living by faith. Not realizing the clear distinction between the internal use of the law as a mirror and its external use as a fence hinders our experience of the kingdom of God here on the earth.
But never fear! God has got you right where He wants you in your walk with Him, and your maturity is on His time-table, not yours. So rejoice! Daddy’s got you!.