For Javert (as with all of us), the logic of law makes sense. We love the "if/then" proposition: "If" you do this, "then" I will do that. We love "what-goes-around-comes-around" conditionality. It makes us feel safe. The logic of grace, on the other hand, is incomprehensible to our law-locked hearts.
Pertinent to any discussion regarding justification and sanctification is the question of effort. Any talk of sanctification which gives the impression that our efforts secure more of God's love, itself needs to be mortified.
There is, in the end, only two ways to read the Bible: is it basically about me or basically about Jesus? In other words, is it basically about what I must do, or basically about what he has done?
When it comes to engaging and influencing culture too many Christians think too highly of political activism. After decades of political activism on the part of Evangelical Christians we're beginning to understand that the dynamics and complexities of cultural change differ radically from political mobilization.
The world tells us in a thousand different ways that the bigger we become, the freer we will be. The richer, the more beautiful, and the more powerful we grow, the more security, liberty, and happiness we will experience. And yet, the gospel tells us just the opposite, that the smaller we become, the freer we will be.
Contrary to popular belief, Christianity is not about good people getting better. If anything, it is about bad people coping with their failure to be good. That is to say, Christianity concerns the gospel, which is nothing more or less than the good news that "Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners."
There's no doubt, the Why questions of suffering are utterly perplexing. And as we search the Scriptures and consider stories such as Job's, we are tempted to see those as worst-case scenarios designed to help us get our heads straight in relation to our comparatively small "first world" problems.
It is ironic that one of the most beautiful and encouraging verses in the Bible is also one of the most dangerous. You probably know which one I'm talking about. "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose"
Our church was recently hit with a high-ranking moral tragedy. It was discovered that a staff member (and close friend) was engaging in marital infidelity. How do you handle something like this? What do you tell people?
Have you ever felt like you couldn't share the details of a difficult situation without someone immediately offering a solution or a spiritual platitude? Have you ever responded that way yourself? The required cheerfulness that characterizes many of our churches produces a suffocating environment of pat, religious answers to the painful, complex questions that riddle the lives of hurting people.
There are two ways we can miss the mark of righteousness before God, two ways the relationship can be destroyed. One is more or less obvious: outright sinfulness. The other is much less obvious and more subtle, one that morally earnest people have much more trouble with.
To conclude that suffering people have somehow heaped up trouble for themselves on the Cosmic Registry and that God is doling out the misery in direct proportion would be more than mistaken; it would be cruel.
It is not exactly breaking news to say that our culture has an aversion to suffering, regardless of how inescapable it may be. This is because we—you and me—have an aversion to suffering. Who wants to suffer? But the conscious avoidance of pain is one thing; the complete intolerance, or outright denial of it, is another.
A religious approach to marriage is the idea that if we work hard enough at something, we can earn the acceptance, approval, and life we think we deserve because of our obedient performance.
Jesus shows unambiguously that the greatest obstacle to getting the gospel is not "cheap grace" but "cheap law" – the idea that God accepts anything less than the perfect righteousness of Jesus.
There's an equally dangerous form of self-righteousness that plagues the unconventional, the liberal, and the non-religious types. We become self-righteous against those who are self-righteous
The Law is shorthand for an accusing standard of performance. Whenever the Law is coming, accusation comes close behind. Whenever an expectation stands before us, we are either condemned by our failure before it, or we become condemners in our fulfillment of it. The Law is unfeeling – it tolerates no excuses, it accepts no shortcuts.
There are two ways we can miss the mark of righteousness before God, two ways the relationship can be destroyed. One is more or less obvious: outright sinfulness, unrighteousness, lawlessness, self-indulgence, what the Bible would call "worldliness" or, perhaps in more modern dress, carelessness or heedlessness. In other words, we can just say to God, "No thanks, I don't want it, I'll take my own chances."
A confusion of law and gospel is the main contributor to moralism in the church simply because the law gets softened into "helpful tips for practical living", instead of God's unwavering demand for absolute perfection.
All of God's Word in the Bible comes to us in two forms of speech: God's word of demand (law) and God's word of deliverance (gospel).
Every ounce of confusion regarding justification, sanctification, the human condition, God's grace, how God relates to us, the nature of the Christian life, and so on, is due to our failure to properly distinguish between the law and the gospel.
We love living as though "what goes around comes around" conditionality were true. That kind of conditionality makes us feel safe. It's easy to comprehend. It's appropriately formulaic. And best of all, it keeps us in control.
I increasingly hear people talking about the need to be "Biblically balanced" and I think I'm starting to understand what they mean.
We Christians have a remarkable tendency to focus almost exclusively on the fruit of the problem. The gospel, on the other hand, always addresses the root of the problem.
Believe it or not, this is an important question. It's not simply a theological question. ur answer will inevitably reveal our understanding of the gospel and reflect our understanding of sin and grace.