Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Where are the rules? Cleaning rage, law, and gospel series continued

Did you miss the first part of my series?
Let me summarize (though I encourage you to go back and read for yourself- see links above.)

First, I found myself in a messy basement having an enormous fit of cleaning rage. Picture garbage bags, yelling, and stomping.

Second, I realized I was annoyed not only with my children and their irresponsibility, but with our abundance, and the fact that it sometimes inconveniences me. And even so, God was gracious to this mother, and again gave me grace instead of what I deserve.

Third, I passed the lesson of law and gospel on to my children. I made an enormous list of their sins and I read it to them, one by one. Then, I surprised them with a fresh picture of grace, and we watched a movie under blankets.

Part 4: Underlying theology of Law and Gospel

I had cleaned the basement "for them," in large part because I was running on rage and adrenaline. This is an obvious example of the way that even my best attempts at loving my children are mixed with sin!  I promise you, it was only by the help of God that the evening did not end with a lecture and a mommy-fit!

But as we sat under blankets of grace, and they had no consequences for their irresponsible behavior, I wondered,

Wait, did I just teach my children that they get to shirk all responsibilities, and let mommy take care of their messes forever, all because of Jesus???

Grace feels risky, doesn't it? As if it could nullify all rules and order and responsibility?

Let’s go back to the beginning.
What is it that we are called do as Christian parents?
We are to love our children with the love of Christ.

“We love because He first loved us.” (1 John 4:19)
Yes. So how then, exactly does He love us? 

That's a big question. We know His love is not like our love, His ways are not our ways.
Here’s what we know for sure:

The Law
God hates sin. Sin is wrong and evil and leads to death. He never, not once, pretends that it is something less. God’s Word condemns each and every one of us under the Law. The wages of sin is death, and all are guilty.  Our sin is so dreadful and pervasive that we could never hope to atone for it, and all of our attempts to earn our own pardon serve only to trivialize the gravity of the situation. Our works are filthy rags.

If you think the Sin List I wrote for my children was harsh, just read the Ten Commandments, and make your own itemized sin list. Bitter medicine.

The medicine is bitter, but it is necessary. The law is given to us so that we can rightly see our sickness. As Paul explains,

Therefore no one will be declared righteous in His sight by observing the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of sin. (Rom 3:20)

Why in the world do we need to become conscious of sin? So we can try harder, do better, and fix ourselves?

No. Read the verse above again. The law does not make us righteous.
The task is even more overwhelming, more impossible, than a messy basement is to a four-year-old.  You will not become righteous through the law, through the lists, through self-effort, through moralism, through sincere and whole-hearted attempts to follow the law.

The Gospel
We continue reading in Romans 3
But now, a righteousness from God, apart from the law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify.  This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. (Romans 3:21-22a)

Do you see? Sinners crushed by the law, sinners with unclean hearts and hands and an impossible task, are not therefore turned away. 

They are given Jesus.
Jesus, God with us, God taking on our sins and carrying them to the cross.
Jesus, God in us, God filling empty sinners with His righteousness.
Jesus, God for us, God dying in our place, and giving us life.

There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. (Rom 3:22b-24)

Justified freely.
The gift is free, unconditional, and complete.  He first loved us, with a love that is so strong it seems irrational, seems impossible, seems too much, too easy, too risky.

And we can stop here. We can rest here, under blankets of received righteousness.  We can set up camp, here, dwell here, abide here.  We can live and move and have our being here, in the safety of God’s love for us in Christ.

Where are the rules?
They are excluded, and have been replaced with grace.

Where is my pride?
It has been melted by love.

Where is my gold star?
It has been forgotten for something much better: mercy.

“Where, then, is boasting?
It is excluded.
On what principle? On that of observing the law?
No, but on that of faith.

For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from observing the law.” (Romans 3:27-28)


Coming next: The proper context of works

Or, if I make them clean the basement someday, will I just cancel everything I just taught them about grace?

1 comment:

  1. Excellent writing, Emily. Law and Gospel application in the real world.

    Oh to have had that wisdom 35 years ago!!



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