Thursday, July 26, 2007

Law vs Grace

My wife told me I was wasting my time and money going back to this 'doctor'.

"Why are you so stubborn?" she said curtly. "He cannot help or alleviate your sickness. Go see someone else who can."

"But I want to know what's wrong with me," I replied indignantly.

"You already know what's wrong with you. He gave you a report, didn't he?"

"Yeap!" I showed her the report. "And...?" she asked.

"And what?"

"Where is the prescription to help you?"

But this is precisely what is happening to us as Christians. We try to keep the Law and return to it even though we know the Law cannot help us (see my previous article).

It points us to our weaknesses and our shortcomings that we may never be as perfect and holy as God is. The truth: we are not even close. It's like jumping on this earth, hoping one day we'll jump high enough to reach the moon.

What's worse is that the Law does absolutely nothing to lift a finger to help you! Nor does it tell us how to reach God. Nor does it have the power to save us.

Rather it condemns us all. It tells us we are going to die, sheep waiting to be slaughtered! The more we read the Law, the more we are aware of our sins and the more we draw God's wrath to ourselves.

The Law brings death. It makes us Christians weak. So why do many Chrisitans keep going back to the 'doctor' who cannot heal them? Why do we want to preach and uphold the Law? Surely there is something else?

Remember the parable of the new wine in new wineskin? See Luke 5:36-39.

36He told them this parable: "No one tears a patch from a new garment and sews it on an old one. If he does, he will have torn the new garment, and the patch from the new will not match the old. 37And no one pours new wine into old wineskins. If he does, the new wine will burst the skins, the wine will run out and the wineskins will be ruined. 38No, new wine must be poured into new wineskins. 39And no one after drinking old wine wants the new, for he says, 'The old is better.' "

Most interpretations agree that this parable refered to Jesus' new teaching which will not fit within the Jewish religion, or within the religious structures of the time. Many Christians have also interpreted it as the start of a new religion separate from Judaism, and from that of John the Baptist.

Let me suggest this interpretation:
The old wine in old wineskin represents the Law and the Law-bidders. The new wine in new wineskin represents Grace and Grace-followers.

Jesus said nobody is foolish enough to mix both (old patch in new garment and old wine in new wineskin will ruin both).

Isn't it true you cannot mix Law and Grace? Think about it.

The Law
The Law demands everyone to follow it to the 'T'. You cannot miss a step nor can you break one without breaking all. And how God blesses you is based on your efforts in fulfilling the Law - "Thou shalt...".

You shall. You shall not. You.

It focuses on YOU - your efforts and your faithfulness to observe all of it to be right with God. It is called self-righteousness - reaching God with your own efforts. And that's what Jesus calls the Pharisees.

Failure to comply means curses, poor harvests (results, outcomes), distance from God, etc and many times early death.

The only way out is someone must die and blood must be shed in order for the sins committed to be covered. That's why the animal sacrifices in the Old Testaments. Someone must pay for the sins committed and usually it is the innocent lamb or dove.

In grace, however, Jesus said He fulfilled the Law. He was the spotless, sinless Lamb who paid the sacrifice for our sins. When he was on the cross, he cried out, "It is finished!"

Jesus has done it all! When he was flogged and whipped, every lash on His back was the stroke of the Law demanding blood. When he hung on the cross, he was a cursed man and He carried all our sins according to the Law. That's why He cried asking God why He had turned his back on him. Jesus was so disfigured and marred by all the world's sins that God had to look away.

And God's anger burned upon Jesus. That's why Jesus, for once in his life, felt the separation from God. He had always called God his Father but for once, he cried Eloi, Eloi (my God, my God) instead!

And Jesus was the Lamb that was slain. There was a divine exchange (more of it later). He took all our ugliness, impurities and in exchange, gave us his beauty and perfection.

So that we might have forgiveness when he was judged; we might have long life when his was short. So that we might have wholeness in mind and body, wheareas he was anguished and stricken, carrying all our diseases and sicknesses (Isaiah 53:4). Jesus died alone and apart from God so that most importantly, we now have acceptance before a holy God as required by the Law.

Did we ever deserve such love and kindness from God who is not only holy yet loving, righteous yet merciful?

Absolutely no! But we got it freely. That's amazing grace! That's unfailing love! Because God so loved us that He gave... His only begotten Son that whomsoever believed in Him shall have eternal life. Well, this is another topic by itself.

Justice and mercy kissed for the first time. The demands of the Law were exacted, God's justice was met and His anger was exhausted. The perfect Lamb was sacrificed. The sinners are freed.

The curtain before the Holy of Holies was torn apart so that Man for the first time may enter freely into God's presence through His Son. Grace gives life wheareas the Law condemns.

Life Through the Spirit (Romans 8)
"1Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, 2because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death. 3For what the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the sinful nature, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in sinful man, 4in order that the righteous requirements of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the sinful nature but according to the Spirit. "

What powerful verses and statement that draws us to Christ!

Back to the old wine in old wineskin and new wine in new wineskin. We cannot mix Law and Grace.

Either we try to reach God through our efforts in observing the Law and pay the consequences when we fail to meet to the requirements, or we wholly and freely rest in the finished work of Christ - that He has done everything required of the Law.

Which life do we want to live in? A life of worry when you may 'fall out' of God's favour based on your observing the Law, or a life where you know your standing in God is always secure because of the finished work on the cross?

Your efforts vs Christ's finished work.

As Jesus says, no one is foolish to mix the two. No one can follow the Law and yet say he is in grace. You cannot do both at the same time.

I say to you, choose the new wine. That is the power of grace. That is the gospel.

Hope this has bring a new light in where you want to go in your walk with God. Coming up next (hopefully) is 'Christ's death - what does it give me?'

God bless.

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