Run, John, Run; the Law commands, But gives us neither feet nor hands. Far better news the Gospel brings, It bids us fly and gives us wings.
– John Bunyan
There are twotendencies into which people fall when approaching salvation and the Gospel. The first is legalism or trying to earn one’s own salvation. Many major world religions teach the balance/weight system: working off one’s sin debt to God by doing more good things than bad, or paying penance for bad things done in a variety of ways. The other is cheapening grace: God is love and because He is love he accepts me how I am and there is no requirement on me as to how I act. Both of these errors are exemplified in Scripture – typically the Jews fell into legalism and the Gentiles tended towards inaction.
Both are wrong. Both are damnable. We cannot work off our sin debt. We cannot be good enough. Adam and Eve were punished by death and separation from God for eating a piece of fruit. Did you ever eat the cookie when your mom said don’t eat that cookie? Same thing. Have you ever chosen sin with the expectation that you can ask forgiveness later? Is it easier to ask forgiveness than permission?
John Bunyan nailed it. We cannot, by our own ability, fulfill the Law. God gave us his perfect statutes for life – and should one be able to perfectly keep the Law, he would be acceptable to God. But the Law gave not the ability to keep it and therefore it defined sin (see the whole book of Romans). The Gospel answers our sin problem. And it bids us fly. The Gospel is not without command: Jesus said “Sin no more” and Peter’s instructions were “repent and be baptized…” (John 8.11, Acts 2.38). But the beauty of the Gospel is that it provides us the Holy Spirit and His power and ability to repent (to turn away from sin, to sin no more) and to therefore live a life that honors God.
What is your tendency? Do you cheapen grace and live how you want? Or do you set up standards and try to justify yourself before God? It is good to know yourself, and to fight for holiness, and to rest in grace that it is through Jesus alone that we are saved. Let us exalt in Jesus. And let us live lives that exemplifies that!