Do more…Try harder… #FakeGoodNews vs the True Gospel of Jesus Christ
This is the approach of churches who give you a Gospel PLUS
Don’t do this and don’t do that (all manmade rules)
This is what I grew up in and still struggle with. Law. Most of the “law” given are not what God tells us in His Word but are rather preferences of leaders. When a believer struggles they are beaten under the law and told, “try harder next time…” or “do better” and sometimes, “do (fill in the blank with some type of human effert)”. Under this system, which even those who are counseling others cannot attain, believers are disheartened, chewed up, crushed and become despondent. They soon find that they cannot keep God’s Law (though many times the line between human requirements and God’s Word are seriously blurred) and they leave the church. Oh, they don’t leave believing in Jesus, it’s just that there are requirements and expectations they will never reach on this side of heaven. Hurting from the rocks of the law thrown at them, they cower away alone, rejected, saddened, disillusioned, hopeless and dejected. Recognizing they’ll never measure up to what a Christian is supposed to be in the eyes of those who promote this #FakeGoodNews, they remove themselves because the burden is just too great to bear.
Recently, a discussion came up in which the person stated the following:
“The grace life requires…” The moment you place “requires” you’ve just cancelled out grace. See, Grace is not only free (though certainly not free for Christ as it cost Him everything including His Life) but it is freeing. Grace frees us from the bondage of the Law. The Christian is no longer under the law but now lives in the bright light of mercy that is given freely to all who believe in Christ. He obeyed the Law because we neither could nor would obey it. One slight against the Law of God brings us under condemnation. Yet, Paul tells us the Law was the guardian, tutor, overseer of all of us until Christ came. In Christ Jesus we are “justified by faith.” Paul continues that believers now live in this freedom in Christ when he wrote, “But now…”
Have you ever looked at two words so wonderful, filled with hope and love and life changing? In Galatians, Paul writes, “But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian, for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith."Galatians 3:25
Romans 3:21: “But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested.”
Romans 6:22: But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life.
Romans 7:6 But now we are released from the law, having died to that which held us captive, so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit and not in the old way of the written code.
Romans 11:30: For just as you were at one time disobedient to God but now have received mercy
Ephesians 2:13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.
1 Peter 2:10 Once you were not a people, but now you are God's people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.
There are many more, but read these “but now” passages and realize everything has changed. Grace has come in Jesus Christ and we are freed to serve our God and Savior and our fellow man.
Last week, in our Ladies Bible Study, the following verse was part of our readings. This is what has remained in my mind and on my heart these past days and has brought with it much joy and peace.
Now before faith came, we were held captive under the law, imprisoned until the coming faith would be revealed. (Galatians 3:23)
Let’s look at the pictures here. You were “held captive”. Bound, chained, incarcerated, imprisoned and locked up. The Law does this. The Law cages you; it puts you in chains and bondage because it finds you guilty. Not guilty just for one break of the Law, for Paul says elsewhere that if you break one law you’ve broken them all. No. It holds you a prisoner in a dark dungeon waiting the final judgment which will put you into utter darkness for eternity.
Sadly, this is what is emphasized at all the churches I attended from Pentecostal to Charismatic to Reformed Baptist to Continental Reformed: Go do…
Did you go down to the altar and re-dedicate your life?
Did you have your morning and evening devotions?
Did you read through the Bible again this year?
Are you witnessing to everyone you meet?
Are you serving at church camp? VBS? Kitchen? Teaching? Etc.
Are you doing, doing, doing because Christians should be doing…
It’s a trap
Ugh. Let me be quite honest here. It’s a trap…and I fell headlong into it and demanded it of others. After all, I was doing all of this so why weren’t they? Serving God became a chore instead of a joy. Serving others became a burden instead of being done in love. Doing all the things I was to do as a Christian, man-made requirements, I was angry at others I saw lacking and by that sinned greatly. I was sinning against God, by adding to what His Word says and against my neighbor by putting on them expectations that were neither realistic nor were they what God said in the Scriptures. As a result I became proud, arrogant, demanding and law-based even though I would not have called my approach legalism back then. I see it now and still it comes up in me. The response from my old evangelical and even reformed days with my struggle to be a “good Christian” would have been a law-based one of “well, you need to pray more, read more, study more….do more…try harder” and down that slippery slope I would fall headlong once again.
But now… The Gospel doesn’t add requirements that you must do because the moment you say you must do that becomes law. Conflation of Law and Gospel is what must be avoided at all costs. Beating someone down with the Law isn’t going to help anyone. It will only bring condemnation and for believers, God says,
There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. (Romans 8:1)
Read that again dear disheartened and law-taxed Christian. The Spirit of life has set you free. You are no longer under the dread of the Law but have been given life, new life through the Word and Baptism. Rejoice that you have been set free from that crushing weight of the Law. Live in that righteousness now, that Gospel freedom to love God and serve your neighbor each day in whatever way you can. And when you sin, which you will because we still live in this flesh and the world and devil will continually come against us, know that forgiveness and Gospel life is given in and through His Word, Absolution and in the Lord’s Supper where He feeds us on His True Body and True blood to strengthen our weak faith and offers us peace as we hear the words of institution: Given for you for the forgiveness of sins.
We fell under God’s wrath and displeasure and were doomed to eternal damnation, just as we had merited and deserved. There was no counsel, help, or comfort until this only and eternal Son of God—in His immeasurable goodness—had compassion upon our misery and wretchedness. He came from heaven to help us (John 1:9). So those tyrants and jailers are all expelled now. In their place has come Jesus Christ, Lord of life, righteousness, every blessing, and salvation. He has delivered us poor, lost people from hell’s jaws, has won us, has made us free, and has brought us again into the Father’s favor and grace.” LC II 28-30
While the phrases “do more” or “try harder” may work in our vocation; calling us to improve our skills, advance in our education or serving others it does not work in God’s Kingdom.
Scripture says that the “power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Cor. 15:56-57) In truth we struggle daily with sin and we are not, as believers, to reject God’s Law, but now we are no longer under its penalty but we live in Christ. CFW Walther wrote at the beginning of his work “Law & Gospel How to Read and Apply the Bible” that Law & Gospel “are foundational for the message of all Scripture” as they are how God has worked throughout history from the Fall of Adam and Eve and the first gospel promise (proto-evangelium) found in Genesis 3:15: I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head and you shall bruise his heel.” God still works this way giving His Law so that by it people are convicted of their sins. Yet, He never leaves them there but gives them the Good News, the Gospel, that Jesus has paid the penalty of their lawlessness and brings with him, life and salvation.
Contrary to how many teach and preach in churches, Do more…Try harder will only bring condemnation. You don’t need the rocks of the law thrown at you. What you need is Gospel; the True Good News that Jesus has justified you freely by His grace and offers this salvation to all. When you sin, which you will, you need Gospel which brings life “righteousness, every blessing and salvation.” (Luther)