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A Mere Christian October 19, 2006

Posted by Tim in Life in Christ.
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I’ve been toying in my head with what it truly means to be a believer. Several days ago I was talking to one of my friends about the law versus grace, and starting there I started again reevaluating Christianity from the law-based and grace-based perspectives. I certainly am still a convinced believer in grace, but I think that the law creeps in in ways I do not detect.

Paul says to the licenteous Corinthians: But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged by you or by any human court. In fact, I do not even judge myself. I am not aware of anything against myself, but I am not thereby acquitted. It is the Lord who judges me.”

I am not aware of anything against myself.

How can that be true? Paul cries out that he is wretched” and that in him there’s nothing good.” So we cannot dismiss this statement as your run-of-the-mill clear concience. What is it? How can I as a flawed follower of the Holy One become unaware of my failings? Or more specifically, how is that a good thing, to boast about?

Perhaps the answer is that the law is crouching again at our door. For how are we aware of sin, if not by the law? Paul says in Romans, [I]f it had not been for the law, I would not have known sin. ” Many of us have learned or are learning to evaluate ourselves before God apart from the law. But we still, in the depths of our hearts, still evaluate ourselves before ourselves with the law. Go back to the Corinthians passage: “I do not even judge myself.” Freedom from sin comes from the complete death of the law. Back to Romans: I would not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said, ‘You shall not covet.’ But sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, produced in me all kinds of covetousness. Apart from the law, sin lies dead.”

The law is sin’s food.

The true Christian life begins when we, as children of wrath, learn and apply the grace of God, believing that he makes covenant with those who merely believe in His Son, destroying in the process the law that condemned us in the first place. The true Christian life continues by this same principle, learning to not merely see ourselves as God sees us – apart from the law – but even to stop seeing ourselves at all. David says, But my eyes are fixed on you, O Sovereign LORD; in you I take refuge—do not give me over to death.” Paul agrees: So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen.” And the author of Hebrews, whoever he (or she) may be, exhorts, Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith.”

For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law, but under grace.”

What I’m talking about is not, to quote Six, an amazing capacity for self-deception.” What I’m thinking is that a relationship with God is transformative – fundamentally, automatically. Full relationship with God cannot exist where the knowledge of sin exists, for separation from the Holy is sin’s chief consequence. By diverting our eyes from sin and letting go of the law, and (this is all-important) turning instead to the Christ seated in the heavenlies, we will be perfect. Where awareness of sin exists, there is shame, and shame means diverting our eyes from the one who would change us. When in obedience we lay aside the law, and in Christ-centered confidence we stop evaluating ourselves and look above, there will be amazing transformation. Such change is not accomplished by any effort of ourselves – therefore it is perfectly glorifying in a way law-motivated adjustment can never be. Moreover, such change is motivated by and further motivates joy inexpressible.” Not being based on shame, or guilt, or consequence, it is whole. And God knows what he is doing. The Father, his grace loosed by the Son’s death and resurrection and applied through the Spirit, will accomplish what needs to be accomplished.

It’s hard in its ease. I have a hard time giving up condemnation of myself, because I think I recognize that condemnation is ownership, and as long as I can condemn myself (for God no longer does), I maintain some element of control. But whenever our heart condemns us, God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything.” God, who knows perfectly who we are in Christ, speaks a different law – a law-free law – to us. And claiming that, believing that, is the key to fellowship: If our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence before God.” The darkness is safe, but it is dark, and will never accomplish what Christ has for us. Instead, let us lay aside the law, for our heavenly Father already has, and fellowship with him.

Into marvelous light I’m running
Out of darkness, out of shame
By the cross, you are the truth
You are the life, you are the way”

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