Unlimited unconditional overflowing grace makes it less likely that we would sin; and using rules and regulations to control our behavior makes it more likely that we would sin. How can this be?
When I was younger and I knew everything, grace was alien to me. After all, someone as wonderful as I was certainly did not deserve punishment! But thankfully, God didn’t let me remain in this mistaken belief. He shocked me by showing me that yes, I did deserve punishment — but also that he provided me a way out of what I deserved : to my great relief, I had my eyes opened to see that Christ took on the punishment that I deserve. I learned a good acronym for grace — G.R.A.C.E —- God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense.
But even so, I did not really understand grace very well. So instead of a heartfelt and deepening trust in and thankfulness for what Christ did, I fell into an unfortunate error: I had to follow the rules to stay in Christ’s good graces. If I did enough, then I could stay on God’s good side. But if I didn’t do enough, God might be ticked.
Sickeningly, that put human rules and regulations measures in control, not the Lord.
And when I see human rules, I want to break them. Indeed, in the book of Romans, Paul says that the law shows me what a rebel I am.
Did you ever not care whether you did something or not, then someone told you not to do it and then you wanted to do it? If you saw the trail sign above, wouldn’t you at least be tempted to enter and see what’s happening on the trail? I know I would. That is how the law works! And then once I snuck down the trail, I would feel that I had to do enough good to try to pay back what I owed by disobeying the rules.
Now, Jesus did say “Obey my commands.” But guidelines and commands can’t be viewed as being mandatory rules to get God to approve of me. No, God showed his approval of me outside of anything I ever did by permanently sealing me in Christ. So following wise guidelines and commands may help me to keep reflecting God’s loving glory — but they do not earn anything!
Knowing I can’t earn approval from God, I am free to live a grace-driven life instead of a rules-driven life. Freed by grace, secure in God’s approval, I can finally start to do some genuinely loving deeds.