“However much we may pay tribute to grace with our lips, our hearts are so thoroughly marinated in law that the Christian life must be, at core, one of continually bathing our hearts and minds in gospel grace. We are addicted to law. Conforming our lives to a moral framework, playing by the rules, meeting a minimum standard – this feels normal. And it is how we naturally seek to cure that deep sense of inadequacy within. The real question is not how to avoid becoming a Pharisee; the question is how to recover from being the Pharisees that we already are, right from the womb.
Law feels safe; grace feels risky. Rule-keeping breeds a sense of manageability; grace feels like moral vertigo… The Jesus of the Gospels defies our domesticated, play-by-the-rules morality. It was the most extravagant sinners of Jesus’ day who received his most compassionate welcome; it was the most scrupulously law-abiding people who were the objects of his most searing denunciation. The point is not that we should therefore take up sin. It is that we should lay down the silly insistence on leveraging our sense of self-worth with an ongoing moral record. Better a life of sin with penitence than a life of obedience without it.
It’s time to enjoy grace anew – not the decaffeinated grace that pats us on the hand, ignores our deepest rebellions and doesn’t change us, but the high-octane grace that takes our conscience by the scruff of the neck and breathes new life into us with a pardon so scandalous that we cannot help but be changed. It’s time to blow aside the hazy cloud of condemnation that hangs over us throughout the day with the strong wind of gospel grace. Jesus is real; grace is defiant; life is short; risk is good. For many of us the time has come to abandon once and for all play-it-safe, toe dabbling Christianity and dive in.
The Jesus of the Gospels defies our safe, law-saturated, reward-conscious existence. He is many things. But predictable is not on the list. He is not, in the words of that perceptive theologian Mr. Beaver, ‘safe’. No sooner have we convinced ourselves that God is real and the Bible meaningful than Jesus arrives on the scene and turns all our intuitive expectations on their heads. The deeper into grace we go, the deeper will be our wonder. But though Jesus’ intuition-defying grace surprises us, our confusion does not surprise him. He knows all about it. And he is a patient teacher, more patient than we have yet dared to believe.”
Dane Ortlund, Defiant Grace, pages 12-15.
What if only boundless grace can empower us to live within the boundaries of God’s law? Is it possible that where we think grace should come to an end, is actually where it begins?
Rom 6:14, Rom 8:1