Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Two Ways to God

For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ” (John 1:17). Here we find the Apostle John placing before us two very distinct categories. These categories we may biblically refer to as “Law” and “Gospel.” Christians today, for the most part, seem to have lost their capacity to think categorically, hence the all-important distinction between Law and Gospel seems to have all but disappeared from our preaching [evangelism], teaching [discipleship], literature, and consequently; from our understanding as a whole. I refer to Law and Gospel as categories, but we may just as well understand Law and Gospel as approaches--approaches to God. By approaches I mean “ways” or “means” to God.

The question staring down all men [expressed variously] ultimately goes something like this: “How is sinful man to approach or please a holy God?” or, “How can man and God be reconciled?” No man, be he atheist or agnostic, can avoid the question because no man, be he living or dead, can avoid God. There are two ways, and only two ways, to God: the Law or the Gospel. One is the way of condemnation and death and the other is the way of justification and life. Sadly, most prefer the former. “[W]ide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it...narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it” (Matt. 7:13-14).

Make no mistake, there is no combining of the two ways, into a third or middle way. We either come to God via the Law or by way of the Gospel. Why do so many take the way that leads to destruction, viz. the way of Law? Because Law is the natural religion of man. Law is the natural religion of man because man is prideful and filled with self righteousness.

Simply put, those who take the way of Law say to God, “I come to You, God, on the basis of my own goodness and worthiness. No, I may not be perfect, but I am basically a good and moral person. I don‘t hurt others, if I can help it, and I try my best to live by the ‘Golden Rule.’ And, of course, I believe in You, God. I even go to church more than is necessary.” These may not be the exact words, but we’ve all heard them and we’ve all spoken them. Law or “works” truly is the natural religion of man.

All those who come to God by way of Law and works, i.e. on the basis of their own goodness, have absolutely no hope of obtaining salvation. They do not understand the holiness of God nor the sinfulness of man. Rest assured, the problem of approaching God by way of Law, lies not with the Law. “The law of the LORD is perfect...the law is holy, and the commandment holy and just and good” (Psalm 19:7; Rom. 7:12). The Law of God is not the problem--we are. “For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am carnal, sold under sin...Therefore, by the deeds of the law no flesh will be justified in His sight, for by the law is the knowledge of sin” (Rom. 7:14; 3:20).

Let these words of Paul the Apostle sink in, dear reader. No matter how hard you or I may try to live up to God’s standards in His Law, “no flesh” will be saved by attempted obedience to the Law of God. It is impossible for sinful man to keep God’s Law for we are morally unable. God’s Law does not demand our best. If it did, Christ need not have come. God’s Law does not demand our best, it demands perfection. “For whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all” (James 2:10). We cannot hope to give God what He justly requires of us.

The purpose of the Law is not, nor has it ever been, to save us or to commend us in the sight of God. Rather, the Law convicts and condemns us, exposing our sin and stripping us of all excuses and self righteousness. “Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God” (Rom. 3:19). What is man to do? What is sinful man, justly condemned before a holy God, to do? Look to Christ. Look to Christ and to no other.
But that no one is justified by the law in the sight of God is evident, for ‘the just shall live by faith.’ But the Scripture has confined all under sin, that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe. Therefore the law was our tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith (Galatians 3:11,22,24).
We are justified, not by works or self righteousness, but by grace through faith alone in Jesus Christ alone. This is the Gospel: Justification by faith. We are saved or put right with God, not on the basis of what we have done, but solely on the basis of what Jesus Christ did on our behalf. He lived the perfect and sinless life and now His perfect righteousness is credited to or imputed to all those who come, by faith, to Him.

The Gospel is not about us. It’s about Him. Christ did not come to make bad people good or to make good people better. Christ came to make dead people live.
But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love...when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ...For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast (Eph. 2:4,5,8-9).
Forsake the broad way of good works and come to the narrow gate called Christ. Come to Christ with the empty hands of faith. He is the only way, the only door, to life everlasting.