Why Are You Asking For More Law?
I was left scratching my head that Sunday. I had just been cornered by a couple of “pillars of the church” who were “very concerned” about my preaching.
Even though I went through each of the ten commandments and told the congregation that they—each and every one—deserved nothing but hell and damnation, it was not enough law. Even though I pointed out that they were godless idolaters who didn’t love their God nor did they love their neighbors, it wasn’t enough.
It seems that I needed to pick a specific sin and address that one individually, especially a sin that is pertinent to this particular congregation this week. I was to call people out for looking at porn or downloading music illegally from the internet. I was supposed to tell people to mend their evil ways, or the wrath of God would be upon them for their evil doing!
This sort of interaction is not entirely uncommon for pastors to hear. As a matter of fact, if a pastor wants to hear outrage and howling from the masses, all they need to do is preach this one sentence: “You cannot out-sin God’s grace!” This sentence drives the Devil and Pharisees mad. It is too much to accept. The idea that eternal salvation is not dependent on your behavior is very worrisome indeed, after all if Jesus has done all of the work for me, then what is left for me to do? I MUST DO SOMETHING!
Here is the heart of what we theological geeks call “pietism.” Pietism is an inward looking faith. It is Christian navel-gazing at its worst. The idea that we can contribute anything to our salvation simply means that Jesus didn’t do enough FOR our salvation. His perfect life, His suffering, and crucifixion, His atoning sacrifice, His resurrection was not enough, because, after all, we must do something. Poor God needs our help.
It is downright sinful to think that you must do something to be saved. Either Christ alone is your salvation, or He isn’t; it is that simple. If He alone has not completed the salvation of the world, then we will never have confidence in our salvation in Christ.
If Jesus Christ, true God and true man has completed your salvation, then when He spoke that word from the cross, tetelestai: “it is finished,” then it truly was finished. With Jesus Christ’s last breath, He inhaled the sins of the world and exhaled His life onto you and me. This is the nature of the Gospel, of the Good News, “it is finished.” There is no down payment that you must make by way of a prayer or a decision, there is no weekly installment that you can make by attending church, there is no balloon payment at the end, “it is finished.”
Christ alone has finished your salvation. Christ alone could and has made satisfaction for your sins. So do what you will, you cannot out-sin God’s grace. Of course, much like Ralphie in the movie “A Christmas Story,” if you try to out-sin God’s grace, you may well “shoot your eye out” as there are natural consequences for your sins. Besides, when we see the extremes to which God has gone, in Christ Jesus, we learn to truly despise our sins. It is our sin that caused this travesty of justice. It is our sin that caused the only innocent Man in all of history to be punished for our crimes.
The old sinful self who hates our neighbors and hates God, keeps surfacing, time, and time again. With our sin, we only hurt and debase ourselves. We become like Ruprecht the Monkey Boy from the Movie “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels” as we poke ourselves in the eye with a fork and wet our pants.
On the last day, there will be many of us who have maimed ourselves with our sinful folly, one-eyed, limping and drooling our way into the pearly gates, there to receive our final healing from the Great Physician, to once and for all time put down our childish sins and finally live in peace with God.
The problem isn’t that you aren’t hearing enough law, the problem is that you don’t believe enough Gospel. Stop looking inward, and look to Christ who comes not from within, but externally to you. He comes through His Word and through His sacraments which run contrary to our fallen notions. When we look to our own hearts, we look to our death, but when we look to Christ, we look to our life. From His grace, we find grace for others.
Repentance and good works do not flow from the demands of the law, but from the astonishing grace, mercy and peace that is given so freely from Jesus Christ our Savior. St. Paul makes this case in Romans 2 as He tells us that it is the kindness of the Lord that leads us to repentance. Now we do those good works to serve one another because we are free to do so. So take your fingers out of your ears and look up from your navel, and hear the message of your freedom that Christ has for you this very day. His one death upon the cross covers it ALL. It is finished. You are forgiven! Once and for all.