I spent years as a Christian preoccupied with God’s law. Not Moses, but New Testament law. What was commonly termed the law of Christ. I came to the realization in the mid-90s that the Old Covenant was no more and the law of that covenant, the law given to Israel through Moses, was non-binding on the conscience of a believer today. But that didn’t stop me from adopting a new moral code from the New Testament and becoming convinced that my obedience to that code was the test for the genuineness of my faith. I think I understood grace on paper only. The burning question each day was how is my obedience. As I spent countless hours, days, months, and years muscling my way through my sanctification, certain that my obedience was THE barometer for knowing I was a believer and knowing God was pleased with me, I assumed I had a high view of God’s law. After all, I was pulling it off, or so I thought. I was at least doing it better than most of those around me. Or so I thought.
But then I discovered through severe trials that a preoccupation with God’s law doesn’t mean one has a high view of God’s law. Quite the opposite. I found out the hard way that my preoccupation with God’s law actually resulted in my having a very low view of it for the simple reason that I thought I could pull it off. I thought God’s holy standard was attainable by my own effort. After all, I was a new creation with a new heart and sin was no longer my master.
But then God graciously and gently stripped everything away from me and brought me to a place where I had nothing. Nothing but Jesus. It was there that the doing stopped. The masks started to crumble and the idols of my heart started being exposed, and the real me, the broken me, started to show. And there was nowhere to run to baby, nowhere to hide. By putting me in a place where I could do nothing, God started to show me that Jesus is enough. His grace is sufficient.
In the years that have followed, he has enlarged my understanding of, and affection for, grace. It’s when this confrontation with grace shook me to the core, that my view of God’s law went through the roof. My crash and burn encounter with grace gave me a high view of God’s holy law because I saw for the first time that I couldn’t pull it off and that I didn’t need to pull it off. It was too big for me and someone else had already pulled it off for me. My former preoccupation with God’s law left me in ruins. But grace alone taught me that God’s requirement isn’t progress, but perfection. Grace taught me that I needed a Substitute, not a goal. It’s at the cross that “Be perfect as your father in heaven is perfect” (Mt. 5:48) meets “It is finished” (Jn. 19:30) and mercy triumphs over judgment.
… and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith- – Philippians 3:9