To the extent the Law of God is made attainable with statements like
– do your best and God will do the rest – we not only cheapen what the law says we lose grace in the process.
The law clearly says “your best efforts” are not going to be sufficient – more than that they are only going to serve to condemn you. God is not saying for us to do what we can and whatever we can’t do he will make up the difference. Instead he is saying our best efforts are tainted with sin and instead of calling us to work our way up to him by doing better he calls us to Faith in the Perfect One.
As long as we lower the law of God to something attainable or believe that God is satisfied with our best efforts rather than perfect obedience we will struggle on trying to satisfy God’s requirements on our own. Some will become proud thinking they are doing enough – others will despair thinking they are not doing enough but could if they would just try a little harder.
The law of God – God’s commands to us – are meant first and foremost to reveal our sin. In Romans 7 it says: “What then shall we say? That the law is sin? By no means! Yet if it had not been for the law, I would not have known sin. For I would not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said, “You shall not covet.” But sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, produced in me all kinds of covetousness. For apart from the law, sin lies dead. I was once alive apart from the law, but when the commandment came, sin came alive and I died. The very commandment that promised life proved to be death to me. For sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, deceived me and through it killed me. So the law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good.
Did that which is good, then, bring death to me? By no means! It was sin, producing death in me through what is good, in order that sin might be shown to be sin, and through the commandment might become sinful beyond measure.”
The law is meant to show us that our sin is exceedingly sinful – sinful beyond measure. It should cause us to see that “our best” is not going to help. When the law is preached this way it causes us to despair of coming to God with our own righteousness and to seek a righteousness outside of ourselves. When that happens that law has performed it’s God-given role as a “schoolmaster driving us to Christ.”
The law awakens us to our need – no, our desperate need for a substitute. One who is perfect. One who could pay for our sins. Someone outside of ourselves who is able to clothe us in righteousness that is not our own. When we are so awakened or awakened again Jesus is not just a good teacher for us to imitate, or just a nice man who is rooting for everyone to become his forever friend. No when the law shows us the exceeding sinfulness of our sin we see him as a mighty Savior who alone can rescue us. As the old hymn says
Not the labour of my hands
Can fulfill Thy law’s demands;
Could my zeal no respite know,
Could my tears forever flow,
All for sin could not atone;
Thou must save, and Thou alone.
Nothing in my hand I bring,
Simply to Thy cross I cling;
Naked, come to Thee for dress;
Helpless, look to Thee for grace;
Foul, I to the fountain fly;
Wash me, Saviour, or I die!
To the extent that we cheapen the law into something attainable we miss our need of a substitute and think of Jesus only as a model. And when we lose that the Good News – the Gospel itself is lost.
So let the law convict you and break you for your sin and in your brokenness turn to the only one who can save – the only one who can redeem – the only one who can rescue – Jesus Christ the Glorious Redeemer of sinners.
“For our sake he (God) made him (Jesus) to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him (Jesus) we might become the righteousness of God.”
2 Cor 5:21
What a Great Exchange!