I had a dream the other night. In my dream I was pondering the Law and the Gospel and the proclamation thereof. Yeah, that’s what I dream about. Sometimes. Back off!
I woke with a new (to me at least) understanding of evangelism and the use of the Law and the Gospel.
In my dream I observed a lost person confessing that they fell short of their expectations and knew that God would judge them for their transgressions. For future reference let’s call him Lostie. I recalled being optimistic in seeing that the Law had accomplished its good work of breaking this soul before a Holy God. Lostie agreed with God in regard to their unworthiness.
The person, presumably a Christian, to whom this broken one was confessing their sin, responded by giving them grace. Let’s call them Oops. You’ll see why as we continue. I was horrified however because it was man’s grace. It was not God’s grace in the Gospel. It was a sterile grace. It had no power of God in it, only flattery.
Let me explain.
Oops heard Lostie confessing their sin and seeking comfort for their brokenness. Oops rightly responded by desiring to give them grace. Oops was good to recognize that we give grace to the humble and Law to the proud. Lostie was broken and in need of grace. However, Oops failed to give Lostie God’s grace and instead sided with Lostie in forming a coalition against God’s holiness. Here's how: Oops told Lostie not to be so down on themselves and to remember how valuable they were and how much good they had done. Oops reminded Lostie that their motives are not always bad and that certainly there were persons much worse than Lostie. Oops sought to reassure Lostie by telling them that they loved them and wanted the best for them. Oops told Lostie that they could try harder tomorrow and that the game is not over until it’s over. There was still time to get it right, after all, as long as there was time on the clock. (Oops liked sports analogies apparently as well).
This is NOT the Gospel.
This is not loving your neighbor. This is siding with a sinner against the Law in proclaiming it too severe and too harsh and God too demanding.
Additionally, it is accusing God of putting into place rules beyond His measure of holiness. God is too demanding and should be more understanding. After all, no one’s perfect and just because You are, doesn’t mean you get to expect so much from us. While Oops would never articulate these words or dare utter them aloud (or likely even think them in this manner), this is the sentiment communicated in forsaking the Gospel of God in Christ and siding with man.
If you try to pick up a broken person with anything other than the Gospel, you demonstrate how little you trust and believe the Gospel yourself. Is it really solely responsible for proclaiming God’s grace? Is the Gospel all we really need? Is it the only thing others really need?
Oops missed an opportunity to share with Lostie the grace of God in Christ, to share the grace that does not require Lostie to wink at their own sin, but acknowledge it in full and have it FULLY paid for by Christ. Oops would have Lostie believe that Jesus died only for those sins and shortcomings of which we cannot be held personally responsible. This is NOT the Gospel and robs Jesus of His glory and God of His holiness. God does not require our best efforts. He requires perfection. Our sin is not simply falling short or failing to endure. It is running the wrong direction. We are not merely inches away from bullseye. We are aiming at the wrong target altogether.
Thus my dream anchored within me a new awakening to an old dilemma.
Yes, Law to the proud and grace to the humble.
HOWEVER, be very careful that it is God’s Law to the proud and God’s grace to the humble.
Do not try to break sinners with man’s laws and customs. You can guilt people into shame for things that before God they ought not apologize or seek forgiveness. Do not rely on secondary (open-hand) issues to break a person. You only produce converts devoted to the secondary preference de jour, not the primary Savior eternal.
Do not try to mend sinners with man’s grace and greeting card sentimentality. You can comfort people into peace before God that is NO peace at all. Do not be so hasty and desirous to empathize that you rob another of their opportunity to bear godly grief that produces repentance.