“I found that the very commandment that was intended to bring life actually brought death” (Romans 7:10).
Paul spent his early years striving after perfection, but the avenue through which he sought life, actually delivered a death sentence. Why? Because the law points us to Christ. It cannot save us. It was never intended to save us. It cannot bring life. It cannot cleanse from sin. Seeking life from the law brings only death. It slaps us in the face with our failures, short-comings, and utter lack of discipline.
How often we play at discipleship like a game of Simon Says. “The Law says . . .” And we seek our acceptance through perfection. “The Law says . . .” and we rush to find our identities through obedience.
When Paul sought life from the law—as he did for years before Christ knocked him off his donkey with the light of grace—he only experienced shame, frustration, and death. Likewise, when we embark on the journey of discipleship in our own strength, seeking to follow “law” instead of Jesus, we experience shame, frustration, and death.
I know this. It is my tendency. The lure of the law as a means to life is irresistible to my follow-the-rules personality. I have this need-to-be-right mentality that finds grace a hard pill to swallow. Yes, I understand grace for my sins. Salvation by faith alone is not a questionable doctrine.
But what about personal, daily grace? Grace that frees from inner condemnation. Grace that encourages my best and covers over my worst? It’s the step-by-step grace of discipleship that I desperately need.
“Neither do I condemn you. Go and sin no more.”
These words of Jesus, to the woman caught in adultery and nearly stoned, are words that we must remember every day. They are words for us. Grace words for the moments when law mocks our efforts at godliness.
“There is no condemnation in Christ Jesus.”
Words of Paul, and more grace words for us. A disciple walks in continuous forgiveness, mercy, and righteousness. I need this grace reminder. I need to live in the eternal reality of the cross stretched over my life like giant wings of freedom.
I remember a girl from college. When she was a freshman, her face was a spring of joy. By the time she was a sophomore, after experiencing intense mentoring from a graceless church, her face relayed struggle, condemnation. She told me, “I’ve lost my joy. Everything’s just so hard.” Yes, I wanted to say. The Christian walk is hard when it’s should’s and must’s and need to’s.
Discipleship that flows from law only brings “death”. The death of joy. The death of grace. And sadly, some churches present discipleship as a character checklist, a do’s and don’ts journey, or a “good” vs. “bad” battle.
Discipleship that flows from grace brings life. Life through freedom. Life through Spirit-empowered obedience. And thankfully, many churches present this view of discipleship.
Here’s the trick. God calls us to obedience. “If you love me, you will obey my commandments,” Jesus told his disciples. How can I be sure I’m obeying out of love and not duty? If law is my motivator, my obedience is duty. If law merely points out my failure and increases my gratitude for my Savior, my obedience is from love.