(Original title: Grace vs. Law: How to Make Sense of the Contradiction)
Why do many people reject Christianity? I believe the root cause could be called “fear of the Law.” Everyone knows that God makes demands on us, for morality is “hardwired” into our souls. The sum total of the behavior that God requires of us, written in Scripture, is commonly called the law. But man also knows that he does not keep the law, and this knowledge haunts him.
Christians know that God has solved the problem by providing salvation for us through the work of Jesus Christ. And yet not all professing Christians are aware of this solution, for man does not naturally understand or accept the gospel, which is both the complement and the antithesis of law. While law is what God requires us to do, gospel is what God, in Christ, has done for us: atone for our sins through the death of Christ. Since the gospel, unlike the law, is not something that man naturally understands, all non-Christians—and many professing Christians—view the law as the essence of religion. Some therefore love religion, and some therefore hate it, but all such people misunderstand Christianity.
The non-Christian either rejects religion altogether or else seeks a religion in which it is made to appear that man can manage his sin problem by his own actions. But the effort must fail, because sin can only be remitted on God’s terms as laid out in Scripture. Man can only free himself of the curse of sin through faith in Christ.
But the problem of thinking you can solve the problem by your own efforts is not limited to non-Christians. Christ Rosebrough is a confessional Lutheran internet broadcaster best known for his show Fighting for the Faith, broadcast on the network he founded, Pirate Christian Radio. (“Pirate” radio because mainstream Christian broadcasters shunned him for failing to respect mainstream Christian sacred cows.) In the following, copied word-for-word (with minor editing for grammar and spelling) from one of his blogs, Rosebrough recounts his journey from standard-brand American Evangelical legalism to authentic biblical Christianity.
One might think at first glance that legalism—the belief that man can save himself by obeying the law—is not one of society’s main problems. The liberalism that currently dominates Western societies preaches tolerance, openness and nonjudgmentalism, values that seem to oppose the obsession with law-keeping that is the hallmark of legalism. And yet man cannot deny the law, for its awareness is hardwired into his soul. When he denies one law, man inevitably replaces it with another law, one that he thinks he can keep. In form, if not in substance, Rosebrough’s plight before coming to faith in Christ is common to all unsaved people.
Chris Rosebrough’s Testimony, Part I
My early years in Christianity were spent in the Nazarene Church and private Christian schools. They were insanely legalistic. They turned me into a Pharisee.
During those years I FEARED God. I earnestly did everything I could to be a good Christian, to make myself worthy. Not to backslide. I only listened to Christian music. I had my devotions every day. You could say that I was on fire for the Lord. You bet I was because I was told that if I wasn’t then I would burn in Hell. There was no grace, no forgiveness, only an endless rat wheel of good works with no assurance that I was even meeting the lowest standard necessary for me to be saved. I even went to work for Focus on the Family and did everything I could to stand out as a Christian among Christians. At that time if you had asked me if I were “going to heaven” when I died, my answer would have been, “I hope so.” Beneath the ‘good Christian’ facade was a young man who struggled with his sin and who honestly knew that he wasn’t winning that battle. I knew that I was not good enough to be saved.
I hoped that working at Focus on the Family would provide me the answers that I was looking for in my struggle against sin. I was surrounded by other believers, we had chapel every day, and I got to hear the radio program every day. I was literally fed a steady stream of tactics and practical methods for living a God-pleasing life personally, as a husband and as a father.
But there was no peace for me. There was no assurance. There was no hope. My sin problem wouldn’t go away and I knew that I would face shame and rejection if I had to stand before Jesus and give an accounting of my life.
Apparently I wasn’t the only one with these fears and doubts. One day I went to work and heard that one of the ladies in our department had committed suicide by turning her car on with the garage door closed. What little details they gave us from the note she left behind sounded like I could have written it.
The thing that really irked me while I worked there was the constant stream of guests and experts who appeared on the Focus on the Family radio program who talked and acted like they had the sin in their lives ‘under control’. They wrote books on the topic and always made it sound like it was a battle that we could easily win if we would just apply ourselves to it.
I will never forget Jay Carty’s appearance on the radio program. Jay is a retired NBA basketball player turned Christian author who wrote a book called “Counter Attack: Taking Back Ground Lost to Sin”. The back cover of the book said, “One thing is certain… [this book] clearly shows how you can be delivered from the bondage of sin.”
During his interview with Dr. Dobson, I hung on Carty’s every word. As soon as the interview ended I went to the Focus on the Family bookstore and bought a copy of Carty’s book. I read it cover to cover as quickly as I could and immediately began to apply Carty’s tactics for fighting the Devil and temptation.
Looking back on it now I feel foolish for ever buying that book. Below is an excerpt from Carty’s book. Read it and you’ll immediately see why.
Jay Carty’s Tactic for Defeating Temptation and Delivering Yourself from the Bondage of Sin. An Actual Excerpt Taken From the Book “Counter Attack”
Here is the principle we’re going to work with:
When your imagination comes in conflict with your will, it’s your imagination that usually prevails.
That means you will most often do a variation of whatever you think about most. Therefore, it’s necessary to discipline our thoughts to take them captive to the obedience of Christ.
Here come a flock of wild thoughts. Temptation has hit. Now what are you going to do? If you don’t have a mechanism to take the thought captive, your imagination is going to run wild and you’re going to sin. That’s why you need to learn how to have a polar bear alert.
Go in the corner and don’t think of a white polar bear. What did you think of? A polar bear, that’s right. Not just because you’re rebellious. You are, but not just because of that. It’s because you didn’t have anything else to think about. If all you had to think about is a white polar bear, what are you going to think of? A white polar bear.
This time, let’s try it this way. Make the white polar bear cause you to think of a pink elephant. The white polar bear is going to be the catalyst generating the image of a pink elephant in your mind. Ready?
Go in the corner and don’t think of a white polar bear. What did you think of? Did you think of a pink elephant?
Wrong. First you thought of a white polar bear, and then a pink elephant.
The difference between the second time and the first time is subtle but it is very important: The white polar bear didn’t stay in your head as long as when you had a pink elephant to think about.
If you can sensitize yourself to temptation so that you’re aware when it comes, the tempting thought will have stayed in your mind a shorter period of time because you put something else in its place. Since you can’t think of two things at the same time, if you practice substitute thinking you’re not going to sin. Temptation will have been removed before sin occurs. You will have used temptation as a catalyst to make you think of godly things. That’s pretty simple. But you’ll need some practice to get good at it, especially if it’s not something you’ve done much.
I don’t know if you’ve ever seen the old John Wayne movie, Operation Pacific, or any other World War II submarine movie. The sub is on the surface, and as an enemy plane comes overhead you hear an “UUGGA UUGGA” sound from the claxon horn and someone screaming “DIVE! DIVE! DIVE!” Then the guys scramble down the ladder from the conning tower into the sub and close the hatch just as the water starts coming in. It’s an intense moment and it gets your attention.
We want temptation to get our attention. So, whenever you have a polar bear alert it will be necessary to have horn blast in your head. And whenever that occurs make yourself think of 2 Corinthians 10:5. You’ll need to memorize it:
We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ.
“This is too far out for me,” you may be saying. Stop and think for a moment. This idea can work for you. You can use temptation to remind yourself to start reconstructing the verse and by the time you put 2 Corinthians 10:5 together in your mind, whatever it was that was tempting you will be so far gone it just won’t be a problem anymore. You will have done some substitute thinking and won’t have sinned.
My favorite spot is Hume Lake Christian Camp in California. One day, after teaching the polar bear alert concept, I was coming out of chapel following a couple of high school guys. They didn’t know I was behind them. As we got to the street a girl wearing shorts shorter than appropriate (a little “cheek” was slightly exposed) walked in front of us. As they checked her out, without looking at each other, in unison they shouted ‘polar bear alert’ and hung a left toward the camp store. You see – the concept works!
Use it against improper fantasy.
Use it to displace emotion in order to keep anger from ruling your life.
Use it when you are shopping to stop from lusting after things.
It’s a good device to use when walking by the refrigerator if you are overweight. Try it. It works…
As strange as it may seem, this is one of the most practical devices you can use to keep from sinning. That makes learning the technique worth the time. Don’t you agree?
[End of book excerpt.]
Yep! That’s right. The answer to all of our sin problems, according to Jay Carty, is a polar bear alert.
I am embarrassed to admit this, but I earnestly employed the polar bear alerts in my life in an effort to conquer my sin. Predictably, it accomplished absolutely nothing! How could it do otherwise? Carty believes we can conquer our sin by using ‘substitute thinking’ tactics. But sin is not a thinking problem. Sin is a problem of the heart; it is a sickness that exists within our very nature. I didn’t need ‘substitute thinking’. I needed a substitute for my sins.
I felt like a sucker for being duped into buying such a useless book. Carty had my money and I still had my sin problem. As a result of this disappointment I began to question the validity of Christianity.
I couldn’t resolve the conflict that was raging within me. On the one hand, I earnestly tried to live a God-pleasing life. With all of my heart I struggled to live a life that would cause Jesus to say to me “Well done thou good and faithful servant.” But on the other hand, I wasn’t a good and faithful servant. I was a rotten sinner. No matter how hard I tried, no matter what tactics I employed I couldn’t defeat my sin. I feared that hell was what awaited me when I died because scripture makes it clear that is what I deserved and what I had earned as a result of my sinful deeds.
It wasn’t until I began my degree in Religious Studies and Biblical Languages at a Christ College in Irvine, California that my eyes were opened to the fact that what I was being taught by my church and by Focus on the Family was a complete confusion and distortion of God’s law and the gospel. This was an eye-opening experience that changed my life forever.
I’ll write more about it in the next blog entry.
In the 7th grade I began my Christian walk. From the age of 13 until I was 21 years old the primary focus of every sermon that I heard was God’s law and practical applications and steps for defeating sin. The highlights and notes in my Bible bore this fact out.
When I would do my daily devotions I would dwell on passages that told me what my behavior should be. Those passages made sense. Those were the ones that were drilled into my head day after day and week after week. The passages that I didn’t understand, the ones I couldn’t connect with, were the passages that tell of God’s grace, His mercy and His forgiveness offered to us on account of Jesus Christ. The reason I couldn’t understand these passages has a lot to do with how my pastor would apply them in his sermons.
My pastor would only mention grace passages when he was preaching an “evangelistic” sermon. Grace and mercy were only ever offered to non-believers. If you were a dirty rotten sinner and the Holy Spirit happened to have led you to church on a Sunday when my pastor was preaching an evangelistic sermon (this only occurred a couple times a year), then you would hear him offering you Jesus’ forgiveness and Jesus’ shed blood and God’s love and Christ’s mercy. All you had to do was come down the aisle and kneel at the altar and give yourself to God and then you would receive this precious gift. But once you were ‘in the club’ and had made Jesus your personal Lord and Savior it was time to get to work and time to move on to more practical teaching. From that time on you were taught that grace and mercy were ‘baby stuff’ and doctrinal ‘milk’. If you wanted to grow into a strong Christian then you needed meat, and meat could only be found in God’s law.
The verse that stood above all others at my church was “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.” (Matt. 5:48)
Because of this I never really paid much attention to Bible passages that taught about grace and mercy. My pastor, my youth minister, my small group leader, and my Bible teachers all made it clear that grace and mercy didn’t apply to me anymore because I was already a Christian.
I remember having lunch with one of my youth pastors and sharing with him my fear and frustration about my sin and my inability to rein it in and ‘be perfect.’ I will NEVER forget the answer that he gave me. He told me, “Chris you don’t need to worry and fret about this so much. Just love God.”
I felt so empty leaving the restaurant that day. “Just love God”?!?! What kind of advice was that? My problem was that I didn’t love God. If I loved God I wouldn’t keep struggling with my sin. I went home and threw my Bible against the wall of my room. But I later came to my senses and decided to once again to ‘pull myself up by my bootstraps’ and give it another college try.
Looking back on it now I realize that the teaching and preaching of my church literally cut me off from all hope of salvation.
I diligently searched God’s law for little shreds of hope and tiny [rays] of sunlight that could tell me that I would be okay. But there is no comfort in God’s law; there is no forgiveness offered to me in God’s law.
God thunders from Sinai ‘Thou Shalt Not!’ But those are the exact things I do.
God tells us, “Follow my decrees and be careful to obey my laws, and you will live.” But there isn’t even a day that goes by where I don’t break God’s laws.
Jesus said, “Be perfect.” But I am not perfect. I am so far from it that I commit sins on a daily basis that earn me the eternal fires of hell.
Some of my high school friends have walked away from Christianity. Who could blame them? Others have become theological liberals. It’s as if their solution for silencing the thunder of Sinai is to pretend that Sinai was a myth. Act like it never happened. Pretend that it is just a “story” that is supposed to motivate us to be better people and make a positive difference in the world.
Both of these responses make perfect sense to me. A person can only live in despair for so long. That is exactly what this type of preaching did. It created utter despair in me.
I was literally withering under the heat of God’s law.
But what I didn’t know is, that’s exactly what God’s law is supposed to do to us. What was missing in my life was absolution.
A year before I applied at Christ College I had taken an interest in Cult Apologetics and became an avid listener of the Dr. Walter Martin’s Bible Answer Man program. It was Walter Martin who first turned me on to the idea of studying at Christ College. I heard him recommending the school on his show for those who were interested in studying apologetics. One of the professors who taught with Dr. Martin at Simon Greenleaf was also a professor at Christ College. His name was Dr. Rod Rosenbladt. I’d never heard of the man but if he had Dr. Martin’s trust then I knew that I would get a solid education in apologetics. Little did I know that I was about to have everything I had been taught and believed challenged by this powerful little man.
Also, during this time, things at the Nazarene church had gone from bad to worse. The church had recently installed a new pastor. His sermons were more ‘feel good’ than our previous pastor. But under his watch a crazy teaching and practice had taken hold in the church. During this time a man with ties to Fuller Seminary gathered a small following of people within the church who believed that the reason why many Christians were not able to rein in their sin and become perfect was because they were being possessed and oppressed by demons. This man’s solution was a ‘deliverance’ and ‘inner-healing’ ministry. He literally advocated having Christians undergo exorcism and have demons cast out of them. This practice was quite a spectacle. He’d shout in a commanding voice for this demon or that demon to name itself and leave while his ‘patient’ would be rolling and writhing on the floor and foaming at the mouth.
The most disturbing thing, however, was the fact that this man had several members of the church’s staff among his ‘followers.’
Ironically, in my own quest to conquer my sin I had already gone down this path and knew from personal experience that ‘deliverance’ and ‘inner healing’ were just as ineffective and unbiblical as ‘polar bear alerts’. At the time, my wife and I felt strongly that we needed to voice our concerns with our pastor. The goal was to show him from Scripture that this practice is not biblically sound so that he would step in and put an end to this practice at the church.
My wife and I set an appointment to meet with the pastor. The meeting went very poorly. My wife and I could barely get a word in edgewise. When I tried to show him from Scripture that Christians cannot be possessed by demons because we are filled with the Holy Spirit, he shut me down quicker than you can say ‘Be ye perfect’.
After that meeting my wife and I began to have serious doubts that we’d be able to keep attending Pasadena Nazarene. We could not find any way to reconcile this contradiction. How could we continue to worship at a church with a pastor who allowed such blatantly unbiblical practices to continue? Even worse, he wouldn’t even listen to the Scriptures or the concerns of his own church members. This contradiction was about to become even more aggravated by what I was learning at Christ College.
My first year at Christ College Irvine was brutal. I worked at Focus on the Family part-time (this was when their offices were still in Pomona) and commuted three days a week to school. My son was a little over a year old and my wife was pregnant with our second child.
Juggling family, work, religion classes, 1st year Greek, church and bills was a nightmare.
To make things even more complicated, I had an extremely difficult time making sense of my new Lutheran professors and classmates. I had never been around Lutherans. These people were unlike any Christians that I had ever met, especially Dr. Rod Rosenbladt.
Those who’ve met Dr. Rosenbladt or taken one of his classes know that this man doesn’t have a pietistic bone in his body. Rosenbladt was earthy. He was no fan of Christian fads and American Evangelical culture and was constantly challenging the beliefs that I had been taught as a Nazarene. After my first week at Christ College I was convinced that he was a heretic and that he was going to burn in Hell. How could he not?
Rosenbladt was the walking and breathing antithesis of the ‘victorious Christian life.’ Ironically, the thing that offended me most about him was also the exact thing that drew me to him. Rosenbladt was real. He had no pretentions of being righteous or holy and he wasn’t there to sell me yet another program or book for moral self-improvement. Instead he was offering me real hope and real peace.
Rosenbladt worked on me like a skilled heart surgeon. He comforted me with Jesus Christ’s shed blood on the Cross. He told me over and again that Jesus’ blood was shed FOR ME, FOR MY SINS, ALL OF THEM, EVEN THE ONES I COMMITTED TODAY. I’d never heard a Christian talk this way before! It was like being given a cold drink of water after wandering for days in a scorching desert.
Rosenbladt never once told me that I needed to try harder, to be perfect or that I needed to ‘just love God.’ I am convinced that he knew how terrified I was by God’s law and rather than giving me more of it, he began applying the healing balm of the gospel. One thing I will always appreciate is that whenever he talked about sin he would always talk about his own and never mine. He openly confessed his overwhelming need for a savior and his utter dependence on Christ’s shed blood on the cross for his sins. Compared to the endless parade of ‘sin-conquering experts’ who appeared on the Focus on the Family radio program, Rosenbladt was a breath of fresh air.
Through his lectures and class readings I was introduced to a different teaching in the Scriptures. This was a teaching that spoke of the forgiveness of sins, of the ‘gift’ of salvation and of a righteousness from God. These biblical texts contradicted practically everything that I had ever been taught by my church and Christian radio.
I wasn’t sure how to make sense of this glaring contradiction. How could I reconcile the passages that had been drilled into my head all my life with these new passages that Rosenbladt was giving me?
On the one hand were verses I was familiar with like Matthew 5:48 which says “Be ye perfect.” or John 14:15 “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” But on the other hand, were these unfamiliar verses telling me things like Galatians 2:21 “if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!” and Romans 3:21-24 “But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— 22 the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus”.
Quite frankly, what Rosenbladt was telling me sounded way too good to be true. I remember thinking to myself, “It can’t be that easy! Salvation couldn’t be that FREE! Could it?”
I realize now that with Rosenbladt’s help I was asking a completely different set of questions and I was no longer focusing on myself. I had stopped my incessant worrying about whether I was good enough or holy enough or perfect enough to be saved. Instead I was asking a far more important set of questions.
“Was Jesus Christ good enough, holy enough, and perfect enough to save me?”
“Did Jesus’ blood, which He shed on the cross, cover ALL of my sins or just some of them?”
All of my Christian life I had been told that it is all about me; my Christian walk, my obedience, my spiritual gifts, my ministry, my efforts, my moral improvement, and my perfection. Rosenbladt, however, showed me Scriptures that literally say the opposite. These texts teach that it is all about Jesus Christ; His obedience, His Ministry, His perfection, His Righteousness and His taking my sin and suffering my punishment for me on the cross.
What was I going to do with these contradictions? I was literally brought to a breaking point. I knew that one path was true and the other was a damned lie from the pit of hell. But how on earth was I supposed to figure who was lying to me in order to resolve this contradiction?
If the purpose of God’s law isn’t to show me how to be perfect so that I can please God and be saved then what is its purpose?
This was the question on which my very life and faith hung.
I’d lived for years under the dry scorching wind of law-based sermons, practical application sermons, steps-to-pleasing-God sermons and I nearly walked away from Christianity as a result. But Dr. Rosenbladt kept me from walking away by giving me the good news of Jesus’ shed blood on the cross for my sins. But this created a conflict within me.
I began to believe that there was a blatant contradiction that existed between the message of the law and the message of the gospel and I didn’t know how to resolve the contradiction. The law demands my absolute perfect obedience in order to be saved while the gospel offers salvation as 100% gift. In short, I didn’t know which story to believe and the thought of completely trusting in the promises of Christ for my salvation was frightening because it sounded far too good to be true. I needed a way to break the stalemate and I wasn’t going to find it in my heart or my feelings. The answer was only going to be found in Scriptures.
Through the advice of another Lutheran friend I studied Paul’s letters to the Galatians and the Romans. While reading and laboring through these books I came across the passages that I needed to resolve the contradictions that were pulling me in two different directions.
The first key passage was Galatians 2:15-16 which says, “15 We ourselves are Jews by birth and not Gentile sinners; 16 yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified.”
This passage hit home with me. It was crystal clear from these verses that no one, not even myself, would be saved by keeping the law. As I read this passage over and over again it became clearer and clearer that my ability or inability to achieve sinless perfection was not going to be the deciding factor in my salvation regardless of what I had been taught or even what I intuitively felt was true. Why? Because scripture says that no one is saved by keeping the law. God’s word literally blocks that route. But I still didn’t understand why God gave the law if no one was going to be saved by keeping it.
Romans 3:20 answered that question for me. It says, “For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.”
A light went on in my head. I got it and I actually understood it. This passage clearly teaches that the law was given to show me my sin and show me my utter need for a savior. This explained why every time I listened to a law-based sermon I felt so miserable. The reason was because the law was showing me how sinful and depraved I was. The law was doing what it was supposed to do. I always felt convicted by this type of preaching precisely because I was always guilty of breaking God’s law. That was exactly what I was supposed to feel.
I was beginning to see the truth. The scales were coming off my eyes.
My Nazarene pastors, my school teachers and the people I heard on the radio apparently didn’t understand this. They were misapplying the law. They believed and taught that the primary purpose of the law was to show us how to live a righteous and God-pleasing life. That was why they were always inventing strategies, practical steps, applications and ways by which to conquer sin. Sadly, those who wrote books and were clever enough to be on the Focus on the Family radio program actually believed that they were keeping God’s law. They acted like they had conquered the sin in their life and were living a righteous and God pleasing life. But if they were honest with themselves they would have seen that they weren’t. Why? Because the law demands PERFECT obedience. That is why the Apostle Paul tells us that “All who rely on works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, “Cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the Book of the Law, and do them.” (Gal. 3:10 )
I was told that the gospel is milk and that the law is meat. But Scripture says quite the opposite. Paul wrote to the Galatian churches, “So then, the law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith. 25 But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian, 26 for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. (Galatians 3:24-26).
According to Scripture, the law was our guardian and we are no longer under a guardian because we who are in Christ are now sons of God THROUGH FAITH not by works of the law. In other words, the law is for the immature children and the gospel of Jesus Christ is for the mature.
Once God opened my eyes through his Holy Word that the purpose of the law is to show me my sin and that I can’t be saved by keeping it, I was finally set free from that mean and demanding guardian. I could now embrace and believe the free gift of salvation offered to me on account of Christ. Scripture says that Jesus was without sin (Hebrews 4:15). That means HE lived the perfect life that the law demanded of me and He did it FOR ME. Jesus is the Righteous One and His perfect righteousness if offered to me for free, gratis, as a gift through faith. That is why Ephesians 2:8-9 says ”For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast.”
For the first time in my life I could feel and experience peace with God. I no longer viewed Him as a vindictive and angry God who was anxiously awaiting the day when He could send me to Hell. Instead, I saw Him as a loving, compassionate and just God who loved me so much that HE DIED FOR ME and FOR MY SINS. In fact, He loved me so much that He took my punishment on himself and let me go free. I no longer believed that God was waiting to judge me. Instead I believed what Scripture says about Him. That He is patiently looking forward to the day that He has chosen for the two us to meet face to face. This will be the day that God will receive me into His home as His son.
The gospel has taught me that…
Because of Jesus Christ ALL of my sins are forgiven. This includes every sin I will ever commit in my lifetime.
Because of Jesus Christ I have peace with God.
Because of Jesus Christ I have a Loving Father in Heaven.
Because of Jesus Christ I have hope.
Jesus Christ will one day say to me “Well done thou good and faithful servant.” Not because of any righteousness on my part but because of His righteousness that is given to me as a gift through faith.
Nazarene No More
My wife and I left the Nazarene church at the end of my first year at Christ College and never looked back. We joined a church that taught both God’s Law and the gospel week after week.
Although it is tempting to be bitter about my experience in the Nazarene church, I believe that I would never have been able to understand just how sweet the Gospel is if it were not for the terrifying ordeal their type of preaching had put me through. Without the condemning words of the Law I would never have been able to experience the refreshing words of Romans 8:1-4 which say “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. 2 For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. 3 For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, 4 in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.”
It’s been almost 20 years since I first set foot on the campus of Christ College. As I’ve grown older and the whiskers in my beard have begun to turn grey, I’ve become like Dr. Rosenbladt. I am now the walking antithesis of the ‘victorious Christian life.’ I no longer subscribe to the latest and greatest ‘sin conquering programs’ and fads. Like Rosenbladt and our Christian fathers before us, I confess that I am a poor miserable sinner in desperate and in dire need of a savior. Daily I sin against God by my thoughts, my words and my deeds. By what I have done and even worse, by what I have left undone. Because of these sins, I justly deserve God’s punishment both now and for eternity… But in God’s word there is another teaching. It is called the Gospel and it is truly good news. It says that for Christ’s sake ALL of my sins are forgiven. This other teaching tells me that Jesus’ death on the cross IS enough to save a sinner like me.
And it is enough even to save a sinner like you.
(Audio of this text can be found at http://www.fightingforthefaith.com/2008/09/the-contradicti.html)