Tuesday, February 4, 2014
Why is it so hard to live freely?
It is really hard to live in the freedom of the Gospel. The flesh actually likes, loves the Law. Well, ok, it's a love/hate relationship. The flesh loves the Law because it justifies itself (falsely, of course) by it. The flesh hates the Law because it forbids what it wants to do. Like a toddler, however, the flesh rebels against the Law in part to test that it is still there. The flesh receives comfort knowing that the rules are still in force.
This plays out in interesting ways in the Christian life. How tempting it is for those who are justified by grace through faith in Jesus Christ to grope around for laws to follow and to impose upon others? And then there's the temptation to rebel against the Gospel itself, because it contains the Law fulfilled in Jesus. This is to say that we are free *in* the Gospel, not *from* the Gospel. The Law is fulfilled; it has not been abolished, nor did it pass away. That's a BIG difference!
Well intentioned Christians both cast the justified back into the shackles of law and teach that the law no longer applies! My heart is comforted in the proclamation that Christ has justified me in His blood, and then some yahoo comes along and says, "Now you have to do this...: evangelize, witness, read your Bible more, attend small groups, whatever." Of course, some other yahoo will come along and say, "Just go to mass, that's all."
No. Justification means something. It means that you are freed from the Law's demands that you may live freely *in* the Gospel. You see, that's a bit different from the kind of antinomian freedom some peddle. In Christ you are a new creation; that means a new life and a new way of living. It doesn't mean a sinless life, but it means a repentant life, a contrite life, a humble life. However, the works of this new life are not to be quantified or measured -- that is purely a human rationalistic idea. The fruit of faith is not to be quantified or measured, but they must be there; and they will be there, if there is faith. Christ says that faith as small as a mustard seed can move mountains. I don't know anyone who's moved any mountains. Undoubtedly, "O ye of little faith" are amongst the best that our Lord will ever find. "O Lord, I believe; help me in my unbelief," a father cried. "He who believes... will be saved." How much? How often? Doesn't enter into the equation.
"Give, and it will be given..."
"Love God...., and love your neighbor..."
"Forgive...., and you will be forgiven..."
How much? How often?
Doesn't enter into the equation.
Living in the freedom of the Gospel can only be done in continual contrition, humility, and repentance in faith and trust in Jesus Christ who is making (still) all things new. The faithful follow Him in the Way that He goes. They cannot be Him, but they are baptized into Him and He will make them like Him throughout their lives, culminating in the resurrection of their bodies on the Last Day and eternal life with Him thereafter.
What does that life look like? Perhaps it's better to say what it does not look like. The new life does *not* look like a life lived under the Law or law. It does not have a long list of "must dos" or "pieties" or "steps" or anything else contrived by human reason and sinful pride. It does not force a rationalistic interpretation upon God's Word breaking it into "three rules" or "seven dispensations" or any other forced categorization. I suppose it might be said to look like the Beatitudes in the Sermon on the Mount, not because they describe a new Law, rule, or guide for the Christian life, but because they describe Christ and His kingdom which has broken into this world and is day by day establishing its reign until the culmination and unveiling of Christ's glory on the Last Day.
Think fruits, not rules.
Think contrition, repentance, and humility, not works and obedience.
Think what Christ has done, not what I must do.
And, do your vocation. Be your vocation. Faithfully, in humility and repentance, every day of your life.
Live *in* the freedom of the Gospel. That is all.