STOP TRYING TO BE GOOD (Part 3)

by Jeff Hagan
(Tacoma, WA)

God's Law

When you start to truly understand grace and the freedom we have in Christ you will undoubtedly be called an antinomian at some point. Antinomianism is actually an heresy. It's a phrase that Martin Luther used to describe the belief system that the will of God in our lives, as expressed in His Word, is irrelevant and does not play a part anymore in the life of one who is saved.

In Romans 6:1-2, 19 Paul speaks of this line of thinking which would later be dubbed antinomianism. He said, “What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin so that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it?...What then? Are we to sin because we are not under the law but under grace? By no means! (ESV).” Clearly legalism can drastically thwart our freedom, but so does antinomianism.

Whether or not I can be obedient – or really be any better than I am – is irrelevant to the fact that “God has some strong views on right and wrong, good and evil, moral and immoral. Because he is God, his views are not opinions, they are, in fact, a revelation about what is right and wrong, good and evil, moral and immoral. We don't like it much, but we don't get a vote; and if you think about it for a moment, you wouldn't have it any other way.”(3)

Perhaps I'm never as good a person as I could be, but I know that goodness itself is a good virtue not only for me but for society as well. Perhaps I don't love others as I should, but I'm fully aware that loving is a whole lot better than hating. Perhaps I'm not always as honest as I could be, but I know that honesty is a good thing and far better than lying and deception.

So, when we say that we really aren't going to get much better than we are now, we don't mean, as Steve Brown puts it, “that 'getting better' isn't a good thing. In fact, just the opposite. We want to be better people than we are because...well...because we know that being better is better.”(4)

TO TRY OR NOT

TO TRY
I imagine right about now you have some questions floating around in your brain: “So, if being better is a positive thing, then isn't it also positive for me to keep trying? Isn't it better to put a goal out there to strive for than have no goal at all? If my aim is to be better, or even shoot for perfection, won't I come closer to that goal than if the goal wasn't there?”

Well, good questions. Great point if you are thinking that way.

When I'm making the point that I don't think I am going to get any better the key word is “I,” not “getting better.” When I mention giving up on trying to be better I'm talking about my own personal human effort at getting better. When I realized I couldn't do it, that's when I really understood Paul's struggle in Romans 7 when he said he wanted to do good but when he tried he kept doing the same things he didn't want to be doing. When I say gave up what I gave up on was me and my guilt inducing intensive focus. I guess you could say at times it was a bit of an obsession.

But now, in more recent years, many of my articles, sermons and teachings focus on grace. That's my focus because, quite frankly, I need grace. Not only do I need it, but so does everyone in the Church who has been hurt and damaged by lack of grace in so many churches. When you focus on grace you get criticized at times. Like I wrote about earlier, you get called antinomian, usually by those who need grace the most. People tell you that you are encouraging sin. Of course I disagree.

A former president of Wheaton College used to say, “We don't encourage dating at Wheaton...we don't have to!” Well, to those critics, I don't encourage sin...I don't have to! Christians have that covered all on their own, they don't need encouragement. I can safely say that all of the true believers I have come across over the years have wanted to get better. The problem is they have been doing it the wrong way, which is trying really hard to get better.

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