What is your motivation for following Jesus?
You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore. Psalm 16:11.
When we read the gospels and the epistles in the New Testament, we continually face that the gospel comes to sinners. Jesus made it clear in Matthew 9:9-13 that he came not for the righteous but for sinners. Jesus came to seek and save the lost (Luke 19:10). Paul says that we were dead in our trespasses and sin and by nature we were children of wrath. In the same passage, Paul also says that God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He has loved us, made us alive together with Christ (Romans 2:1-5). Paul is essentially saying that while there was nothing in us worthy of salvation, God saved us. Christ came for sinners.
While it is important to note that we come to salvation through faith, and a faith that is repentant of sin, God does not save us because he first sees any faith or repentance or righteousness in us. He doesn't save us because we are good law keepers. In fact, His law only proves that we aren’t (Romans 7). Salvation is all of grace given to sinners who have no righteousness of their own. The appeal of the gospel is not to get right with the Law Keeper and come to Christ, but to come to Christ so that He might give you His righteousness in exchange for your lawlessness.
Why is this important? It’s important because just as many have misunderstood that Christ himself is the prime motivation for the gospel in salvation, many Christians have overlooked that Christ himself is the prime motivation for holiness in the Christian life. A distorted view of the Christian life often comes from a distorted view of God. When we view God as a big policeman, he simply becomes a forbidding God – a God of do’s and don’ts. If we live our life this way, we live with the constant idea that God is always depriving. It doesn’t help us to understand why God’s commands are actually beautiful in their keeping.
The Psalmist says that God’s paths are the paths of light and that in His presence there is fulness of Joy. God is not a big policeman in the sky, He is the Holy God of limitless grace and His grace is stunningly beautiful. If God has given statutes and commands (and He has), then those statutes and commands are given that we might know how to be in loving communion with a God who delights in us. That was the purpose for the tree of life in the Garden of Eden, it was the purpose of the law for the nation of Israel and it is also the purpose of the law of Christ, the law of love, in the New Testament.
When we are enamored by the beauty and grace of Christ, we are so much more likely to live according to His beautiful holiness. We can see that in Him is fullness of Joy and pleasures forevermore. In the beauty of Christ’s grace, all the things that we can’t have are ugly in comparison. When we live under a policeman, the things we can’t have are things that we believe God is depriving us of. Law doesn’t change our hearts, grace does - Christ does. He is more beautiful than all the things we can’t have. He is the reason not to have them. He is fullness of joy and pleasures forevermore. He is not our policeman, He is our delight!
(Note: Thankful for the work of Sinclair Ferguson in his book, The Whole Christ: The thoughts in this blog are thoroughly explained in his book which is highly recommended.)