November 14, 2013

Give Them Grace

We can give them law or we can give them grace. When women seek our counsel or when we teach our children about right and wrong, we can focus on external rules or we can focus on the heart. When we offer words of wisdom, we can give them advice and a checklist or we can exhort them to seek out the Lord's direction and obey His voice. When we have opportunity to minister in Christ's name, we can put our confidence for ministry in ourselves or we can put our confidence in the power of the Holy Spirit and the power of the gospel.
The ministry of the law is easier. It's much simpler and requires much less process and faith to put rules and parameters into place that have no power to touch the heart. And when those seeking our wisdom take it and apply it with good results, we feel pretty good about what we're doing in ministry, and everything is very cut and dry.

But Scripture says this about external regulations:
"Therefore if you died with Christ from the basic principles of the world, why, as though living in the world, do you subject yourselves to regulations--'Do not touch, do not taste, do not handle,' which all concern things which perish with the using--according to the commandments and doctrines of men? These things indeed have an appearance of wisdom in self-imposed religion, false humility, and neglect of the body, but are of no value against the indulgence of the flesh" (Colossians 2:20-23).

The ministry of the law provides no value against temptation, other than showing us that we cannot save ourselves. The ministry of the law is the ministry of death and condemnation. We simply can't bring people to a list of Christian morals, rules, and regulations and leave them there.

We must give them grace, as found in Christ's gospel.

Our ministry must be the ministry of the Spirit, which 2 Corinthians 3 describes as the ministry of life, freedom, and righteousness. And isn't righteousness especially the desired result of any wisdom, counsel, or advice we give? We are so afraid not to give rules and regulations because we're afraid of people cheapening grace. The ministry of the Spirit, however, leads to righteousness.

So why is the ministry of the Spirit more difficult? Because we have to place our confidence in our unseen God, and we--both the counselors and the counselees--have to trust God to speak and obey Him when He does. We can't rely on the easily set-up (and easily dismantled) man-made parameters to keep hearts in line. We have to be willing to walk in the process of transformation with those we counsel. We have to rely on God to do what only He can do in a heart.

But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord. 2 Corinthians 3:18