Why is the gospel of grace so hard for so many of us to grasp? It’s because we don’t think grace. We live in a structured society and we think structure. There are 10 things that tend to block a gospel of grace mindset, and we all suffer from these, to various degrees, in our modern, western worldview.
(1) We are RATIONAL minded in the western modern world. We are head driven more than heart driven. Earlier people were more relational minded and heart driven then we often tend to be. We often use our minds to protect our hearts.
(2) We are DEDUCTIVE minded, analytical, and we conclude most things on our life experience. Former people were more inductive and collective in thought, not so self focused and individualistic. Psychology sometimes calls us narcissistic. We arbitrarily adopt positions if they benefit us. Earlier people were more flexible and humble than we are.
(3) We are MATERIAL minded: our materialistic society is talked about very often. Former people were more intuitive and mystical minded than we are today.
(4) We are REACTIVE minded. Our attitude is ‘sue the bastards,’ as the saying goes. Former people were more forgiving and tolerant. Today we hear about ‘road rage.’ We’d rather confront others than change ourselves.
(5) We are DOGMATIC minded. We like to know we’re right. 1 plus 1 must always be 2. Or is it 3 in our way of thinking? We are structured in our thoughts, and if anyone tries to change us!
(6) We are SKEPTICAL minded. This is rightly so, in many ways. We have so much advertising, and so many philosophies, opinions and persuasions thrown at us (especially in an election year like now), that we become ultra-cautious. After all, we have more church denominations than Wikipedia can even count.
(7) We are RECOGNITION minded. All arrows point to us.We want rewards for what we do and say (even in heaven). We are tuned into radio station WIIFM: “What’s in it for me?” We all have MMFI printed on our forehead: “Make me feel important.” We view things more in a personal rights type of thinking than the common good.
(8) We are LEGAL minded. The USA is the most litigious culture in the world. We are trained to think LAW about everything. The gospel doesn’t fit the legal human thinking we’ve been conditioned to think.
(9) We are CRITICAL minded. Any degree of legal thinking makes us critical minded and judgmental. Legal thinking creates a type of ‘measuring rod’ where everyone of us comes up short.
(10) We are RESPONSIBILITY minded. We are self-driven. We think in terms of us being ‘self made.’ Other earlier people in the Bible were much more sovereign minded than we are. They were much more God-driven than self-driven. We tend to think in terms of human adequacy and sufficiency, which are totally anti-gospel. The gospel is based on the finished work of the cross of Jesus.
We lawyers are consistent in dealing in inconsistencies. In fact, one day we may argue one side of a statement and the next day argue the other side of the same statement. You have to admit that is inconsistency. That is a paradox. That is one of life’s perplexities and contradictions.
President Abraham Lincoln said, “He who cannot argue both sides of the same case is no lawyer.”
A case in point is the following. We lawyers deal in ‘hypothetical inconsistencies.’ These are usually two statements that are both true, but in different situations. Consider these two statements:
(1) “Look before you leap,”
(2) “He who hesitates is lost.”
They are two great truths, but they can not be applied simultaneously. Applied to football, it depends how close the tackle is to the quarterback.
Truth is truth, but truth is also filled with paradoxes. A paradox is a statement that seems to say two opposite things, but may in fact be true. It’s a situation that seems to be made up two opposite things that seem impossible but that may actually be possible. Like the example above, they can both be true, but they can’t both be true in the same set of circumstances.
I see this is Christianity all the time. People will claim to believe and live by one thing (for instance the law), but then in the very next breath say that they can’t live by it. Adam and Eve only had one rule and they couldn’t live by it either. Or they will tell you the whole Bible is true because God wrote it — but then they question whether some of it is actually true.
The Bible is full of paradoxical, inconsistent, contradictions that are still truth.
Don’t answer a fool in his folly or you might become like him (Prov 26:4), vs. Do answer a fool in his folly or else he will appear to be wise in his own eyes (Prov 26:5).
Jesus says, “Who is not with me is against me” (Luke 11:23).
Yet at another time he says, “He who is not against us is for us” (Mark 9:40).
James tells us we must live by works, and not just by faith (Jam 2:24). Paul says we are justified by faith, without the works or deeds of the law (Rom 3:28, Gal 2:16).
If we believe, and don’t doubt, then we have what we believe and what we say (Mark 11:23-24).
It is by persistence we get what we pray for (Luke 11:8); We must ask and keep on asking (Matt 7:7).
The bottom line is we cannot live the Christian life in our head, or by a rule book, like football is often played. And even in football, things change on the field, in contradiction to the rule book, in certain situations. When we live in the Spirit, and in God, then he directs what the best thing is to do in any given situation. Otherwise we are only living in what the Bible calls ‘the flesh,’ which is in SELF. It’s not a good way to live.
We’re not meant to play the game of life, or a game of chess blindfolded. Jesus says, “He who has eyes to see, let him see.” We don’t all see the same thing, at the same time, and in the same way. Life is a paradox. It is made up of inconsistencies and contradictions. This is the beauty of living life in the Spirit.