The law demands that we seek God, but the gospel declares that God seeks us! Death can’t even stop Him! We are so distracted, so sinful, so fearful, and so bad at persistence. We never seek with enough genuine fervor. We have not really striven to find God or obey Him (Hebrews 12:4, 1 John 1:10). But even death can’t distract Jesus Christ.
There is a transformation that happens to us right exactly when we believe. However, it is not the transformation we were looking for, having been immersed our whole lives under the threat of the law. The real change is a shift in trust away from self to God. If the change were a change in success at keeping the law instead of a change of trust, why would we need the new testament imperatives?
We will in all likelihood find it impossible to see change in one another on a day-to-day or even a week-to-week basis. Genuine growth happens slowly, like trees, and not everyone is even a healthy tree in the first place.
It is the persistent love of God which keeps beaming at us regardless of our performance or degree of transformational success which transforms us.
So, you may say, McNeely DOES preach forgiveness without repentance! We caught him! However, the real perspective is this: I caught you, friend of Bonhoeffer! You are preaching forgiveness based on “repentance.” You are preaching justification based on something other than mere belief.
This is exactly how behavioral righteousness works under the gospel. People think the basis of the gospel is moral pressure because it is written that it many times results in righteous behavior. However, the basis of the gospel has nothing to do with this.
16 He sent from on high, he took me; he drew me out of many waters. 17 He rescued me from my strong enemy and from those who hated me, for they were too mighty for me. 18 They confronted me in the day of my calamity, but the Lord was my support. 19 He […]
Saying that we need to balance grace with works is similar to saying that we need to balance breathing air with suffocation. There is no balance; you either breathe air or you die. People try to grasp some of these concepts about God by introducing the idea of balance in a nonsensical way.
Think about it like a normal person for just a second: how can you say He was sacrificed for sins and then say that if you sin, the sacrifice is no good?
People are proud of their idealism. They believe that their high standards and their perfectionism are a sign of integrity and success. Actually our ideals are weapons that will ultimately turn on us and kill us. What we need is a rescue and an escape from our ideals. We need to be seen and loved and accepted and forgiven as we really are, and we need a way to love others the same way. This is exactly what the gospel offers us!