This may be as preachy as I ever get on my blog. I'm sure I'll have drive-by preaching for as long as this blog goes, but this will by the Gatling gun covering the fields in gospel bullets. I Had a fairly recent re-awakening and need to spill it to organize some of the thoughts.
About 6 months ago a flurry of GK Chesterton (primarily Orthodoxy) and Tim Keller merged in my head to give me a much deeper understanding of the gospel. More the power of the gospel.
A quick definition:
The Gospel - God saved you from eternal punishment by the sacrifice of Jesus. You could not do it on your own.
Chesterton laid out a principle of Christianity being unique in that it takes two blazing virtues that seem contradictory and holds them both. Red and white co-existing not as pink; but as red & white side by side.
Christianity is critiqued as too militant in one age (Crusades), too passive in another (Monks), too decadent (large monasteries) and too simple (country church), breaking up families (sisterhoods & chastity) and chaining women to the family. For something to do all of this it must be an odd shape & terrible, or the truth defining & transforming everything.
Tim Keller came in and changed my view of the Prodigal sons. Both are lost. One by trying to get all experiences, the other by trying to give up all experiences. Seeking unrighteousness and seeking righteousness on your own. This also broke down the very common assertion (and it needs continually torn down) that becoming a Christian means acting like the older brother. I can tell you that is the outside world's view looking into the church. T.Keller gets deeper into the holding both sides in much of his other stuff. He frequently sums up a gospel understanding with a believer being "more sinful (guilty) than they can bear to realize and more loved than they will ever know".
Mostly I got an updated world view. I'm now looking for paradoxes and moral arguments are falling away. I used to be stuck seeing a balance (50/50) of everything or even a see-saw effect. Not true.
It's not a matter of focusing on holy living, OR on grace. The gospel will move some towards one and other folks to the other. Hold both and hold them blazingly. It became freeing.
Law & Grace
Law & grace seem like opposing ideas. If you focus on the law (holy living) your somehow denying grace exists, or trying to do it on your own and acknowledging that you need grace. If you focus on the grace aspect you don't worry about holy living and spiritual disciplines even to the extent of being unrepentant of sin because "eh, grace is enough".
Jesus did not come to abolish the Law but to fulfill it. (Matt 5:17..)
Basically the answer is "yes, both" not one or the other. It is clear you cannot drop one of the principles, and you can't subscribe entirely to one. In trying to balance both you become lukewarm, mellow & boring. In passionately holding both you are blazing alive. Learn more about the law because it tells you more about God & how he works.
These seem to raise their heads as churches gravitating toward either yelling "you suck, try harder" or patting you on the head and saying "it's okay, you're not that bad".
Trying for the balance is a twisted & paralyzing view. Somewhere between washing the feet of others, and having others wash your feet you get stuck at worst never washing your own feet and at best only washing your own. You should be washing & getting washed. There are times when either is appropriate.
The balance between feast & famine is eating modest meals forever. There are times to feast (weddings) and times to fast. Ecclesiastes 3 takes on new life.
1 There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under heaven:
2 a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,
3 a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build,
4 a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance,
5 a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
a time to embrace and a time to refrain,
6 a time to search and a time to give up,
a time to keep and a time to throw away,
7 a time to tear and a time to mend,
a time to be silent and a time to speak,
8 a time to love and a time to hate,
a time for war and a time for peace.
Hold both and the contradiction. Don't settle for one or the other or for trying to hold 1/2 of each.
Beyond this the gospel isn't powerful in teaching believers a new way of thinking; it also has the providential backing of the creator of the universe. The thinking just helps me understand it.