This past sunday we had a special worship service at our church. In the summer we have an outdoor service 1x per month. That was this past week with the added bonus of Jay Michael singing & sharing.
Jay is a newly wed (2 months) and shared a scattering of info but one tidbit that stuck well was the math of 1 + 1 = 1. one groom plus one wife equals one new life together. "The two shall become one". It immediately blew air onto the embers of the life paradox.
I've grown into a paradoxical understanding of the gospel. I'm not the 1st to think of it but I don't hear it laid out well. I've heard that many sermons can be summarized as "you suck, try harder".
Read your bible more, pray more, be a better father/husband/son, sin less, give more, buy less, pollute less, don't cheat, don't steal, tell the truth, save more, plant a tree, hug a tree, hug your family, dress nicely, brush your teeth, etc.
Even cloaked under the grace side of the balance it becomes a measure of efforts. I've probably discussed the basic paradox often (and will more) but I had been pondering the attempt of balance more.
The gospel (good news) is essentially "you are more sinful than you can bear to know and more loved than you'll ever know".
You fail, you aren't perfect; no amount of effort, trying or buying is going to satisfy. There might be temporary plateaus but they leave fall short.
judgement & mercy
law & grace
It's natural to try the balance act. 1/2 of this + 1/2 of that will keep me at one. The beauty of marriage is when both are "all-in". Both are committed 100% to the marriage and their partner. It's awesome when this is working. If you're only 1/2 in & thinking it's his/her turn to do the dishes, vacuum, feed the dog, cook, pay the bills, etc. If you got married thinking it's 1/2 the work you missed the point. It's just as much (actually more) "work". Now it's about something bigger than either spouse.
Being church-y this cooks down to "there are these rules I can follow and some are too old to apply anymore; and then there's the cleansing blood for the ones I can't quite get". NO. All of the law is beneficial for what it tells us about God and how he wants us to live. And you don't need 1/2 the grace, you need all of it. All in.
Here's the secret:
Being guilty and justified at the same time frees you to do everything for God. Free to serve.
I'm set free from making my efforts measure up. I can serve knowing it's all for God. I don't have to worry about how much I measure up - I've made the final goal. I don't worry about falling short in the past, or lacking the future. There's no pride or guilt to be had over past accomplishments.
You can bring nothing to the table that God needs. All you can do and all you need to do is let go of your baggage ("I do item xxxx well for God therefore he will bless me") and be of use to God.
Trying to add to God's work is like a tree moving leaves to add to the wind. You move because of God's work and blessings and not the other way around.
Hold that in your heart & you are free to go serve.