Why Don't You Just Stop It!

Can you imagine Bob Newhart as a preacher?  
"My friends, do you keep on sinning?  Well, just 'stop it!'  Do you have doubt, struggle and worry?  Well, just 'stop it!'"
The sad reality is that this is very often what happens in pulpits across America each and every Sunday.  Pastors give principles, rules and clever statements that are essentially Law in order for people to stop sinning and somehow live a victorious life.  

What is the Misunderstanding?  Jeff VanVonderen summarizes the misunderstanding over the Law saying, “The greatest misunderstanding concerning the Law comes in the area of our perception of its purpose. Somehow we continue to believe that the Law is God’s provision for people to live victoriously. ” 

C.F.W. Walther, a Lutheran pastor, once said something to the effect (my paraphrase), 
"A person can externally exert all sorts of energy in order to rid himself of all his immoral vices. He can polish himself up through effective alcoholic treatments from the doom of alcoholism. He can use effective accountability groups and internet filters to cut out the seduction of pornography. He can curb the sourness of his cursing tongue and the entrapment of gossip through carefully monitored speech. A person can externally rid himself of all of these moral deficiencies and still be eternally lost."  
The Law clearly limits sin through its threats of chastisements and its promises of favor and well-being. The Law can be used to regulate society, prevent us from doing some really stupid things to ourselves and other people. The Law can make things bearable in a sinful world. The Law can curb external sinful behavior for believers and nonbelievers but it is totally incapable and powerless in changing the attitude and behavior of the internal heart, let alone saving a person. Michael Horton states, 
“The Law cannot turn sinners to faith and produce proper behavior performed simply for the sake of God. We naturally think that if you want people to do the right thing, you just need to tell them what to do and exhort them to do it with sufficient passion and effective methods. The only problem is that the law commands, but it does not give us any power to fulfill its conditions. On its own, more advice (law, commands, exhortations) will only lead us to self-righteousness or despair.”
Richard Eyer in commenting on the Law states, 
“There is a third uses of the word Law that is more controversial among Christians. It seems to justify the use of the Law to address, not the limits God has set, but the self-transformation of the person as person. By this way of thinking the Law can do more than merely control outward behavior; it can serve as guide to change the heart as well. If this is true, then it is hard to see why the Gospel is necessary, for the Gospel claims that unique function exclusively. ”
My friends, let's keep in mind that the Law is good.  It reveals sin to us and shows us God's perfect true will.  However, the Law does not contain in itself the power to convert the heart or forgive sin, for that belongs solely to the Gospel.  The Law doesn't "reform" the sinful nature.  No, it reveals our sinful nature, leaves us exposed as sinners and drives us to Jesus!  In Christ though, we are buried into His death and resurrected daily in the Gospel.  Christ is the author and perfector of our faith (Hebrews 12:2) and the Gospel is what brings lasting redemption and change. (Titus 2:11-12)

Tullian is right, "Believing that simply telling sinners to “stop it” (i.e., Law without Gospel) carries the power to exact lasting change is as silly and unrealistic as this [video]."  So next time you think about giving Law without Gospel in order to exact lasting change, remember this, you better 'stop it!'  :-)  


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