Is Christianity making you miserable?

Now before faith came, we were held captive under the law, imprisoned until the coming faith would be revealed. So then, the law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith. -Galatians 3:23-24

Part of successfully learning to drive a car is knowing when to push the brake and the gas pedals (a clutch makes it even more complicated). If we don’t know how to use the pedals in our car it makes for a miserable driving experience. When it comes to the Christian life there are two pedals that we can push down at different times, law and grace. I think that many times we make ourselves miserable as Christians when we use these pedals incorrectly. Allow me to explain.

car pedalsThe pedal called law

Defining law

The law is the moral standard, given in God’s Word, for how we are to live. The law highlights God’s moral code and at the same time it shows us how we fail to live up to it (Galatians 3:24).

Here is a verse that I am citing as an example as one of God’s laws, And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to all the congregation of the people of Israel and say to them, You shall be holy, for I the Lord your God am holy.”  -Leviticus 19:1-2

Indicators you are misusing this pedal

  • You begin to hate yourself for your lack of spiritual growth
  • You quietly wonder if you should just give up on Christianity because you see so little spiritual transformation
  • You wish you had more joy and gratitude in your life
  • You spend long periods of time after you have sinned doubting if God wants to have anything to do with you

It can shift from not being gracious with ourselves to not being gracious with others…

  • You are judgmental and mean-spirited towards others when it comes to their lack of spiritual growth
  • You don’t have people opening up to you and talking to you about their struggles because they know you are lacking in grace
  • You have never been referred to as a friend of sinners
  • You become very prideful because you think (self-deceived) that you are doing a decent job obeying the law and you are not sure why others can’t do the same thing

The pedal called grace

Defining grace

Grace is the amazing fact that because we broke God’s law, Jesus came to this earth, died on a cross, took our sins upon himself, rose again, and if we embrace Jesus by faith we are liberated from sin and death. We also know from Scripture that we are no longer under the law, we are now under grace (Romans 6:12-14).

Here is a verse that I am citing to give you an example of the grace of God, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” -1 John 1:9

Sometimes the abuse of grace is referred to as hyper-grace or antinomianism. Here is how one writer defines hyper-grace, “The term hyper-grace has been used to describe a new wave of teaching that emphasizes the grace of God to the exclusion of other vital teachings such as repentance and confession of sin.”

Indicators you are misusing this pedal

  • You are no longer taking personal sin seriously
  • You talk about the love of God but not so much about the holiness of God
  • You almost never confront someone about their sins
  • You talk about a messy life, a broken life. There is a hesitancy to call it what it is, sin
  • You are just way too comfortable with where you are at spiritually
  • Preachers who misuse this pedal rarely talk to their church about the dangers of sin

Just so you know, I constantly struggle when it comes to using these two pedals in my own life. I talk about the gospel ALL THE TIME, yet I can fail to apply it to my life. I can swing from self-loathing to making excuses for my sin in a split-second.

Here is my suggestion when it comes to how we can stop making ourselves (and others) miserable because we are misusing the pedals of law and grace

In my opinion, here is the key in all of this. The most important thing we need to do is simply become aware of the problem in the first place. Some of us have become worn out and miserable as Christians and the truth of the matter is that we are not even aware of what the root problem is. We are struggling spiritually but we are lacking a diagnosis. It may be a matter of misusing the pedals of law and grace. So, I believe it is incredibly helpful just to be aware of this problem so that we can make some adjustments in our thinking.

Once we have begun to see the problem in our own life we can take it to God in prayer. Ask God to give you a more balanced perspective and not to abuse one pedal or the other. We should allow the laws of God, his moral laws, to convict us and point us to our ongoing need for Jesus. Yet, at the same time we can quickly rejoice that because we are in Christ we are forgiven. We don’t need to walk around with a sense of guilt and shame because of the work of Jesus on the cross.

Would love to hear your thoughts and ideas. Is this something you struggle with?