Wanting to be better, unfortunately, doesn't go very far in making you better. I wish it did. If self-determination and sheer will-power were enough, I'd rarely fail to love my neighbor, I'd be incredibly generous, and the world would fawn over my piety.
If that weren't enough, even wanting to get better is sometimes difficult. I know what I'm supposed to want to do, but actually wanting to do those things (and not do others) is another story. It's like the Law, although I know it's from God, doesn't seem to make me want to do what it commands.
@@The Law is great at describing good works. It's not very good at getting me to do them.@@
The Inability of the Law
Telling me to be a better husband has never made me a better husband. Telling me to give more generously or to love more sacrificially has never made me do so. If you put a sign out that says, "Do not touch," I can guarantee it will not motivate me to avoid touching.
That doesn't mean those commands aren't important. They are absolutely important; they just don't produce what they demand. The Law doesn't make me want to obey. And even when I do want to obey (which certainly didn't come from myself), the commands don't give me the strength to do so.
This is the lie that I have to fight to not believe: the Law gives people the ability to do what it demands. It doesn't. And far too often I'm caught believing that the Law can do what only the Gospel can do. It's not the Law that will make me good, it's Christ. And Christ who makes me good will also empower me to do good, the good that the Law demands yet I fail to fulfill.
God's Law is important. It functions to curb the behavior of society, it acts as a mirror to reveal to us our own sinfulness, and it even guides the Christian in love and life. God's Law does all of these things - sometimes all at the same time and sometimes in one way more than others.
The problem creeps into our thinking when life-coaches disguised as pastors give sermons that convince us if they talk enough about what we should be doing, we will start doing it. And I'm all for practical, life-applying sermons that helping me love my neighbor better. But we have to understand the role the law plays and what it can and cannot do.
It doesn't matter how compelling the sermon was; the law will never actually make you better. It doesn't matter how clear the law is, the law will never make your heart desire obedience. @@The Law, apart from the Gospel, at best will generate a begrudging submission to rules.@@
Commands don't make us better, the Gospel does. Commands don't produce the godly desires of a new heart, at best they showcase what godliness looks like. The new creation that comes by the power of the Gospel produces holiness. The Law doesn't make me obedient, the work of the Holy Spirit by the power of the Gospel does. The Law doesn't even make me want to be good, it convinces me that I'm not good and shows me what good looks like. It's only the Gospel that creates a desire in me that wants to be good, or at least wants to want to be good.
The Law isn't bad - it's absolutely necessary, helpful, and valuable. We need the law for the sake of society and for the sake of the Christian life. But whatever you do, please don't believe that the Law will make you better. Because it won't. Only Jesus will do that.
This is why the Apostle Paul boasts about the power of the Gospel:
For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith." - Romans 1:16-17
The Law has power, but not that kind of power.