Romans 3:20. For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.
How do we know what our sin is? Wait let’s back up. Do you know what your sin is?
A fundamental truth exists that we cannot know what sin is without first seeing the standard of righteousness. We can’t know who didn’t win the race without knowing where the finish line is. We can’t know we failed the class without first knowing the grading scale.
The law does not create your sin or bring your sin into existence. It’s already there. The law shows us a perfect standard and then reveals to us our own shortcomings.
In this way the law is a gift from God. God spoke the law to humanity in order that we might know him and his holiness. But he also spoke it so that we might know ourselves and our own darkness.
Sometimes it seems like identifying our own sin, naming it, fighting it, is actually very difficult for us. In ministry, when I ask people about sin they almost never start to talk about their own sin. They usually begin to talk about how they see sin in the world, or in “some people” who do this or that. I can’t remember the last time that I heard someone say, “O, yes, there is a deep darkness in my heart, a shame, that shows itself as this breed of insecurity, or this lust, or that greed.” Recently in one of my small groups one of the men talked about how he used to see himself as better than other people, he judged people. He said he now realizes that he is just as in need of grace as everyone else.
It was beautiful.
Knowing the depth of our sin is essential for growth. For transformation. Why? Because growth and transformation in the image of Christ only comes by grace. No sin – I don’t need grace. Tons of sin – I need tons of grace. Of course we all have tons of sin. But not until we place our lives up against the standard of the law will we see our desperate, desperate need for the abounding grace of God.
And so this is the proper use of the law, and why the law is a gift – to set it’s righteous standard up against our own actual life and then let it drive us deep into “to live is Christ.” Deep into the arms of the Father by the life of the Son.
By God’s grace he has given us the law in the form of the Old Testament LAW. But the truth is that this is not the law that is kicking our rear ends every day. It is the “little l” laws that get us. The standards that we set for ourselves. The standards that our society sets for us. The standards of our own conscience (remember Romans 2:15, especially if you’re a Gentile).
Get good grades.
Have it all.
Never let them see you sweat.
There’s a better you inside of you.
These standards will produce one of two results (just like the Bible’s standards): 1) You will fail and try harder and try harder and try harder and eventually destroy everything good in your life, or 2) You will fail and fall into grace. Hard.
“To live is Christ” is to choose #2.
Are you aware of your sin? In what ways have you allowed law to drive you to self righteousness? How can union with Christ allow you to let law drive you hard into the grace of God?