This is from a section of my book “Gospel: Recovering the Power that Made Christianity Revolutionary.” This section is called “The Law Produces only Pharisees; Grace Produces Christians.” Your thoughts?
The law produces Pharisees; grace produces Christians. The law produces people who are never really sure they are doing enough and always wondering why you are not doing more. I’ve been around these kinds of people (and have even been one myself) and, suffice it to say, they are not very fun to be around. They cycle through wild binges of obedience followed by rebounds into indulgence. I once knew a couple so moved by passionate, guilt-driven calls for generosity that they slashed their lifestyle dramatically and gave away lots of money to missions. It was impressive. What was not impressive, however, was how quickly they rebounded back into their old lifestyle. Within a year, they had returned to their old lifestyle, if not exceeding it.
When you are around law-driven people you get the vibe they are constantly comparing what you do with what they do, and you feel like you are constantly under their verdict of disapproval. There is a reason for that. The law has produced a disapproval complex in them, so they can’t help but pass it on to you.
People touched by generosity have a hilarious, peaceful, contented spirit when they give (2 Cor 9:7). When David described the radical generosity of the people of Israel toward the temple building project, he said they did so with a hearts of joy and “shalom.” (1 Chronicles 29:9) They were at peace when they gave, which means they were not driven by guilt andfear. They overflowed with joy as they gave because of God’s rich provisions for them and their gratefulness for what He’d given. For most Christians, “peace” and “joy” are the last words you would use to describe their giving.
When Paul urged the Corinthians to give, what characterizes his appeal is freedom. Paul was not shy about explaining the direness of the need (2 Cor 8:2), but he didn’t linger there. He even compared how much they had to how little others had, and explained that meant they had an obligation to share (2 Cor 8:14). He compared their giving to others (2 Cor 8:3) and told them that if they’d give then God would give back to them (9:10). The note that dominates his appeal, however, is freedom. Paul says he doesn’t want to give a command (2 Cor 8:8) because God only desires cheerful, free-spirited givers (2 Cor 9:5). That can only be produced by Gospel-change. So, at the middle of Paul’s appeal he puts before them the generosity of Christ, and asks them to meditate on that (2 Cor 8:9; 9:15).
God aims to change you not for a season, but for a lifetime. He wants not one generous offering, but a generous spirit to be produced in you. A generous spirit is produced only when the priorities, delights, and trusts of the heart have been fundamentally transformed. That kind of change flows only out of the Gospel.