‘You are/ it is’ precede ‘you should/ it is necessary that…’  A basic understanding of grammar comes in handy.  In the Christian world, God tells us facts before he commands us to obey him.  He tells us what IS (his character, his accomplishments, his power, his plans and goals) before he tells us what to DO.

When we fall into the sin of legalism, it’s because we’ve harnessed the proverbial cart before the horse, i.e., the imperative (do this) before the indicative (what is).

Here’s how using the indicative can help in our own lives. My thesis is that unless we keep telling ourselves Truth, then we fall victim to feelings which can lead us around by the nose.  Imagine you’re in the car, impatient to get home when someone cuts you off.  If you’re like me, you’re likely to criticize that other driver and think the worst about him.  But if you knew an indicative, a fact, your feelings would likely change.  What if you knew that in that car was a young husband desperately speeding to get his very pregnant wife to the hospital.  Imagine her in labor, in pain and him feeling helpless and mindful of only one thing, his precious wife. Would that change how you feel about him cutting you off?  Of course!  You would offer him some slack.  More information changes your assessment, hence the conclusion you draw and feed yourself, hence your feelings.

This example came to mind the other day when I was meditating on Hebrews.  In chapter 10, the author says that if the people knew that one sacrifice would wipe out their sins once and for all, they would no longer feel guilty for those sins. (Hebr 10: 2b ….for the worshipers would have been cleansed once for all, and would no longer have felt guilty for their sins.) That verse caused me to realize that I am not supposed to feel guilty for sins already forgiven.  The information that a sacrifice not only cleanses me, but takes away the guilt was new information.  And Jesus performed the one and only necessary sacrifice for sins AND for guilt.  When I still feel guilty after having been forgiven, I am forgetting a fact, an indicative.  Reminding myself of the fact that my guilt is taken away MAKES me feel differently.

The current message I’m receiving from the Bible and from sermons by RC Sproul and Tullian Tchividjian is how important the gospel message is to believers.  We need a steady daily diet of Gospel indicatives.  Our minds and hearts need to be saturated by the radical and scarcely-proclaimed message (one that is NOT intuitive, nor picked up by osmosis) of God’s grace and love. Culture daily bombards us with all the stuff we should do.  Guilt comes naturally in our culture.

I was brought to tears the other day listening to Tullian talk about the wonderful news of God’s grace.  He was illustrating it with an example of a student so stressed out by a high school honors class that she can’t perform.  In response the wise teacher guarantees her an A for the semester.   This A is contingent on NOTHING the student does, just on the kindness of the teacher.  From our perspective, this is an outrageous risk.  What if the student takes advantage of the ‘pre-destined A’?  Apparently that is a risk the teacher is willing to take.  In this real-life illustration, the high-school junior ended up relaxing and working hard and probably earning the A.  But she worked with peace of mind.

So too, we, have been given this ‘Scarlet Letter’, this predetermined grade of A, purchased in blood by Jesus.  It is a total gift.  We don’t have to do anything to earn it.  Furthermore, God won’t take it away from those he has given it to.  We can relax and learn from him.  We can trust this yoke, that it is easy.  Yet we chafe.  We would rather FEEL WORTHY.  Why is that?  Pernicious pride!  It offends us to have our opportunity  to earn WORTH taken away from us.  Somehow intrinsic value (totally up to God) doesn’t satisfy us.  This twisted thinking needs to be redeemed.  Only the daily drip method of life-giving Gospel truth can transform our minds.

The next time I start manufacturing pressure for myself, I need to pause and reflect.  Why am I feeling anxious?  What truth, fact, promise, and info about God do I need to remember?  What false conclusion am I drawing?  What am I trying to DO out of guilt or out of the idea that THIS is how ‘good’ Christians should act?  It is great news that I don’t have to DO anything.  I just have to ‘abide’ in Christ.  That means:  stay connected, keep my eyes on him, feed on him, hang out with him, be the Mary at his feet, rather than the Martha trying to get Jesus on her side against the ‘lazy ones’.

I want to wear this Scarlet Letter with pride!