Spurgeon once said that ‘most Christians have just enough Christianity to make them miserable’. They get all of the rules but none of the grace. And a gospel without grace is worse than no gospel at all.
The Christian, condemned by sin and guilt, is a million times unhappier than the unbeliever who is untroubled by either.
Sure, in our heads we know this. But in practice, how often do we preach that salvation is by grace, but sanctification is our job? In other words, Jesus gets us across the starting line, but the rest is up to us.
Over the last few days I’ve spoken to a lot of broken people. External hardships and events have played a part. But in almost every case, what has driven them to suicide and despair and madness has not been circumstances. It’s the belief that they’re uniquely sinful. That they’re letting God down. That as believers they can’t live up to a certain standard.
Each one has talked of the gospel they know in their heads. Saved by grace. No sin too dark that Jesus cannot pay for it. Many teach about and show such mercy to others. But when it comes to their own sin, that’s different. In their lives, they should be able to just pull it together. They should repent and sort themselves out. If they loved Jesus they wouldn’t do it. Their sin is disgusting and unforgivable. And if Jesus is who the Bible says, then they’re crucifying Him all over again. They’re not real believers. They know the truth but can’t live the way they want. They’re letting Him down. And God stands far away, with a disapproving church, waiting grudgingly to admit them to the kingdom – when they’ve cleaned themselves up.
If we only get a bit of the gospel, we’re worse off than if we have none at all. Because that means we’re under law. Condemned and guilty. Tortured by rules that we cannot keep. The rules in themselves are not bad. In fact, they are good – because they lead us to Christ. Only He can fulfil them. And he keeps them all – not just the big ones we can’t handle. We can’t get out of bed without Jesus. If we think or preach otherwise, we’re cursing a generation of church-goers who long to serve Jesus, but instead are enslaved to another system of rules.