Doctrine is important and I am not sure anyone’s is perfect. But doctrine that gives us permission to be unloving, harsh, irreconcilable, faultfinding, and judgmental is always wrong! This is religion…not the pure religion that helps widows and orphans, rather the kind that crucified our Lord.
The doctrine of justification by faith (a Biblical truth, and a blessed relief from sterile legalism and unavailing self-effort) has in our times fallen into evil company and has been interpreted by many in such a manner as actually to bar men from the knowledge of God. The whole transaction of religious conversion has been made mechanical and spiritless. Faith may now be exercised without a jar to the moral life and without embarrassment to the Adamic ego. Christ may be received without creating any special love for Him in the soul of the receiver. The man is saved, but he is not hungry or thirsty after God. In fact, he is specifically taught to be satisfied and encouraged to be content with little. The modern scientist has lost God amid the wonders of His world; we Christians are in real danger of losing God amid the wonders of His Word.
If you look at God with the eye of the lawyer, the least sin makes you ineligible for mercy; but if you look at Him in Christ, or with an evangelical eye, the greatest sinner may receive mercy; yes, the sense of unworthiness makes a man the more receptive.
I have found, in my own spiritual life, that the more rules I lay down for myself, the more sins I commit. The habit of regular morning and evening prayer is one which is indispensable to a believer’s life, but the prescribing of the length of prayer, and the constrained remembrance of so many persons and subjects, may gender unto bondage, and strangle prayer rather than assist it.
The Law tells me how crooked I am; Grace comes along and straightens me out.
Prayer should never be regarded as a science or reduced to a system–that ruins it, because it is essentially a living and personal relationship, which tends to become more personal and also more simple, as one goes on.
It would be easier, I sometimes think, if God had given us a set of ideas to mull over and kick around and decide whether to accept or reject. He did not. His gave us Himself in the form of a Person.
The worst tragedy would be to turn the Sermon on the Mount into another form of legalism; it should rather put an end to all legalism. Legalism like the Pharisees’ will always fail, not because it is too strict but because it is not strict enough. Thunderously, inarguably, the Sermon on the Mount proves that before God we all stand on level ground: murderers and temper-throwers, adulterers and lusters, thieves and coveters. We are all desperate, and that is in fact the only state appropriate to a human being who wants to know God. Having fallen from the absolute Ideal, we have nowhere to land but in the safety net of absolute grace.
The Gospel is good news of mercy to the undeserving. The symbol of the religion of Jesus is the cross, not the scales.
For a work to be considered good it must not only conform outwardly to the law of God, but it must be motivated inwardly by a sincere love for God.