EULESS—Christians must avoid the theological misstep of confusing God’s law and God’s gospel, Tullian Tchividjian told attendees to the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention’s 2015 Empower Conference at First Baptist Euless Feb. 24.
Tchividjian, pastor of Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., said law and gospel are both essential aspects of the Christian walk but have become muddled together in sermons and therefore in the lives of Christians. Preaching from Romans 7, he said that while he hates to sound alarmist, he believes the church is in trouble because of this confusion.
“I’m convinced the church is in trouble,” Tchividjian said, “and the reason the church is in trouble is because pulpits are in trouble, and the reason pulpits are in trouble is because preachers fail to distinguish … between God’s law and God’s gospel.”
Tchividjian said God’s Word comes in two forms: demands (law) and deliverance (gospel). Both are important and necessary, but they have vastly different roles. He said a focus on law over grace leads Christians to believe that somehow, if they try really hard, they can attain the level of sanctification and holiness that pleases God by following his laws and commands. The problem with this mindset, he said, is that since God’s standard is perfection, no one can rise to that level of excellence. The role of the law is to show people just how badly they need grace, highlighting the unending ways they fall short of God’s expectations.
“The focus and the foundation of the Christian faith is not living for God,” Tchividjian said. “The focus of the Christian faith is that God in Christ gloriously lived for us. That foundation produces fruit, but the root of the Christian faith is not living for God. It’s the fact that God in Christ is living for us.
“Failure to distinguish between law and gospel always means the abandonment of the gospel because the law gets softened into helpful tips for practical living, while the gospel gets hardened into a set of demands that we have to live out.”
Tchividjian said sermons should point out the severity of man’s sinfulness, which shows people “that they are a lot worse than they think they are.” Then, he said, sermons should explain the infinite, unimaginable reality of God’s grace.
God’s law, Tchividjian said, is for those that think they are good. His grace is for those that know they are bad. Both are equally important, he emphasized. But also crucial is the church’s commitment to allow both law and grace to have their own distinct jobs and roles in the life of Christians.
“This is a game changer, in my opinion,” he said.