Years ago, I heard Tim Keller say that in a sermon, and it’s stuck with me since.
One minute, we’ll have a good grasp of it. The next, we’ve lost it entirely. But here’s the worst part—we rarely even notice. We’ll grab onto one of two falsehoods and think it to be the gospel.
One is legalism. We’ll believe that God considers us righteous because we’ve read our Bibles, prayed, or abstained from a sin. We’ll allow our activity to govern our identity—what we do becomes who we are. If we’re doing “spiritually bad,” we’ll think that we need to make it up to God through religion. And if we’re doing “spiritually good,” we’ll get the idea that God owes us something.
The other is permissivism. We’ll believe that, because God is full of grace, we don’t really need to strive for holiness. We’ll look at the sin in and our life and think, “Well, it isn’t that big of a deal I suppose. I mean, God’s grace covers it, right?” We’ll be spiritually lazy, putting minimal effort into pursuing holiness or advancing the Kingdom of God.
Interesting, right? I’m not saying that we make a deliberate decision to depart from the gospel in the name of legalism or permissivism, but I am saying that the gospel doesn’t stay within our grasp forever. We have to pick it up again and again and again.