All religions in the world, except for authentic Gospel Christianity, states that what you do determines your outcome. Their motivation to get you to obey and be moral is the law. Do this, do that and as a result you will get a good outcome. God Himself says this in the Scriptures, “Do this and live,” but He also says that we are unable to fulfill His law (Romans 8). The law is a burden, a weight that no one can successfully and perfectly uphold because of our sinfulness. It has morally incapacitated us. Christianity is totally the opposite though of every other religion. When Paul writes to various churches in the New Testament, there is a specific way in which He directs them on how to live their lives in accordance with the law. Instead of starting out his letters right out of the gate with law, “Do this, do that, to please me and please God,” he starts out his letters packed with theology, packed with the mercy of God to undeserving sinners. For the longest time when I was in high school and read his letters, I did not quite understand what he was doing. It seemed he started out his letters with no common theme other than speaking about the inner workings of God and salvation. It appeared so convoluted and confusing … that is until I saw the purpose of doing this. Instead of motivating his readers to walk in a manner God demands by trying to rouse their wills, that they may set their wills against sin and obey the law (which as Romans 8 clearly points out, in the flesh we are unable to do anything of worth or value before God), he rather starts out with the wonders of the work of Christ, the nature of God, His characteristics, how we were saved, etc.
Why though? There is a simple reason; instead of trying to motivate his readers with law to obey God, he motivates them with grace and mercy found in the cross. For example, Romans chapter one through eleven is basically all theology. There are some exhortations to obey God, but for the most part it is Paul’s dictation about the story of redemption, starting man’s corruptness and condemnation and then presenting the remedy, faith in Christ crucified. Then in chapter twelve, how does it start?
“I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”
Paul is saying, under the context of the mercy of God, in view of having your souls purchased by the wonderful work of Christ on the cross, in view of having been elected to salvation through the work of Christ before the foundation of the world, offer yourselves to God in obedience. Keep the work of Christ at the forefront of your minds and in doing so, obey God. In fact this is the only way you will even begin to do what God demands of you in the law. Stare into the person and work of Christ in the Scriptures and in fellowship with Him in prayer until you are changed from the inside out by His Spirit to do what He demands of you.
In addition to Paul’s exhortations to obey the law using the mercy of God as a backdrop and motivation, in First Peter chapter one, Peter starts out with exhortations of theology, about how we were saved, with praise to God for this work for us.
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.”
Peter then in verse 13 through 16 states:
“Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, ‘You shall be holy, for I am holy.'”
Through faith in the blood of Christ, He has removed all obstacles between you and God, you are finally fully acceptable to the Father. There is no more religious running or moral toiling you have to do to get on God’s eternal accepted list. “It is finished,” just as Jesus stated before His death on the cross. Christ’s work is perfectly accepted by the Father as payment on our behalf to ransom us from eternal death. This is the motivation for obeying the law of God. Now no longer is it merely a duty to obey, it is a delight for the children of God and brings great joy, because we want to glorify the one who purchased His people with His blood! Mercy is the motivation for obeying, not law. Law points out our inadequacy before God, mercy points out our accepted state through the work of Christ on our behalf, and now in view of this, we obey!