“Let us therefore draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and may find grace to help in time of need.” (Heb. 4:16; NASB)
It has been 150 years since Victor Hugo wrote the classic tale of law and grace, Les Miserables, yet it is a story as much for today as the day it was written.
The principle character is Jean Valjean, a poor man who was imprisoned for 19 years for the high crime of stealing a loaf of bread when he was starving. Finally released, his nemesis, the police chief Javert, continues to hunt him when he breaks his parole conditions.
The difference between these two men is illustrated by their response to the poor and sickly Fantine who is unjustly accused of a crime. Valjean responds by promising to care for her daughter. Ever the defender of the law, Javert promises to prosecute her to the full extent of the law, saying in the musical production, “Honest work, just reward, that’s the way to please the Lord.”
His sentiment seems reasonable, and many, no all, of us embrace that ideology in at least some form. Yet an attempt to please God through a rigorous attention to the law will always prove to be futile and empty. It simply cannot be done.
We are saved by grace, kept by grace, matured by and in grace, and finally glorified by grace. The very reason for the Old Testament law was to prove that salvation must be by grace, for no man is capable of keeping the Law. In fact, salvation has always been by grace. A keeping of the Law (or the law) has saved no man (Gen. 15:6; Mt. 5:48).
So when we approach God and seek to please Him (Heb. 4:16), it is not through any rigorous attention to a real or perceived law. It is simply through an approach to His throne. And His throne is not one of law and wrath, but one of grace and freedom. It is at His throne that we find release from the bonds of legalism (read Rom. 8, especially vv. 1-8).
What are the laws of your soul by which you are attempting to commend yourself to God? Be honest. We all have some areas in which we are attempting to earn the favor of God. Do you have those areas in mind? Now. Go to the throne of God’s grace, and let them go. Know that God receives you not on the basis of what you do, but on the basis of what Christ did for you on the cross.