I’m currently leading a group through Tim Keller’s Gospel in Life: Grace Changes Everything study, and as such have recently re-read his comparison between “Religion” and “Gospel” (or Legalism and Biblical Christianity).
Over recent years, online at least, there appears to have been a resurgence of focus on obedience rooted in gratefulness. A quick Google search and you’ll find variations and reproductions of Keller’s aforementioned paradigm over much of the Christian blogosphere.
However, gospel motivated mortification of sin isn’t really something new. For example, aside from Tim Keller’s Scriptural arguments in Gospel in Life, he and others will frequently quote John Calvin, Martin Luther, Charles Spurgeon, and Jonathan Edwards.
But aside from the “big name” saints of old, I was encouraged this week reading a piece by someone less known. Ralph Erskine (1685-1752), a Scottish Presbyterian minister. He outlines seven differences between “legal” and “gospel” mortification, with one of those differences being motive.
To challenge your heart motives, and to encourage you in the gospel, here is an adaptation from Erskine’s piece.
A Believer’s Motives vs. A Legalist’s Motives
The believer will not serve sin, because he is alive to God, and dead to sin (Rom. 6:6).
The legalist forsakes sin, not because he is alive, but that he may live.
The believer mortifies sin, because God loves him.
The legalist mortifies sin, that God may love him.
The believer mortifies sin, because God is pacified towards him.
The legalist mortifies sin, that he may pacify God by his mortification.
The legalist may go a great length, but it is still that he may have the glory, making his own doing all the foundation of his hope and comfort.
May you go on mortifying sin this week, by God’s grace, in the power of His Holy Spirit, and motivated by the truth of God’s glorious gospel.