Law ahead, Gospel behind
As Lutherans, we are taught the difference between Law and Gospel. The Law consists of God's commands to us. The Law keeps society in order, it shows us our sin, and acts as a guide for how we should behave as Christians. The Law is about what we do. The Gospel, on the other hand, shows us our Savior, Jesus, and proclaims that He has died for our sins giving us salvation as a free gift. The Gospel is about what God does for us. All well and good, but how does knowing that help us in our daily lives?
First, consider what Satan would have you think about yourself and your actions. Satan wants you to look at your past, all the rotten things you've done, the mistakes you've made, the hurt that you've caused other people, and wants you to think on those things through the lens of the Law. It's like Satan wants to say, "Look at all those terrible things you've done. You've certainly made a mess. How could God love you considering what you've done. You're not much of a Christian." But the devil also wants you to look to the future through the lens of a distorted Gospel. It's as if he wants to say, "Go ahead and do whatever you want. God will forgive you anyway!" Regarding your future thoughts, words, and deeds, the devil doesn't want you to consider the 10 commandments. The devil is a liar and is twisting God's word.
This the opposite of how God wants us to understand Law and Gospel. The Lord wants us to look at our past through the lens of the Gospel. "I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more,” says God in Jeremiah 31. The Psalmist writes in Psalm 103, "as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us." "I forgive you all of your sins," says God to you through the pastor on Sunday morning during the Divine Service. Or as we pray in Luther's evening prayer, "I pray that you would forgive all of my sins where I have done wrong." Furthermore, God wants you to look to the future, those things which you will choose to do and not do through the eyes of His good and gracious Law. His desire is that we fear, love, and trust in Him alone, and would treat each other according to the 10 commandments. That's what we pray for in Luther's morning prayer, "... I pray that you would keep me this day from sin and every evil that all my doings and life may please you. ..." Luther also advises that you go to work "singing a hymn, like that of the 10 commandments." Beginning the day with prayer, hymns, and God's Word prepares us to live that day as one of God's chosen people. Thus, the title of this article; look ahead to your day with God's law in mind, and look back on your day trusting in the Lord's forgiveness as proclaimed in the Gospel.
If you're not in the habit of praying Luther's morning and evening prayers I encourage you to try it. They can be found in the hymnal on page 327, or find them here: Luther's morning and evening prayer
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