When we point out the difference between right and wrong, individual guilt is accentuated. This is why Paul said, "By the law is the knowledge of sin" Romans 3:20. We are awakened in conscience to our true condition when the law is presented. And this is just as it should be. The law is intended to occupy that role, and we ought to preach it to accomplish that purpose. But if at this point we fail to magnify God's great love in Christ for the pardon of sin, we risk communicating one of two false impressions with equally devastating results.
False Impression Number One: I need to keep the law in order to gain the favor and salvation of God."
With this subtle misuse of the law, obedience, standards of holiness, preparation for the close of probation are all perceived as human responsibilities to be borne faithfully in order to secure salvation. Those who tend to be strong-willed and self-confident fall prey to this kind of thinking most easily. Self-righteousness is the result.
False Impression Number two: "I am utterly hopeless and may as well give up"
Obedience to the law and Christian standards are perceived as obstacles in the way of salvation. The weak and self-conscious fall here. Despair is the result.
Now consider with me the vital part God intends that His love should occupy in the plan of salvation. I think you'll see that it is not risky to focus on the cross. An emphasis on God's love does not give license to sin or cause people to lower standards.
According to the apostle Paul, "The message of the cross is the power of God" 1 Corinthians 1:18. He enlarges the thought by informing us that the message of the cross is God's love: "God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us" Romans 5;8. But do not misunderstand Paul's intent. He speaks of God's love not as a sentimental feeling that makes sinners feel comfortable in their sins, but as a motivating power that enables us to truly be free from sin. In Paul's understanding the love of Christ is the empowering factor in Christian experience.
Notice his words: "The love of Christ constraineth us..." 2 Corinthians 5:14 "Christ's love compels us ..."NIV The idea conveyed in this Scripture is motivational power. The love of Christ moves our sin-weakened wills to do things we would never be able to do apart from its animating influence. This is just the kind of power we need, because the Christian life involves various actions of the will that require more than human strength:
Repentance, which is sorrow for sin so deep that it causes the sinner to turn from his sin.
Confession, which is a humble acknowledgment of personal sin before the Lord.
Reformation, which involves some radical changes of thought, feeling and lifestyle.
All of these aspects of Christian experience are summarized in the penetrating words of Jesus, "Whosoever will come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me' Mark 8:34. Every movement toward God is a movement away from self. The victories to which God calls us and all the changes He requires are, at foundation level, a denial of the old carnal self.
(Don't give up in hopelessness or despair, there is hope for all, including you and me. Hang in there for the good news is the Good News of the Gospel. Grandma Joan)