Daily Archives: 18th May 2016

“Do, or do not. There is no ‘try’ “

Most of my readers know how much I love to use the mythology of Star Wars to illustrate theological points from the Christian faith. And of course there is no better character than Jedi Master Yoda when it comes to wisdom quotes. With his backwards-facing speech and small stature, it’s easy to underestimate him – until you realise that he’s over 800 years old and has lived under the guidance of the Force (the Star Wars universe’s version of God) for his whole life. He’s compassionate and gentle, wise and powerful. Someone once said to me that he thought that Yoda was ‘…a better Christian than some Church people I know’!

Although sometimes his sayings can be most confusing!

Take, for instance, the saying in the title of this piece.

“Try not. Do, or do not. There is no ‘try’ “

This is actually a fair summary of the message of God’s Grace, in a nutshell.

But first, let’s hear it from Master Yoda himself:

And I’m not the only one who found it confusing. For instance, in the Disney XD series ‘Star Wars Rebels‘, there’s an exchange between Jedi Kanan Jarrus and his young Padawan (apprentice), Ezra Bridger, talking about it:

As I said above, this is indeed a fair summary of the message of God’s Grace, in terms of what we need to do to please God. Naturally, I’m ripping it entirely out of its original context, and saying something completely different from what Yoda meant (I think, anyway!) – but still it’s useful.

“Do, or Do Not, there is no Try”, simply reminds us that in Christ we have the freedom to Do, or to Do Not. There is absolutely no need to Try.

This is so liberating!

You see, as my regular readers will know, I am a strong proponent of Grace. God’s Grace: the undeserved favour of Almighty God given freely and without hindrance or condition to His children. In all the world’s religions, there are really only two main approaches: there’s Legalism, and there’s Grace. And Christianity, at its core, is the only faith which promotes Grace, and this entirely through the finished work of Jesus Christ – although sadly, much of the time, it is bound up with so much other legalistic religious baggage that it’s undetectable in its true form.

Simply put, Legalism is: do this, do this, don’t do that, don’t do that. Try harder to impress God and He’ll look upon you with favour.

Grace, however, is: it’s already done! Because of the freedom Grace brings, Grace is “Do, or do not. There is no ‘try’. “

Grace gives you the freedom to choose to do, or do not, without the Law telling you what to do or not to do. Grace allows you to live life by the Spirit of God, life ‘in the Spirit’, completely unfettered by human expectations of how you ‘should’ obey God’s Law. In short, Do, or Do Not. If you begin to ‘Try’, then you immediately fall into Law and you have ‘fallen from Grace’ (Gal 5:4) in that you are no longer in the state where you are relying on Grace to do things for you, such as making you righteous, fulfilling the Law in Christ and so on. You cannot be in Grace and Law at the same time; it’s either one or the other. To coin a Star Wars phrase, again, you need to ‘trust in the Force’, to ‘let go’ and let God work out His will for you as you walk in the Spirit.

“Do, or do not. There is no ‘try’ “

Because the flesh and the law work together, there is no try, because try is doomed to failure. The Law is weakened by sin, and sin increases through the Law (Rom 7:5-6). The two therefore work together in a vicious circle to produce fruitlessness and death. If you want to live by Law, fine; you will still enjoy fellowship with God after a fashion, even though you will likely be adding in lots of additional burdens like rule-keeping, expected behaviour and having to toe the party line on certain issues like creation/evolution and gay/straight debates. There is a form of fellowship with God there, because God allows people to ‘do legalism’ without it affecting how He sees them. But it’s not because of the Rules you think you’re keeping so well (in fact you will probably be conscious of how badly you’re keeping them!); no, It’s because of God’s Grace, apart from Law, that you areĀ already made acceptable to God in Christ. But unless you come into the real freedom of the Children of God (Rom 8:21) then you will never be free, completely free, from the desire to please others, from the jumping through man-made hoops in order to please God, and all that other baggage. Make no mistake – the desire to please God through following rules almost always turns into trying to please men, because in actual fact it’s their rules you end up trying to keep, not God’s. The Pharisees of Jesus’s day had the Ten Commandments and some other laws too, but they also added lots of other man-made rules of their own. You see the problem? This still goes on today…..

Grace is over Law – the Law of God which essentially states that everyone has to be perfect, and therefore naturally leads us to the point where we realise we can’t be perfect. And so it leads us to Grace, because the function of the Law is to show us our need for Grace (Rom 7:13). The key here is to realise that and accept it, rather than to go on struggling under Law!

“Do, or do not. There is no ‘try’ “

Paul, talking about God’s dealing with Israel with regards to the Gospel, (but the principle applies to Jew and Gentile believer alike), says in Romans 11:6, “And if by grace, then it cannot be based on works; if it were, grace would no longer be grace” (NIV) The King James Version actually adds in more, which I find helpful: “And if by grace, then is it no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then is it no more grace: otherwise work is no more work” Romans 11:6 (KJV). That elaboration in the KJV is helpful because it explains that whichever mode of belief you subscribe to – Law (works) or Grace – they are mutually exclusive. You cant exist in both states at the same time. To try to do so means you become ‘double-minded‘ because you are in and out of the ‘state of Grace’ and blown about all over the place (Jas 1:5-8)

“Do, or do not. There is no ‘try’ “

I still maintain that, for many believers (even those who understand Grace), the temptation to become acceptable to God through performance – ‘works’ – is a vestigial remnant of their desire to please God in their own strength. But what of where James says in Jas 2:14-26 that “faith without works is dead”? Don’t we need both faith and works? Yes, but only in that works are the fruit of faith. A life lived in faith will produce good works; as usual in many Christian circles a lot of people have got it back-to front and said that good works prove your faith. In one sense they do, but it is not the job of fellow believers to be ‘fruit inspectors’ who ‘police’ others’ works! And the interesting thing here is that actually even those whose walk is under Law still do produce some fruit, because their hearts are in one sense right before God in that they desire Him and desire to walk with Him. But the primary holdup with Law is that the Law-walking believer is never walking in the complete freedom that is his by birthright.

Why have I gone to such lengths to describe the futility of the walk under Law in this piece?

Because these are all examples of Try. It’s all about what we do, rather than about what Christ has already done. What part of Christ’s work does the Legalistic believer think was not completed properly, such that he needs to complete Christ’s work for Him? No, this is Try. Even for those who claim to recognise Grace, but then try to prove they love God by trying to obey rules, it’s not really living under Grace; it’s living under ‘mixture‘. True Grace is completely different. There is no compulsion to try to fulfil the Law in order to please God, because Jesus has already fulfilled the Law on our behalf. There is the freedom to Do – works for God flowing from the depth of our love, and relationship with, Him – but not in order to try to earn His favour, which we already have. The freedom to enjoy life with all its blessings without human rules and expectations getting in the way. There is the freedom to Do Not; the freedom to just rest in God and trust Him for all our own righteousness rather than try to earn it for ourselves – which we can’t do anyway!

Despite all my convoluted explanations above, it’s really very simple.

Under Grace, you have the freedom to Do; you have the freedom to Do Not.

But to Try – I think we’ve already seen how futile this is.

No, it’s always got to be this:

“Try not. Do, or do not. There is no ‘try’ “
do-donot-yoda-pie-chart

 

 

 

 

 

 

And May the Force be With You!

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