Steve says that in his youth group they've been teaching the 10 commandments. He's uncomfortable telling people to be good. He and I have looked at how we were never under God's law and how law actually increases sin (forbidden fruit always looks sweeter). Got me thinking. My impression is that a lot of youth work tells teenage non-Christians to behave. It says you need to not steal, lust, get angry etc. These people were never under God's law so they don't need us to dump it on them. Their conscience tells them that they do wrong. And then we go and top it up. Teenager then walks away saying, I can't live your way and I don't want to.
Someone without the Holy Spirit isn't going to live a moral life. (It's pretty tough when you do have the Holy Spirit.) What can we do though? Surely we ought to say - you know that your conscience says you do wrong. God says the same. But God doesn't say do better, try harder, get ahead in the moral game. And doesn't have to work to condemn you or make you feel guity. He simply says you can't be good, you can't fool me, you can't impress me anymore than you actually fool anyone else. Game over for being good.
And God says let me introduce you to Grace. Yes it's the name for a girl but it's also something that can change the world. Its the best thing the world has never known. Grace says - you don't deserve good things from God but he'll give them to you. And he does so on the basis of his goodness and his reputation (rather than your goodness and your reputation).
How so? What makes God happy is for you to know that the best place to live is knowing him. And so he sends Jesus to be punished for all the wrong you know you've done, and all the wrong you hadn't even noticed. And as that happens you can be counted perfect in God's sight. Perfect. And teflon perfect at that. Totally non-stick and, stainless forever. You can't do anything to get in with God. You can't earn this. It's free, and it's called grace. And when you recieve God's grace heaven celebrates, God is happy and his reputation soars for because he changes your life.
No-one ever told me about this when I was a teenager. They just talked about being relevant and being responsible and being right. Grace means I can confess I'm wrong. Grace means I can mess up. Grace means I can know God forever. Grace means I can find joy in God instead of trying to find it apart from him.
Playing the moral maze that depends on my ability to find my way ends up with me getting lost, defeated and miserable. The Grace of God means I get found, victorious and happy beyond my wildest dreams.