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Painting by Numbers

The Old Testament Law gives us a paint-by-numbers approach to life, but Christ's mercy enables us to live a life of beautiful faith.

From the editor

If you've read or heard a sermon by Peter Hiett, chances are you've not forgotten it. Consider "Redneck Christmas"—a featured sermon in our 2007 Advent resources. It's a rather unorthodox look at the shepherds of the nativity. Or perhaps you should take a look at "Warriors on Their Couches." I suspect you've never heard the story of David and Bathsheba quite the way Hiett tells it. Well, Peter's being featured once again on Preaching Today, and this time he's tackling issues of law and grace—in his own unique way, of course.


Little children are incredibly legalistic. When my kids were little, friends would come over for dinner and say something like, "We drove down to the dam," and all the kids would open their mouths in shock and point their fingers and say, "He said a bad word!"

Once I tried to explain to my preschooler, Coleman, that he could say "but" if it was used as a conjunction, but not as a noun. I thought I explained the difference. Driving in the van one day, I heard some ruckus in the back seat. Then I heard Coleman loud and clear. He screamed, "Elizabeth, you butthead!" It got deathly quiet. A frantic little voice broke the silence. "Daddy, it was a conjunction!"

I tried to define the law, but he still wouldn't get the picture. The truth is I really don't care if Coleman says "butt" as a noun or a conjunction. I care that he loves his sister. But he didn't want to get that picture.

The law can be an excuse to hide from the big picture.

Sometimes we use the law to avoid the big picture, the meaning. Sometimes we resort to law to cover our tails and hide the picture. If your boss asks you to try something, it's easy to turn it into a law and avoid seeing the big picture, for ...

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Peter Hiett is pastor of The Sanctuary Downtown in Denver, Colorado, and author of Dance Lessons for Zombies (2005).

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Sermon Outline:


Oftentimes, the law is defined but the recipients don't get the picture.

I. The law can be an excuse to hide from the big picture.

II. The Old Testament Law is like a paint-by-numbers picture.

III. God wants us to understand the meaning behind the laws.

IV. At the Cross, Jesus revealed God's grace.

V. God's grace offers us freedom from the law.

VI. With the freedom of God's grace, we can live a life of beautiful faith.


Get the picture and then paint what comes natural, and whatever it is, it will be beautiful.