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Caution, this blog may make you rethink your traditional religious understanding of the Bible. It will help you fall more radically in love with a loving and gracious Father!
Wednesday, March 1, 2017
Reclaiming Grace:Legalism-Jesus Plus Something
17 For while the Law was given through Moses, grace (unearned, undeserved favor and spiritual blessing) and truth came through Jesus Christ. John 1:17 AMPC
In our last study, we saw that truth goes hand in hand with God's great Grace. There exist opposing forces who've staked a claim on Grace. We saw the vital need for defending the truth from this opposition. We saw the need to reclaim Grace.
Truth must not only be defended, but we must also speak the truth. Believers in Christ can only speak the truth in love when they are hearing the truth. Religion speaks tradition not truth. Sadly what many hear is a mixture of Grace and Law.
In fact, during a time of worship, the Lord visited me and detailed three different types of hearers of the message of Grace. Today, I will share about the first type of hearer. He spoke to my heart and revealed the first hearer of Grace is the legalist.
Legalism rejects the message of Grace. They've staked a claim against Grace. when they hear Grace and they either flat out reject it or tend to water it down. They label it Hyper-Grace and dismiss it as a form of "cheap Grace". What they have never grasped is that cheap Grace is when we water down God's perfect standards to a place where men can actually perform well enough on their own.
Grace is also cheapened when we attempt to earn or deserve God's free favors by our goodness and performance instead of by resting in the Finished Work. What then is the best way to define legalism? It's Jesus plus something. It is Jesus plus you. What Grace leads us into through a living relationship legalism twists into obligations.
The legalist has a stake against Grace because Radical Grace sets men free from religious duties into a living, vital, and loving relationship with our good Father. They may claim they too want believers to enjoy a relationship with God but they stipulate one must, of course, keep all the regulations and meet the standard obligations. What's most important with legalists is the keeping of the rules.
For instance, look at the often controversial topic of marriage and divorce. Legalists have lifted some passages out of their settings and created a whole laundry list of rules concerning divorce. I know of whole denominations who will disqualify people from serving in ministry if they've been divorced. Divorce in many circles is the unwritten unpardonable sin. The rules about divorce are strictly enforced.
One of my own relatives was in an abusive marriage. She got a divorce from this person. I recall telling a fellow believer about the situation. He said,"doesn't she know if she divorced, she could never remarry?" So her being free from an abusive relationship isn't what's important. What's important is that she maintain the rules. Sure she is expected to never find redemption in relationships and find a healthy marriage partner in her future. So what that she was a young woman when this occurred. She should have thought of the consequences before she divorced. Her happiness? What's that? That sounds like fleshly, Earthly sensual passion and we can't have that sin in our religious midsts.
The point is the rules must be kept. That is all that is paramount. Women getting abused physically at home? Women and the children living in a prison of fear? That's not an issue. What's at stake is that they are obligated to the rules. I have actually heard Christians teach even if the woman was being beaten by a spouse that divorce is a sin. That she, the battered woman, must do all she can to reconcile the marriage. If all else fails and they divorce she can't remarry that would be a sin.
When I was still under the bondage of religion and had not yet seen the truth of Grace I could never accept these rules and traditions of men. It seemed to cut so crosswise to the love and mercy of our Gracious good Father. Legalist will do and say nice things in public ministry but be sure obligation to keeping the rules is always right there in all they say and teach.
As believers in Christ, we do need to speak the truth. What is the truth? Grace and truth, we must speak who we are, who's we are and what we have in Him because of Grace. We are forever forgiven. We are the righteousness of God in Christ. We are redeemed. We belong to God, we've been bought with a high price. We have eternal security, freedom and complete wholeness in Him.
Under legalism, believers can't speak the truth because they are never taught it. They are taught tradition over truth. You're forgiven but only up to a point. You have eternal life in Christ, but it isn't eternal life if you sin away, Grace. You're righteous positionally but you need to perform all these deeds to really be righteous. Grace is an important part of getting saved but holiness and performance are what's really important in your daily walk.
The biggest area that legalism stakes its claim against Grace is this issue of our sins being forgiven past and present and future and our eternal security in Christ. I've actually seen Christian ministers teach there is no 100% assurance of salvation. Forever forgiveness and once saved always saved ruffles the feathers of religion and sends them into a frenzy.
We've just completed a short study concerning our eternal security in Him, (here, here and here.) These will answer the religious objection to eternal security, and the words of Jesus will silence legalism. As for future sins being forgiven, let the Word of God answer legalism.
7 So overflowing is his kindness toward us that he took away all our sins through the blood of his Son, by whom we are saved; Ephesians 1:7 TLB
32 Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God has forgiven you because you belong to Christ. Ephesians 4:32 TLB
14 who bought our freedom with his blood and forgave us all our sins. Colossians 1:14 TLB
13 You were dead in sins, and your sinful desires were not yet cut away. Then he gave you a share in the very life of Christ, for he forgave all your sins, Colossians 2:13 TLB
These are just some of the passages that reveal in Christ we have received the forgiveness of all our sins. Not just some. It says all. How many is all?All would include your future sins. Think of it, all of our sins were in the future when Christ died for them.
God has placed no obligations on us. He isn't saying if you do this enough you can fellowship with me. If you can behave for so many days I will be there for you. Brethren, this legalistic obligation knows no denominational barrier or whether your mainline protestant or Pentecostal/Charismatic.
When I was steeped in the Word of Faith movement, much of what was taught was religious duty and obligation. If you speak this way long enough if you read enough Scripture and if you give enough money and ensure you give it in the right way then God will bless you. Mind you now, if you've done all these things but mess up just once you've messed up your harvest of blessing. You must start all over again.
This is why we must reclaim Grace. We must relinquish legalism in all its forms. We must stay with Grace. God's Grace brought us into the Family of God. It His Grace alone and not our performance or obligations that keep us in the Family. Celebrate His Grace today, where would we be without it?
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