Saturday, August 20, 2005
I want to say a few words about that form of “legalism” which I call Performance-Based Christianity, as opposed to Grace-Based. It's that form of legalism that tries to earn God's favor or love by what we do.
There are several other forms of legalism, for example:
1. There is initial salvation by works;
2. There is the Seventh Day Adventist type of legalism, which speaks of initial salvation by grace, but it must be followed by law-works or you end up losing your salvation;
3. There is that extra-biblical type of cultural "legalism", such as "no lipstick", "no pants for ladies", etc.;
4. There is pure Galatianism, which mixes law-works with grace, which of course makes it not grace.
The Perfomance-Based Christianity type I speak of is, I believe, the most destructive to the spiritual walk of the Christian, because it does several bad things:
1. It makes a Christian think they are better or worse than other Christians, causing pride or despair respectively;
2. It encourages the Christian to be self-centered -- always examining his navel as to whether he is "measuring up" (and he never is, of course) -- instead of being Christ-centered, looking to Jesus and fellowshiping with Him;
3. It encourages Daisy Theology -- "He loves me, He loves me not", robbing the believer of that precious and total love and acceptance that God has for him in Christ;
4. Worst of all, it adds law to grace, which Paul points out makes it no longer grace, whereupon one "falls from grace", as the Galatians did in their foolishness, and gets on the ground of Law, which quenches the Holy Spirit, and inflames sin.
The problem with Law-based living is that the one who lives that way must, 1. obey all of it, 2. obey it continually, 3. obey it perfectly.
Sorry, but "Striving to obey God's commandments" won't cut it, and one who lives that way is cursed by his own paradigm.
"For as many as are of the works of the Law are under a curse; for it is written, 'Cursed is everyone who does not abide by all things written in the book of the law to perform them.'" (Gal. 3:10)
But...We are "...servants of a new covenant, not of the letter, but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life." (2 Cor. 3:6)
And that New Covenant, of course, is in Jesus Christ, our Lawgiver, Lawkeeper, and Sacrifice Lamb, who became sin for us that we might become the righteousness of God. What a Savior and Friend!
Listen to "Grace For Life" Radio Program.
Monday, August 15, 2005
Someone wrote me the other day pointing out the obvious truth that the Bible has commands in it. So far so good, but he went on to say that the commands were "from Moses to Jesus to Paul" and that it is these commands "we must obey."
Now, if we're talking Moses, I could point out that there are over 600 "laws" in the Old Covenant, and most don't have anything to do with us under the New Covenant. But I have a broader point I'd like to make:
Whenever someone says that we Christians MUST obey some rule or law, two questions are raised in my mind:
1. To what extent MUST we obey? 10%, 50%, 99%? If you say 100%, you're correct. And thank God that Christ did it for us on the cross, 'cause we can't DO a hundred. As the song says, "I'm running trying to make a hundred...ninety-nine and a half just won't do."
2. We "must"? What if we don't? I mean, "must" is a pretty strong word. Well, the answer is, if we are a born again Christian, we are forgiven...period. Grasp that profound, radical truth! When you do, "must" becomes a moot point.
We "desire" to obey, in our very [reborn] spirit. And if we walk by the Spirit, we will obey. We will read His Word, desiring to know His heart, that we may walk in His ways. But if we walk by the flesh, all the "musts" get shaken off our backs like water off a wet dog. The key, then, is not the law, it's the Spirit. Walk by the Spirit and you will not fulfill the lusts of the flesh.
You wanna "strive"? Don't strive to follow the law. Strive to spend time in His presence, communing with Him, loving Him, basking in His love for you, talking to Him, listening to Him through His Word.
Then the fruit of His Spirit will rise up in you (love, joy, peace...), and the glorious law of Christ planted in your heart will make the written commands seem like mere shadows of a much higher glory, fulfilled in you by Christ, as He lives His life through you.
Mount up with wings, baby!
Listen to "Grace For Life" Radio Program.