Done With Legalism!
When was the last time you heard someone call himself a legalist? Hardly anyone will ever describe himself as legalistic, but many Christians who go on to maturity recognize that they have behaved legalistically perhaps even more often than they broke commandments. It is much more natural to regulate behavior instead of seeking strength in the gospel through repentance and faith in Jesus and as a result, the refreshing, simple call to trust in the merits of Jesus crucified for you on the cross suddenly becomes a joy bigger than the national debt. At this point of the discussion, it is easy to feel done. Go, and be a legalist no more!
The Opposite of Wrong
In every issue of the Christian life, the opposite of wrong is just a different wrong. For example, charismatic acts a la Benny Hinn are false signs and miracles, but without any theology of miracles, we would be deists, the atonement would be impossible, and our faith would be futile.
What then is the opposite of legalistic discipline? Disordered, lazy worldliness, and license to sin. Judge for yourself which is worse.
A Third Way
Where then does the recovering legalist go? To Jesus of course (the Sunday School answer is always right)! But what does that look like considering that Jesus has ascended to heaven? We can’t see or touch Jesus, or talk to him and hear words back. How do we encounter Jesus here on earth? Answer: through the means of grace.
The Meansa Wha?
The means of grace are ways that God has established for delivering grace to you. Consider Isaiah 55:1.
Isaiah 55:1 “Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and he who has no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price.”
We see the grace in the, “without money and without price.” These are free gifts of grace, not works, but notice that you still have to eat. If you thirst and hunger and come to the waters, but you don’t eat, you will remain hungry. The means of grace are the ways that we eat the free food. Do not equate the calls to thirst, come, buy, and eat with dead works to please God, but rather as means that God has provided to acquire more and more and more grace to satisfy more and more of your hungers and thirsts and to help you to bear good fruit.
Give Me Grace!
Ok, so what are the means of grace? Where do we find them? In the Bible, of course.
- Crying out to the Lord from your trouble. (Psalm 107 – Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble, and he delivered them from their distress.)
- Confession of sins to God (1 John 1:9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.)
- Confession of sins to one another (James 5:16 – Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.)
- Through the exchange of spiritual gifts in church (1 Peter 4:10 – As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace)
- Hearing the gospel with faith (Galatians 3:5-6 – Does he who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you do so by works of the law, or by hearing with faith— just as Abraham “believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”?)
- Hearing the word of God (Acts 20:32 – And now I commend you to God and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified.)
- Being acquainted with the sacred writings (2 Timothy 3:15 – …and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.)
- Giving to the needy (2 Corinthians 9:7-8 – Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work.)
- Eating the Lord’s Supper in a worthy manner (1 Corinthians 11:26 – For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.)
These were the results of a very brief survey of the Bible, and are by no means a comprehensive list, but they serve as a menu of appetizers in the feast of grace. Glut yourself on God, and bring a friend… or an enemy.