I know you all have heard of Dr. Phil. He has a lot of insights into human relationships and he gives helpful advice. I’m sure many are able to enjoy self-improvements as a result of listening to Oprah’s favorite doctor.
Category Archives: Legalism Vs. Grace
Seeing, but not seeing, is a common problem. Christians see that Jesus carried their sins, but they still don’t see themselves righteous; Jesus bore their sickness, but they have a difficult time to see themselves healed. We see that Jesus has become our righteousness, redemption, wisdom and sanctification, but somehow we still look for all of the above. Out of one side of the mouth we say, “God has given us everything in Christ,” and out of the other side we claim to be a very “needy people”. On the one hand we agree with Jesus that if we drink the water He gives we’ll never thirst again, while on the other we say, “Lord, I’m so thirsty for you”. Do you see the contradictions? Is this schizophrenic life normal Christianity?
If the current Christian scene were a football game, I’d say we are in the fourth quarter and if you look at the scoreboard legalism has an insurmountable lead over grace. This has been an ongoing battle for 2000 years; the legalism of the Pharisees vs. the unmerited, undeserved, unearned favor of God presented by Jesus. There is a line between those who uphold the traditions of men based on merits versus Jesus the friend and transformer of sinners. The Council in Jerusalem (Acts 15) dealt with this ongoing conflict where certain “Judaizers” wanted to lay more “burdens” on the new believers. That time the truth prevailed, and it was agreed that we are all children of God through faith in Jesus Christ. In Antioch, the same battle continued as Paul had to publicly rebuke Simon Peter and his spiritual mentor Barnabus because they were slipping into legalism instead of standing by the message of Christ alone and grace alone (Galatians 2).
Revolutions or reformations are not needed in every generation; it is only when things have gone so far that the very foundations of people’s belief systems need to be challenged. Martin Luther lived in such a time. The predominant Christian religion of his day was selling salvation and the forgiveness of sin for monetary gain in the market place. Are we due for another reformation, or as I often call it, a gospel revolution?
I have just about seen enough articles, teaching albums, etc. advertised under titles like “Greasy Grace”, “Crazy Grace”, or “Grace Gone Wild”. While I am sure that just about everything can be abused, even grace because the Bible says so. These three titles that warn against the grace message don’t have a clue and often have little or no knowledge of what the message is. Instead they build up a phantom and an attack that their imagination has created. It goes something like this: “Those who preach a radical message of God’s grace are people looking for a low commitment, a low level Christian life where anything goes because sin is tolerated (after all, Jesus paid for them).” Often writers are connecting the message of grace with general moral decay in the church and in the world. I used to have this opinion of grace teaching myself only seven or eight years ago. I had never really heard the message but just assumed that people who would preach that all sin, past, present and future had been paid for by Jesus, couldn’t be doing anything good with their sermons, in fact they must be something negative (creating a license to sin).
I remember when I used to enjoy being called a fundamentalist or call myself a fundamentalist. That was back when fundamentalism meant, “Clinging to unchanging truths.” In that sense, I am still a fundamentalist, clinging to the unchanging reality of what Jesus has done through His death and resurrection and what He is doing in His present day ministry as our exalted King.
How are we saved, and what is the means of our salvation? Amazingly, much confusion exists among evangelical and charismatic Christians on this topic. A recent issue of Christianity Today heralded an increased acceptance of Calvinism, which prompted me to read a couple of books on this subject. Well, now I am even more convinced of the need to address the subject of salvation.
Christmas has started a bit different for RoxAnne and I. It has been an exciting year! I enjoy blogging and I sure enjoy your responses. I am writing from Timika, in the province of Papua, Indonesia. Last night we finished a Gospel Festival; and at the end of it I was swarmed by Muslims. They were hugging me, squeezing me, wanting to get close… it was awesome. I know they were not praising me; I was only basking in the overflow, so to speak, of what Jesus had done for them. They were only grateful to me because I had brought them a witness of the LIGHT. Now it is the day after and I am thinking back.
This year we have celebrated the 100th anniversary of the Azusa Street Pentecostal phenomenon. An October survey from Pew Forum on Religion and Public states that more than 40% of Pentecostals, in a majority of countries surveyed, indicate that they have never spoken in tongues. In the United States only half of Pentecostals have spoken in tongues. It was the experience of speaking in other tongues, just like on the day of Pentecost, which propelled the Pentecostal movement to the front pages of newspapers across the world 100 years ago. Of course no one has suggested that speaking in tongues has ceased among Pentecostals, not at all. In fact today, people from a wide range of denominations and backgrounds enjoy this gift.
One of the issues that prompts Christians to action is keeping “Christ” in Christmas. Every year as Christmas approaches, great concerns are expressed about nativity scenes at city halls and the lighting of Christmas trees or “Winter Festival” trees. I visited the UK last week. One of the Nov 7th articles in The Daily Telegraph (UK) headlined “Christmas stamps ignore Christianity”. The news item was triggered by the Church of England criticizing the Royal Mail service for featuring snowmen, reindeer and Father Christmas on its stamps, while ignoring religious art or the nativity scene.