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).
I recently heard a sermon by the Pope where he was discussing with his audience how one could obtain eternal life. The main points were; to obtain eternal life would be a struggle, but by working hard to exhibit Christian abilities and virtues, and by working hard to lovingly serve humanity it was possible. There was not a word about the finished work of Jesus, and that eternal life depends on what Jesus has done. Don’t misunderstand me, I like Pope Benedict XVI; he has a nice smile, speaks in a soft voice and seems a friendly enough man. This is not about personality, but about the way of salvation. Are we saved by what we do or by what Jesus did? I am not a Catholic basher. In fact, I have many friends who are Catholics. There are many Catholics who are born again believers in Jesus, wonderful people who trust in what Christ did on the cross. Merit based religion is in no way limited to Roman Catholicism, it is in fact the essence of every religion. I am all in favor of exhibiting Christian virtues and ability and lovingly serve humanity. However, I believe those expressions are a result of having received the life of Jesus rather than a means to obtain it.
I recently looked through the pages of a prominent Christian magazine and it seems merit based religion stared me in the face from almost every page. One writer scolded the North American Christians for not praying with the same fervor as Nigerian Christians. Another one claimed that the reason we have not experienced breakthrough was due to a lack of understanding of financial prosperity, while the third one suggested that a key to revival is Christians supporting the State of Israel.
Then, as I was watching Christian television the other day, the viewers were asked to give a certain amount of money in order to position themselves for the sovereignty of God. This “sovereignty of the Lord” anointing was described as greater than the “other anointing,” in that it was constant. A “remnant” was asked to step into this anointing by giving a certain amount of money. Again, merit based religion. Now, I am all for fervent prayer and financial prosperity, and I support evangelism among Jews and Arabs. I thank God for the excellency and sovereignty of the Lord as revealed in His sovereign word, but none of those things are available to me because of my performance, but because of what Jesus has done. Jesus’ death and resurrection positioned me for the sovereignty of God.
“Sir, we would see Jesus” is still the cry today. Show humanity Jesus and good morals, good virtues and wholesome living will result. However, by showing people their flaws, failures, inabilities, by scolding and condemning them you will only create hypocrisy, pretense and jealousy.
Yes, it looks like the message of grace is slipping behind, but I am not looking for a “Hail Mary” pass to pull us out in the final minute of this “football” game. No, it is going to be an “All Hail King Jesus” message. I have no doubt that we are going to end where we started. It began in Galilee with Jesus showing unmerited favor to everyone who came to him. This message of Jesus will be front and center again before the Lord returns. Give me your thoughts.