Saturday, November 9, 2013

Gospel Renewal and Roadblocks (#4-6)

This is the final installment on this subject.  Last time, we looked at the first three roadblocks to gospel renewal.  Now we will consider three others--bearing in mind that the list is not at all exhaustive.

4.     Religion [AKA Moralism AKA Legalism]
Religion, moralism, legalism—they all are referring to the idea that “we must obey the truth to be saved” and/or “we must obey the truth to maintain God’s favor”.  This is probably the biggest roadblock to gospel renewal faced by believers in our age.
Moralism (legalism, religion) is an absence of God’s grace—instead, it is a dependence on one’s ability to obey.  It also includes man made, extra-Biblical rules and regulations (think: Pharisees), resulting in condemnation by the moralist of those who do not “measure up”—the idea is just like the Pharisee who prayed “God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector”.  [Luke 18] 
The Apostle Paul, prior to his conversion, is a perfect example of one who was “religious”, one who performed out of guilt, one who was a legalist when it came to his religious life.  In Galatians 1 and Philippians 3, Paul talked about his life before Christ, how he put his confidence in the flesh—his own performance and accomplishments—about his Jewish pedigree, and how zealous he was for the traditions of his fathers.
Church historian Richard Lovelace wrote that many believers “below the surface of their lives are guilt ridden and insecure…[and] draw the assurance of their acceptance with God from their sincerity, their past experience of conversion, their recent religious performance or the relative infrequency of their conscious, willful disobedience.”[1]
Obedience and good works are important to our lives as believers, but they do not earn us one doggone thing!  Obedience and good works do not earn eternal life, they do not earn God’s approval, and they do not maintain God’s approval!  That is such an important concept to “get”! 
Why is that true?  It is true because earning or maintaining approval from God would no longer be a function of his grace!  Remember?  Grace has absolutely nothing to do with us.  Grace has absolutely nothing to do with what we do “for” God.  Grace has everything to do with God.   It has nothing to do with balancing the scales or our default mode of being “fair”, and it has nothing to do with what we think we deserve or have coming based on our gifts.
It is essential for believers to “get” the fact that one’s performance does not result in acceptance by God.  Performance is what Paul railed against in his letter to the churches in Galatia.  Paul made it clear that “…by works of the law no one will be justified…” (Galatians 2:16)   Also, “For all who rely on works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, ‘Cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the Book of the Law, and do them.’”  (Galatians 3:10)  For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law.  (Romans 3:28)
No, our acceptance by God is the direct result only of the infinitely perfect righteousness of Jesus, a righteousness that is imputed to the believer, that is, credited to the believer.  Our righteousness is in Christ and in Christ alone.
Trying harder or doing more in order to earn or maintain approval from God does nothing but produce an increased level of anxiety in the life of the believer.  Trying harder or doing more has its roots in the idea that the gospel is only for unbelievers.  Once saved, most evangelicals get the idea (from the church no less) that they now need to focus on sanctification, discipleship, spiritual disciplines, and other worthwhile endeavors.  Understand, they are worthwhile, but not when they become “have-to’s”.
The problem as described by Jerry Bridges is that “we fail to see the gospel as the solution to our greatest problem—our guilt, condemnation, and alienation from God…we fail to see it as the basis of our day-to-day acceptance with him.  As a result, many believers live in spiritual poverty.”[2]
The truth of the matter is that the gospel is not only for unbelievers.  The gospel is for believers too—everyday!  Again, Brad will focus on that tomorrow morning. 
Not only that, but too many evangelicals hold the view that “church” and “being a believer” exists to encourage you, to enable you to feel good about yourself, to learn the “how to’s” of life (how to be a better husband, better parent, more successful, handle your money, avoid hell, etc), and as a place to hear “uplifting, practical, and positive sermons that will help you accomplish all of these things”.    Yikes!  It’s not about us!!!
Finally, the moralist will become irate at the idea that one’s acceptance by God is not based on one’s performance.  The moralist will become irate at the idea that every performance falls on its face and is revolting in God’s sight.  Why will this happen?  It is because the moralist, has been pursuing a self salvation project all his life—i.e.: doing more, trying harder, and really does not see that all their efforts to please God amount to nothing but filthy rags.

5.     Irreligion  AKA Relativism AKA Antinomianism
This view stresses grace without truth, that is, claiming we are all accepted by God and we each decide what is true for us.  This view claims that because we are saved, sanctification is not necessary, a changed life, a changed heart, or changed behavior—which are all the “fruit” of true salvation—are not necessary.
These folks also argue that the Moral Law—the Ten Commandments—have no place in the life of the believer, have no place in providing instruction in how to live. 
Not only that, but “relativists live according to their preferences, believing that they should do what they feel like doing and that no one else has the right to say they should do anything different.”[3]  
I’m sure you can see that this is a dangerous place to be for the follower of Jesus Christ.  Basically, “anything goes”, and that’s just not Biblical.

6.     “Cheap Grace!”
When one talks about grace in the church, quite frequently there will be an accusation of “Cheap Grace!”  The fact of the matter is that the greatest threat to the gospel is not cheap grace but cheap law—the idea that God accepts anything less than Christ's righteousness (Tullian).   How can that be?
A low view of the Law causes the believer to think that he can please God by what he does “for” God, that is, that he can keep the demand God has laid down.  As a result, we will engage in self-salvation projects (i.e.: checklist Christianity, good works with wrong motivations, etc), believing we are capable of meeting God’s demand.  The person that lodges this accusation is one that thinks he must meet God’s requirements (as opposed to believing Christ already did), that he can meet God’s requirements, and anything less than making the effort to do so cheapens the grace of God.   We all know that is not possible and not true.
On the other hand, a high view of the Law blows all our beliefs that we can meet God’s demands right out of the water.  We recognize that we cannot in any way, shape or form, meet God’s righteous demand.
Tullian Tchividjian wrote, “Only when we understand that God’s Law is absolutely inflexible will we see that God’s grace is absolutely indispensible…in other words, a high view of the Law produces a high view of grace.  A low view of the Law produces a low view of grace”.[4]

All of these roadblocks exist because of a lack of understanding the gospel, that is, we do not understand just what the unsearchable riches of Christ really are that Paul talked about in Ephesians 3.  

And remember:
If you know you're loved no matter what, you're really free. You'll find yourself wanting to please God, not 'having" to please Him.


[1] Richard Lovelace, Dynamics of Spiritual Life, 1979, p. 101, quoted in Jerry Bridges, The Gospel for Real Life, 2003, p. 14
[2] Bridges, p. 15
[3] R.W. Glenn, Crucifying Morality, p. 107
[4] Tullian Tchividjian, One Way Love: Inexhaustible Grace for an Exhausted World, 2013, p. 98

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