Monthly Archives: July 2015

Legalism, License, and Love

Peninsula Community Church

July 26, 2015

Legalism, License, and Love

Galatians 5:1-15 – For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery. Look:I, Paul, say to you that if you accept circumcision, Christ will be of no advantage to you. I testify again to every man who accepts circumcision that he is obligated to keep the whole law. You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law; you have fallen away from grace. For through the Spirit, by faith, we ourselves eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love. You were running well. Who hindered you from obeying the truth? This persuasion is not from him who calls you. A little leaven leavens the whole lump. I have confidence in the Lord that you will take no other view, and the one who is troubling you will bear the penalty, whoever he is. But if I, brothers, still preach circumcision, why am I still being persecuted? In that case the offense of the cross has been removed. I wish those who unsettle you would emasculate themselves! For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” But if you bite and devour one another, watch out that you are not consumed by one another.

As we have noted many times before, I love the way Paul writes his church letters under the inspiration of the Holy the Spirit. Paul often lays out one side of an argument or discussion and then gives the counter argument in order to establish balance in the discussion. In the passage before us, Paul deals specifically with the opposing views of legalism and license. To give a simple definition of these two we could say that legalism adds to the gospel while license takes away from the gospel.

First let us look at the idea of legalism – When it comes to legalism there is a belief that we need to control and manage sin rather than deal with real heart issues. We in essence say that God’s grace is not enough so we have to help God out. And so often this is a subtle thing that occurs. We don’t intend to be legalistic, but it happens. The reason for this is that we believe that we must make rules or laws to control behavior and manage sin rather than do what is right according to the Word of God. Legalism is therefore rules without relationship, emphasizing standards more than the Savior, and laws more than love. It is a system based on fear and one that is characterized by joyless judgmentalism, which produces futility instead of freedom.

In the New Testament, the Pharisees were known for their legalistic lifestyle. They added to the law in a effort to control their followers and to make themselves seem more spiritual than they were. They took God’s law and added additional rules to the degree that they could not follow the very rules they had established. Spiritually, the result of the Pharisaical attitude was that they became very judgmental and critical of those who could not keep the law they had established. A case in point was the woman caught in adultery or the disciples who worked on the sabbath to provide food for their group. This is why Jesus reserved his harshest words for those who presented themselves as more spiritual or more astute in the law and its interpretation.

So how does this effect the church and in particular the outreach of the church. In terms of society, because there are times where the church has been so legalistic, the church has come across as prideful, arrogant, and unfeeling toward society and those who are nonbelievers. The question posed by those outside the church is “why would I want to serve a God who is so unfeeling and is angry all of the time.” Those in society feel that God is waiting for them to make a mistake so He can wipe them off the map. Because of our legalism, people feel we are more concerned about our message than we are about their heart. Additionally, they feel they are never good enough to receive God’s grace.

I recently heard a pastor describe legalism in an interesting way. He stated that there are rules in life that are critical to living a healthy life. For example, he stated that one of the rules in his home was that his children were not allowed to play in the street. This rule was in place because it protected his children from any danger. He went on to say that the problem with legalism is that not only would one make a rule that their children could not play in the street, but they would also make a rule that they could not play in the yard, because they might be tempted to run into the street. They would only be allowed to play on the front porch. Still others would be so afraid of something happening to their children, they would say that their children could only play in the living room and watch the street from the front window of their home. Why, because if they are they played on the front porch they might be tempted to go into the yard which might tempt them to go into the street. Still others would say their children should be relegated to the basement, because if they played in the living room they would be tempted to play on the porch where they would be tempted to play in the yard which would lead to playing in the street. That is legalism. It binds us and brings us into slavery to the rules rather than the freedom found in God’s grace.

On the other side of the coin we find the idea of license. This is where we take away from the word of God to make it palatable to others and to ourselves. It is my opinion that this can be a more serious issue and is a major issue of our day. The problem with license is that we tend to adjust the word of God to societal norms rather than adjusting society to the word of God. Rather than applying the word of God to a specific situation, we try to make the gospel fit the situation. This means we reinterpret scripture to fit what we want. Now, it should be noted here that the legalistic believer does the same thing. He also adjusts the gospel to meet their meeds rather than adjusting their needs to the Gospel. Neither of these is good or acceptable because the word stands on its own without being reinterpreted or changed it to fit societal need. We must understand that when we take license to diminish the word of God we diminish the value of grace and we diminish the value of God in terms of what others might think of Him.

How does this effect the church? Some have said that the reason we are in a moral decline as a nation is that we as a church have not been very moral ourselves. Think about it for a moment, while we have an adverse view of gay marriage and we should, there are many in the church who do not bat an eye at premarital sex, pornography, extra-marital affairs, lying, pride, or any number of other things. We in essence are asking the world to do what we ourselves are not willing to do. Now I am not blaming the church or pointing a finger, I am simply saying where is our testimony of grace and of holiness. In taking license we try to remove the rules so we can live happily ever after. But true grace while providing forgiveness and healing does not remove the rules. In fact it lives within them. The world is asking “why would I want too change my life when there appears to be no difference between them and the believer.”

There is a better way to live. It is love. It was a way that would bring life and not death. It was a way to see God’s plan in a better light. Why is love so important? Through love, we serve one another. Through love, we understand God’s love for us and we love others. In so doing, we do not add to the word to make it more cumbersome nor do we take away from the word to make it more palatable. The greatest act of love we can have is keeping the purity of God’s word in a way that honors him and honors His word.

Paul in this passage gives us the sense that God’s will is for us to live in freedom and not in bondage. John Piper made this statement “His desire is for you live with uncompromising, unrelenting, indomitable freedom. It is for this that Christ died. For this he rose. For this he sent his Spirit. There is nothing he wills with more intensity under the glory of his own name than this: your freedom.”

The freedom of grace has never been a freedom to control behaviors or to allow sin but rather to serve others. You see how we treat others is how we will be treated. Gracelessness brings about gracelessness. But when grace filled ours lives it brings about grace filled lives. What do you want? It is your choice. It is your decision. This love is focused on God and it is focused on others. It is so easy to get focused and centered on our problems, our issues and desires and we miss out on what others need or desire. We begin to live graceless lives.

God’s love is the focus of the whole law. Rather than controlling others we must love others as God would love them. This is the reason he dealt with the issue of circumcision. This is a reference to Acts 15 where there the Jews taught that one was not saved unless they were circumcised. Listen to Paul’s words in Galatians 2:3-5 But even Titus, who was with me, was not forced to be circumcised, though he was a Greek. Yet because of false brothers secretly brought in—who slipped in to spy out our freedom that we have in Christ Jesus, so that they might bring us into slavery— to them we did not yield in submission even for a moment, so that the truth of the gospel might be preserved for you. The problem was that salvation did not come by way of circumcision but by the grace that was given through Christ’s death on the cross.

For an audio of this message go to http://pccministry.org/media.php?pageID=14

Copyright © 2015 All Rights Reserved Robert W. Odom

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Ephesians – A Call to Prayer

Peninsula Community Church

Ephesians – A Call to Prayer

July 12, 2015

Ephesians 6:16-20 In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints, and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak.

Today, we come to the close of Ephesians series and we are hitting on one of the most important pieces of the armor of God. It is the power of prayer. In battle, one of the keys to a successful battle plan is that those who are in the army must learn to obey the commands of those over them. You can have all of the right equipment and you have all of the training in the world but if you do not have the communication with command you can be setting yourself up for a huge failure.

The fact is as believers, we must be in the position to surrender our will to the will of our commander. To surrender to the will of our commander, we must be in communication with the commander. I seen this illustrated best by the fire department and their response to major events. The person with the highest authority is the one who takes command. It is usually the fire chief of the local fire department or it could be the police officer on scene. Regardless of the individual in charge it is his or her job to assign personnel arriving on the scene, call for additional assistance, and coordinate the effort on scene. No one is to move beyond the duties assigned to them by the commander so as to provide a smooth running operation. So it is in our task in this world, we must answer to the commander in our lives and we all have a commander whether we realize it or not.

In the fire department those arriving on scene know what they are to do and how they are they are to perform their task. They have been prepared. You see the fire chief has been training the responders to do their job and perform their tasks. He simply uses these resources. So it is with us. We have our instructions. They come to us by way of the Bible. When we pray we receive clarity of how we are to proceed with his calling and with our assignment.

So let us look at this concept of prayer for a few moments this morning. We will be focusing our attention on the part of the passage that says that we should be praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. With that in mind let us look at some key principles associated with prayer.

Prayer is effective. The prayer of a righteous person has great power. In James 5:16, James recognized the power of prayer when he stated that the prayer of a righteous man produces great results. We must pray in faith, and trust God for the answer. We must also understand that we must do our part in prayer and then leave what we cannot handle to God. Here is what I mean. If we need a job and we do not look for a job, it is hard to pray for God to do his part in helping us find a job.

The fact must also be made that prayer changes things and prayer changes the flow of God’s presence in our land. As we look over the landscape of our nation, must of us would agree that we need a revival. We need something to change. We need people who will follow wholeheartedly after God. The fact is this change may not occur unless we are willing to pray and do our part in the process.

In 2 Chronicles 7 we have the convicting words that were presented to Solomon by God. Listen to what is recorded in 2 Chronicles. Then the Lord appeared to Solomon in the night and said to him:“I have heard your prayer and have chosen this place for myself as a house of sacrifice. When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command the locust to devour the land, or send pestilence among my people, if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land. Now my eyes will be open and my ears attentive to the prayer that is made in this place. For now I have chosen and consecrated this house that my name may be there forever. My eyes and my heart will be there for all time. And as for you, if you will walk before me as David your father walked, doing according to all that I have commanded you and keeping my statutes and my rules, then I will establish your royal throne, as I covenanted with David your father, saying, ‘You shall not lack a man to rule Israel. Know this if we pray and repent of our own sin, then God can do more in a few moments through prayer than we can do in a lifetime without God. Prayer is effective.

Secondly, everyone is called to prayer. No matter who you are or the level of your spirituality, you can pray and you can pray effectively. Your ability to get answers is not based in your ability to verbalize the right words or have the right phraseology. It is not even based on your posture when you pray. In fact, according to James, Elijah was just like us. He was a simple man but he was one who was able to reach God because he trusted God. Elijah was not a super hero or a super human, he was just a regular man. He was just like us but he had faith in God who was bigger than any problem he could or would face. We do not have to rely on anyone else to pray on our behalf, we can enter in God’s presence ourselves. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need (Hebrews 4:16). Notice that the writer here states “Let us!” Who is us? We are us! If you are a believer in Christ, you can enter into prayer with boldness and confidence that God will hear your prayer and will offer you mercy and grace.

Thirdly, we must develop a lifestyle of prayer. The fact of the matter is that prayer is not a thing we do in the morning or night as an item to get checked off our list of things to do but we must have a prayer life where we are focused on prayer at all times and in every circumstance. The best way to learn to pray is to pray. By praying, we learn the heart of God and we begin to hear his voice speaking to us. A lifestyle of prayer is where we may not be verbalizing our prayer vocally but in our heart we are praying. This is what Paul referred to as praying without ceasing (1 Thessalonians 5:17).

Fourthly, we must pray in the Spirit. In essence, to pray in the spirit is to pray according the will of the spirit. It is to pray the heart of God about a certain situation. This is critical here. Who is better qualified to help us to pray than the Holy Spirit. He knows the need. He knows the answer. He knows how to move heaven and earth to make things happen. By praying in the spirit we are praying according to his will. This also means that there will be times where we will not be able to do anything but moan and groan but the Holy Spirit interprets our moaning and groaning and He understands what we are praying.

The second idea here is that as we pray the heart of God we will be compassionate about the things that God is passionate about. We will have the heart of Christ. I am always amazed at the example of Jesus. How often do we find Jesus with the worst of sinners? How often do we find him at the sinners house having dinner? Why because he was on a mission to see the sinner saved. In our day I believe that Jesus would have dinner with the gays and lesbians of our land. He would not compromise the word or the truth but he would show them grace with a desire to see them come to a knowledge of Christ.

I remember a few years before Jerry Farwell passed away that the radical LGBT was angry with him. The word had been received that they were going to be marching and protesting on the campus of Liberty University. Here is what Jerry did. He called on his staff to go out and buy donuts and coffee. And when the protestors arrived and their were several hundred of them, the students and staff went through the crowd and served them the coffee, water, and donuts. It happened to be raining that day so he provided them with umbrellas. Here was his point. He had prayed and had heard God’s heart. He wanted to show them God’s love at its best. The reports from that day is that several came to know Christ and gave up their lifestyle that day as a result of Christ’s hand being extended to the lost, the broken, and the wounded. You see he loved the person while standing his ground on the biblical belief that homosexuality is a sin as described by Scripture.

That brings me to the last thing here. The greatest prayer we can pray is for open doors of opportunity to share Christ with others. While it is important to pray for our needs in order to see God’s hand at work in our lives, the greatest of all prayers is to pray for open doors to share the gospel. God’s heart is all about sharing the gospel. Listen to what Paul communicates at this end of this verse. He did not ask for blessing or money. He asked that they pray for a door of opportunity to proclaim the mystery of the Gospel. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints, and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak.

Do you want revival in our land? Do you want God to bring change? As Jesus prayed, This kind comes only by prayer and fasting. In Matthew 17:18 the disciples had encountered a demon in their life that they thought was impossible to deal with. Jesus responded to them that if your faith is just the size of a mustard see that you will be able to do great feats for Him. Then He says this, “This kind comes out only by prayer and fasting. So what is the greatest need you have today? Are you praying? Are you seeking for the heart of God? It is your choice?

For an audio of this message go to http://pccministry.org/media.php?pageID=14

Copyright © 2015 All Rights Reserved Robert W. Odom

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