Tag Archives: legalism

Liberalism and Legalism Balanced by Grace

Peninsula Community Church

Liberalism and Legalism Balanced by Grace

March 10, 2019

Romans 6:10-14 For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus. Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions. Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness. For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.

Over the next few weeks I would like to look at a couple of subjects that I believe will inspire us and help us in our growth in Christ. It will help us in our ability to reach people with the lifesaving message of the Gospel. Through these studies, I would like to look at what the men have been focusing on in their study on Tuesday nights. The challenge will be to let go of offense. We will look at the idea of reaping what we sow. Finally, we will look at the power of fear and how that can keep us from being the person God wants us to be.

Today, however, I want to focus on four ways to deal with the culture we encounter. First, we can compromise our beliefs to address the culture. Second, we address the culture by cloistering ourselves and moving to the margins by way of legalism. Third, we can address the culture by becoming apathetic about what is going on around us. This can produce an attitude of giving in and giving up as there is no faith or hope that things will change. I will also submit to you a fourth way to address the culture and that is through God’s grace. That will be our focus today.

Before we begin let me share some critical information that is a wake up call for the church. I have been reading many reports that show that most churches in the US are declining or or they are stagnate. In fact, I just read a report from the North American Mission Board of the SBC that reported that 85% of their churches are stagnate or declining. The consensus is that North American churches as a whole are declining or stagnate. 

Fortunately, there is another side to this story that must be considered. It is a sobering thought that those churches that are growing are growing because they are engaged with the communities they serve. They are not just a church in the community but they serve the community around them. This does not mean they are standing on the corner preaching but rather that they have a heart to see culture change one person at a time. They are reaching the unreachable. They are praying for their community. They are speaking God’s love. They resist judgement toward those they encounter. And, they sincerely love those in their community. They practice Christ’s last commands to His disciples. “Go into all the world and preach the Gospel.” Go is the great commandment. 

With that in mind let’s look at these issues. First, there is legalism. Legalism can be defined as the effort to control and manage sin. The truth of the matter is that we were never called to control or manage our sin or someone else’s sin for that matter. We were to called to forgive and allow the grace of God to fill us with the righteousness of Christ. That is what Paul is saying in the passage before us. Just because God calls us to be instruments of righteousness does not give us the right to control sin, especially the sin in others. Legalism leads to the judgement and criticism of others. We must use the instrument of righteousness correctly. Write this down. True righteous is not what we do as much as what we are. Here is the point. We can dress right, talk right, act right, and yet our hearts can be far from God or His purposes. This is most critical as we attempt to reach our culture. Remember the story that Jesus told. 

In Matthew 7:1-5 Jesus had this to say on this subject. “Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye. Notice what He says. We are trying to get the speck out of the other person’s eye while we have a log in our own eye. It never works. We need to deal with the log in our eye before we can consider the speck in someone’s eye. Legalism seems to always points out the sin of others and judges others for their sin rather than recognizing one’s own sin.

The other problem with legalism is that it tends to cause us to cloister together and make it hard for anyone to get into our little circle. We make it hard because we are quick to judge and beat our chest that we are not like the tax collector who was in humble prayer at the altar of God. Listen to Jesus’ words. ”Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get. But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner’ (Luke 18:9-13)!

The second way we can address the culture is to compromise. Here we try to minimize sin in an attempt to reach the culture. You might say that legalism over emphasizes sin while liberalism under emphasizes sin. We ignore sin or worst yet we begin to engage in sin thinking that we will somehow be better positioned to reach our culture. The problem however is that we lose our influence in the very culture we are trying to reach. The problem is that without recognizing sin and wrong we cannot change or move toward a healthy environment. If there is nothing to change why would anyone want to become a Christian. 

We do not have to look very far to see how this is effecting our culture today. Whether we are looking at the abortion issue, euthanasia, gender identity, legalization of drugs, legalization of prostitution, and so much more we find that there is a minimization of sin and a distortion of truth. We find many who have a form of godliness but they deny the power of God to bring change and bring salvation. They would rather compromise than speak truth in love. They would rather look more like the culture than be in a position to bring change.

The third way to address the culture is to become apathetic. The problem here is that we come to the place where we do not care about people. We can lose our love for people and come to the place where we do not care if they are hurting or need help. We are in our own little world and that is all we care about. Sadly, we do no believe that God can bring change or bring salvation. This is really a state of faithlessness. 

But there is a better way and that is through the way of grace. Grace is a powerful tool and a powerful means to reach people with the gospel and make an investment in our community. Through grace we do not judge because we know that except for the grace of God we would be lost. If we are honest we would have to admit that we just sin differently than others because the fact is all have sinned and come short of the glory of God (Roman’s 3:23). 

In our passage today we find that Paul issues a challenge to us and that is the consideration that we are dead to sin and alive to God. Think about that idea! We are dead to sin but alive with God. In our sin we are dead but in God we have life. Because of that we are commanded to present ourselves as instruments of righteousness versus instruments of unrighteousness. That is what it means to walk in grace. 

Let me ask you a question. Are people drawn to you, or are they pushed away when it comes to spiritual discussions? Jesus is our model. Sinners and saints were drawn to him because He was a real man dealing with real issues. That was grace. He met them where they were without judgement or condescension. He loved them enough to give everyone seeking grace that gift. 

In life, I find that the instruments we have can be powerful and bring life or they can bring destruction. The same instrument can cause life or it can cause death. It is for that reason that I believe that God gave us grace in order to use the instruments of righteousness the way we should. 

Through grace we will have a correct view of sin. Rather than cloistering ourselves together and maximizing sin, we will walk in grace. Rather than compromise and minimizing sin, we will develop a proper perspective of sin. Rather than apathy we are awakened to a new reality and a new way to live and connect with our community. We are grace receivers and we are grace givers. 

Let me close with a story I read just this week. A man went to church. He forgot to switch off his phone and during the the prayer time his phone accidentally rang. The pastor scolded him. The worshippers admonished him after the prayers for interrupting the silence. His wife kept lecturing him on his carelessness all the way home. One could see the shame, embarrassment, and humiliation on his face. After this he never set foot in church again.  

That evening, he went to a bar. He was sill nervous and trembling from his earlier adventure. He spilled his drink on the table by accident. The waiter apologized and gave him a napkin to clean himself. The janitor mopped the floor. The female manager offered him a complimentary drink. She also gave him a huge hug and a peck while saying, “Don’t worry man. Who doesn’t make mistakes?” He has not stopped going to that bar since then. We have the chance to give grace to others and touch this world with the gospel, the good news. 

So how is your grace today? Are you just a receiver or are you a giver of grace? 

For an audio of this message go to http://pccministry.org/messages.

Copyright © 2019 All Rights Reserved Robert W. Odom

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Giving Grace

Peninsula Community Church 

Giving Grace

September 23, 2018

Colossians 3:12-14 Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.

As we wrap up our Amazing Grace series this morning, I want to close with one last concept relating to grace. It is about giving grace to those we encounter. The fact is we will all encounter EGR people at some time. EGR people are those people who need extra grace from us. They are the people who irritate us and cause us great consternation. They are the pebble in our shoe and the bur in our saddle. So often, we are negatively impacted by their actions. It seems we cannot escape what they do or how they act. These people rub us the wrong way. They offend us. They say things that cause us to blush. We can feel intimidated by their very presence. We know this because when we are in their presence, our demeanor changes. These are the people that we see in Food Lion and we turn and will go the other way to avoid them.

It is noteworthy that Jesus had EGR people in His life. His own disciples at times were EGR people. He was repeating Himself over and over. They could not catch the message of His heart. They failed over and over again to grasp the magnitude of His mission. Then of course there were the religious leaders of His day. They were constantly trying to catch Him in a misstep so they could accuse Him of falsehood to diminish His mission and power among the people.

The question we need to answer is this, how do we deal with EGR people? To find solutions we turn to Scripture as it is replete with steps to deal with people who irritate us and create problems in our life. Paul himself was embattled by those who required extra grace. He penned the words of this passage to remind us that we have a way to deal with those who need extra grace. What does he suggest?

To begin with Paul defines those who are to take these actions and show grace. It is God’s chosen ones who must show grace. Who is God’s chosen? It is you and I who have accepted Christ as our personal Savior and our Lord. It is those who have a made a personal commitment to follow Christ with their whole heart, mind, and soul. This message is to those who love God and desire to be a passionate follower of Christ. However, regardless of one’s spiritual foundation or maturity, these actions will assist you with the EGR people in your life even if you are not a believer.

The actions Paul suggest are contrary to the way many people respond to those who irritate them or meddle in their affairs. But as we must remember there is much that God calls us to do that runs against the societal norms and acceptable behaviors of those around us. Look at how Paul describes what our response should be. He says, Put on then, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. Do you get this list? Do you grasp what Paul is saying here? 

Our attitude toward the EGR people needs to be different when we represent Jesus, the one who modeled this lifestyle to us. We need compassionate hearts filled with kindness, humility, meekness, patience, forgiveness, and love toward the EGR people around us. It seems to me that in the society we now live, people are too busy getting even, having their own way, and manipulating outcomes rather than obeying Paul’s advice. 

When it comes to EGR people we are often quick to follow the letter of the law but slow to give grace, which is the spirit of the law. We want to get even or shut them up but that is not God’s described plan for us. Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God, who has made us sufficient to be ministers of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit. For the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life (2 Corinthians 3:5-6). It is the all sufficiency of God that gives us grace to give grace to others. 

The concept that is presented here is that when we obey the law without recognizing the grace of God, the law kills. The problem is that we become more concerned about the law than about discipleship. That is why Paul states that the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life. What a contrast? In keeping the law by grace we honor God and we acknowledge His Lordship in our lives. You see to simply keep the letter of the law causes one to become prideful, arrogant, and unfeeling toward others. 

When Jesus came to earth, He turned the ideas about the law upside down. He did not deny the law nor did He replace the law. He did bring about a different process for carrying out the specifics of the law. Jesus turned the attention of His hearers to the necessity of having the law within one’s heart and out of that motivation one should seek to obey the law. When we carry out the letter of the law, we too often do so because of a legalistic approach which becomes overbearing and harsh.

We see these principles played out in a couple of passages but one stands out to me. In John 8:3-11 we have the following story. In this story we have the comparison of Jesus who gives grace and those who kept the letter of the law. The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery, and placing her in the midst they said to him, “Teacher, this woman has been caught in the act of adultery. Now in the Law, Moses commanded us to stone such women. So what do you say?” This they said to test him, that they might have some charge to bring against him. Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground. And as they continued to ask him, he stood up and said to them, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” And once more he bent down and wrote on the ground. But when they heard it, they went away one by one, beginning with the older ones, and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him. Jesus stood up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.”

In this story, we find that the Scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman to Jesus that had been caught in adultery. Notice they brought the woman and placed her in the middle of where Jesus was meeting. They were keeping the law but did so harshly and unlovingly. They stated to Jesus, as if they needed to, that the law required such a woman to be stoned. Notice their motivation was to entrap Jesus. They did not have any mercy on this woman and they did not give her grace.

But notice what Jesus does. He responds with grace and love. While the Scribes and Pharisees were more concerned about the letter of the law, Jesus was more concerned about the person and her healing and growth. It is noteworthy there is never a denial of what the woman had done or why she was there in the first place. She was there because of her sin. Her sin was not denied by the Pharisees, in fact it is magnified. Jesus did not deny her sin but He moved toward her with grace and truth. The Pharisees were selective in the way they enacted the law, which is the antithesis of what grace is all about. The law actually required that both the male and the female to be stoned. They in essence were picking and choosing which law they would enact and how they would enact it. That is a sign of a person who does not follow grace’s mandates. Through grave we obey the whole law but with a different heart, a different purpose, with a different outcome in mind.

It should be noted that the kind of grace-giving that Jesus models does not delight in calling out sin and is it not prideful about being a truth-teller. The person who practices Colossians and God-inspired grace giving is a person deeply committed to the spiritual vitality of others and deeply attuned to their own spiritual poverty without Christ. He or she has a spirit led humility and a willingness to go the extra mile for others. This is all a part of a deep devotion to the family of God, to one another, and for the glory of God. And perhaps, most importantly, a grace-giver has positioned his/herself to receive from friends the very same truth and grace that he or she is committed to giving.

When we face those who need grace, we can listen to one of two voices. We can listen to the critical life killing letter of the law, or we can listen the amazing grace that Christ models. I would suggest that there a few reasons why and how to give grace. Notice the last two things that Paul mentions in Colossians. We must learn to give forgiveness and put on love. Forgiveness received and forgiveness given is a sign of the grace of God in our life. A grace filled life is a life that flows in giving and receiving forgiveness. A letter of the law person is one who has grown bitter and does not easily forget what others have done to them. 

We must also put on love. Our attitude, our motivation, and our reaction to others must be because we love God and we love people. We must show love to everyone because the expression of your love may be the very thing that may win your friend, family member, coworker, or business partner to the Lord. In fact, Jesus made an incredible statement that bears noting here. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another (John 13:35).

So how are you doing? Are you a letter of the law Christian or a Spirit driven grace giver. How you deal will others will forever change your life for good or bad.

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

Copyright © 2018 All Rights Reserved Robert W. Odom

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