Rescued From Legalism
March 25/26, 2017
Now, brothers and sisters, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain. For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures… (1 Corinthians 15:1-4)
Jesus changed the cross from the symbol of a human empire’s power to take life, into a symbol of the suffering love of God to give life.
He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; he has taken it away, nailing it to the cross. And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross. (Colossians 2:13b-15)
Jesus nailed it.
- Legalism, which means we base our relationship with God on our own performance… Having cancelled the charge of our legal indebtedness that stood against us…
- Condemnation, which means we are more focused on our sin than on God’s grace… Having cancelled the charge of our legal indebtedness that stood against us and condemned us…
- Spiritual opposition, which means we focus more on our enemy than we do on Jesus’ victory… And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.
One of the greatest threats to displacing the centrality of the cross is our tendency to drift toward legalism. Legalism = seeking to achieve forgiveness from God and acceptance by God through obedience to God.
What God intends as a means of experiencing grace has turned into a means of earning grace.
- Justification is about the finished work of Jesus on the cross for you.
- Sanctification is about the ongoing work of the Holy Spirit in you.
God makes people right with himself through their faith in Jesus Christ. This is true for all who believe in Christ, because all people are the same:
Everyone has sinned and fallen short of God’s glorious standard, and all need to be made right with God by his grace, which is a free gift. They need to be made free from sin through Jesus Christ. God sent him to die in our place to take away our sins. We receive forgiveness through faith in the blood of Jesus’ death. This showed that God always does what is right and fair, as in the past when he was patient and did not punish people for their sins. And God gave Jesus to show today that he does what is right. God did this so he could judge rightly and so he could make right any person who has faith in Jesus. So do we have a reason to brag about ourselves? No! And why not? It is the way of faith that stops all bragging, not the way of trying to obey the law. A person is made right with God through faith, not through obeying the law. (Romans 3:23-27 NLT)
Sanctification is the process of becoming more like Jesus day by day, step by step.
- Justification is being declared righteous; Sanctification is being made righteous.
- Justification is our position before God; Sanctification is our practice of godliness.
- Justification is objective—Christ’s work for us; Sanctification is subjective—Christ’s work in us.
- Justification is a point in time and immediate upon conversion. In other words, you will never be more justified than you are the first moment you trust in the person and finished work of Jesus; Sanctification is an ongoing process. You will be more sanctified as you continue in grace-motivated obedience.
Here’s the mistake the legalist makes: He confuses his ongoing participation in the process of sanctification with God’s finished work in justification.
No one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law… (Romans 3:20)
Never confuse the efforts of being sanctified with any earning in being justified.
- God’s grace is available because it’s based upon Jesus’ performance, not mine.
- God does not love me and save me for what I can do for Him.
- God’s grace accepts me as I am, then enables me to live above my own ability.
- My service is actually greater under grace, because gratitude, not guilt, is the motivation.
May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. (Galatians 6:14)
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