Just as Christ was crucified between two thieves, Legalism and license oppose the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
The two thieves rob power from the message of Christ’s complete and finished work on the cross.
I’m in awe with the thought that God himself came down to save us and gave Himself on the cross for you and I.
God Himself is the Gospel. Such an incredible thought!
And even more, I think this truth holds a key to something that is holding the church back from revival.
Here’s what I mean…
Legalism and license oppose the true Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Self righteousness, moralism, legalism, at various levels and degrees in the hearts of Christians robs the church of power and keeps those who would enter from doing so.
I know license is present in the world, but legalism is the Christian man’s primary problem.
Christianity ascribes all truth to the Bible and the keys to renewal are contained therein.
License is pleasure based and legalism is power based.
Both are self-centered.
Both devastate our world by misrepresenting the truth of the Good News of the Gospel.
We need to distinguish between license and legalism in order to recognize them.
License is based on the idea that God is only love, that Jesus died for us, and now we can take grace for granted and sin willfully by doing whatever we want.
License is also known as relativism because absolute truth is usually denied in this belief.
Legalism takes undo pride in works of righteousness and in pride looks down on others, thinking that works merit favor with God.
“The Pharisee stood up and prayed about himself: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’
“But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’
“I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”(Luke 18:11-14)
Legalism is also known as moralism.
The best example from the Bible was written by the Apostle Paul .
He wrote the letter to the Galatians addressing Christians to defend them and the Gospel from legalism, the idea that we attach our own works to Christ’s sacrifice on the cross.
Legalistic religious leaders were the primary enemies of Christ and orchestrated the crucifixion as prophesied in the old testament of the Bible.
Legalistic religious leaders also tormented Paul his entire ministry.
I believe legalism is still the primary threat to the purity of the Gospel today.
Pastor Tim Keller seems to believe this as well.
Keller thinks that a moralistic view of the Gospel is the norm today.
What do you think?
Do you agree that a moralistic view of Christianity is the norm today?
Far too often we Christians try to honor God by emphasizing His Holiness or His Sovereignty or His Justice, as if to cull favor with God by associating with these attributes of God, while ignoring His love, His mercy and Jesus Christ who loved us and gave Himself for us on the cross.
The writers of the new testament centered their claims on Christ,relating their claims back to Christ 27% or more of the total words they wrote on average.
Almost one-third of everything in the New Testament is specifically about Jesus or centers on His personage. The point is it is all about Jesus. If you have the Son you have the Father, if you don’t have the Son then you don’t have the Father.
Do we even come close to giving Christ preeminence today?
I fear not.
God’s great love is the only one of God’s attributes that makes us worthy subjects to honor all His other attributes. His love is His Grace by which we are saved.
Only His great love which He personally expressed on our behalf on the Cross of Christ can save us.
We Christians make the mistake of thinking the primary reason God sent Jesus to die for our sins was because He is Holy and Righteous and His justice had to satisfied.
God is all those things but that is not why Jesus came to save us.
God’s word tells us why.
It says God so loved! (John 3:16)
GOD SO LOVED!
God so loved that He became man.
God so loved that He paid for our sins, the just for the unjust.
His motive was to save you because He loved you.
I have found that most people and perhaps most Christians too, do not have a heart that is awakened to the love of God and its full meaning to them.
Fellow Christians often take issue with those of us who emphasize God’s love as, “The Greatest of These.”
Time and time again I have heard angry responses such as, “God is not just love, He is Righteous and Holy too!”
That was when I finally understood why one of the greatest sermons ever was titled.”Sinners in the Hand of an Angry God.”
(This sermon was preached by Jonathan Edwards.)
In that sermon, the hand of God is the only thing keeping us from falling into eternal fire.
I personally know God is love, because it is written and portrayed throughout the Holy Bible.
If all God wanted was to satisfy His Holiness, Righteousness and His Justice; then God would just send everyone to Hell.
The verdict was already given and only death prevents that sentence from being carried out on all who have not received Christ as Savior.
The only thing that can prevent what had already been determined to happen was provided to us because God so loved.
Legalism, license and the Love of God.
We need to know the difference because only one of them can save us and the others are apostasy,( they deny the fullness of faith in Christ alone to save).
Only the true Gospel that starts and ends with, “God so loved”, will save.
Any other gospel is not the one true, pure work, because they deny Christ’s finished work by adding to it or by watering it down.
Both views of the Gospel, moralistic legalism and relativistic license, rob the true meaning of Christ’s sacrifice and make it null and void to save and change us.
“For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved.” (Romans 10:10)
We have nothing else like God’s gift of love and must create a new category in our hearts and minds where Christ’s gospel resides uniquely.
If you need to settle that in your own heart, just tell God you believe Christ died for your sin.
Ask Him to save you, and He will. Because He loves you so.
“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)
Related articles –
Barna Research – Majority of People who call themselves Christian are more like Pharisees than Christ like.