Sunday, September 07, 2014

Courier Times Light Steps Article for September 6, 2014: The Fault in Liberalism and Legalism

The Fault in Liberalism and Legalism

…without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins. (Hebrews 9:22b ESV)

The Apostle Paul wrote to believers in Philippi, urging them to “…as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.” (Philippians 2:12-13 ESV)

Beloved Personians and readers at large, I want to speak plainly to you all, so it is important that you hear my heart and know my concern is that none of us be deceived by that wily serpent, our enemy, the devil.

We are told to “work out” our salvation, but this does not mean we work for our salvation, nor does it mean we are to walk around gripped in nervousness or fear or anxiety. It means we are to strive toward completion, meaning press on continually into abiding fellowship with Christ who is working to finish what He started.

The “fear and trembling” part is living in the tension of our weakness before God’s great strength. 

When we are abiding (see John 15) we cannot help but see our helplessness and His helpfulness; our continuing need and His continuing supply; our standing inability and His steady ability.

This work is not about gaining salvation, nor is it about adding to our salvation. It’s about worshipping Him who gives us salvation and our work is striving in surrender to Him who is working to complete what He has started in us.

There is work to do, but the work is His and the surrender is ours. There is work to do, but the work is His and the worship is ours.

Liberalism is rife in American Christianity.
Legalism is rife in American Christianity.

We ought to be able to recognize these errors at every turn and repugn such unsound and foolish doctrines without shame.

Basically speaking, liberalism depends on the goodness and strength of man, and, because of that, never reaches the cross. If liberal Bible teaching mentions the cross, it’s of historical note or sentimental memory rather than utter necessity.

Legalism, on the other hand, admits a need of the cross, but contends one needs the cross plus other things.

Here are the formulas of faith and unbelief: (1) Unbelief as liberalism = self + self strength = no spiritual fruit; nothing, (2) Unbelief as legalism = Christ + anything = nothing; for, surely, saying anything needs be added to the cross nullifies the cross, and (3) Belief through truth = Christ + nothing = everything.

That being said, let’s talk…

All the Father is pleased with is Jesus. If we are not hidden in Christ, there is nothing in us that pleases the Father and we are in nothing that pleases the Father. We must come to the cross, and we must not nullify the cross; Christ, and Christ alone.

Because the cross is necessary; because the shedding of blood is necessary, preachers and teachers who accurately handle the word of truth seem unbending. The sort of teaching that proclaims salvation only through Jesus shed blood seems foolish to liberals; they think that sort of thing is too exclusive and too unyielding. Preaching the atoning blood is distasteful to people who think they’re pretty much good enough on their own.

Likewise, preaching the cross alone as sufficient to cover sin and please God rankles legalists, too. Of course, the average legalist wouldn’t own up to it with plainspeak, but it’s prevalent. They teach that we need Jesus and something else; these modern day Judaizers may not be exhorting people to Jesus-plus-circumcision, but it’s always Jesus-plus-something.

Why would I bring this up? I yearn that we “…would not be outwitted by Satan; for we are not ignorant of his designs.” (2 Corinthians 2:11 ESV) The best way to sell someone something of little value is to give them quality counterfeit. Through so much liberal and legalist teaching these days, we are being handed quality counterfeits, and that’s a slick, sly, tricky work of the enemy.

The flat out, simple truth is this: number one without the shedding of blood, there is no forgiveness of sin; number two, the shedding of the blood of Jesus the Christ is sufficient once and all for each and every sin. The conclusion: we must come before the cross of Christ, and there we must continue to cast every care.

Jesus is enough. Jesus is all the Father will accept. Jesus is all we’ll ever need. Everything else worth having comes through Him to make us fruitful, complete His work and lead us to humble worship. Reject any dependence on self, both the kind that never reaches the cross and the kind that attempts to nullify it. 

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