As promised, friends, in today’s post I hope to unpack a few of the “diagnostic statements” which I offered you last week in an effort to help us learn to distinguish between legalism/moralism and the gospel of Christ. So we’ll start with the first three.
Being a Christian means living a moral life. What could possibly be wrong with that assertion, right? As you might imagine, Christ changes everything about us. When we trust the Son of God for salvation, we are made entirely new creations in Him (Second Corinthians 5:17)! We are justified in an instant, and a lifelong journey of sanctification begins, by which we are steadily conformed to Christ’s likeness. That being said, it is easy to forget the source of our new identity, and to ease ourselves into believing that our “goodness” is our own doing. That is the heart of legalism: an inflated view of self. Do we want to live a moral life? Of course. But the heart of the gospel is never my morality (which is a failure on multiple levels), but the perfect righteousness of Jesus which has been freely given (credited) to me.
The reason I need the Bible is because I need good advice on how to live. O.K., I’ll admit it: I was being very subtle there. Here’s what’s incomplete about that perspective on my need for God’s Word. There’s nothing wrong with looking to the Scriptures for guidance, of course; in fact it’s an essential dimension of living for Christ. But we must understand that the Bible sets forth a moral standard which we can’t possibly attain. Thus, the Bible’s most critical role in our lives is to show us that we need a Savior! So what we most need from the Bible is not advice, but the revelation of Christ! If the Bible does not lead us to know and trust Christ alone for righteousness, then we will know no righteousness. It is not a self-help manual, and to view the Bible as such is way off the mark.
The main problem in our country is the liberals. I think you can see how this “philosophy” goes astray, though we’re all tempted by political pride on a regular basis. From time to time we need a reminder that, when our Lord Jesus walked the earth, He was sometimes an ultra-conservative, sometimes an ultra-liberal, and sometimes somewhere in between. You see, Christ operated from the perspective of an absolute truth standard which transcended every human category. You and I must stay humble enough to recognize that no people group has a corner on morality, for “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” In that sense, every sinner, and that is every person, contributes to the fallenness of Planet Earth. Said simply, we must steer clear of self-righteousness in any of its deadly forms.
Just yesterday, Rachel Darnall tweeted: “Legalism is real, it is dangerous, and it is subtle. It did not die out in the first century or in any other century. It will be with us as long as the flesh is with us. It knows our christian lingo. It knows how to infiltrate our churches. Hold fast.”
Hold fast! More next week.