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A Brief Introduction to Legalism #2

The Truth Pulpit / Don Green
The Truth Network Radio
November 21, 2023 12:00 am

A Brief Introduction to Legalism #2

The Truth Pulpit / Don Green

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November 21, 2023 12:00 am

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Legalism before salvation teaches, in one form or another, you do these things and then you can be saved.

Scripture says, no, it is not by works, it is by faith alone. So legalism before salvation does not and cannot work. Thanks for joining us on the Truth Pulpit with Don Green, Founding Pastor of Truth Community Church in Cincinnati, Ohio. Hi, I'm Bill Wright and we're continuing our series, Breaking the Bonds of Legalism. Last time Don looked at legalism as it manifests itself before salvation. Today he turns our attention to how it appears after salvation. Now while falling into this trap is not a deal breaker, it certainly can and will rob you of the peace and joy that believers should possess. Let's join Pastor Don Green right now in the Truth Pulpit to help us better understand and conquer legalism.

This is a really critical sentence that I'm about to say here. Good works are not the means by which God has appointed a man to be saved. It is not by good behavior that any man can come to God. If you find yourself here burdened by a guilty conscience, knowing that you violated the law of God, understand that there's nothing that you can do to escape from that condition.

There isn't anything, you can't go someplace and do something that will make your guilt go away on your own. The promise of God of forgiveness is in Christ alone, received by faith alone, not through anything that you do. And beloved, here's the thing. The idea of being a religious person, faithful at a church, being generous with your gifts or whatever, that that would somehow work to save you.

That might look good on the outside, but beloved, that will not save you. And to think that it will is to establish your own standard that God won't honor, that God does not recognize. The Jews stumbled on this very point. Look at Romans chapter 10.

Romans chapter 10. Paul, in writing about his unsaved Jewish brothers, says in chapter 10 verse 1, he says, Brethren, my heart's desire and my prayer to God for them is for their salvation. They are not saved. I wish they were. I pray for God to do something about that, but they are not saved.

And he goes on and he describes something about them. He says in verse 2, for I testify about them that they have a zeal for God. They're zealous for what they're doing.

They think they're doing the right thing. But it is not in accordance with knowledge. It's not true.

It's not real. It's not what God recognizes. Verse 3, for not knowing about God's righteousness and seeking to establish their own, they did not subject themselves to the righteousness of God. You see, you don't get to make up your own approach to how you will be saved. You don't get to make up the standard and then live according to your own standard and expect God to honor that for God to receive you.

It does not work that way. Salvation belongs to God. Salvation is of the Lord. It is his salvation. It is his kingdom. It is his righteousness.

It is his holiness. And that means that God establishes the standard. God establishes the means by which men will be saved or not. And we must submit to the revealed righteousness, the revealed way of salvation of God if we want to be saved because there's not another entrance.

We don't get to go to a back entrance and enter into the kingdom through another way. There's one way and that is through faith in Christ alone, coming to him humbly, receiving him alone, trusting in his righteousness alone to save you. Salvation is a gift from God, not as a result of works. Legalism before salvation teaches in one form or another you do these things and then you can be saved. Scripture says no, it is not by works, it is by faith alone. So legalism before salvation does not and cannot work.

It's not real. It is simply a further confirmation in sin and guilt. Think about it. What is the person who asserts that he's good enough for heaven?

What is he really doing? Well, there's this. Here's the perspective from God on that. Not only have you sinned in heart, word and deed, not only are you guilty of your actual sins, you compound those sins by another even greater sin by asserting, believing a false gospel, trying to achieve salvation by a means that God has not ordained.

That's lethal, that's very deadly, that's even more wicked. And so salvation by works is simply a compounding of guilt. Legalism before salvation refuted from the Scriptures. Now secondly, let's talk about legalism after salvation. Here we're going to assume somebody that's genuinely born again, someone that has put their faith in Christ. And beloved, here's the thing, it may surprise you to hear me say this, you can affirm justification by faith alone in your mind, you can believe in Christ, but still suffer in legalism, still suffer from a legalistic mindset, not because you're trusting in your works to save you, but because you have a perspective on the Christian life that is not in accordance with truth.

You could ask questions like this, what is the mark of spiritual growth in a Christian? What role do good works play in the life of a believer? Can a man become more justified by doing good works? Is justification, true justification once received, is it threatened by your sin?

And the answer to that question is no. Justification is not threatened once truly received by your sin in your life as a believer, because justification, go back to these fundamental cornerstones that we've been talking about, God never saved you on the basis of your works in the first place. In justification, God imputes to you the righteousness of Christ.

He credits that fully to your account. You have a perfect righteousness based on the perfect obedience of Christ to the law, and your obedience does not improve that righteousness, and your occasional sins as a believer do not diminish that righteousness. The ground of your justification is found outside of your behavior, it's found by Christ and received by faith alone.

And so, those with a legalistic mindset see remaining sin in their lives and start to doubt whether they're still saved or not. Has God changed His attitude toward me because of the sins in my life as a believer? Does God react and emotionally swing? I'm obedient, He's happy, I'm disobedient, and He's angry with me.

Does it swing back and forth like that? Beloved, what I want you to see, and I say this to help you. Oh, I say this, this is very liberating the things that we're starting to open up here. That is not the basis upon which God saved you. Remember, beforehand you were lost and dead and guilty in sin, and God saved you by love, grace, mercy, patience, and kindness. Well, now that you're in Christ, His approach in dealing with you hasn't suddenly gone back to a rules-based means of existence.

And so, we need to think differently about that. Once you come into Christ, salvation begins a process of change. Sanctification is the work of God in the life of a believer, which brings Him closer to the likeness of Christ in the believer's daily life, attitudes, and conduct. Sanctification is a work of God in which the believer is brought closer to the likeness of Christ in His daily life, attitudes, and conduct. Now, how can you recognize legalism after salvation?

What would that look like? If somebody was going to be legalistic as a Christian, what would that look like? Well, it won't necessarily be. It wouldn't be in the doctrines that they affirm.

I affirm that salvation is by grace alone through faith alone and Christ alone, and their doctrine is correct on that grounds, and they are trusting in Christ for their ultimate salvation. We can assume that. We can recognize that.

We can take that as a given. But that doesn't exhaust the threat of legalism to the mind. You can approach the Christian life in a legalistic way that says something like this, that has an attitude that the presence of certain behaviors in my life will somehow make me more worthy in the eyes of God, or perhaps the absence avoiding certain behaviors can make me more favorable, more worthy in God's eyes than I otherwise might be. This is a legalism that establishes rules that have no basis in Scripture.

If I do A, B, and C, I'm going to be more like what God wants me to be, and the key being that these are rules that are not found in Scripture. Let's look at the Gospel of Mark chapter 7, and we'll illustrate this. Chapter 7 verse 1 of Mark says, The Pharisees and some of the scribes gathered around him when they had come from Jerusalem, and had seen that some of his disciples were eating their bread with impure hands, that is unwashed. For the Pharisees and all the Jews do not eat unless they carefully wash their hands, thus observing the traditions of the elders.

And when they come from the marketplace, they do not eat unless they cleanse themselves, and there are many other things which they have received in order to observe, such as the washing of cups and pitchers and copper pots. The Pharisees had this mindset that these are the rules that you are to keep in the religious life, and they see Jesus and his disciples not keeping the rules. And so they challenge him. In verse 5, the Pharisees and the scribes asked him, Why do your disciples not walk according to the tradition of the elders, but eat their bread with impure hands?

Why aren't they doing the righteous thing that we have declared? Well, Jesus rebukes them. In verse 6, and he said to them, Rightly did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written, This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far away from me. But in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the precepts of men, neglecting the commandment of God you hold to the tradition of men. Beloved, one of the distinguishing features of legalism is, is that it pays attention to man-made rules that are not found in the Bible. It sets standards, either for the person themselves, or seeks, even worse, to bind the conscience of others by requiring certain behaviors in the Christian life, key phrase, not found in the Word of God, not revealed in Scripture. This legalism can be recognized by the impositions of duties on a Christian that have no biblical basis. And so, someone given over to legalism may feel good about, and consciously reflect on the fact that I don't smoke, I don't dance, I don't drink, I don't go to movies. You can debate whether those things are good or bad, whether they are helpful or unhelpful, but here's the thing, to look at that and say, because of that I stand in greater favor with God, because I conform to this external standard of behavior, I am in a better position with God, that's legalism.

That's lethal, and it is wrong because, to think in that way, I am applying standards of my own to determine what godliness is like, that kind of legalism is wrong because it goes beyond Scripture, because this is not what God has revealed on particulars like that. Look at Deuteronomy 4 verse 2, it says, You shall not add to the word which I am commanding you, nor take away from it, that you may keep the commandments of the Lord your God which I command you. Do not add to the word. Deuteronomy 12 verse 32, I'll just read it for the sake of time, says, Whatever I command you, you shall be careful to do. You shall not add to nor take away from it.

Don't add to the word with your own made-up rules. In 1 Corinthians chapter 4 verse 6, Paul says that we must learn not to exceed what is written so that no one of you will become arrogant in behalf of one against the other. Don't exceed what has been written, don't add to it, don't make up your own rules and think that by adding more than what God requires somehow puts you in a better position before Him.

Don't do that. If you have certain standards by which you live, great, ask yourself, where are these grounded in the Bible? Or am I just perpetuating something that I heard from someone else that isn't found in Scripture? That's one aspect of it. Secondly, perhaps even closer to home, legalism, beloved, can be recognized also in the heart of one who expects better treatment from God due to his own personal performance.

I did this, God should do this. And it can be exposed in a thousand different ways that you would not necessarily immediately attribute to a legalistic mindset. But when it's laid out before you, it's clear. And once it's clear, it can be corrected by those five words of gospel hope. Think with me here.

Think with me here. God isn't fair. What did I do to deserve these trials? Woven into a statement like that is an assumption that I behave a particular way and I get a particular response from God. Woven into that is the fact that, well, watch it, that God is subject to a standard higher than Himself, that He has to act according to a standard of fairness that even He is governed by. God isn't fair.

Well, the concept of fairness means that there's a standard that everyone has to abide by. What did I do to deserve these trials? There's a standard that I've kept that should have exempted me from trials. I shouldn't have to go through this hardship.

That's a legalistic mindset. I did my part. I was entitled to something in response.

I was good, I played by the rules, so I get what I want. I get the life I want. I get the spouse I want. I get the family I want.

I get the job I want because I did what I was supposed to do. Beloved, there's a few things to say about that. That's not life, right? Once you get out of your 20s, into your 30s, 40s, you start to... Life itself teaches you that lesson.

That's not reality. And beloved, it's not the nature of grace either. Others, perhaps, experience this legalistic mindset in the fact that they fear condemnation from God because they can't keep all the rules. I haven't read my Bible enough.

I haven't prayed enough. God must be angry with me. Thinking that, the underlying premise of that being that God deals with me in a predictable pattern based on the rules that I keep. And if I don't keep the rules, God is going to judge me.

Oh, beloved, go back to those five words of gospel hope. Did God deal with you like that when you were a sinner apart from Christ? Did He save you because you kept the rules?

No. He saved you according to love, grace, mercy, kindness, and patience. What makes you think that suddenly He flipped and now He's a legalistic God in dealing with you? You see, those feelings and a thousand others like them. Here's the thing, beloved. They expose a legalistic mind that is not fully grounded, fully mature in grace.

Step back, broad statement here. Men are sinful and depraved. They cannot do anything to incline God to deal favorably with them. Beloved, I'm offering hope for your soul, hope for your beleaguered, weary heart in everything that I'm saying here. God saved you in His love, kindness, mercy, grace, and patience. Now that you're saved, you know what He does? He keeps you in love, kindness, mercy, grace, and patience. 1 John 1-9, if we confess our sins, He's faithful and righteous to forgive us all our sins and to cleanse us from every unrighteousness. The blood of Jesus' Son cleanses us from all sin.

Come to me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. You see, we have to take what we know to be true at the moment of our conversion, those five gospel words of hope, and realize that that was the beginning of the pattern upon which God will always deal with us in Christ. Legalism perverts and obscure those words of hope. And what it does is this, that mindset of which we have been speaking, that legalistic mindset wraps its ugly roots around the way that we think about God. God, this isn't fair, I don't deserve this. What are you doing? I can remember a time 30 years ago, shaking my fist at God as a new believer. How can you do this to me? Well, there was legalism all wrapped up in that.

I did this, therefore I should get this. And that's not the way it works. It wraps its roots around our thoughts about God. It wraps its roots around the way that we think about others. Quietly, insidiously, we think that we're somehow better than someone else. If we are in a privileged position, we tend to look with contempt on others who are not.

I have a better position because my life was better, rather than attributing it to the free, undeserved, grace, love, mercy, patience, and kindness of God that you enjoy a good life. And the way that we think about ourselves, it destroys joy, it destroys love, it destroys hope, it destroys peace. Now, beloved, here's the thing. It is not that many of you consciously think this way. It's not that you're consciously thinking A plus B equals C. It's not that you're consciously thinking, I have been good and therefore God owes me. It's not that you're consciously thinking that way. The problem is is that you and I operate on assumptions that we haven't considered. We operate on presuppositions that we haven't examined. And I would say it takes some time to peel back the layers of the onion to get to the core of what prompts those thoughts. God, this isn't fair. I deserve better than this.

Why doesn't God give me what I want? At the core of that are legalistic assumptions that are governing your thinking. Legalistic assumptions that have not been completely, fully, maturely informed by love, grace, mercy, kindness, patience. Where does legalism come from?

Better stated, where did it come from? How do you recognize it? How can you more fully recognize it in your life?

Those are the questions we're going to consider. I hope you'll be with us. And so Pastor Don Green has completed his message, A Brief Introduction to Legalism. But he'll continue our series, Breaking the Bonds of Legalism, next time here on The Truth Pulpit.

Do be with us. Well Don, I'm sure you encounter many in your congregation who have really had multiple trials and difficulties, like illness, bankruptcy, or loss of loved ones. Given it's easy to falsely think God must have turned his back, how do you offer pastoral comfort?

Well that's a great question, Bill. You know, my friend, if you have the feeling that God has turned his back on you because of the adversity that you're going through, it's an understandable reaction in some ways. But here's the way that you find your way forward. God did turn his back on someone, but it wasn't on you. God turned his back on his son Jesus Christ at the cross when Christ bore our sins and the world went dark as Jesus paid the price of all of our sin at Calvary.

Look to the cross, look to the love of God, and realize that he has an attitude of favor toward you that is found in Christ. Thanks Don. And friend, remember to visit thetruthpulpit.com soon to learn more about this ministry. That's thetruthpulpit.com. I'm Bill Wright and we'll see you back here next time on The Truth Pulpit.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-11-21 05:06:21 / 2023-11-21 05:15:02 / 9

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