Moralism is slavery; discipleship is freedom

By Dan Richardson
Thursday, Jan. 29, 2015
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“For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery. Look: I, Paul, say to you that if you accept circumcision, Christ will be of no advantage to you. I testify again to every man who accepts circumcision that he is obligated to keep the whole law. You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law; you have fallen away from grace (Galatians 5:1-4).”

Trying to be accepted by God by being a good person is living under a yoke of slavery. Your first step is the wrong step. Being a good person is the wrong direction because you can never be good in God’s eyes. Jesus said, “No one is good except God alone (Mark 10:18).”

The passage above originally related to some people insisting a religious ritual was a divine requirement. To apply it today, replace the word “circumcision” with the words “works-salvation.” Now the second sentence reads, “I, Paul, say to you that if you accept works-salvation, Christ will be of no advantage to you.” The next sentence reads, “I testify again to every man who accepts works-salvation that he is obligated to keep the whole law.”

If you are seeking eternal contentment by your works, then Christ is irrelevant and you must keep the entire law. For many people, they are happy with works salvation. Most world religions, including secular humanism, follow some form of it. Sometimes works-salvation is packaged in a message of “love your neighbor” or “feed the poor.” Works-salvation fails in the short run because it leads to anxiety and fear. It fails in the long run because no one meets God’s standard of good.

God’s grace is the way. Psalm 32 outlines grace and places good works in the right order. It begins with a blessing of forgiveness (v. 1-2). It exposes our tendency to ignore sin or treat it lightly (v. 3-4). It says God preserves and instructs those broken by sin (v. 8-9). (Grace and freedom is not an opportunity to sin.) Forgiveness and discipleship leads us to the goal: gladness in the LORD (v. 11).

Freedom takes the heat off. The sinner rests in mercy and lives in lasting joy. Upon a moral failure, he first meditates on the forgiveness found in Christ. He visualizes the sin applied to Jesus on the cross. He hears Jesus say “Father, forgive him.” He does not work to improve his morality until he is reassured his sin is completely forgiven on the cross 2,000 years ago.

Once reminded of the Gospel, the sinner improves his state by hearing specific instruction in the Scriptures. The Spirit of God, who is already working in him, is empowering him to love God through good works. All glory to God. Christ saved the sinner, and Christ is working salvation in the sinner’s life.

Godly Heritage Quote of the Week
“A watchful eye must be kept on ourselves lest while we are building ideal monuments of Renown and Bliss here we neglect to have our names enrolled in the Annals of Heaven.”
—James Madison (1751-1836), 4th President of the United States, Nov. 9, 1772, letter to his friend William Bradford

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