There are two main things that trip up a believer in Christ and cause him to stumble and fall out of the grace wherein we stand. Those two things are legalism and abuse of grace. The First Epistle of Corinthians shows the depravity of thought and action that comes when God's grace is used as a cloak (an excuse for) sin. Galatians shows how legalism strangles the life out of a believer, caught in the never ending battle of trying to subdue the flesh by way of laws and rules.
Perhaps near the top of the devil's chain of command are religious spirits who present themselves as the Pharisees of Jesus time and so many of the I'm perfect, you're not people occupying pulpits all around the world. Religious spirits have a way of making you feel inferior, dirty, ashamed and ugly. These spirits are like snakes that slither their way up a person until they choke them with their religiosity.
On the other side of the coin are those who teach that it is the believer's responsibility to become rich, live worldly lives and give all excess money to the fill the coffers of the church and the pockets of the preacher. The ugly outcome of this hypocrisy is a church devoid of the truth of who Jesus Christ is and what He did for us. Religious spirits squeeze money out of believers through guilt while prosperity gospel proponents await their paycheck by way of gifts, offerings etc.
As if these two things were not bad enough, there is another enemy of grace which is worse than either of them. There are some who promote doing whatever you want as long as it feels good. These people use grace as a cloak for their sins and take pride in never having a guilty conscience, no matter what they do. The God loves me no matter what I do mentality promotes the fulfillment of the lust of the flesh and of the mind. Unlike the other two, this practice includes other believers and the stumbling block this presents to those weak in the faith is horrendous.
Jesus Christ was the end of the law to all who believe. This eliminates religious spirits from being of God. This eliminates doing things that were in the law just to fulfill the law. Jesus Christ came to usher in grace and love. We are to do what we do because we love God and His people. We are to stand in, walk in and live in the grace of God. Grace blows away all false pretense and wrong motivation. Grace allows man to receive God's mercy and love.
For nearly 50 years, people have looked at me and scratched their heads. They cannot figure out what my religion is. That is because I have no religion. I am a son of God whose only desire is to praise Him and be a blessing to His people. Why and how should this be so hard to understand?
God wants us to be holy but not religious. God wants our needs to be met but has no need for us to be wealthy. God wants us to do His will and live in such a manner that brings glory to Him. God leaves it up to each believer to figure out how to do these things, where to do them and who do them with. Leave legalism behind, abhor all doctrine that is not Scriptural and refuse to ever be found guilty of using God's grace as an excuse or cover for sin.
This is a topic I encounter frequently. Raised in a denomination that frequently struggled with/against falling into legalism, I have to really consciously guard against it. I hate to admit it but it is true.
That being said, I am saddened and alarmed at the prevalent doctrine that basically says grace is a license to sin and that our behavior does not matter.
What? God has no interest in how His children behave? What sort of father is that? Of course He cares! He has expectations as well as commands and He expects us to follow them.
It seems hard to grasp, that word - free.
Excellent question. Excellent points made.
"Why and how should this be so hard to understand?"
I fully agree - I have a faith not a religion.
Good to have you back at it. But I'm afraid that question is going to cause another blog.
I nearly cried at one point. Well, nearly. I have still got that funny tear-uppy feeling. Not just to read from you, which is awesome but to read exactly what you have said, which means so much to me.
I was reading Martin Luther this weekend, and all the things he had to say against the church at that time, which suggested paying your way into heaven. He took such humble, persistent exception to the promise that there were "souls flying out of purgatory as soon as the coin jingles in the box" and the cessation of preaching the Gospel in favour of a covert fundraiser for a grand new church building.
Also this weekend, I was talking with someone who was considering going into training to become a full-time pastor, and they asked me what I thought of the idea. That person, well, is inclined to fall in the third category you mention. As I listened to them talk, I really thought, "This is the 'trampling' Hebrews 10 is warning against" and I reminded them of this Scripture and a few others. They weren't familiar with the Bible refs, but surely had a good sneer at me for knowing them. Actually laughed in my face when I v.seriously said, "You will have to stop taking the Lord's name in vain". I'll hold back on the other details but, amazingly blind to any responsibility a pastor might have, they finished the discussion by saying that I was good at giving them excuses not to do the Lord's work, as if I was the devil himself, even though I would never have contested anyone like that, only gave my opinion because I love them and care for them.
What can I say? Your words and actions in the time I've known you here show that you live by the standard you set in this blog. The Bible holds up those standards. I got a lot of comfort from this because I know you're right and it reassured me on a few things even if I cried a bit in the end. Thank you for writing this.
God bless Kirk - so glad to read from you.