Happy 4th of July! Today we celebrate the 234th birthday of the independence these United States of America; and our independence from foreign rule has brought us great freedom and liberty. As Christians, may we take this day as an opportunity to celebrate our spiritual freedom from the rule of the god of this age, who continues to blind so many around us, keeping them from the Light of the Gospel. May we be reminded today that our liberty is found in Christ, who said, “If the Son makes you free, you shall free indeed.” However, just as the British returned in 1812 to reclaim their sovereignty over the colonies which now called themselves a free nation, so in our Christian experience, the old man, our fleshly nature, revives to recapture territory which once belonged to the devil. Beware the wiles of the enemy, as he tempts you with the pleasures of this world, or the pride of your flesh.
In his letter to Galatians, the Apostle Paul strongly warns us to “stand fast in the liberty by which Christ has made us free!” In Paul’s day, false teachers were used by the devil to entangle believers in a legalistic form of self-righteous Christianity, which was not a true Christianity at all. As Paul watched professing believers return to formal ritualism which sought righteousness by keeping religious law, he asserted emphatically, “You have become estranged from Christ, you who attempt to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace.” The whole point of the gospel is that a man cannot attain his own righteousness, which is why Jesus Christ came to pay the penalty for our sins commanded by God’s Law, which was death. Jesus died for our sins, promising that if we would simply believe in Him by faith, we would never die, but have eternal life. His righteousness becomes ours through simple faith. To return under the rule of the law, to be deceived by self-righteous legalism once more, is to be re-conquered by the old man of our sinful nature, it is to be repatriated by the old enemy, that old serpent, the devil: it is to fall from God’s grace, to be enslaved rather than free, to be in bondage instead of enjoying liberty.
The carnal Christian isn’t necessarily one who practices outright sin, but one who is putting confidence in his flesh to fulfill his own version of religious legalism. Many churches and Christians today are entangled with legalism and estranged from the Grace of Jesus Christ. Many in the modern Church are caught in the same snare which trapped some in the early Church, as they replace the enjoyment of grace with bondage to various rules and regulations by which they feel more righteous than others who do not practice their particular brand of legalism. They feel more righteous because they go to church on Saturday instead of Sunday. They feel more righteous because they only use a King James Bible, and would never read any other translation. They feel more righteous because they attend multiple church services per week, rather than one service on Sunday. They feel more righteous because they baptize by immersion, and would never sprinkle. They feel more righteous because they believe in a certain dress code for church, and because they believe a woman should never wear pants or have more than one piercing per ear, and because they believe a man should never have long hair or a goatee. They feel more righteous because they only sing hymns accompanied by a piano and organ, or perhaps accapela, and would never worship God with “rock’n-roll” music. They would never go to the theater, and some don’t even have a TV; they would never have an alcoholic drink, and they would never go dancing on Saturday night. They feel more righteous than others because they keep their own law, and they will quickly condemn another believer who does not share their legalistic “convictions”. They have standards! But they have left their first love, and they have fallen from grace.
It’s true as the Apostle said in his letter to the Colossians, “These things indeed have an appearance of wisdom in self-imposed religion, false humility, and neglect of the body, but are of no value against the indulgence of the flesh.” This is where legalism gets real ugly, as the flesh is elevated in pride, the power of the Spirit is stifled and quenched. Hate and bitterness quickly replace love and grace. Condemnation and judgment replace forgiveness and humility. Law replaces the Lord and Church replaces the Christ. The gospel becomes anything but Good News. Why? Because Christians have become independent from Jesus Christ, and have lost their freedom and liberty in His Spirit of Grace.
While freedom is found in independence in the world, freedom is only experienced in complete and simple dependence upon Jesus in the Kingdom of God. We are not to be those who put any confidence whatsoever in our flesh, as Paul says in Philippians, but we are to be those who “worship God in the Spirit, rejoice in Jesus Christ, and have no confidence in the flesh”! Christians are to celebrate their DEPENDENCE ON JESUS, not their independence from Him. Our freedom is in Christ, and our liberty is only as secure as our dependence upon Him is strong. The more we trust Him and look up to Him, the closer we walk with Him and depend upon Him, the more and more will we become like Him. Less legalistic, more loving. Less hypocritical, more humble. Less guile, more grace; less pride, more peace; less carnal, more spiritual; less cultic, more Christian.
Today, celebrate true Freedom and real liberty, as we learn to live in dependence upon our Good and Gracious Shepherd. Happy Dependence Day!
In : Meditations
Tags: legalism grace
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