Gary: Now, Contending for the Faith…Here is this week’s question: “Dear Mr. Hunt and Mr. McMahon, I’ve heard you rightly share your concerns about the church becoming so like the world in its practices that the world has a hard time discerning the difference. However, there’s another side I’d like to hear you address. What about those professing to be believers who are legalistic in their approach to Christianity? Don’t they do as much damage to persuading the lost to come to Christ as worldly Christians?”
Tom: Dave, we’ve had our concerns about legalism in the church, but this isn’t anything new from us, so we could go back to Paul and his concern about the Galatians. Let me read a couple verses from Galatians 3: “O foolish Galatians, who has bewitched you that you should not obey the truth before whose eyes Jesus Christ has been evidently set forth crucified among you? This only would I learn of you: receive ye the Spirit by the works of the Law, or by the hearing of faith? Are you so foolish, having begun in the spirit, are ye now made perfect by the flesh?”
Dave: Tom, it depends upon what we mean by legalism, of course.
Tom: Well, yeah, I’d like to discuss that.
Dave: You’re reading from Galatians. In Galatians chapter 5, he says if we’re led of the Spirit, we’re not under the Law. And then, around verse 22, he says, “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, temperance, meekness…” And he says, “Against such there is no Law.”
So, if I’m really indwelt by the Spirit of God, which all Christians are, and I’m allowing the Spirit of God to live out through me…
Tom: Now, when you say, “all Christians are,” some people out there say, “Well, that must mean me…” But isn’t there a…
Dave: Well, to be a Christian, you must be led of the Spirit of God; you must be indwelt by the Spirit of God. That doesn't mean that every person is led of the Spirit of God, or indwelt by God. We’re not all the children of God! We become…
Tom: Even if we call ourselves Christians.
Dave: That’s right. We become the children of God through faith in Christ Jesus. So, those who have opened their hearts to Christ, who have believed that they’re sinners and that Christ, who is God, became a man, didn’t cease to be God, that He paid the penalty that His own infinite justice required for their sin—they have believed that, they have accepted that payment on their behalf, the Bible says that’s all you have to do! Eternal life is a free gift. And Christ has come to live His life…the Spirit of Christ, the Spirit of God, is living in us. So, now, if I walk in the Spirit, I will not fulfill the lust of the flesh, for the flesh lusts against the spirit, the spirit against the flesh.
So, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, and so forth. Against these things there is no law. And I’m not under the law. In other words, the Christian life now is not a set of rules and regulations. That doesn’t mean that then a Christian just does anything! I’m not governed by the law. I have a higher standard, and that is the very life of Christ himself.
For example, Christ said, “As I have loved you, you are to love one another.” If Christ is living in me, the Spirit of God—remember, we talked, I think, in the last program briefly—we have before—we’re created in the image of God, we have sinned and come short of the glory of God. So, now, when we are reconciled to God through Christ, and we’ve believed in Him, we’ve accepted the forgiveness of our sins that He’s offered us, because He paid the penalty, now, He is restoring that image of God within us. Even in our conduct!
So in 2 Corinthians 3, Paul says, “We, beholding as in a mirror, the glory of the Lord. We are changed into the same image from glory to glory.” We’ve been talking about it: “Oh, that I might know Him,” and longing to know Him, and loving Him with our whole heart. And the more we know Him, the better we know Him, the more like Him we become. The more control He has over our lives—until one day, we will see Him! First John chapter 3, it says, “Now are we the sons of God, and it doesn’t yet appear what we shall be. But we know that when He shall appear, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.”
So, when we really see Him as He is—we’re in our new bodies, we’re glorified, we’re transformed—we’re going to be like Him. In the meantime, we’re in the process of getting to know Him.
So, it’s not that…temptation arises, and now I must struggle in my own strength, and I’m going to overcome this lust. I’m going to count to ten so I don’t get angry. All the self-improvement techniques that I’m going to learn. I’m going to get control over my flesh.
No, the Bible says the solution is, “I am crucified with Christ.” I’ve accepted His death as my death. This is what I really want, and He has become my life.
So the victory in the Christian life is not gritting my teeth, and somehow managing to live up to this standard, this set of rules and regulations—but it’s allowing Christ to live His life through me! And unfortunately, there are so many groups out there, and they have set certain… well, “you can’t have your…your hair must be a certain length.” We were in Germany, and a man got really upset because my wife’s hair is not down to her waist! “How could a preacher have a wife that has cut her hair?”
Well, her hair’s a whole lot longer than mine! And I think that’s what the Bible is talking about.
But anyway, this, then, becomes a standard. The way you dress, the food you eat. The Bible says there is freedom in that regard. It doesn’t mean that I just run wild, but that is not the man’s… “The kingdom of God is not meat and drink but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Ghost.”
Tom: And, Dave, some—I’m sure this is why this person wrote this question—some would even push those legalistic ideas to the point of earning their own salvation.
Tom: That’s tragic and wrong. But even those who fall short of that, they lose the joy. They lose the excitement that they ought to have in Christ. And that ought to be reflected in everything that they do, and that’s sad.
Dave: We need to let Christ be our life, and whatever He does, it’s going to be right. And let Him do it through us.