Saved out of a life of intense rebellion, I experienced somewhat of a flip-of-the-switch inside me the moment I surrendered to Jesus. Instantly purged from my life were a whole host of sinful activities that had dominated me for the decade prior to my conversion. God did not only save my soul, He changed the way I lived. He deposited within me a new heart that hated wickedness and loved righteousness. Frankly, it baffled all my friends at the time, and even surprised me as I began to live a completely different lifestyle from that in which I had been entrenched for so long. Unfortunately, I got caught up in the gears of legalism almost from the get-go. Everywhere I went, I not only saw what was sinful, I zealously pointed it out. The pendulum of morality had swung so intensely inside of me that I became a first-class Pharisee within the first six months of being a Christian. Soon enough, I found my own tribe of fellow-legalists, and we spurred each other on in our deepening degrees of living like the morality police. I truly thought I was honoring God with my itinerant ministry of pointing out others’ sins, but I now see that it wasn’t honorable at all. It was judgmental, spiteful, prideful and fruitless. Everyone knew where I stood, but I failed to notice that I was frequently standing alone, having alienated many to whom I might have shown grace, compassion, kindness and love while still imparting truth to them. I was not the first person to fail to comprehend the grace of God. I also was not the last to do so.
“For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ.” – Titus 2:11-13
What I am now witnessing is the overcorrection in the Church of the sin of legalism. Saved people should hate legalism because it denies so much of the heart of the Father. Legalism minimizes relationship with God and others. Legalism makes Christianity about rules, morals, ethics and traditions. Because this has historically predominated so much of the evangelical movement here in America, the Church lost credibility with millions of people because not even the legalist can live up to his/her standard of measure. In response to the sin of legalism, we are now at the back-end of a 15-20-year overcorrection which is doing equal damage to the testimony of Jesus in our generaiton. What do I mean?
Because legalism exalts human rules and standards, the overcorrection includes a refusal of any behavioral boundaries placed upon us as believers. Because legalism was characterized by the cold “letter of the Law”, the overcorrection views a commitment to the authority of Scripture as quenching the Holy Spirit or being narrow-minded. Because religious authorities manipulated God’s people through legalism, the overcorrection includes a rebellious attitude against truly God-appointed spiritual leaders in the Church. Because legalism went beyond the biblical mandates for Kingdom morality, the overcorrection is now using a cultural measure, not scriptural, for what is right and wrong. Legalism distorted the ways of God, and the overcorrection has now done the same thing…but in the opposite direction.
God’s grace was never given so that we might be free from expectations of holiness. God’s grace is given so that we are empowered to live at the highest level of intimate relationship with Him. It is this intimacy with God that reproduces His holiness within us. Thus, to properly understand God’s nature and to walk in His ways is the unavoidable result of truly living in biblical grace. Grace does not empower us to dismiss or diminish practical holiness. Grace actually produces personal holiness at the highest level because it is rooted in intimacy with the Father! So, here is the bottom line about God’s parameters for the morality of His children:
A faith that truly saves is a faith that truly behaves. It might sound a little trite, but it is true nonetheless.
The verse above from the Book of Titus makes it impossible to misunderstand when it declares that God’s grace is, “…training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age…” Living in grace means that we will renounce the ungodliness within us and around us. It says re-nounce, not denounce. Renouncing ungodliness and unholy passions means that we refuse to give these things permission to get within us. Grace also trains us to live with upright behavior in lives that are characterized as being godly through a commitment to self-control. Scripture is clear that grace has a measurable impact on our spiritual disciplines, potential fleshly passions, personal integrity and commitment to biblical morality. Yes, God’s grace results in our submission to God and his ways. The overcorrection against legalism which seems to be resulting in many in the Church allowing themselves to indulge themselves in a guilt-free lifestyle of excess is as damaging to the testimony of Jesus in the Church as legalism ever was. The pendulum has swung to the other extreme for many.
It seems that we are entering a season where we must correct the overcorrection.
It begins with each of us examining our own hearts to see if we can begin right there.
Give to the ministry