legalism

Habitual Sin

I have come to the conclusion I am not "truly" saved.
I hope that rattles you. Let me explain why I have come to this conclusion: Traffic.
Yep, traffic.
You see, I consistently get irritated when other drivers fail to use their turn signals. I get a snarky attitude, and I often make some obnoxious comment about said driver (which does not please my wife, by the way).
I am stuck in habitual sin. Sure, I confess.... but then it pops up again. And again. And again. Probably has for decades. Even after deciding to write this post, fully aware of my tendency, I still responded poorly to traffic. While driving through a little town outside Seattle, it took us 30 minutes to go two blocks through two lights. My attitude was stinky, my comments were not kind. My wife was, rightfully, not pleased with me. And then again today, I gave a snide "gee, thanks" to someone who failed to use their blinker.
So here's my problem. As one well-known writer puts it, "The apostle John ... wrote an entire epistle about the marks of a true believer (1 John 5:13)... Scores of ... passages throughout the epistle confirm the same truth, that the one who is truly saved cannot continue in a pattern of unbroken sin (1 John 3:6-10)." Others use the term "habitual sin" rather than "unbroken sin", but the idea is the same.
Habitual sin means I'm not 'truly' saved. And I am a habitual sinner (at least behind the wheel).
Maybe I can read your mind at this point. "That's not really unbroken sin, Roger. You may slip into it again and again, but the pattern is broken. You probably even confessed it" Or, you may think "Really? You think that sin is serious enough to prove you are not 'truly saved'?" And, at this point in your reading, some of you might have already called me or texted me to straighten me out. But keep reading before you react!
Here's the truth. I do not believe what I said above about the consequences of habitual sin. I have no doubt that I am "truly saved". I think what the above writer and others like him say about habitual sin is wrong.
Think about how subjective and troubling the "habitual sin" or "unbroken sin" trap is. It is easy to look at someone else's life; it is tougher to look at my own. It is easy to think of "big" sins (like addiction to pornography); it is tougher to think of "little" sins (like attitudes towards obnoxious drivers - oops, there I go again). It becomes very subjective! And of course, how does one define "habitual"? What sins? How often? 
Over how much time (days, months, years)? I hope you get my point.  If habitual or unbroken sin of any kind means I never "truly believed" I have a problem and so do most of you (probably all of you). Maybe the sin is as "minor" as anger while driving. Maybe it's our attitude towards certain politicians (I told you this is a problem for most of us). Maybe it is as serious as addiction to something (coffee doesn't count). And if only certain kinds of habitual or unbroken sins cause the problem (instead of any habitual sin), I'm still in trouble, because I don't have a biblical list to differentiate which-sins-are-which. I only have the opinions of people.

Here's the whole truth: When I react poorly to another driver, my actions, words, and attitude are not the result of "walking in the light". They are not a reflection of following Jesus. They are, well, sinful! And I need to let God work on my heart so that the next time that guy fails to signal..... well, you get the idea.

I am saved by grace through faith alone in Jesus alone. My security is based on the objective truth that Jesus died on the cross for my sin, was raised from the dead, and gives, as He promises, eternal life to all who believe in Him.

Thankfully, confirmation of my salvation is not based on how I respond to those drivers. Or on any other "habitual" or "unbroken" sin. Those sins are growth issues, not identity issues.  That's the beauty of grace. My confidence lies completely on what He has done for me, freely, as a gift. 

Education or Indoctrination?

I am getting to that time in my semester at school where my students are nearing turning in research papers.  They just wrote a test for me which needs to be graded, but looking at it reminded me of the real difference between education and indoctrination.

Indoctrination:
1 : to instruct especially in fundamentals or rudiments : teach
2: to imbue with a usually partisan or sectarian opinion, point of view, or principle
 
Education: (technically educating but education is defined as “the art of educating”)
1 a : to provide schooling for <chose to educate their children at home>b : to train by formal instruction and supervised practice especially in a skill, trade, or profession
2 a : to develop mentally, morally, or aesthetically especially by instruction b : to provide with information : inform <educating themselves about changes in the industry>
3: to persuade or condition to feel, believe, or act in a desired way <educate the public to support our position>
 
So of course in a grace-centered way, which are we trying to do with those who we are trying to train to see God’s grace in salvation and sanctification?  Are we trying to indoctrinate or are we trying to educate?
 
To me, the difference in approach is critical.  The Pharisees spent a lot of time indoctrinating.  In Acts 15:5 some believers who were Pharisees argued that all Gentiles needed to get like them in every respect before they could be acceptable in the church.  They had a very narrow idea of what it meant to be a believer and they wanted everyone to be exactly like them.  In other words, they focused on indoctrination!  Their “sectarian opinion” was that Gentiles needed to be circumcised and obey the Law of Moses to be part of the church.  The Apostles, though, said no way.
 
The counterbalance to this approach is found a couple of chapters later, in Acts 17.  As Paul traveled on his second missionary journey he encountered some opposition to his teaching, but in Acts 17:11 Luke speaks approvingly of the people of Berea. When Paul came and preached to them, they searched the Scriptures for themselves.  Paul gave them information and appealed to them to believe in Christ, but he didn’t browbeat them.  He focused on education, not indoctrination.  And as a result, these noble Bereans believed in the grace of salvation by faith alone, both Jews and Greeks.
 
So within the span of a couple of chapters of Acts we can see the difference between a desire to indoctrinate and a desire to educate.  It seems clear that the grace of God is served when we pursue the latter rather than the former.  I firmly believe that if we teach people good Bible interpretation skills, educating them on the need for a literal, grammatical, historical approach, and then give them the options on how to view the biblical text then many if not most will see it from a Free Grace perspective.  We won’t win the hearts of all, but we will help many see the true freedom of eternal life in Christ by faith alone plus nothing in Christ alone plus nothing.  The alternative, to me, just doesn’t work and in fact seems to go against the grain of Scripture.
 
What do you think?  How do we best help people see the grace of God?

The Wrong Program by Ryan Lambros

by Ryan Lambros

“For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.” Galatians 5:1

I upgrade my PC from Vista to Windows 7 about a month ago. I love the change. However, recently I had a serious problem. My lovely computer would freeze up on me right after starting it up. After running numerous diagnostic tests, of which I had no clue what they mean since I’m not a computer nerd, it showed I had a hard drive error. Darn it. So, I searched Google to see if anyone else had this problem and if there was fix. After sifting through tons of people basically telling me that my hard drive was a “goner” because my hard drive had been fried by a virus, I found a different perspective: the wonderful cause of the defective hard drive was directly associated with an antivirus software I was using! After simply uninstalling the antivirus software, my computer worked flawlessly. The reason was that the antivirus software was not designed to work correctly (although sometimes it could) with my upgraded Windows 7.

I won’t say what software it was. I am not into bashing certain products. If you want to know then you can ask me personally, but I found it really fascinating that the one thing I relied on to protect my computer’s brain was the one thing that was corrupting it. This brought to mind a spiritual aspect Paul discusses with his audience in Galatians. His main point for the letter was to bring them back to the Gospel of Christ alone, by grace alone, through faith alone as opposed to a legalistic “gospel” that proclaimed salvation by adherence to the law.

Paul’s intention was never to “bash” the law and state that it served no purpose or had no place.

“Now before faith came, we were held captive under the law, imprisoned until the coming faith would be revealed. So then, the law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian, for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith” (Gal. 3:23-26)

His intention was to show that:

“…we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified” (Gal. 2:16).

Paul shows that the law is deadly when it is applied as the Gospel. Through Christ we are free and are no longer to submit to legalism. Yet, how often do I apply legalism as the Gospel. I put so much trust in doing good things, keeping the “laws” of God, and operating out of legalism instead of out of God’s grace!

Just like I trusted my computer’s antivirus program to protect my computer, which it actually turned out to damage it more, so often do I trust my heart’s “antivirus” program (legalism) to protect my heart, thus hurting ME more. It slows my relationship with God. It “freezes” me in my pursuit of holiness. It discourages me when I try to “operate” in God’s plan for my life. What we need is to apply the new antivirus…the true Gospel of grace.

Let me tie this metaphor together (even though, like all metaphors, it eventually breaks down).

The upgrade to Windows 7 is like Christ’s redemptive work for us (I may get struck by lightning for comparing Windows to that, but oh well). The old antivirus software used is the law. It worked with the old system (pre-Christ) fairly well. Sure, any antivirus shouldn’t be needed, but every computer has problems (metaphor for indwelling sin? Eh, maybe a bit much). The old antivirus didn’t totally fix every problem every time, but it allowed for Vista to operate well. Yet, once the upgrade happened, I no longer needed the old antivirus; I simply needed to apply a “new antivirus.” In fact, by keeping the old one around, I was hurting myself even more.

The same applies to us when we attempt to operate out of legalism (old antivirus) instead of grace (the new antivirus). We are using “old protection” on a system that has been upgraded (Christ’s redemption). Oh yes, legalism can give you a wonderful assurance of security, satisfaction, and self-righteousness, but realistically it will fry your heart (hard drive).

Applying the Gospel to our lives is like using the new antivirus. We have been redeemed by Christ and that gives us freedom! We are not to trust in the old antivirus, but we are to trust in God’s grace of the Gospel! Only when we apply the Gospel will our hearts be free to run without freezes, not slowed down, and never ultimately crash. What was “good” before can be such a detriment to our lives now.

Are you using the old antivirus of legalism to rule your heart? Or are you using God’s antivirus of grace to keep your heart free, running the race set before you? We have a new antivirus that was provided for us by God: grace through Jesus Christ. Will you trust in that or the crutch of legalism to help in your pursuit of holiness?

Ryan Lambros is an FGA member and has worked in youth ministry in several capacities.  He graduated from Southwestern College (now Arizona Christian University) with a Bachelor’s of Science in Business Administration.  He can be reached at ryan@maricopasprings.com.