There is no more desperate need in the church than to know the power of the new man. Through the obedience of His Son, God has delivered the many who are in Christ from the spiritual weakness that became the natural inheritance of all mankind through the disobedience of Adam. Through the miracle of the new birth, old things are passed away, and a new Spirit and a new nature dwells within us, the very Spirit and nature of God. This is the glorious gospel that Paul, Peter, John and the other apostles preached. They knew however that the power of this new life would only be unleashed in fledgling saints according to their comprehending of the full riches of their inheritance in Christ. (Ephesians 1:17-20; 2 Peter 1:2-4; John 8:31-36)
It is a tragedy that so many who have been made free, needlessly perish through a lack of knowledge of their freedom.
It is a tragedy that so many who have been made free, needlessly perish through a lack of knowledge of their freedom. Not being established in the truth of the gospel, they return to the weakness of their religion and/or fall back into the vomit of their sinful past. In the time of the apostles, as well as our own day, the church has always been vulnerable to the two extremes of legalism or license. Only by understanding and then walking in the new man can we avoid these opposite errors. Our spiritual health and growth hinges upon our grasping of the “revelation of the mystery” of what God has done for us through the cross of Christ. It is only by hearing, believing and embracing the unadulterated gospel of grace, which was hidden for ages but made known to the apostles, that we can be kept from the snares of both the false law and the false grace teachings.
First, let’s look at legalism. The person who has been made a new creature in Christ cannot become any more righteous, any more holy, any more clean, any more saved than they already are through the free gift of God’s grace in Christ. They cannot work to become free from sin, hoping one day to become holy. They cannot arrive, after much disciplined effort and growth in grace, at some point of perfection that will provide for them an obedience that eludes them today. Flesh cannot vanquish flesh. The wretched man cannot be delivered by the religious man. What you could not do for yourself, what your adherence to any religious system could not do, no matter how spiritual, holy or good it was, Christ’s death did for you, by delivering you from the law of sin and death. The new man is put on when the old man is put off. This happens to every person who is united to Christ through the new birth.
The church has always been vulnerable to the two extremes of legalism or license.
If we are to be free of religion in the right way, we must know the inadequacy of a commitment to any religious system that promises us what Christ has already provided. We must appreciate the holy power that being a new creature made available to us, a power that religious devotion could never give us. (Galatians 6:15) We must realize that by a miraculous act of God we are no longer in the flesh, but in the Spirit. (Romans 8:9) With the new birth comes a new reign of the Spirit, replacing the old tyranny of the flesh. To be established in this new man is to know that God has not only released us from the guilt and shame of our sins, but He has also dealt a death blow to the sinner that we were, nailing our old man to the cross, resurrecting us to walk in newness of life. It is to know that we ARE free from the power, the reign, and the nature of sin, through the faith of the operation of God, in a circumcision that Christ accomplished upon our heart and with no involvement of any human hand. It is to have ceased from our own works and to have entered into God’s rest through faith. It is to know that by grace we were rescued from sin’s rule, not through our own vain efforts, lest we should pat ourselves on the back.
Where can boasting possibly be to those who fully appreciate the power of the blood of Christ to take away sin, not in part, but the whole! How great is the glorying in Christ and His finished work for those who know that the cross alone released them from sin’s enslavement! How grateful is a prisoner to his liberator, especially the captive who has labored for years without success to break free from his chains? How great is our glorying in Christ when we finally take hold of the fact that we have been delivered from sin, not through our own religious efforts, but through the miracle of the new birth. No more attempts to get right with God, no more trying to climb to a higher plateau of holiness. We are done with trying to crucify the flesh enough so that we’ll finally gain the victory or be fully dead to sin. We know and believe that we already have the victory and it is based upon what Christ has done for us and freely given to us. With this knowledge we are now not only dead to sin, but we are also dead to the law, or any other religious system that wants to supplement Christ’s finished work. We now serve God, not in the oldness and weariness of the letter, but in the newness and freshness of the Spirit. Because of who God has made us and who we ARE, we gladly cooperate with and appreciate the Holy Spirit within us, who makes us WANT to walk in holiness. We hunger and thirst for righteousness because God has given us His nature. We love Him all the more because He first loved us enough to provide us with all we need to fulfill such a high and holy calling. Who then needs religion or the law to be righteous or holy when Christ and His grace has already done such an excellent job?
With the new birth comes a new reign of the Spirit, replacing the old tyranny of the flesh.
Now, on the other side, knowing and walking in the new man keeps us from sliding into the opposite error of license. There are those that don’t like the “pressure” put on them by the standards of others. They don’t like the do’s and don’ts of “religion.” It makes them feel like they are never “good enough.” They talk of “performance-based” religion. They like to hear a false grace message that advocates our “freedom” in Christ. They gravitate toward false teachers who blasphemously proclaim that believers have been given a freedom to sin because, after all, if God holds over our heads the threat of any punishment, our motivation for doing right would be wrong (i.e., we would be serving Him out of fear and not out of love.) We would be “working” (i.e., “performing”) to earn our salvation. In such thinking, the doctrine of eternal security vouchsafes the right reason for obedience. The reasoning is: no good works can cause us to gain God’s favor, and no evil works can cause us to lose God’s favor. We’re IN because of what HE did, (and what He did has very little to do with delivering us from any sin and very much to do with His arbitrarily picking us to be saved before the world began.) How does this thinking often lead to license? In order to prove we are in grace and not under the law and to demonstrate to ourselves that God loves us with an “unconditional” love, false teachers of grace advise that we sin a little here and there. By doing so we show that we no longer fear a God of judgment. While we’re proving to ourselves that God loves us no matter what we do, we also can get under the skin of all those Pharisaical, religious types. We can also show the world that our God is cool. He’s okay with a lot of things religious people are uptight about. We are now ready to enter a “gospel freedom” where our obedience (what little there is of it!) supposedly flows out of love rather than fear. While we may not at this point exactly LOVE God in biblical terms, we may start LIKING Him more than we used to because we have discovered that He is really just a “nice guy in the sky” and He really likes us all “just the way we are.” He is really very tolerant and non-judgmental after all. We now possess a “new and improved” Christianity that we think the world around us will be more comfortable with. We can begin to find common ground with them because they are surely just as turned off by “religion” as we are (or could it be the God of the Bible and HIS yoke is what they don’t like?) Who knows, we may even get to convert some people to our cool, non-judgmental faith (or should I say religion) while we’re drinking a beer or sleeping around with them.
God did not send His Son to set us free TO sin; Jesus came and died to set us free free FROM sin.
Is this the liberty that Christ has set us free for? Did Jesus die on the cross to set us free from trying so hard to be loved? Did He set us free to love and accept ourselves? Did He set us free from religion so we would not have anyone shoving their morals down our throats and so we could live the way we feel like? Or has He truly set us free from sin AND our own religious attempts to get free from it? (Yes, believe it or not, there is still such a thing as sin, and sin is still a BIG deal to God.) Is God just interested in getting people to like Him more because He’s really been very misunderstood? Is He really nothing like those “hell fire and brimstone preachers” make Him out to be? Is He nothing like the prophets of old painted Him? Is His big agenda in Christ to change people’s conception of Him? Is He trying to shed that old stereotype of a vengeful, angry, jealous God? Or is He who He is, a God of love who hates evil?
Salvation is not just the gift of entrance into heaven, and an escape from hell. Besides the radical gift of freedom from a sinful nature, which positions us for entrance into the rule of heaven’s God, He has given to us His own divine nature, which passionately hates evil and loves righteousness. No, He has not liberated you so you can “be yourself,” “accept yourself,” “realize who you are,” “do your own thing,” etc. He has not given you the freedom to return to sin with the assurance that no sin you commit can ever separate you from Him. (Where do we read the word “sin” in the list of things that can’t separate us from God in Romans 8?) As a matter of fact, the very opposite is the truth which the apostles taught, as they warned those in the church not to let themselves be deceived by the vain words of men who told them they could, would and even should continue in sin, so that grace might more gloriously abound. What? How is it that God should damn wicked sinners to hell for their sins; but give elect sinners a pass for walking in those same sins? Theology may have answers for that, but the Bible doesn’t. (Romans 11 does speak of how God can “cut off” those who were once grafted in. It’s an important chapter, among many others, where Paul attests that one can indeed “lose their salvation.”)
In Christ, God has saved us, not merely from hell, wrath, or eternal judgment; He has saved us from SIN.
Forget the heretics of yesterday and those of today. The biblical reality that the church must wake up to in these last days is that, in Christ, God has saved us, not merely from hell, wrath, or eternal judgment; He has saved us from SIN. Do not believe the false teachers of grace that have crept into the church. God did not send His Son to set us free TO sin; Jesus came and died to set us free free FROM sin. By His amazing grace, we can start to worship and serve God with reverence and godly fear and stop living our lives according to our own passions and pleasures, without any real thought for the God we claim to love.
Haters of religion: religion is NOT your problem. YOU are your problem. If you’re “in the flesh” (i.e., not born again,) you CANNOT please God. (Romans 8:8) Know that in your present state you will never be comfortable with any one’s standards. You would rather be your own god. The one problem with religion is it can never get to the bottom of the problem which is not what you DO, but who you ARE. The root problem is not our sins, it is us as sinners. The cross of Christ crucifies the sinner. It puts him “out of operation.” The foolish message of the “hate religion,” false freedom in Christ crowd, keeps them from realizing that God, through the cross, has “condemned sin in the flesh.” Truth be told: God does NOT accept sinners. He executes them. And in their place He creates saints, who don’t want, nor expect, that God should accept them if they continue to walk in the flesh and not in the Spirit. God’s true saints don’t have “pressure” on them from outside to walk in some religious standard, they have the wonderful working of God within them to will and do of His good pleasure. They don’t find Christ’s yoke heavy, they find it light. They don’t find His commandments grievous; they delight in the law of their God. They are new creatures and in them is a new nature and God’s Spirit is mightily at work.
The best protection against falling for “another gospel” of legalism or license is to become a new creature in Christ and to know and walk in the power of the new man.
The best protection against falling for “another gospel” of legalism or license is to become a new creature in Christ and to know and walk in the power of the new man! Take hold of the true gospel, not some variation of it. Those who embrace the message of the new man avoid the dangers inherent on both sides of the religious spectrum. They steer clear of the danger of legalism which is found in an attempt to ADD to what Christ has done. Legalism substitutes works for faith; laying burdens upon men’s shoulders that are grievous to be borne, chiefly because the law is weak through the sinful flesh. (Romans 8:3) To attempt to keep the righteousness of the law without the provisions of the New Covenant only causes despair in some and self-glorying in others. It was the error of the Jews who sought for righteousness through the works of the law. The danger of license, on the other hand, SUBTRACTS from what Christ has done. It takes away the power God has given us to live new lives. It robs us of the beauty and splendor of a truly godly walk, making us walking contradictions, which the world ultimately scorns. (“He calls himself a Christian!”) And finally, it takes away our boast in Christ and His cross, through which we have been crucified to the world and the world has been crucified to us. It strips Christ of the glory He so richly deserves.