Legalism vs. Liberalism
Not too many years ago preachers preached about sin and judgement, fire and brimstone, and portrayed God as angry and demanding. Conversely, these days we have preachers who have swung the pendulum too far the other direction into love, love, love and grace, grace, grace. One end of the spectrum is legalism and the other end is liberalism. Neither are biblical. The truth is in the middle of these two extremes and we better get ahold of it quickly! Jesus rebuked the Pharisees, during his days on earth, for their pious attitudes and their need to control people with legalism. He also warned us that he did not come to abolish the law, but to fulfill it (Matt. 5:17-20). Abolishing the law swings us into a form of liberalism, and abuse of grace, that Paul emphatically warns against in Romans 6:1-2.
God is both a God of judgement and a God of love, mercy and grace. To view Him as one or the other is egregious and dangerous. In the old testament we often see God angry with the humans He created as they chose, repeatedly, to live outside of the laws He set for them. Like many people today, I’m sure the Israelites saw the laws as limiting, stifling and there as a form of control…a way to keep them from living the way THEY wanted and preventing them from having “fun”. This is a wrong view of God…and His laws. Any good and loving parent sets rules and boundaries for their kids. Not to ruin their fun, but to keep them safe and protected from various harm. Sure, kids, especially teenagers, naturally buck against the rules and boundaries because they don’t understand that they are in place for THEIR benefit. It’s no different with God. His anger burned against people groups and nations who polluted the faith of the Israelites. God was angry with people for messing with His kids! Polluting their minds, pulling them away from safe boundaries into lawlessness, convincing them to chase after things that would harm their souls and leading them to worship worthless idols. In turn, He became angry with His children, who kept choosing lawless and harmful ways opposed to His ways. We get angry with our kids, too, when they make poor choices. But we also love them enough to forgive them, correct them, and give them the freedom to make better choices in the future. Jesus does the same for us. Because of His shed blood, we reap the benefit of God’s forgiveness…though we don’t’ deserve it and didn’t/can’t do anything to earn it. The Holy Spirit convicts us and leads us into truth as the perfect teacher. Separating our triune God into only one aspect of His being, limits Him and misrepresents who He truly is, and can lead us to perpetuate false ideas of His character.
In our current love and grace saturated gospel, the fear of the Lord has all but vanished. We have come to embrace a warm, touchy-feely, lovey-dovey Jesus…forgetting that the lamb is also a lion. The New Testament makes it clear that there is still judgement to come, and that it begins with the house of God (1 Peter 4:17-18). There is a high calling in our faith, and the cost is dying to self. We are to be walking out our salvation with fear and trembling (Philippians 2:12). In Matthew 7:13-14 Jesus warns us that few will find the path to Heaven! That should be a sobering thought for all of us and should keep us consistently checking ourselves to make sure we are abiding in Him and not living for self, feeding our sinful nature, but putting to death the deeds of the flesh (Romans 8:13). There is far more to the Christian faith than just “accepting Jesus into our hearts” and believing He is Lord. Even the demons believe and tremble (James 2:!9)!
I implore you to read the Word, to know the many facets of our God and to get into alignment with Him. The days are short, and evil is ramping up. Do not be deceived in this hour! Fearing the Lord does not mean to be scared of Him, but to respect His authority and to recognize Him as King over all. Jesus IS a lamb, that was led to slaughter, as payment for our sins. But He is also the Lion of Judah and a mighty warrior! We MUST return to a healthy fear of the Lord, grateful for His love and grace, but remembering that He is still a God of justice and judgement is yet to come.