Of Legalism and Liberalism


Two very similar words that to me both describe forms of extremism, one indicating too much the other to little. My initial experience with legalism goes back to when I first became a Christian. I didn’t have a very good working knowledge of the “New Covenant” of grace and I was trying to be good enough on my own to merit my salvation, it wasn’t very long until my tenuous grip on holiness gave way to my feelings of discouragement…

Liberalism was much more fun!

It’s ideology seemed to me to be one of encouraging everyone to play fast and loose with the sin in their lives and to place total faith in the never ending indulgence of a loving, forgiving God. I was really estranged from Jesus, it became awkward spending time with Him only when I wanted something from Him. I was just too embarrassed or convicted to spend any other time with Him. From that time on I just assumed the position of “pilot of my life” because I couldn’t understand how to have a relationship with Jesus, but He never abandoned me…

I believe that Jesus was a “real” person, not someone who seemed contrived or that had the stink of religiosity on Him…
(He wasn’t legalistic)
But at the same time I see Him as being someone who wasn’t afraid to challenge hypocrisy or spiritual pride when He found it.
(He didn’t “liberalize” the truth to please others)

Just like the greatest show on earth, life must go on! Three rings? At times I felt as if I must of had a half dozen!…There was always something worthwhile happening in at least one of them that had the potential to either confirm or deny my suspicions or to perhaps clarify my confusion. I was a man in search of answers, but It wasn’t until years later that I was taught about belief systems and the ways in which we perceive ourselves, others, and God. In a legalistic perspective, the focus is on us and our ability to earn our salvation which is of course incongruent with what the Gospels teach. Liberalism is very similar in that we become our own God, except that it’s a more relative “everybody’s doing it” mind set. So then, instead of having faith in our own abilities to keep the law, (as in legalism) we’re deluded into thinking that we’re above it…also out of step with Gods word.

It’s impossible to have a good relationship with someone you’re not on the same page with or if you have a confused concept of the expectations involved on both sides. I needed a simple explanation, but that’s one of the hardest things to find! It was in the lyrics of the song “When you gonna wake up” by Bob Dylan that I got it…

“Do you ever wonder, just what God requires? Do you think He’s just an errand boy to satisfy your wandering desires? when you gonna wake up and find strength in the things that remain? There’s a man on a cross and He be crucified for you, believe on His power that’s about all you’ve got to do”

Sounds simple right? and it is, Just believe! Not in a vague or ambiguous concept of a God, or of a Jesus that we saw in a stained glass window of a church, but in a more real, personal, friend who’s closer than a brother that walks with me and talks with me Jesus! To believe with at least the same faith we have in our physical senses and with as much certainty, much in the same way that I wouldn’t step out in traffic if I believed that a car was coming!

But there’s so much more!

It’s in the believing that the omnipotent God of the universe loved me so much that He would send His son to die for me, not because He had to, but because it was the only way that we could spend eternity in heaven with Him. It’s in this belief that we find the source of our joy, that we find an order to our steps in life, that we need only to seek His face as we walk beside Him as His children. Jesus raised the standard or the conception of what was previously seen as love, to die for someone else is a rare thing but to die for a pitiful sinner? Not because He had to, but because He chose to, because He loves us all and will do everything He can to make sure we spend eternity with Him in the place He has prepared for us, but we must choose to receive it, to accept His cleansing blood that was shed for our sins on the cross.

This is a commentary I got from bible gateway,

Jesus Christ, for obtaining the forgiveness of sins and eternal life. The gospel so much exceeds the law in glory, that it eclipses the glory of the legal dispensation. But even the New Testament will be a killing letter, if shown as a mere system or form, and without dependence on God the Holy Spirit, to give it a quickening power. (2Co 3:12-18)

sure, you’re free in Christ…just don’t forget where the power comes from or the great price He had to pay to buy it…I’ve heard it said that the thing Satan fears the most is a Christian who knows who he is in Christ, why? because it makes them proud, or humble? neither answer seemed to be right to me…maybe it’s that when we become one with Christ, that we’re able to get beyond the self and the ego and tap into the great power we’re heirs to being the brethren of Christ…