People Who Have Come Out of Legalism (Acts 15:1-11) September 11, 2011
One of the most important blessings that the people who believed in Jesus and received salvation must enjoy is coming out of legalism. Many believers continue to have conflicts and theological arguments over this matter because they do not have the answer. Today’s passage is on that matter. People in today’s passage were fighting over whether or not gentiles must abide by Moses’ Law upon accepting Jesus. Even now, many believers have conflicts over this issue. How are we supposed to look at Christians who drink, smoke, and sing worldly songs? Some conservative Christians do not even go shopping, go out to eat, or do not put gas in their cars when they run out just because the Bible tells them to keep the Sabbath Day holy without doing any labor. However, Gal.3:13 tells us “Christ redeemed (delivered) us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us.” In Mt.5:17 Jesus Himself said, “I have not come to abolish the Law but to fulfill them. The answer lies here. Because Jesus has received all the curses and judgment of the law in our stead, do not dwell in the law any longer. Jesus said on the cross, “It is finished” (Jn.19:30), including the law. He finished the law as well. The conclusion is “Come out of the laws as soon as possible.”
1. In what kind of state would believers end up if they fail to come out of legalism?
1) It would be difficult to live realizing and experiencing God’s infinite grace and power. Extremely speaking, you would not need Jesus. If you put in a reasonable amount of effort to live an honorable life, things will work out exactly the way you want them to; so why would you need Jesus? But it won’t work. Because it is impossible despite of our resolutions and effort, Christ came. That is the Gospel. When you come to realize that one day, true walk of faith begins. “God really does make me able who used to be unable.” This is the life that enjoys the Gospel.
2) You must become a child of God and receive answers, but that is so hard. What kind of faith would you have when you always live in the guilty conscience (past scars, memories of failure, pessimistic thoughts)? Can God really work when you do not have any faith?
3) Even after confessing that we believe in Jesus, we must keep on living the life of the oppressed.
a. Jesus definitely said “Come to me all you are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” but there are more believers who say everything is hard than those who say they are in rest. It is because most of them failed to come out of legalism. Legalism does not just refer to Moses’ Law. Even without any outside hindrance, your conscience oppresses you (law of the conscience). There are rules in a family established by your parents (law of the family), and you must abide by your school policies (law of the school) or you will face consequences.
b. That is one of the bigger reasons why teenagers leave their churches upon graduating from high school. They grew up hearing “Live good and live hard”, but you will not have to listen to that anymore if you leave your family and church. The more important fact is that they know that those who give them those boring and hackneyed advices actually live hypocritical life. On the same note, Peter said in Acts 15:10, “Now then, why do you try to test God by putting on the necks of Gentiles a yoke that neither we nor our ancestors have been able to bear?”
c. When you cannot do the things you have to do, there are three reactions. You either pretend you are doing the things you are supposed to be doing and lie to everyone else, live under the guilty conscience and sense of victimization, or you give up and run away. That is why some people run from their homes and fall into complete corruption.
4) At that very moment, there is a spirit who is at work. It is the devil and its demonic spirits. What does the devil do? Since it is the spirit of sin, it will tempt you to sin. But that is not it. After it drives you to failure through trials and temptations, it begins to condemn and oppress you (Rev.12:10 – “Accuser”). It causes so many mental and spiritual problems that way. Lying will become just another habit, you will fall into addiction (compensation/redemption mentality), and you will end up suffering.
2. Then what is the way to come out of this curse of the law?
1) When you accept Christ who came to liberate you from these sins and curses, you do not receive forgiveness just to your sins. You come out of the authority of death (devil) who made you live in those sins (Rom.1:8-2). No one can condemn or accuse you (Rom.8:30-39). If you were deceived and you fell again, repent before God and begin anew. God has promised to send you His Holy Spirit to help you, guide you, and work upon you. No matter what the circumstances, do not try to do something with your own strength, but pray so that the Holy Spirit’s power may help you.
b. If someone around you made a mistake and failed, you encourage him with this message and help him to receive God’s strength. You must remind them who they are, make sure they receive courage and strength from God, and help them so that they may overcome the forces of the Darkness that drive you to failure. You have that authority (Luk.10:19). With that authority, you must fight the spiritual battle for yourself, and also for them.
c. Do you see anyone who has failed? Reflect back on his failure (I may fall just the same way). Pray quietly and help others. If you can, do not speak about others’ transgressions. If there is anything that gives you an urge to judge others, stay silent. If there is anything you must judge, God Himself will judge (Jm.4:11-12), and if you are capable of helping them out in any way, go ahead. If that is not the case, stay silent and wait in prayer. No matter what the method, God will do it Himself (either attach someone to you, or let you realize and renew on your own through hardships).
2) You must know what the law means and why God gave it to you; that is how you do not get deceived by it.
a. Like it says in Acts 15:1, if you are still at the level of “I can only acquire salvation when I abide by Moses’ Law”, you will be deceived. There are many legalists like that. God gave us the laws to first, let us realize our sins (Rom.3:20), and second, Hold onto Christ as soon as possible and live within that grace (Gal.3:24). Jesus did not discard the laws. Moses told his people not to murder, but according to Jesus if you commit murder even if you just hate someone. That is how hopeless mankind is, and that is why we must live holding onto Christ within His grace, love, and power.
b. When you live within the grace of Christ, the authorities of the world and sin cannot overcome you. This is the key. It is not that you will have to struggle to keep yourself away from the trials of the world and sins, but you will not have the heart to do such thing.
3) We are people who have been set free, free from all condemnations, but there are some times when we have to live like those who are bound by the law (Gal.5:13).
a. It is for the sake of your orderly lifestyle. It is related to your health, hygiene, and etc. If you let yourself drown in games, alcohol, cigarettes, and drugs, you will run into health issues. Your physical body is very important for the sake of the World Evangelization and for your church and family, is it not?
b. You want to be virtuous to others. Normally, there is a set of standards people have for one another (social customs, rules, and laws). If you live a life that is far below those standards, your live will be a subject of mockery. What do you think others would think of you if you keep on lying and breaking promises? Even when you drink, you must drink classily, but if you make a mistake every time you drink, you should restrain yourself from it. There are many times doors of evangelism close because of these issues.
Are you always oppressed? Do you not have courage and faith? You may be bound by the law. Do you always judge, criticize, and condemn others and arouse conflicts when you see others’ transgressions? You may be bound by the law. I hope that the blessings of those who have come out of legalism may begin in your life.
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