Saturday, January 22, 2011

Is Legalism the Same as Lawlessness?

The recent theme continues with another blogger's recent entry which I thought was worth re-posting here:

I had a great time at the Gospel Life Conference tonight.

Tullian Tchividjian preached on the Gospel and the Individual, how the gospel is both the ignition for the Christian life and also its fuel.

One idea that I found particularly interesting was this notion that both legalism and lawlessness are the same.

The Christian life is often pictured as an attempt to balance legalism and lawlessness. Too great of a focus, dependence, and emphasis on law and rules and you end up in legalism. That's one extreme. The other extreme is lawlessness, stemming from too much grace.

But that's problematic. Too much grace?

God's grace to us is so extreme, so radical, so undeserved, so ... so ... so gracious. How can you have too much grace?

What if lawlessness didn't stem from too much grace, but from a misappropriation of a law, hiding behind a law, leveraging technicalities? And isn't legalism, at its core, also a misappropriation of a law, using a law to make you feel superior to others?

This is how Pastor Tchividjian came to the conclusion that lawlessness is just another form of legalism.

If you start from the assumption that there's no such thing as too much grace, you need another way to explain lawlessness (aka licentiousness).

Addendum: I love how God works. I posted this earlier today and now tonight I run across a video from Driscoll in which he also makes the connection between legalism and lawlessness. There are no coincidences with God.

Darkness is Real but so is the Light

"To pretend there is no darkness is another way of extinguishing light." --Madeleine L'Engle

"Here is joy that cannot be shaken. Our light can swallow up your darkness: but your darkness cannot now infect our light." - C.S. Lewis, "The Great Divorce"

Christmas Eve was a wonderful celebration with God and family. I do treasure my time with my family over the holidays. This year we went to Lutheran Church of Hope in West Des Moines, IA. It was certainly a service on a grander scale than our usual church destination but it was the message that has stayed with me with most. I absolutely love hearing about stories of conversion when God changes the hardest of hearts. I love it because it is what I pray will happen in the lives of so many that I call friends but God does not yet call children. These stories remind me of what is possible...of what God can do when it's the right time for Him to do it. This is one such story as eloquently told by Pastor Housholder on Christmas Eve 2010...

There is a great author who I love. I was an English Lit major in college. His name is Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. He lived in the 1800s including in the time of the Civil War. When he was in his 50s in 1861, the light was pretty bright for him in his life. He was one of those poets who was pretty popular in his own day which is rare. People really admired his work and so he had fame and fortune that came with that and reputation, too. So the light was pretty bright. He was married. He had family. Everything was going well.

This was before 1861 just as the Civil War is coming into the country and there is no peace on earth for Americans. His wife died in a tragic accident in a fire. Longfellow, madly in love with his wife (married since 1843), is completely devastated. Even though his life has been going well he has no living faith to fall back on. He knows the Scriptures. He is aware of it. He is aware of God. He is aware there is a light but he never opened the gift. He never made it his own.

Christmas of 1861, Longfellow writes in his journal...prolific writer, not just in poetry but even in his own journals...long entries. Very short entry, Christmas of 1861 - "How inexpressibly sad are all holidays." Turning the pages of his journal to a year later and it's Christmas 1862. Even though Longfellow writes long entries in his journal almost every day, on Christmas Day 1862, he only writes, "A merry Christmas' say the children, but that is no more for me."

The next year, Christmas of 1863, Longfellow has nothing to write. The page is blank. Between Christmas of 1863 and Christmas of 1864, Longfellow's son, against his father's wishes, joined the Union and was shot. Physically, he never recovered.

Longfellow sits down on Christmas Day 1864 to write in his journal and he is going to let God have it. He is a poet and he is really going to let God have it. He is going to write a classic poem that is going to blow God out of the water and all of the world is going to see it and they are going to feel the darkness that surrounds him and this whole world. Longfellow is just going to lay it out there. He has been quiet for too long. He sits down at his desk in his study and he takes out his pen and he starts to write. Only he is distracted because he looks out his window over his desk and across the street in the little church - a church bell rings on Christmas Day.

"How dare you! How dare you ring your sounds of joy into the darkness of this world! How dare you try to bring your light into the reality of the darkness of death and suffering and disease that surrounds us all! How dare you talk about a God like that! Where is your God!?! HOW DARE YOU!"

Well, it dares again and rings again and it rings a third time and a fourth and a fifth and a sixth. Somewhere around the seventh or the eighth ring, Longfellow is inspirited. Somehow his heart opens up just a crack as he hears the church bells ringing because he has this vision of church bells ringing on Christmas Day all over and not stopping because it's they just keep ringing, just keep ringing, and he is overwhelmed and inspired by the thought and the Spirit of God fills him up. So he scratches out what he is going to write and starts to write a new poem. You know it. It was turned into a Christmas carol. It's played over and over and over and over.

"I heard the bells on Christmas Day. Their old familiar carols play. Wild and sweet, the words repeat." They dare to keep ringing even though they know we live in this world. "Wild and sweet, the words repeat. Of peace on earth, good will to men."

Skip down several stanzas, Longfellow writes about where he has been in his soul for the last three years because he didn't have a light, a living faith. "And in despair I bowed my head. There is no peace on earth I said. For hate is strong and it mocks the song of peace on earth good will to men."

The darkness is real but so is the light. So Longfellow doesn't give darkness the last word. He testifies to the light. "Then pealed the bells more loud and deep. God is not dead nor doth He sleep. The wrong shall fail, the right prevail with peace on earth good will to men."

You can almost hear it...can't you?

Friday, January 21, 2011

This Makes Me Smile

Trail Mark Promo : Ashley, Susan & Nick from Red Rocks Church on Vimeo.

I admire my brother.

I respect my brother.

I love my brother.

Even though his name isn't Nick.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Going Deeper Into The Gospel

Thought I would put this here for future reference. From Pastor Tullian:

As I’ve said before, I once assumed (along with the vast majority of professing Christians) that the gospel was simply what non-Christians must believe in order to be saved, while afterward we advance to deeper theological waters. But I’ve come to realize that once God rescues sinners, his plan isn’t to steer them beyond the gospel, but to move them more deeply into it. The gospel, in other words, isn’t just the power of God to save you, it’s the power of God to grow you once you’re saved. After all, the only antidote to sin is the gospel—and since Christians remain sinners even after they’re converted, the gospel must be the medicine a Christian takes every day.

This idea that the gospel is just as much for Christians as it is for non-Christians may seem like a new idea to many but, in fact, it is really a very old idea.

Well, I’ve had some great help along the way as I’ve wrestled with this “new idea.” There have been some books (beneath the Bible) which have helped me better understand how God intends the reality of the gospel to mold and shape and liberate us at every point and in every way. The following list of books (not in any particular order) is not exhaustive, but if you read them you will be moving in the right direction toward a better, more Biblical understanding of the Christian’s need for the gospel.

1. Transforming Grace by Jerry Bridges

2. The Discipline of Grace by Jerry Bridges

3. The Gospel-Driven Life by Micheal Horton

4. In Christ Alone by Sinclair Ferguson

5. Scandalous Freedom by Steve Brown

6. When Being Good Isn’t Good Enough by Steve Brown

7. Because He Loves Me by Elyse Fitzpatrick

8. Christ Formed In You by Brian Hedges

9. Counterfeit Gods by Tim Keller

10. The Prodigal God by Tim Keller

11. The Reign of Grace by Scotty Smith

12. Holiness by Grace by Bryan Chapell

13. From Fear to Freedom by Rose Marie Miller

14. Counsel From the Cross by Elyse Fitzpatrick and Dennis Johnson

15. The Gospel Mystery of Sanctification by Walter Marshall