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Monday, March 01, 2010

Freedom Fighters, Stand Strong!

We're done with it. The worn out, tired, legalistic approach to the Christian life that many of us have known for most of our lives has been tried in the balance and found wanting. Some of those legalistic habits have become a part of the doctrine of the modern church by simple osmosis.

Particular practices have been so embedded in the culture of the contemporary church world that it has become almost impossible for many to know what is a legitimate part of the church and what is man made tradition that has been added on along the way. When something is done long enough and has been sanctioned by the religious powers-that-be again and again, those things reach a place of privilege where it almost seems blasphemous to question them, but they must be questioned if the grace revolution is to succeed.

Over time it isn’t unusual for sacred cows to disguise themselves as sacred doctrines and to question them risks accusation and attack from those who find great comfort in the familiar and don’t want the predictable world in which they are well vested to be knocked off kilter by the silly nuisance of truth. The truth is that sacred cows aren’t sacred doctrines, but are idols. Grace revolutionaries are those who are willing to pull the mask off these sacred cows, exposing their hideous faces to the light of biblical truth. We don’t do it out of malice, but because we love our God, His Word and His church. They don’t die quietly, but they must die if the grace of God is to have free reign in His church again.

Change is coming to God’s church. It must and it is. The growing grace revolution will gain momentum as we each come to grip with our own understanding of God’s grace and see it be clarified and fortified by the Spirit of Grace Himself.

My goal isn’t to tear down, but to build up. I have no desire to be negative, but what are we to do when the threat of graceless discipleship sentences multitudes of Christians to a lifelong struggle accompanied by the constant self-condemnation inevitably joined to that struggle? Religion causes people to keep working to reach a destination they don't know they've already been miraculously transported to by grace.

Don't tell me I sound unloving. That used to work on me, but I'm past that now. I've seen too many massacred saints loved by Jesus and yet martyred by legalism. My love for them trumps my admitted displeasure at being criticized and misunderstood. So you can keep it to yourself. We grace revolutionaries are done with trying to play nice with the Pharisees. Lives are in the balance and we don't have time or interest in those silly games anymore.

I don’t want to be known for the things I’m against, but for the things I am for, but . . . A person who loves flowers will hate weeds. A person who loves health will hate disease. A person who loves grace will hate the things that take its place. That’s not unloving. That is love in action. Grace isn't a sicky-sweet expression on our face and a lilt in our voice and a wimpified attitude that turns us into religious pushovers. Our Jesus turned tables over in the temple and then used a whip to drive out those who desecrated God's house. So don't let anybody lay some false sense of guilt on you because you have the gall to show holy boldness. Religion will remind you to "stay in your place" but grace will turn you loose on the world.

The very nature of revolution is the uprooting and overthrowing of existing ruling powers in order to establish a new authority. That’s what must happen in the modern church world if we are to continue to make an impact on the world with the gospel. Legalism must be uprooted and supplanted with the message of pure grace. We're not going to do the goose-step march of the godzis anymore. Like it or not, we are going to walk in grace and all the freedom encompassed in that walk.

There has been an undercurrent of change that has been rising to the surface in the hearts and minds of many Christians lately. A generation of believers is emerging who believe that the performance based, let’s-just-rededicate-ourselves-and-try-harder, approach to the Christian life has had its day in the sun and its time has ended. We believe the chance of injecting life into the dead corpse of legalistic religion is a hopeless cause and believe that God’s answer is to restore grace to the center stage of His true church. We're here and want to be clear: we aren't going away.

Here we stand and we can do no other.

16 comments:

  1. Amen Steve
    There is a reformist drive inside of me that will not submit to anymore legalistic adventures into the land of mythical and self-induced lies. The reality of the New Adam is here for all humanity. His incarnation fulfills atonement for all and his death, resurrection and ascension in his person and work has been completed for all.
    Let’s tell humanity the “Good News” They have been given salvation in Jesus, do they want to be saved? They have been forgiven in Jesus; do they want to be forgiven? They have been reconciled in Jesus; do they want to be reconciled? They are new creations in Jesus, do they want to believe? They do not need to work to gain salvation, only trust and rest of what already has been done by our King, High Priest and Prophet, Jesus! How liberated we are in this free gift of grace yet how shackled we are when we live in unbelief. It is like Hell! jg

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  2. Hi Steve
    Wanted to add to my previous comment, I was asked in a church setting not to mention this message of inclusion and adoption of all humanity for it might cause unrest. Legalism is very protectionist of man made beliefs. I left that environment, but I rest my case that those who fear reformation or renovation of mind are protecting an illusion of self. jg

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  3. I think that's because those who don't understand it believe you are promoting universalism and that is not at all what the Trinitarian position you're describing here suggests.

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  4. Thanks Steve! I've been in an old covenant keeping cult, evangelical and pentecostal settings and the only difference between the cult and mainstream is that wrong thinking is more subtle in the mainstream than it is in the cult. I'm at the point where I just won't tolerate legalism anymore because grace is just too precious and freeing to stifle.

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  5. KEEP PREACHING IN THAT REVOLUTIONIST STYLE, STEVE! AMEN!! (And yes, by the use of caps, I AM shouting with enthusiasm!)

    Mark

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  6. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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  7. Excellent post Steve!
    Most Christians do not have a problem with the fact that Christ is revealed and received by faith, the problem comes with the practical walk which so easily becomes cluttered by all the performance-related emotions that the law triggers, such as boasting, competition, guilt, fear, suspicion, sin-consciousness etc. Any form of doing not inspired by the revelation of grace results in dead works! It is the faith-inspired and faith-sustained walk that triumphs in life!
    Many sincere Christians as well as their leaders do not know the difference. They would teach commitment, discipline and obedience with great enthusiasm and miss the point! Legalism only results in suspicion, disappointment, guilt, condemnation, distance and death! Gal.3:1,2,3 Galatians, Galatians! Are you out of your minds! Can’t you see how the law bewitched you and blurred your vision to distort the revelation of the cross of Christ in you? (He did not die as an individual, he died your death!)3:2 Please would you reason with me on this one issue; on what basis did you receive the Holy Spirit? Are we talking Gift or reward here?
    What kind of message ignites faith? What a condemned sinner and failure you are as revealed in the law, or what God believes to be true about you as revealed in the Gospel? Let's not confuse Law with Grace.3:3 Can you see how stupid it would be to start in the Spirit, persuaded in His finished work and then for some crazy reason to switch modes back to DIY again! (It would be suicidal! It's like deliberately jumping out of the boat to try and swim across the ocean!)http://www.mirror.scripturetext.com/

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  8. Excellent, Francois. I really enjoy what you write too!

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  9. I'm not going to beat around the bush Steve and to everyone else that calls themselves a Christian, it's the Pastors; Reverends; "Doctors of Divinity" and every name they use to exalt their position in the body of Christ who are teaching this crap to the body of Christ and we eat it up because we are taught to trust them. Quit trying to point the finger at Christians and put it on the ones who are teaching legalism. Some of us did not receive/believe Christ at a church and when we came to a local church we were taught now that your a Christian you have to follow these rules and do this/don't do this in order to please God.....and this is from the pastors and any other name they call themselves today. I want to say this in love to you Steve but for you saying you stand up and speak out against these "pastors" I just don't see it (not in your blogs or messages), not like Jesus and Paul did. "But woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye shut up the kingdom of heaven against men: for ye neither go in yourselves, neither suffer ye them that are entering to go in." Jesus is not afraid to address the Pharisees of today and I believe we shouldn't either. Let me hear you say "hey Pastors your deceiving the body of Christ with this false doctrine and you will be held accountable for what you teach" in your messages and blogs. It's like your unwilling to address them directly, only speaking in generalities. When you speak of "Religion" I believe it's a generality of the organized church we have had for over a thousand years. Even Martin Luther didn't try to rock that boat, he wanted to keep the clergy/layman system intact. If your for grace as you say you are then you need to take a stand against the old testament levitical system we have today also, we are all priests in the household of God, there is no more one person standing before God for our sins (Christ is seated!) and having to teach us to know God (a pastor). What I'm trying to say continue to free people from the bondage of the law and take a stand against this man made system we have today. Otherwise it will continue to go on and on. I'm sorry for being so direct but having read your books, blogs and listened to your teachings you come across as cautious. "Let us go forth therefore unto him without the camp, bearing his reproach." I'm saying if we continue to have this man made institution (organized church) then the false teaching of legalism will remain, because let's face it pastors/rev would lose their control and livelihood. And before you can say well we need pastors let me say no we have Christ living in us and through, He is the head and we are all the body with each functioning according to Jesus's will....don't you trust Him enough to allow him to control His own body? You don't have to post this and I'm not expecting you too I just want to lay out what's on my heart and what I see.
    Food for thought: Ezekiel 34:1-31

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  10. Duane - I don't know where to begin. You're right. My tone isn't the same as yours. Nor do I share every opinion you've expressed here. Many would disagree with you and believe I'm very plainspoken. I ask you not to judge me as being "cautious" just because I don't take the same demeanor you do in the way I address the problem. We each have our own personality and style. I speak and write from out of my own temperament and personality style. If it isn't strong enough to suit you, I understand. Be aware though that I've received numerous emails from people who think I'm too strong and sometimes don't act as loving as they think I should. So, as the old saying goes, "Sometimes yer damned if ya do and damned if ya don't." Thanks for sharing your opinion though.

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  11. By the way, Duane. You have an advantage here. Who are you? I can only find a first name on your profile...

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  12. Hi Steve, My name is Duane Pickett and I live here in Tucson, AZ (I'm a friend on your FB, I just don't write that much). I accepted Jesus Christ in an Army Training Barracks in 1985, went to Germany and was taught legalism by missionaries and pastor of The Assemblies of God in Frankfurt. I became so disgusted with the "Christian Life" and service to the church (lost the joy of the Lord) that after finishing my commitment to the Army I walked away from Christianity. I would go back and try different churches but it was the same thing....legalism and try to please God in my own strength. I did start finding about the abiding life though through different books...The Spirit Filled Life (Charles Stanley), Classic Christianity, Growing in Grace, and They Found The Truth. But it didn't sink in right away, it wasn't until a pastor (Ron Hart) at First Southern Baptist Church Tucson told us in a Sunday night meet that unless we tithe it was sin and God doesn't hear our prayers because we sinned by not tithing that I left there and started searching for the truth. Christ started opening my eyes by speaking through Andrew Murray's Abide in Christ and the other books I mentioned. While doing a search for more teachings on the Abiding Life I found your site and read your books (which I did enjoy and opened my eyes more). I started to put in practice what I had read...by believing Jesus would express His Life through me by faith and I haven't disappointed yet...confused sometimes and doubtful but always remember what it was like to walk in the flesh before. That's why I guess I feel so strongly against a majority of pastors...all the ones I've heard want me and others to please God in our own strength and build the Kingdom of God on earth when in reality it's in us. It's like they want to be in total control over every detail and the only way to please God is to serve their church. And I'm sorry if I come on to strong...I'm like that in real life, right now I'm a waiter and everyone knows I'm a Christian now and before I knew the Abiding Life/Grace Walk I was judgmental/envious/angry/unloving but that has changed (and changing) and people can tell the difference even though they don't want to admit it or as Paul says they are blinded by the devil (2 Cor 4:4).
    Hope that shows you more about me....and I really loved what you expressed in your books about my sins (all sins past present and future) were nailed on the cross and are totally forgiven. I sometimes doubt that but then I read scriptures that reaffirm my total forgiveness. I also love your teaching of God's unconditional love for us. I never did find that being taught in the churches I went to, instead I was taught your behavior is what pleases God and if you commit some sin then God is angry with you and you've lost your fellowship. I guess my Father is still working on my heart about the pastors that taught me that in the sense of bitterness. But one step at a time and learning to trust Him only and depend on Him moment by moment. Thanks for the truth you teach and God bless.
    Duane

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  13. Steve, I think your words are definitely fitly spoken and in due season, I see Jesus in you, as you, speaking through you. You are rightly dividing the word of Truth. It always provokes me to think, search the scriptures, and then seek the Lord on what He is trying to speak to me. Duane if you read any of Steve's books or go back and read previous blog entries he very much speaks a consistent message. He has a very direct tone and inflection in the message that God has entrusted him with. Especially if you watch him in video. God has a calling on his life and a message for him, just like He does with all of us. I know pastors are reading this blog, and the Holy Spirit is apt enough to speak to them.

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  14. Thank you, Duane. That puts it in perspective for me. We all approach matters based on the experiences we've had, the perceptions we've formed, the hopes and expectations we have and many other criteria. I appreciate your honesty and zeal and don't discount nor minimize it at all. There are John the Baptist types, Simon Peter types, Apostle Paul types, Andrew types, etc still in the church today and I think the Holy Spirit uses uses each of us according to the way the Father has "wired" us. Obviously, my background experiences aren't the same as yours. Neither is our personality type. Thus the difference in how we approach this (and probably other matters in life too).

    Thanks again for writing and keep on grace walking!

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  15. Wow! I think you are dead on! Love the words from Casting Crowns song "Stained Glass Mascarade" So desiring that we all drop the masks, kick the legalism to the door, and start living transparent lives. Thank you for yours...

    Is there anyone that fails?
    Is there anyone that falls?
    Am I the only one in church today, feeling so small?
    Cause when I take a look around
    Everybody seems so strong
    I know they'll soon discover
    That I don't belong
    So I tuck it all away
    like everything's ok
    If I make em all believe it
    Maybe I'll believe it too
    So with a painted grin
    I'll play the part again
    So everyone will see me
    The way that I see them
    Are happy plastic people
    under shiny plastic steeples
    with walls around our weakness
    and smiles that hide our pain
    but the invitations open
    To every heart that's been broken
    Maybe then we close the curtain
    On our stained glass masquerade
    Is there anyone who's been there?
    Are there any hands raised?
    Am I the only one who's traded
    The altar for a stage?
    The performance is convincing
    And we know every light in my heart
    Only when noone is watching can we really fall apart
    But would it set me free
    If i dared to let you see
    The truth behind the person
    You imagine me to be
    Or would your eyes be opened
    Or would you walk away
    Would the love of Jesus
    Be enough to make you stay?
    Chorus 2x
    if the invitations open
    To every heart that has been broken
    Maybe then we close the curtain
    On our stained glass masquerade
    Is there anyone that fails?
    Is there anyone that falls?
    Am I the only one in church today, feeling so small?

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