Great article that ties in with what Jim Groth and I are teaching on Sunday nights. Here’s the link, with an excerpt below: http://www.christianitytoday.com/le/2011/winter/afraidgospel.html
In other words, there are two “laws” we can choose to live by other than Christ: the law that says “I find freedom and fullness of life if I keep the rules” or the law that says “I find freedom and fullness of life if I break the rules.” Either way, both are legalistic because each is a self-salvation project. You’re still trying to save yourself.
So, it’s a mistake to identify the two equal dangers as legalism and lawlessness. There is only legalism. And if people outside the church are guilty of “break the rules” legalism, many people inside the church are still guilty of “keep the rules” legalism.
This is important because the church has bought into the lie that grace is dangerous and must be kept in check to avoid lawlessness. A “yes, grace … but” disposition is the kind of fearful posture that keeps moralism swirling around in our hearts and in the church.
I understand the fear of grace. As a pastor, one of my responsibilities is to disciple people into a deeper understanding of obedience—teaching them to say “no” to the things God hates and “yes” to the things God loves. But all too often I have falsely concluded that the only way to keep licentious people in line is to give them more rules. The fact is that the only way licentious people start to obey is when they get a taste of God’s radical unconditional acceptance of sinners.
The irony of gospel-based sanctification is that those who obey more are increasingly aware that their standing with God is not based on their obedience, but Christ’s. The people who actually perform better are those who understand that their relationship with God doesn’t depend on their performance for Jesus, but Jesus’ performance for us.