Easy Believism and Guilt

The basic attempt by people who hold to justification by faith alone is to eliminate personal responsibility in doing what God says.

The temptation of making salvation dependent upon merely nodding your head to the Gospel and then continuing on in your old life is great.

Everyone wants to think that sin isn’t bad. I can still do it and get to heaven. I don’t need to change anything. God loves me just the way I am.

It sounds great and certainly it will result in an easier life! But every attempt at eliminating the responsibility to listen to God will be shown to be foolishness.

Since there’s no reason you should listen to me, I’ll quote Jesus Christ Himself.

At the end of The Sermon on the Mount, a list of impossible commands for anyone in the flesh to possibly follow, Jesus Christ says this:

 And every one that heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them not, shall be likened unto a foolish man, which built his house upon the sand: And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell: and great was the fall of it.

If you do not do what Jesus commands you are a fool. The storms of life will knock you and all you’ve ever built over. Nothing but destruction.

I really am amazed at the number of Christians who try to convince me I don’t have to listen to God’s Word. Loopholes come fast and furious when specific commands get brought up.

No one wants to have to obey. No one certainly wants anything important riding on whether they obey or not.

Why so much skittishness there? Why do people feel the need to convince others they don’t have to listen?

If you are one who goes around telling others they don’t have to listen to God’s commands, it’s because of your own guilt. I see no other motivation–perhaps the exception of people trying to get you to listen to them.

But I don’t think most Christians are trying to get followers or start a cult. Most are just covering their own guilt. Doing what is right makes people doing wrong feel bad.

People are not content to just sin. They have to flaunt their sin. They desire societal approval of their chosen sin. They do this because of a nagging sense of guilt eating away at them.

At the heart of all the versions of an Easy Gospel is a lack of responsibility and tremendous guilt.

Instead of legitimately believing the Gospel and obeying God’s commands through the new Spiritual Nature we’ve been given, people wallow in their man-made Gospel that sounds easy, but never truly answers the guilt problem.

The only way to not feel guilt is to not do things that make you feel guilty.

It’s quite simple in theory! Through the power of God in you, it can be a reality too. The Gospel delivers people from bondage to sin. It really does.

If yours doesn’t, it’s because you have the wrong Gospel.

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Tozer on the “Deeper Christian Life”

“I hear people testify about their search for the deeper Christian life, and it sounds as though they would like to be able to get it in pill form. It seems that it would have been much more convenient for them if God had arranged religion so they could take it like a pill with a glass of water.

They buy books, hoping to get their religion by prescription. But there isn’t any such thing.

There is a cross. There is a gallows. There is a man with bleeding stripes on His back. There is an apostle with no property, with a tradition of loneliness and weariness and rejection and glory- but there are no pills!”

Justification and Inspiration of Scripture

Everyone and their mother says we are justified by faith alone. If you step out of line with this, you will get whacked.

I have gotten whacked over this many times. I’ve lost count of the number of people who have left my church over this issue. It’s a large number, much larger than the number who currently attend my church.

My life would be easier and my church would be larger if I told people they were justified by faith alone. That good works are optional at best. That sin isn’t that bad because God only sees Christ in you, not what you do.

People like that message and I can see why. I’d like that message too!

I’ve gotten lots of blowback on this issue. I’ve questioned my take on the issue each time someone argued against it.

As far as I can tell, the main thing that shifted me from being a guy who happily taught justification by faith alone to what I teach now is one main thing: I began reading the Bible regularly and repeatedly.

Of all the arguments I’ve heard, none have shaken me from my conviction that justification by faith alone is wrong.

The results have shaken me. The consequences have shaken me. But I can’t ignore these two huge points:

There is no verse in the Bible that says we are justified by faith alone
and
There is a verse in the Bible that says we are not justified by faith alone.

For me, that’s enough. I don’t know where else to go with that.

If you believe that justification is by faith alone then I am left to conclude that you do not believe in the inspiration of Scripture.

I know, there are many neat theological gymnastics attempting to resolve James and Paul. But all of them boil down to whether the words on the page mean what they say or not. If they don’t, then why listen to the Bible at all? If your theological opinion carries more weight than the Bible, then why mess with the Bible? Just make stuff up.

If James is just making things up, what else is just made up in there? The Bible is either God’s Word or it isn’t.

The Bible clearly says we are not justified by faith only. I know not what else to say.

Here I stand. I can do no other.

Justifying Your Disobedience

This Justification By Faith issue has caused lots of problems over the years. Many arguments have ensued on the issue.

I have personally had this conversation with many people and I’ve heard all the arguments.

With all due respect, the basic argument behind people supporting justification by faith alone is that they don’t want to do anything.

Most of them will bring up the impossibility of doing commands and the general burdensome, guilt-ridden nature of being told you have to do stuff.

Many have the idea that grace means no strings attached, no change needed, and certainly no good works.

Salvation is a gift of God’s grace. We receive it by faith. You cannot earn salvation. You do not merit salvation.

This does not mean that there is nothing you do to get it though.

The only people truly consistent on this issue are Calvinists. They will flat out tell you that God regenerates you and then you believe.

Their confident argumentative bluster does not replace the fact that there are no verses that say this and plenty that say the exact opposite.

Grace has provided salvation through Jesus Christ. A lost soul seeking to be saved from sin would respond to that gracious salvation with love, faith, the desire to obey, and the desire to tell others about it.

If you resist the idea that your faith has to include love, telling others, and obedience, you should ask yourself why the resistance?

I have heard people confidently tell me “I don’t have to do anything. Christ did it all.” It sounds nice, but why do you have a desire to do nothing?

I have heard people boast that “it doesn’t matter what I do; it only matters who I am in Christ.” Again, sounds nice, but why don’t you want what you do to matter? What is it you’re doing that makes you not want to count that? Why do you not want to do what Christ wants?

The arguments always boil down to a it doesn’t matter what I do foundation. The arguments tend to give the idea that if I have to listen to God, I’d rather be unsaved. Listening to God comes across as a giant burden, a total fun ruiner.

Which is all curious.

Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is born of God: and every one that loveth him that begat loveth him also that is begotten of him.
–1 John 5:1

OK, we’re probably all good with John’s words here. See, faith is what saves. Just believe in Jesus!

By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God, and keep his commandments.
–1 John 5:2

1 John 5:2 comes right after 1 John 5:1. Notice how John is tying believing in with loving in these two verses? Again, you’re not justified by faith alone. You are at least justified by faith and love. How do you know you love God? Because you feel like you do? Because you say you do?

For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous.
–1 John 5:3

1 John 5:3 comes right after 1 John 5:1-2. Loving God means keeping His commandments. In John 14:15 Jesus says, “If you love me, keep my commandments.” No one likes this definition of love!

We think love means squishy feelings and happy thoughts. To Jesus Christ, love means doing the right thing. Love does not rejoice in iniquity, but love rejoices in the truth. Do the truth.

If your objection to my take on justification includes a reluctance to obey Him, you need to ask yourself why.

Why are God’s commands grievous to you? Grievous means burdensome, weighty, and heavy. No fun to carry around.

If you find listening to God to be a burden, it’s because you don’t love Him. If you don’t love Him, you don’t believe Him.

A person who has truly come to the Gospel of Jesus Christ for salvation has done so out of love and faith, with a desire to do what God wants. God provides everything we need to do His commands. We are fully equipped to do what our heart has always longed to do: please its Creator.

There is nothing greater for us to do with our bodies than to use them to serve our Creator. How would that be a burden?

The only way listening to God is a burden is if you are unsaved and have no strength or desire in yourself to do God’s will.

If you’ve spent the majority of your time in Christianity explaining to yourself why your sin is ok and your obedience is unnecessary, there’s a good chance you are not saved.

Again, this is not salvation by works. This is a change of heart that is graciously provided through the power of the Gospel. The new heart desires and enjoys doing the commandments of God.

Justification and Fulfilling the Law

Since we’re not justified by the deeds of the law, many Christians conclude there is no law for the Christian. “We’re under law, not under grace.”

It is true that no member of the New Covenant is under the law. Taking this to mean there is no law under the New Covenant is incorrect.

We are not under the Old Covenant law with physical blessing or cursing for obedience. We’re redeemed from the curse of the law by Christ.

We are now under a different law. Yup, even in the New Covenant there is a law. Here are a couple verses stating the point several ways:

Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ.
–Galatians 6:2

For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death.
–Romans 8:2

I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin.
–Romans 7:25

But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed.
–James 1:25

Not being under the law never meant that morality is a free for all in the New Covenant. The New Covenant is filled with commandments.

The major distinction between the Covenants is the spiritual provision for doing what God said.

The Old Covenant Law contained zero spiritual help. It was just the fear of punishment or the joy of reward, mixed in with memorials all over the place to remind your wandering mind.

The New Covenant Law (which is only applicable to believers, unlike the Old Covenant Law to all Jews whether believers or not), comes with spiritual provision.

We are born again. Made sons of God. Made partakers of the divine nature. We’ve put off the old and put on the new. We’ve been made new creations. We’ve received the Holy Spirit who mortifies the deeds of the flesh and instructs us in the way of righteousness. We’ve got the Living Word of God that fully equips the man of God to every good work. We’ve been created in Christ Jesus unto every good work which God has before ordained we should walk in. We’ve been redeemed as a peculiar people zealous of good works. We have the encouragement of the Body of Believers all with the Spirit making up the Body of Christ to encourage us to do good, and so much the more as we see the day approaching.

That’s a good sampling of the provision!

In the flesh dwells no good thing. An unbeliever has no shot at fulfilling the demands of God. That’s why the Old Covenant Law was such a disaster–it was given to unbelieving Jews and a smattering of believing ones.

The New Covenant promises foretold of a day when God would pour out His Spirit on people so they would obey Him from the heart.

I’ve heard a lot of Christians say “I can’t do God’s commands. I don’t even try. That’s the point of the law–to make us give up.”

Well, not really. The point of any law is to get people to do the right thing. The Old Covenant Law could not help you do it though. Under the New Covenant, we are equipped by the Gospel and union with Christ to actually be able to do what God desires!

For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh: That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.
–Romans 8:3-4

It’s all spelled out right there! In the flesh: no shot–O wretched man that I am!

In the Spirit, we have a shot: we can walk after the Spirit and fulfill the righteousness of the law. The law made no one righteous. But justified people with the Spirit can now actually do righteousness. (Notice it doesn’t say they will fulfill the law. It says those who walk after the Spirit fulfill the righteousness of the law.)

Drop the idea that you cannot do good if you have the Spirit. Of course you can, that’s why you have the Spirit!

If, however, you find being told to do righteousness and good works to be burdensome. That’s a huge warning sign. That might be saying you have not been born again. If you have the Spirit you will “delight in the law of God after the inward man (Romans 7:22).

Your attitude toward doing good is illustrative of your spiritual standing with God and of the state of faith and justification in your heart.

Do you love God? Do you believe God? Are you born of God? Then you will not regularly be resisting His will, and certainly wouldn’t be throwing up your hands in defeat at having to do what is right.

For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous.
–1 John 5:3

Justification and Circumcision

As if talking about justification weren’t hard enough, Paul decided to throw circumcision into the mix to make everyone as uncomfortable as possible.

He has accomplished his goal.

Romans 4, Paul’s one big explanation of justification by faith, mentions circumcision seven times, and a couple more times in chapters 2 and 3.

In Galatians, Paul’s shorter version of Romans, he mentions circumcision 13 times.

Why the circumcision talk?

This is based on what we talked about yesterday: Paul’s point that no one has ever been justified by deeds of the law.

Israel failed horribly at doing the law, that’s why their nation got wiped out. While their nation was declining, the Jews knew they weren’t keeping the law.

They boiled the law down to a couple things. Circumcision was the big deed they did. Circumcision was a sign that they were Abraham’s seed and part of the Covenant. Since they had that sign, they assumed being in the covenant meant they were saved.

Circumcision is basically key word for their notion that thew were “doing the law.”

It was a handy term to use to sum up belonging to the covenant.

Circumcision meant they were God’s people.
Surely God’s chosen people are all saved.
We’re circumcised, therefore, we are saved.

That was the Jewish thinking. Their thinking was wrong. Paul is pointing out the wrongness of their thinking in Romans and Galatians.

Circumcision is a handy, one-time thing you do to “get saved.” It was the Easy-Believism of their day: Just do this one thing and you’re saved!

Many people extrapolate infant baptism out of circumcision (since it was to be done when the boy was eight days old). Since Jews of the Old Covenant did a thing to a baby, we should do a thing to a baby too.

I find this an insane argument.

Clearly Paul goes to great lengths to show that circumcising a baby Jew did not make them saved. That’s a major point of Romans and Galatians. Why Christians miss that point and instead carry it over to promote infant baptism as our sign we’re in a covenant is beyond me.

Perhaps it’s because we’re too embarrassed to talk about circumcision that we’ve missed this point. It’s a huge point that needs to be made today.

A one-time event does not mean you are saved. The fact that you did some religious ritual, or had a religious ritual done to you, is no substitute for having faith and being born again.

Paul goes to great lengths to convey this point. The church has gone to great lengths to ignore his point. It will work out as well for the church as it did for Israel.

Karl Stern on the Crazy Theory of Evolution

“If we present, for the sake of argument, the theory of evolution in a most scientific formulation, we have to say something like this:

“At a certain moment of time the temperature of the Earth was such that it became most favorable for the aggregation of carbon atoms and oxygen with the nitrogen-hydrogen combination, and that from random occurrences of large clusters, molecules occurred which were most favorably structured for the coming about of life, and from that point it went on through vast stretches of time, until through processes of natural selection a being finally occurred which is capable of choosing love over hate and justice over injustice, of writing poetry like that of Dante, composing music like that of Mozart, and making drawings like those of Leonardo.”

Of course, such a view of cosmogenesis is crazy. And I do not at all mean crazy in the sense of slangy invective but rather in the technical meaning of psychotic. Indeed such a view has much in common with certain aspects of schizophrenic thinking.”

–Karl Stern