F.M. Sciutto III

By His Free Grace Alone, To Be Treasured Alone, & For His Glory Alone

Posts Tagged ‘legalism

A few thoughts on the new creation

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Whoever may be reading this, please know that I have not abandoned this. I have been busy with school and what not. I hope to have more time soon, so I can continue to write.

Recently, I have finished reading through Galatians while simultaneously reading through John Piper’s sermons on Paul’s respective letter. In the final sermon in his 1983 series, Piper presents a challenge for Christians by showing that Paul’s desire for God’s children was not to give them truths to believe but to show them that they are new creations, have died to the world and the world to them, and are now called to live in the freedom of the cross:

The history of the Christian Church is marred by groups who have ripped the heart out of faith by making it a dry, formal intellectual assent to certain truths. Paul prevents us from doing that by the way he ends his letter. The mindset of the new creation does not just agree that Christ died for sinners; it glories in the cross. It boasts in the wonder of the cross. It cherishes the benefits of the cross. The cross is the pride and joy of the new creation (“Only a New Creation Counts“, 28 August 1983, emphasis mine).

My prayer is that we will have the joy that flows from Christ crucified so that our boast may only be in Him.

I will conclude with an urgent plea from ending of that sermon (emphasis mine):

None of us will be saved because we are perfect or because anything we do earns God’s approval. The peace of God and the mercy of God are free gifts purchased on Calvary for all who walk by this rule—the rule of Christ- exaltation, not self-exaltation. Right standing with God is not merited by works. It is given freely to those who glory in the work of Christ on the cross. Therefore, I urge you to come to the cross. And if you are there, I urge you to glory in the cross. Christ crucified is the basis of all our prayers, the assurance of all God’s love, the certainty of full forgiveness, the ground of all our hope, and the fountain of midnight peace and morning mercies for ever and ever. Amen.

Written by sciuttfm

November 2, 2010 at 4:18 AM

There’s a Point to the Law? – Part 1

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For the longest time, I thought the law was just a bunch rules given to the Jews that had to be followed until Jesus came, and then He replaced the law, which gave anyone the opportunity to become a part of God’s family if the trusted in Him. Obviously, I was young, wrong, and ignorant about the “whole of Scripture.” Throughout junior high and high school, I just ignored the law and anything Old Testament because I though it was, well, old, out-dated, and not “relevant” to our modern times. My ignorance was a result of my own laziness and lack of desire to dig deeper into God’s Word and study what the purpose of the law really was.

It is only by God’s grace that have I been shown the wondrous beauty of His Word and sovereign grace through discussions, sermons, and books by great men who continue to influence me.

So, now, to answer that question I swept under the rug for all those years: what is the point on the law?

In this first entry, I want to show why learning the “why” of the law is important in the first place, which is fairly easy. It is legalism. The misuse of God’s law by attempting to earn God’s favor by obeying His commandments instead of relying on Him through faith. Without understanding that we so often misuse the law to produce our own righteousness, we will continue relying on ourselves to do what only God can do.

In his sermon, “Why Then the Law?” John Piper discusses how “legalism is a greater menace to the church than alcoholism”:

“Alcoholics are in a tragic bondage. And we must do all we can to help. But legalism is more subtle and more pervasive and, in the end, more destructive. Satan clothes himself as an angel of light and makes the very commandments of God his base of operations. And the human heart is so inveterately proud and unsubmissive that it often uses religion and morality to express its rebellion. As Romans 10:3 says, “In seeking to establish their own righteousness, they would not submit to the righteousness of God.” The pursuit of righteousness can lead to perdition. So Galatians admonishes us: Know why the law was given and don’t be bewitched into pursuing it in a way that leads to death, but only in a way that leads to life.”

Legalism is rooted in the misunderstanding of the purpose of the law, which is why the Judaizers (Jewish professing “Christians”) in Paul’s letter to the Galatians are attempting to tell others they have to follow the Jewish laws after believing in Jesus in order to earn salvation. However, Paul responds by explaining to them God’s purpose of the law and how it correlates to Jesus’ coming to earth, living a sinless life, dying for our sin on the cross, and rising again, defeating death and sin in order for us to be counted as righteous before God. Now, that shows the love of God for us! A god who just gives rules for his creation to follow displays no love or real hope and, thereby, cannot be a just and holy god if he just accepts anyone who “tried hard enough” because he would be neither just nor holy.

Piper summarizes in his sermon the danger of misunderstanding the law by stating, “If we don’t understand why it was given, we can kill ourselves with it,” which echoes Romans 6:23: “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus, our Lord.” Living in legalism is living in bondage to sin because you are relying on self, instead of Christ’s righteousness, for salvation.

Hopefully, one can now see and understand the dangers of misusing the law that God has given His creation for their own righteousness by means of legalism. The following entry will then answer the question that Paul, too, asks: “why then the law?”

Written by sciuttfm

July 25, 2010 at 6:12 PM

The Slippery Slope of Legalism

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It has been a while since I have posted something original, but I have been busy with life, though I have a couple of drafts and ideas that need finished and developed.

Recently, I have been reading and getting destroyed by Paul’s letter to the Galatians. It amazes me (and even scares me a little) how quickly I shift into legalism and try to work for our own righteousness instead of resting, in faith, on what Jesus did. By relying on the law for our righteousness, we are cursed, but when we rely on Christ’s atonement for our sin, through faith, we are blessed with Christ’s righteousness and the Holy Spirit, who is God dwelling inside us, empowering us to be more Christlike.

John Piper has (again) pointed out a “major battle” that I struggle with it everyday:

“The major battle was the fight of faith. Did I really believe that when Jesus died, all my curse was lifted so that I could say with Scripture, “What can man do to me” (Hebrews 13:6; Romans 8:31–34)? Did I really believe that the death of Jesus is the pledge of God to withhold no good thing from those who trust him (Psalm 84:11; Romans 8:32)? Did I really believe all things would work together for my good (Romans 8:28)? Did I really trust the counsel of Christ when he said, “Do not be anxious beforehand what you are to say; but say whatever is given you in that hour, for it is not you who speak, but the Holy Spirit” (Mark 13:11)? This is the struggle of everyday Christian life, and it is your most important work every day: how to keep your day’s activities from becoming works of law, and how to live by faith in the Son of God who loved you and gave himself for you to redeem you from the curse of legalism.” (Christ Redeemed Us from the Curse of the Law: Galatians 3:1-14; April 10, 1983)

If I really believed what Christ accomplished for me on the Cross, why do I worry so much about my reputation and how people treat me? If Jesus is my everything, why do I seek comfort in this world when it will only leave me broken and crushed?

Jesus, help me to treasure You above all things and to see others as in desperate need for You.

Written by sciuttfm

July 19, 2010 at 12:49 AM