Struggling with Moralism and Legalism

by Susan Sampson

I had to share this excerpt from one of the recent eMoments because it was so powerful!

Laurie quoted a passage from an article by J.I. Packer called “The Heart of the Gospel” which is in the book “In My Place Condemned He Stood: Celebrating the Glory of the Atonement.” He writes,

“The measure of God’s holy love for us is that ‘while we were still sinners, Christ died for us’ and that ‘he….did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all” (Rom. 5:8). Evidently there was no alternative to paying that price if we were to be saved, so the Son at the Father’s behest, ‘through the eternal Spirit’ paid it. Thus God ‘set aside’ the record of debt that stood against us….nailing it to the cross’ (Col. 2:14). Had we been among the watchers at Calvary, we should have seen nailed to the cross Pilate’s notice of Jesus’ alleged crime. But if by faith we look back to Calvary from where we now are, what we see is the list of our own unpaid debts of obedience to God, for which Christ paid the penalty in our place…”

Jerry Bridges is an author and theologian who talks about “preaching the gospel to ourselves.” So…rather than waking up and being consumed by my to-do list, this is the list I should look to and thank the Lord for what He has done for me!!

As I was reading through Ephesians 4 yesterday, I read one of the study notes which explains the format of Paul’s letters – “in which doctrinal truths are stated first, then application to life is built on that doctrine. The exhortations of scripture become empty moralism without this gospel foundation.”

When we are being ministered to by the Gospel, it is like having your extreme thirst quenched with a cup of ice water! But when we forget the truths of Ephesians Chapters 1-3 or don’t take them to heart and believe them by faith and only focus on the exhortations we start thinking wrongly.

Suddenly we might start thinking we must teach our children Chinese, Portuguese and Latin; spend our next 4 summers in Madagascar; throw away everything we own; stop wearing make up and shaving our legs; make our children floss twice a day; make them be perfect; make us be perfect; make our husbands perfect; hide all our sins; and don’t let anyone know what’s really going on behind our perfectly made up faces!!!!

And we wonder why there is exhaustion, depression, confusion and hopelessness!!

Moralism is not the Gospel! It is anti-gospel.

Christ came to set us free! He obeyed the law perfectly in our place! He knew we couldn’t ever obey the law perfectly! He knew we needed to be saved. He came to seek and save the lost! He came to rescue sinners, to dine with sinners, to make sinners His brothers and sisters, His co-heirs!!!

The Bible says that the wages of sin is death. It says that ALL have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. Therefore, we ALL (and this includes all the “perfect” people you know and see)…we ALL deserve the death penalty. Eternal damnation in hell. Separated forever from God and all that is good. Unimaginable suffering that will not ever end.

This is what Jesus saved us from!!!!

This is why we can call Him Savior!!!

This is what we cannot save ourselves from!!!!

This is precisely why we need a Savior, a Rescuer!

That is why the Gospel is such good news!!

Mercy can be defined as not getting something you deserve. Christ has given us mercy. Grace can be defined as getting something you don’t deserve. God has not only declared us not guilty, keeping us from getting the death penalty we all deserve, but set us free and gave us eternal salvation and the gift of the Holy Spirit! Himself!!! His power, His love, His mind, His heart! And so much more!

We are now one with Christ. A part of His very body. Saved, sealed, delivered.

If any of you are struggling like I am to recover from moralism and legalism, let us continue to confess our unbelief of the gospel to our Blessed Redeemer. Let us preach the gospel to ourselves everyday and take these truths to our hearts, believing them by faith! Let us continue to ask Him to pour out His amazing grace. Grace that saves. Grace that heals. Grace that washes us clean and sets us free.

“For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith – that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge that you may be filled with all the fullness of God” (Eph. 3:14-19).

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