Dear Friends of "Dial Daily Bread,"
We hear much about "legalism." In fact, it has become a kind of derogatory label.
Here is the clearest definition of legalism I have ever found. When the Apostle Paul talks about being "under the law" in Romans 6:14, he means that our motive for serving the Lord is a self-centered one. You may feel that you are under a constraint imposed by a sense of "ought"; "I ought to be more faithful, work harder, pay more tithe and offerings, work longer hours." You feel the constant obligation of the law. The threat of being lost hangs over you; and the constant enticement of a great reward in heaven beckons you on to deeds of sacrifice and service. Yes, this is what it means to be "under the law."
But, says Romans 6:14, "You are not under law but under grace." What does it mean to be under grace? Now you feel a new constraint imposed by a deep heart-appreciation of the grace of God revealed in the sacrifice of Christ. Grace imposes on you a new and different kind of obligation.
When you are under the law, you are a slave to an egocentric motivation, although of a spiritual kind. You are working for an eternal reward. You sacrifice the pleasures of sin and of this materialistic world in order to reap this better reward. But when you are under grace, the new constraint imposed by God's agape-love delivers you from all egocentric concern or insecurity. You are no longer serving the Lord because you fear the fires of hell if you don't, nor do you serve Him because you want a great reward in heaven. You serve Him because you appreciate that Christ died in your place. Grace has become your new blessed taskmaster.
Paul explains to us how this mighty motivation works in our hearts: "He died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto Him which died for them, and rose again" (2 Cor. 5:15, KJV). In the original language the idea is clear that those who understand and believe this great truth of grace will "henceforth" find it impossible to live self-centered lives. No more gritting your teeth and clenching your fists and trying to force yourself to work hard for the Lord; it is automatic.
The key word is "love." You cannot truly live under grace unless you appreciate that love revealed at the cross. When the sinner sees that cross, and appreciates that kind of love poured out, all for him, the tears come in his eyes. His heart is melted.
That is true New Testament faith--a heart-appreciation of that tremendous love. That is why we shall keep on learning to glory in the cross of Christ. More and more that "under grace" motivation will crowd out the old self-centered hope-of-reward or fear-of-punishment motivation.
Let us come out of the shadows into the sunshine of living "under grace," and work for Christ because His love "constrains us."
--Robert J. Wieland
From an article, "His Cross Constrains Me!," 1984.
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