A False Liberation (IBTR #77)


Have you ever seen someone run from such a bad, or legalistic, church or family that they ran headlong into some other oppressive situation? Have you, by chance, been that person? Have you seen someone who now loves to hear Bible criticism, or bad news of Christian’s failing, or approval of things clearly defined as sin in the Bible? I wonder if it is now epidemic to see such things.

C. S. Lewis says for some “it can be liberating to lose a faith based upon guilt, not grace.” For some that is such the case they can actually be glad to hear information apparently discrediting of Christianity.  This fact suggests three important things to us that affects differently across the spectrum:

1. It is truly liberating to leave a faith based on guilt.

Bondage forces us to crave freedom. It is quite perplexing when you are convinced that God demands the guilt as the way to Him. When you realize, however, that religious men have hoisted that system upon your back, you will likely run like a small child to a freshly-cleaned room to pull all the toys back out. It is liberating as grace delivers where nothing else will and it only dwells in the calming, safe region of the Lord.

If you have ever stumbled into the dark world of performance-based Christianity with its heavy, guilt-laden load, you will feel like you walked from the shivering cold into warm sunrays when you make your escape. It will be one of the greatest things that ever happened to you. The only danger is where you run to in your escape.

2. You don’t want to be a pastor, church, or Christian who puts people in this position.

Why be a recipient of grace and peddle bondage? Why pile burdens on people’s backs when you were called to proclaim a gospel of deliverance? It could be that we have drunk the Koolaid ourselves and are only passing it on because that is what the one who passed the Koolaid to us said to do.

We should want to see people run from the bondage of sin, but we should be horrified when their liberation came when they ran from us! This is simpler than we think. People will run to us if all we have is Jesus to give, but they will sprint away when we offer the cumbersome package of Jesus plus something else. We will hate to come to the end of the way thinking we propagated Christianity only to find we sold the cheap substitute of religion.

3. You don’t want to be the person who runs from legalism to some other bondage.

Some have their epiphany and run from a faith based on guilt, but they run the wrong way. It’s like they are attracted to grace but run right by it. In fleeing the grasp of legalism they fall in the clutches of licentiousness. We were not given grace that sin might abound. Some in casting off the legalistic rules men added to God’s Word throw out His actual commands too. Talk about throwing out the proverbial baby with the bath water!

You see it so often. One throws out the man-made regulations on clothing, but throws out God’s command for modesty too. One leaves a pharisaical rule that you can’t go to a movie, but then goes and watches one that is truly vile. The list goes on and on and stretches the meaning of “grace” past recognizable forms.

Faith based on guilt should be replaced by one based on love of Christ. That is more than a hairsplitting, far more.  To be compelled by love rather than guilt is a polar opposite. To believe that grace rendered God morally neutral is a mistake. Grace is the loving path God brought me around the mess of my sin, not the path that brought my Lord into the sin with me.

This error of thought can spiral to taking people away from the Lord. When we run by grace rather than into it, we will find our new Christianity as unfulfilling as our old one. Then in a second foray into warped Christianity we want little to do with Christianity altogether.

So praise the Lord if you escaped legalism! But don’t run into another oppression. If you do, you will only have a false liberation.

Find all articles in the series here.

9 thoughts on “A False Liberation (IBTR #77)

  1. Wow…such wisdom here! As someone who ran from legalism, I could completely relate to your words, Pastor Reagan. Thank you.

  2. I think that the reason so many go so far the other way when leaving legalism is that they never learned self control. They learned to follow rules only. When those rules are removed there is just nothing there to say, “That’s enough”. They learned how to appear good but never how to determine what is good. We’re also told that if one steps a toe outside they rules, they are lost, gone to the devil/to hell in an handbasket, so we never learn that, for instance, wearing a pair of pants actually doesn’t automatically make you a slut, or that giving someone of the opposite sex a hug when they are grieving doesn’t mean that you will suddenly be overcome with passion and unable to control yourselves and have to search out the nearest broom closet. You begin to assume that if you break one rule you are fated to become the worst version of that “sin” because you don’t even begin to understand that there is balance or, hello, a Holy Spirit that will guide you if you will just follow Him instead of the rules.

    • This is very true, but there’s another aspect that is difficult to quantify. When one has been lied to for so many years, what do or can they trust to be the truth? If grace means “obey”, then every time they hear “grace” they hear “do”, not “done.” If being modest means long skirts, etc. then that is all that it means for them. It is like these become trigger words for PTSD for them.

      But yeah, I’ve known people like you mentioned–never learned what self-control means, as it was only always ever external, and hence, have no compass, no inner understanding, so just leap without thinking at all…

      • krakowian,
        I especially appreciate this:

        “When one has been lied to for so many years, what do or can they trust to be the truth?”

        That has been one of my contentions against legalism. For example, if preaching that consuming any amount of alcohol is a sin, when the Bible clearly does not teach that, once people realize the inconsistency, why should they believe anything that is taught by that person? False teaching undermines the veracity of what is true.

      • Rene-
        My concern is less for the person’s lost credibility, but for the Scripture’s. That’s one thing I’ve seen. Anything anybody else claims to be “biblical teaching” to these people is now suspect, and they seldom have the interest in (or ability to) verifying anything themselves.

  3. “For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world; Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ; Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works” (Titus 2:11-14).

    True grace teaches us to deny ungodliness and worldly lusts. It teaches us to live soberly, righteously, and godly in the world. It teach us to look for the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ. And that, looking unto Jesus, is what purifies us and makes us zealous of good works.

    This is a truth most relevant to this subject, but missing in the article and in the comments.

    If someone runs from one bad situation to the another, or they run from legalism to licentiousness, or, if they go so far the other way because they never learned self control, or if they have been lied to for so long that they can’t discern what is truth, and even the Scripture has lost credibility, this is a person that is running based on feelings and not on facts. They are running based on emotions not on truth. When this is the running that is taking place, it will always land where liberty is being used for the flesh because they are not running toward grace at all. Paul warned us:

    “For, brethren, ye have been called unto liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another” (Galatians 5:13).

    If you believe yourself to be in an abusive church or situation, this type of emotional, burden abuse, then your first responsibility is to search the Scriptures. How do you know what is being said isn’t true if you aren’t being transformed in your mind by God’s Word? This is every Christians responsibility: you are to test everything your Pastor says by God’s Word. When it is clear Biblically that this situation is not a Biblical one (any unbiblical situation is abusive in some way), the next step is prayer for guidance. It is God’s Spirit that will guide us into all truth (John 16:13) and our steps are ordered by the Lord (Psalm 37:23).

    When you step out of an abusive situation because your know it is a Biblically wrong situation and you step by God’s guidance, you are walking by the Word of God toward the living word of God, Jesus Christ. This then, is a situation where you won’t “land” in a worse situation from whence you ran. So, if you don’t know Biblically, don’t go. Get to work reading, studying, memorizing, and praying, then follow Jesus Christ. If you are truly in a bad situation, He will sustain you within and guide you out of it. As the Great Shepherd, this is, after all, His work, for He said:

    “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father’s hand. I and my Father are one” (John 10:27-30).

    Your Savior, Jesus Christ, is one with God the Father and is, therefore, greater than all. Trust Him!

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