This past Sunday my pastor preached on the parable of the prodigal son. In fact the sermon was titled “The Parable of the Gracious Father.” He opened up describing 2 things I had recently come across while reading The Hole in Our Holiness (although I don’t remember it being covered in detail): legalism (opposed to the gospel; any attempt to qualify for God’s grace) and antinomianism (opposed to the law). He recommended a book that had ministered greatly to him – “The Whole Christ” by Sinclair Ferguson. In this book Ferguson goes into detail about legalism and antinomianism and how they’re not opposites but actually twin brothers (not identical but twins nonetheless). The main point of the message Sunday was the fact that both the prodigal son and his older brother had distorted views of their father and therefore rejected his law. The older son could be called a legalist for getting angry at the father and the younger son an antinomian for rejecting his fathers law & running away from home. What’s the bigger picture beyond the parable? What is our view of our heavenly Father ? Do we believe He is good enough? Do we believe that He is gracious and compassionate?
I recently began reading A.W. Tower’s “Knowledge of the Holy” after feeling a need to see God for who He says He is and not my own imagination or lies the devil would have me believe. In the beginning of the book he acknowledges our views of God as the most crucial thoughts we can have. However, if misinformed, too lowly a view of God or a view outside of what He has revealed to us in His Word will cause us to sin and reject Him (whom we do not yet know). Sunday’s message pointed to that fact- our central problem is that we don’t believe God is good or we don’t believe He’s good enough… to satisfy our needs for safety, security, food, joy etc… All of our problems aren’t a problem with rules or law it’s a problem with God- our view of Him. This is something I have been wrestling with. How so? Some of the ways legalism or its fraternal twin brother manifest itself in our lives are seeking the approval of others, ranking/comparison, jealousy, resentment… But thank God the opposite of these twins is GRACE & oh my is my heavenly Father GRACIOUS!
I had to ask myself how do I see legalism in my life? And how can I be intentional to combat it by viewing God for who He is & resting in the sufficiency of Christ? I have a friend whom I really have a need to cut ties with because she’s always bought negative things into the picture- drama, gossiping, encouraging sin… I recently shared something with her that the Lord is doing in my life and she immediately responded with a negative question. I didn’t realize it until later but doubt began to spring up where belief had been planted- nothing substantial but enough for me to question where my thoughts were going & pray for them to cease. Why did I still see a need to share intimate details of my life with her – approval? Oddly enough, yes. I wanted her to know that I am satisfied in Christ and that although varying circumstances in my life are bringing great joy it is not the circumstances in themselves but rather God’s hand at work that has me in awe- I am seeking to see Him at work and find His steadfast love every morning! However at the same time I realized that there was still a part of me that wanted approval and that still felt resentment for past hurts from her. BUT GRACE – grace is the answer to legalism or antinomianism (both – I’m sure we all face in our lives at one point or another).
I know that my heavenly father is gracious and that He is all I need ! When I look to Him and pray for guidance back to Him when I fail to focus on Him my view is shifted & I see Him as enough- then there is no need to hang on to toxic friendships for approval or compare myself to others. It’s just Christ + me in this thing! He has promised to never leave or forsake me – And that is oh so comforting!
John said at one point in the message before reading from Luke, that:
“The center point of Christian theology is compassion. It’s love in response to misery”
God is a compassionate and gracious Father! We can rest in this! He LOVES US SO MUCH! and He welcomes us with open arms. When we rest in who He is we can embrace His call for our lives, we don’t reject His law, and we embrace the gospel of grace!