There is a narrow road of biblical Christianity that Jesus said few will ever walk upon (Matt. 7:14). Upon this road, there are two dangers – one on each side. If not careful, you could fall into either one of these ditches and get yourself into serious spiritual trouble.
The first ditch is called legalism. It’s a trap requiring someone to do good works in order to earn God’s approval. Wielding a list of religious rules, legalists bar anyone from walking with Jesus until they have cleaned their act up by their own volition.
While most legalists start with a conviction for holiness, eventually, they find themselves even more strict than God’s Word by supplementing the Bible with additional rules that they hold as equivalent to commandments. As long as you keep all their expectations, you can be accepted. Their message is if you can prove yourself, you can earn God’s love.
That’s not the gospel. That is completely contrary to the gospel.
The second dangerous ditch is the complete opposite side of the road from legalism. So many people and churches despised the pharisaical ditch so much, they actually overcompensated and swerved to the other perilous ditch called easy-believism. It’s a trap that makes people think that Jesus loves you so much that you will never have to change.
It’s a form of cheap grace. This type of faith focuses on God’s reception and neglects our repentance.
We live in a time when people are walking around our confused culture, dripping from baptismal waters while lacking legitimate soul transformation. Echoing in their heads, they can hear a pastor affirming, “No matter what happens after this moment, you are going to heaven.” Such a careless attempt at momentary assurance can lead to eternal regret. After a raised hand or a baptismal plunge, that person may never hear about the need to grow in faith or progress in obedience. Instead of running from their sin, they get comfortable with it.
Many people who had an emotional experience wrongfully assume they had a spiritual transformation.
Guilt from Saturday night’s activities does not necessarily equate to redemption in Sunday morning’s services. Some people believe that salvation is attempting to walk away from the consequences of a sinful decision, but instead, it is walking toward communion with the sinless Redeemer. We don’t come to Jesus to get out of trouble; we come to Jesus because we want him!
Jesus said that a tree is known by its fruit (Matt. 12:33). Good trees produce good fruit; bad trees produce bad fruit. If the roots go deep, the fruit will spread wide.
You don’t have to guarantee a change in order to be saved, but if you are truly saved, you are going to display change eventually.
It will happen! You don’t have to obey Jesus before you are loved by him (legalism), but his love for you should motivate your obedience to him. Salvation doesn’t give you a free pass to indulge (easy-believism), but it provides you an eager desire to obey.
If there is a true profession of faith, there will be a true progression of faith.
Travis Agnew serves as the Lead Pastor of Rocky Creek Church in Greenville, SC. His most recent book is Just (About) Married.
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