Grace vs. Legalism


Wherein Lies Our Strength?


by: Steven Hopesharer


Renewing our strength is unnecessary if we do not deplete it to begin with. Doing battle with an already defeated enemy while relying only upon our own strength in lieu of relying upon the strength of the Lord is what depletes our energy and discourages the believer unnecessarily.

Legalism is a form of works as a way to salvation and righteousness (right standing before God). Attempting to keep the law and abide by man made rhetoric on our own dissipates much energy unnecessarily causing us to have a need to replenish our strength. Teaching legalism as a means to righteousness is unbiblical.

Grace, on the other hand, requires no effort on our part and thus none of our energy is expelled when we live our lives by faith in Christ and in Him only. The result is that grace does not require us to renew our strength. The strength necessary to sustain us and protect us from the lies of an already defeated enemy when he attempts to discourage us through the oppressive comments and actions made by those who have been influenced by him is found only in the love and grace of God.

The first thing we have to realize is that there is only one enemy, Satan, the deceitful one. The radical religious right, the neighbors next door, the Church in general, nor any other person or groups of people are our enemy, although Satan may use them to oppress others.

The second thing we must realized is that Satan and death were defeated on the Cross of Calvary when Jesus purposefully shed His blood in our place to pay the price for all sins regardless of what they may have been and regardless of who committed them. At that moment everyone's sins were forgiven including the sins of such people as Judas and Hitler. Caution, that does not mean they were saved, however. We know Judas was not saved according to the Bible and Hitler probably wasn't either.

Next, and most importantly, after realizing one's sins have already been forgiven, one must place 100% of their trust in Jesus Christ by subsequently receiving the gifts of salvation in order to be saved.

Thus, we may conclude that once anyone places their trust in the finished work of Jesus Christ, whosoever they may be, they will receive the gifts of salvation which includes the gifts of eternal life, justification, righteousness and glorification by their faith, only, and not by any kind of works whatsoever.

Subsequently, believers, will without effort, fulfill the will of God for their lives by resting, peacefully in the strength of the Lord with no need to replenish their own strength. Paul aptly put it in 2 Cor: 12:9, after he had asked God to remove the thorn in his flesh three times, "And he (God) said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me."

These truths are applicable whether or not a person believes homosexuality is or is not a sin.

However, it should be noted, sound biblical doctrine interpreted through the historical-critical methods, practiced by most mainline denominations, will lead the serious and thorough Bible scholar, who studies by means of exegesis, to conclude that homosexuality in and of itself is not a sin according to the Bible.

On the other hand, those who are guilty of taking passages out of context and who use the isogesis method of trying to find "proof texts" to support their predetermined beliefs by literally interpreting all scripture found in faulty translations have been led astray by the enemy and wrongly conclude that homosexuality is a sin, regardless of what evidence they are presented with.

Sadly, even within mainline denominations, there are those who are guilty of this and who choose to blindly follow the beliefs of others because of apathy, prejudices, lack of scholarship and lack of taking what they believe serious enough to find out why they believe what they believe for themselves. But it is not totally their fault.

Rather, it is Satan who has subtly motivated some members of the Church to promote legalism while simultaneously acknowledging we are saved by grace. He has been so clever in doing this that its members, including the leaders and teachers, don't even realize they are doing it. He has succeeded in blinding all too many Christians as to what the biblical truth is and thereby has been successful in wreaking havoc upon the multitudes who have been oppressed over the ages. He has managed to get men and women of God to speak out of both sides of their mouths. Out of one side they acknowledge we are saved by grace through faith because of God's infinite and inclusive love manifested on the cross by Jesus. Out of the other side of their mouth, however, and in contradiction, they allude that the message of grace and knowing one's salvation is secure only promotes sin.

No, it does not! That is a lie of Satan who has cunningly motivated all too many leaders in the Church to teach. Falling for that lie has resulted in leaders who believe in grace but end up, out of fear because of their ignorance, laying guilt trips on those they instruct.

Three reasons come to mind as to why they lay guilt trips on church members:

1. In order to keep them from sinning by works.
2. In order to keep them in line with their false theology, and
3. In order to keep the money flowing in, but that is another whole subject in and of itself. All three of those reasons involve control issues usually motivated out of a greed for power and wealth.

Ignorance regarding the truth about grace and one's eternal destiny causes a fear of the unknown. Fear, in turn, causes even believers to act in unloving ways. The truth about the love and grace of God and one's eternal destiny can be known, however. Once one understands the full meaning of grace, they will be motivated to love others and God as God loves them because they feel secure about where they will spend eternity. Until then, believers will not be at peace, they will needlessly use up their energy trying to be righteous on their own and they will not be able to love others as God intends for them to. On the contrary, they will, in all likelihood, condemn others and relate to them in unloving ways. Those who teach Bible abusive legalisms are prime examples of this.

We do not serve a God who wants to control us. He, in fact, created us with a free will. Unlike lies, which binds people and keeps them in bondage to false doctrines, such as the doctrine of works, He sets us free with the truth. He has done this because He desires that we love Him back voluntarily. The love of a robot would be artificial and cold, with no emotions or feelings involved. God did not program us to love Him like robots out of a fear of going to Hell. We, of all the creatures created by Him, are the only ones created in His image with the ability to love Him back voluntarily. The rest, like angels, were created without a free will to worship Him and serve Him and convey His will to the rest of His creation. All humans are very special in God's eyes, created with the purpose of having a loving relationship with Him that involves both giving and receiving.

Wherein lies our strength? It lies within the grace of a loving God, equally applicable to all regardless of their sexual orientation, whether it be homosexual or heterosexual or bisexual or even if it be as a transgendered child of the living God. It lies in a God Who manifests His infinite and inclusive love through Jesus Christ and securely seals our eternal life in Heaven through His Holy Spirit. Let no person or groups of people, influenced by the enemy, convince you otherwise least your strength will be depleted and become in need of renewal.

Forked tongued messages create confusion on the part of believers and causes them to expend far too much energy on the fear of sinning and losing their salvation and feelings of guilt when they sin anyhow. Messages of that nature show a lack of faith on the part of the leaders and teachers to trust in the finished work of Jesus Christ. If they fall into that trap, how do they expect their followers and students to place their trust in Christ? The fact is they won't. The result is many are needlessly wasting a lot of energy trying not to sin and then feeling guilty when they do sin and it only serves to discourage the believer. The believer will then have to replenish his or her strength unnecessarily. This is not what God intended. The message of grace does not require the believer to replenish his or her strength. Jesus said: "Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light." (Mt: 11:29-30)

Sin will not increase when grace is correctly taught. On the contrary, once the believer comes to a full and meaningful understanding of what it means to be saved by grace and not by the works of the law, he or she will be motivated not to continue in sin without having to have any kind of guilt trips laid upon them. Furthermore, once they understand grace, they will realize their salvation is secured and that they already have eternal life, are justified, righteous and glorified in God's eyes. Consequently, he or she will be subsequently motivated to praise God, thank Him for their salvation and love Him. They will express their love for God by telling Him they love Him and by becoming obedient to His desires for their lives as they become aware of them in God's own time and in God's own way. Likewise, they will be motivated, out of a newfound love for others, to share this good news with as many as they can at God's leading through the Holy Spirit. They will want others to find and experience the same kind of peace they have discovered in knowing their eternal life with God is secure without expending any energy on trying to be righteous, once they placed one hundred percent of their trust in Christ and in Christ only.

Anyone who does not understand and teach salvation by grace alone is not experiencing the peace God intends for him or her to have because they themselves are not placing one hundred percent of their trust in Christ and Christ only.

Does salvation by grace mean there are no consequences for sin in case one abuses grace out of ignorance regarding its full meaning and thereby chooses to live like the devil? Absolutely not! While believers will not lose their gifts of eternal life, justification, righteousness or glorification, they will, however, miss out on receiving rewards in a big way come judgment day. The choice is left to us. There are serious consequences for continuing to live in sin. I cannot emphasize this enough. But one need not have any fear of losing their salvation and going to Hell because of their continued sin. The loss will be in the form of missing out on rewards not in regards to one's salvation.

On the other hand, what this does mean is that the full meaning of grace is not being expounded upon sufficiently by those who do teach it, else the results would be more profound than what we are currently observing.

It is my firm conviction that the Christian, gay and lesbian community, along with the bisexual and transgendered saints, can become the impetus for bringing about a great awakening within the Church once all of us come to a full understanding of and appreciation for God's grace by placing our faith solely in the finished work of Jesus Christ. Next it is imperative that we start sharing the entire message regarding God's love and grace with the world in the strength of the Lord God Almighty.

Furthermore, we need to quit debating with the radical, religious right and other like-minded individuals in an attempt to justify our Christian inheritance. We are already justified in God's eyes. Much of our energy and many of our words are being wasted on them. Our words have been and are falling on the deaf ears of those who have allowed themselves to become the victims of Satan's lies. It is time we quit attempting to do battle with the enemy. He is already defeated.

Instead, it is time we start sharing the Gospel with our non-Christian GLBT brothers and sisters as well as other individuals, as we have never done before. It is time we start sharing with our exiled GLBT Christian brothers and sisters, who have turned away from their previously held Christian beliefs, that there does exist a place for them to feel loved and accepted within the Christian faith in spite of what is being said about us.

I believe when we start letting "our little lights shine with all its colors of the rainbow," the world will become more accepting of us and quit listening to the Bible abusive rhetoric being spread by the victims of Satan's lies who are being blinded by him to the point of living in ignorance regarding homosexuality and the Bible.

However, GLBT brothers and sisters will never be able to even light their candles, let alone make them shine, until they become aware of themselves as persons of dignity and worth with their sexual orientation totally integrated into their personality worthy of being just as respected as all other members of the human race, rather than allowing themselves to be viewed by judgmental, uninformed and unenlightened members of our society as an unnatural permutation or anomaly unworthy of respect merely because our sexual orientation is different from theirs. In other words, we are people, too, and members of the human race!

Those who condemn us have power against us only when we allow ourselves to fall into their trap of wanting to justify ourselves to them. Thus, we need to ignore their oppressive comments as far as trying to justify ourselves as we increase our candlepower of truth and overcome the darkness experienced by the uninformed which currently exists as a result of the untruths being blatantly spread by the victims of Satan's lies.

Does this mean we are to be passive and let others walk all over us and not seek equal rights? Not at all! We must continue to seek diligently for our equal rights, but in doing so, we do not need to defend our beliefs or our relationship to God.

In order to maintain our strength and peace, it is important that we remember continually that, not just some, but rather, anyone, I repeat, anyone who has ever been saved is already justified, sanctified and glorified! We do not have to keep proving it over and over again to anyone. We have already been set free. Now we need to start acting like it. We need to act like the victors that we already are in Christ in lieu of acting like the victims many want us to believe we are. We need to start earning the rewards God has in store for us and quit being discouraged by the lies being spread about us. The believer's salvation is secure regardless of his or her sexual orientation.

We can increase our candlepower by presenting the truth over television networks, in the news media, through movies, using the internet and on a one to one basis just like those who are spreading false information are doing by those kinds of media. However, we can only do this by sharing our strength in support of each other and in support of those who show compassion for and acceptance of us regardless of our sexual orientation. We do not need to be discouraged, because our numbers are small in comparison to their large numbers. David was small in comparison to Goliath, but we know how that battle turned out.

Seeking equal rights is a social endeavor to obtain equal status within our society by legal means according to our existing constitution. It is not a religious issue, but the religious right is actively trying to make it a religious issue. The two (governmental issues and religious issues) should not be mixed as if they are related because they are not related, never have been related and were not intended to be related by our founding fathers who originally wrote the constitution of these United States in which we GLBT citizens live. The separation of church and state must continue in our democracy, else we will have religions imposing their beliefs and values upon everyone else through governmental enforcement. The religious right attempts to impose their beliefs and values upon homosexuals daily through government agencies. This erodes our strength and will take away not only the rights of homosexuals, but it will eventually end up taking away the rights of everyone else if they become successful. It is imperative, therefore, that we not let them succeed. We must accomplish our goal of achieving equal rights through love and by presenting the truth in peaceful, patient ways. We can only do this by placing our trust in Christ for the strength needed to sustain us because it won't be easy and it won't happen overnight, and it cannot be done in our own strength, but it can be done.

We need to be actively involved in spreading the truth about the untruthful rhetoric being spread by the religious right and not be wasting our time justifying ourselves. God has already justified us and we are justified by our constitution. What we need to be doing is withdrawing our memberships and any kind of financial support from any individual, group, institution or government agency that is either passively or aggressively involved in spreading false information about homosexuals or spreading false information regarding homosexuality and the Bible. If you are attending a church that condemns you because you are a GLBT individual, then you need to leave that church and find one that doesn't condemn you unless you have the ability to change their minds. We should, also, encourage those who do not condemn us to likewise leave those churches that do teach untruths or become actively involved in enlightening those kinds of churches with the truth about homosexuality and about homosexuality and the Bible. We need to become members of organizations that are accepting of our God given sexual orientation and support them by participating in their organization of peaceful demonstrations where ever and when ever possible. We, also, need to support them with our finances to the best of our blessed abilities. By doing so we will experience strength from God through each other as He leads us.

After doing much research over the past ten years regarding the religious right's movements against homosexuals and homosexuality in this country, I am convinced it is becoming more and more urgent that we Christian GLBT and other GLBT brothers and sisters, who share a common bond, take the above type actions to prevent us from being treated just like the Jews and homosexuals were treated as scapegoats, under Hitler's Third Reich. Hitler's original targeting of homosexuality and abortion, just like the religious right is currently doing in our country, was done in order to further his satanically greedy desires for power, wealth and control of Germany and other countries. After gaining power by using those targets, he was then able to home in on taking away the rights of others and focus on his primary goal of creating a super race by exterminating the Jewish population in an attempt to achieve a world dictatorship under his rule.

We must not remain in denial nor naivete to the fact that, the religious right, under the influence of Satan, our archenemy and only enemy, is attempting to employ the exact same types of strategies as were used by Hitler in Nazi Germany in order to impose their own values, beliefs, and mores upon all other United States citizens albeit they may not be aware they are dong so because of Satan's influence.

I have been working on this article off and on over the past two or so months. Just this past weekend, October 9th, 1999, I read Mel White's book, "Stranger At The Gate" for the first time. I was surprised to learn he has concluded the same things as I have mentioned above from his personal contact with many well known leaders of the religious right and his research, which far exceeds my own. I highly recommend reading his book and visiting his web sites www.melwhite.org and www.soulforce.org to get a better feel for the problems we face as a result of the enemy's influence on the religious right and other like minded peoples. The book, "People of the Lie" by M. Scott Peck, M.D. will give you a psychological understanding of the dynamics involved in developing groups of people into the kinds of people characteristic of Hitler's Third Reich and the religious right in our country, who have almost become as cultic in nature as the very cults they condemn.

Nevertheless, as Christian GLBT individuals we can find strength in confidently knowing no other person or groups of people holds the keys to Heaven or possesses exclusive rights to salvation as a franchise. Nor do they hold the blueprint or patent to what it means to be righteous in the eyes of God. Neither do they own the deed to God's love and grace. As Christian GLBT persons we need not feel any more shame for our actions than any other child of God. Nor do we need to expend any more energy in battle with the enemy than any other Christian.

Regardless of one's sexual orientation, gender, color, creed, race or nationality, minority believers can trust, beyond any shadow of a doubt, that they have equal status as joint heirs with Christ along with the majority of all other believers because of the infinite and all inclusive love and grace of God Almighty manifested in the finished work of Christ, sealed by the Holy Spirit unto the day of redemption and extended to anyone who calls upon Him for salvation, for peace or for strength to endure the oppressively false teachings so prevalent against us as we approach the second millennium of hope for all in Christ.

Either the Bible reveals the truth or it is a fabrication dreamed up by seriously deranged individuals. Either Jesus Christ is Who He claims to be, willing to save and capable of saving whosoever calls upon Him, or He is the most profound liar the World has ever known. What do you think? Your strength is directly proportional to how much faith you exhibit by placing your trust in the correct response, which hinges on the finished work of Jesus Christ and nothing else!

I conclude and end with the following verses by adding that now, too, is the accepted time for GLBT brothers and sisters to be liberated from the bondage we have been experiencing because of the existing ignorance which has been brought on by our only enemy, Satan. "We then, as workers together with him (God), beseech you also that ye receive not the grace of God in vain. For he saith, I have heard thee in a time accepted, and in the day of salvation have I succoured thee: behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation." (2 Cor 6: 1-2) Therein lies our strength!

Copyright ©1999 by the author


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Books:

People of the Lie : The Hope for Healing Human Evil

M. Scott Peck


Stranger at the Gate : To Be Gay and Christian in America

Mel White



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Other Articles By Stephen Hopesharer:

Forgiveness: The Key to Overcoming Guilt and Fear


Also In This Issue:

Eating With Sinners

Renewing Our Strength






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