If you want to understand what is wrong with what most churches teach, this might help.
Institutional religion has never recognized the critical errors it made early on in interpreting the letters and writings that became the New Testament. Following the resurrection of Christ, all believers were Jewish. As Gentiles came to know Jesus, there was initially no distinction between Jew and Gentile. But minor conflicts began to arise between the two groups; over time the animosity grew and became, at times, very bitter. Eventually, the two groups separated. The Gentile religious establishment turned against the Jews and even began viewing them as the enemy for "killing Christ."
In this context, as the Gentiles tried to understand the writings of the Apostles, they did so with a Gentile mindset. They completely lost their understanding of the Jewish context of the New Testament. Their primary error was not understanding that the Old Covenant Law was given only to Israel. It was not until the New Covenant that God expanded a Jewish only relationship to one that embraces all people.
This misunderstanding led to the unbiblical mixing of Old Covenant law (self-empowered living) and New Covenant grace (God-empowered living). The Gentiles were teaching a religion they really did not understand because law is the opposite of faith (Galatians 3:12). What often surprises people is that trying to follow law actually causes sin to increase, not decrease, because the power of sin is the Law (1 Corinthians 15:56). They missed the central truth of the New Testament, the indwelling life of Christ. Instead, today's teaching is almost always about how to live a life pleasing to God; this may sound spiritual but it is law (self-effort works), not faith.
Beginning in the Spirit, Now Trying to be Perfected in the Flesh?
Many disparage New Covenant grace not realizing that it is the "ministry of righteousness" (2 Corinthians 3:9b) and the ministry of the life-giving Spirit (2 Corinthians 3:6). They claim that grace "gives license to sin." This incorrect way of thinking says that if you who commit grievous or frequent sins, you probably are not really a true believer. But, if you commit lesser and fewer sins, you can confess them and get back in "fellowship with God." This is looking at life from a sin perspective, not the righteousness perspective that the New Testament teaches. Grace changes the motivation from "Do not steal" (law) to "I don't want to steal" (grace). This new life becomes possible because God has given you a new heart filled with His own empowering Spirit. (Note: "heart," "spirit" and "nature" all mean the same thing.)
Grace does give freedom because it liberates you from the burden of trying to be righteous by your own efforts; some do abuse it. The Apostles Paul addresses this in ...
Romans 6:1-2 "What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase? May it never be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it?"
The key to this verse is understanding that when you trusted Christ as Savior, God literally removed your old sinful inner nature; this is where you died to sin. God replaced that old spirit with a new heart. Then, God's Spirit came to live in you, joining His life eternally as one to your new heart. Righteousness is a gift (Romans 5:17); God made you righteous when He came to live in you. In fact, you can never sin in your new heart because you are born of God (1 John 3:9). It is your outer mortal body that has not yet been made righteous. Righteous living, then, is experienced when you follow Christ's indwelling life by faith rather than living life by your own flawed human efforts.
Those who teach how to live the Christian life, the do's and don'ts of how to live a life pleasing to God, are really teaching law. They are inadvertently teaching bondage to sin and are guilty of exactly what the Apostle Paul is charging in his letter to the Galatians (Galatians 3:2,3,5,9,10,11,12,13,14). Preachers throughout the world teach this same message week in and week out. Live the life of faith and you will not only be free (John 8:36; 1 Peter 2:16), you will live righteously; this is the kind of life that pleases God.
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