Legalism – Church Behavior Part 1

There's this thing I'm noticing in the church: When legalists obsess over "doing" the right thing and emphasize one particular way as "right" it really irks other Christians (particularly the younger generation) who do not share that same conviction. Legalists Overemphasize Outward Action as the Only Way to Righteousness image Not that I'm disregarding the important of physically acting on our beliefs of following Jesus (see James 2) and allowing Him to change our hearts, minds, and behavior but I think they got the wrong order. It takes time walking and listening to God to develop personal convictions. For a new believer to be "forced to change" and mold themselves by the controlling words of others into a "set of rules that will make them godly" is counter to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Let me explain... Romans 13:14 instructs us to
"Put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts."
That is the beginning of our faith: "Putting on Christ" who's blood makes us clean and redeems us from our sins. Romans Chapter 14 discusses inner-church legalism:
"Who are you to judge another's servant? To his own master he stands or falls."
Just because you or I are convinced of our own responsibility on a certain cultural issue (notice I wrote "cultural") does not mean other believers must come to the same conclusion. I choose not to wear leggings in public. If you choose to wear them that's your choice as there's nothing scripturally wrong with leggings. The mindset needs to be based on Romans 14:7
"For none of us lives to himself, and no one dies to himself. For if we live we live to the Lord; and if we die we live to the Lord. Therefore, whether we live or die, we are the Lord's."
The goal is Living for the Lord. Now when we are living for the Lord there is this process that takes place in our hearts as we listen to Him via the Holy Spirit through His Word: God nudges our hearts as to ways we need to behave. Any loving dad would tell their child "you need to wear more than a speedo to the grocery store." Similarly God tells us with love: "you need to treat that grocery bagger with respect." As we receive His instruction in our hearts, listen and resolve in our minds to obey, God softens our hearts and our relationship with Him is stronger than it was before. Notice this process primarily involves God and His Word. You can tell someone else the reasons for your conviction but that does not transfer the conviction only the knowledge. Change happens in the heart not the mind. The best change happens when God is allowed access to the heart. We change their mind all the time ... what sandwich to get, what New Year's Resolution to keep, etc. So maybe you and God have discussed the leggings thing and He says your cool. Alright then. So if He says you're cool and that's your conviction should I come in and try to force my opposing reasons on you? See Romans 14:20
"Do not destroy the work of God for the sake of food"
Food was the debate topic of that day and what Paul says before is equally important. Verse 19:
"Therefore let us pursue the things which make for peace and the things by which one may edify another."
Edify means "to instruct or enlighten so as to encourage moral or spiritual improvement." Any sharing needs to encourage the hearer to discuss their own heart goals with God. Because you can spout factual reasons all day long but if you're not instructed to do so by God than your words are about as encouraging as mustard gas. And people get hurt by that shit. It is also my conviction that using using words with purpose in a sentence does not count as swearing. Read my reasons here. And the same time we are called to encourage people for their moral and spiritual improvement and doing so in obedience to God's instruction is a good thing. Again, at the end of time it's between them and God. So Romans 14:22
"Do you have faith? Have it to yourself before God. Happy is he who does not condemn himself in what he approves."
I've been on the receiving end of mustard gas exhortation. It's not cool. Their words were out of line and it took finding that verse to console my wounded and bruised heart. God eventually dealt with that person and His methods were most thorough. They are forgiven and I am clean. But there's something else I'm noticing in the church in the response to the legalism... and that is something I will write about at another time. [To Be Continued]
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  • DoGoodOrDoNaught

    Have you ever thought about what it would be like to be raised in a remote area of the world where there is no religion? You might spend a lifetime pondering the meaning of life, coming to your own conclusions about how people ought to treat one another. But maybe, one day, a stranger comes to your village and gives you a Bible. However, he doesn’t tell you anything of what he believes. He leaves you to read the book for yourself. For those who would honestly accept the Bible as truth, I wonder what kind of Christians and what kind of churches we would have if everyone read the Bible this way.

    As much as I struggle with over-complicating things, I don’t believe that God intended for life (or the truth) to be complicated. When I look around me, all of creation speaks otherwise. What truth there is to be known, surely God will not deny it to a longing, humble heart, though I can only hope that that describes mine. Love God and love others, and all the rest will follow. That sounds pretty simple to me. :-)

  • Pingback: Church Behavior, Part 2: Gnosticism and Reverse Gnosticism | Meg Living Inside Out()

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