Tuesday, May 08, 2007
This is about Legalism, so if you came here for the other "L" word, sorry to disappoint, lol. Man, this is a huge subject, isn't it? It is so hard to encapsulate. Perhaps this should be the subject of a book, not a blog. I have been labeled many things over the years. I recall vividly the church I grew up in. We closely followed the Bible; we thought we were even fundamental in following God's Word. However, we were labeled "moderates". Since then, I have agreed with some people Theologically, and disagreed with others who often times felt it necessary to stick some kind of degenerate label on me for my beliefs. One thing I can say for my beliefs – they are tested by the Word, I don't ever just swallow a Theological pill that someone gives me just because of their high standing in the Religious Community. I happen to believe that that is one responsibility of mine as a priest of the Way. A priest you say? Yes, that's right. Remember the doctrine of the Priesthood of the Believer? We are all our own priests in the Kingdom. As such, we are accountable for what we believe. Well, I won't follow that line of thought any further. That sounds like a subject for another blog at another time.
All of that is just to say that I personally think I KNOW the mind of Christ. I prefaced that statement with all of the other just so that it would not sound boastful. I think ALL believers should know the mind of their Savior.First, I think we should state the purpose of the Law. The Law was never given to "save" anyone. It was not like, if you can keep the Law perfectly, then you are going to Heaven. Why was it not like that? Because NO ONE can keep the Law perfectly, so it is a mute point anyway! The Law was given to HIGHLIGHT the sin in our lives – to make it crystal clear to us that we cannot be good enough on our own. Basically, the Law was given so that we would realize our need for God, our need for a Savior.Ok, that is the PURPOSE of the Law. However, as a redeemed people, we are FREE from the Law. Think about it – laws only have power when there is a penalty that coincides with breaking them. If there was no danger whatsoever of getting a speeding ticket, every interstate would turn into the Autobahn, because why should you pay attention to the speed limit if there was no penalty for not keeping it? What makes you watch your speed is the chance of paying a fine or having your license taken away, or possibly the safety factor of not causing a wreck. The penalty that coincides with breaking the Law, or sinning, is death. The Law has always demanded blood as a payment for disobedience. Since Jesus' sacrifice on the cross paid that blood sacrifice for EVERYONE for ALL TIME, past and future, there is no longer any penalty for not keeping the Law. If you had the wrong mindset, you might even call it a License to Sin. Just like James Bond has a "license to kill" which means that he cannot be prosecuted for killing someone – we (as Believers covered by the blood of Christ) cannot be prosecuted for breaking the Law. Ok, so we all agree at this point that the Law served a purpose, but that we are free from those terribly heavy chains of trying to keep that Law.I like what Pastor Charles said Sunday, that the Pharisees thought that if they made enough rules about what you could do, and about what you couldn't do, then following all of those thousands of rules would make you good enough to be in the presence of God. However, what they didn't realize was that they were making it that much more impossible to keep the Law by making even more of them! It just doesn't work.Ok, the next logical step from what I have said so far is that "believers" with their License to Sin, should be the worst, most depraved group of people on the earth since they are no longer worried about the consequences of their sin. However, that is not the case, is it? Why? Because we are governed by a NEW law – the Law of Love. Take note of the following verses:
Matt 22:37-4037 Jesus replied: "'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.'38 This is the first and greatest commandment.39 And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.'40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments."(NIV)
Ok, what is the Law of Love? Basically, if you perfectly love God the way you are supposed to, and you love your neighbor the way you are supposed to – then you don't need any more laws or rules because you are not going to do anything wrong anyway!!! Do you believe that is a true statement? If you love your neighbor the way Jesus commanded, then are you going to steal, murder, lie, covet, scam, injure, take advantage of, slander, or do any other hurtful thing to ANYONE? No. Because if something is potentially hurtful to others, then it does not fit, there is no room for it under the Law of Love. Ok, the Law was useful, we are free from the Law, we are governed by a new law given by Jesus Himself – the Law of Love.If we are now only governed by those two commandments given in the four Gospels, then everything in your life should be examined under that new light. Can you drink a beer? For you, does it violate either one of those two commandments? Can you eat Pork? Does it violate either one of those two commandments? Can I beat my kids? Does it violate either one of those two commandments? You get the idea. So you can begin to see how even though we are "free" from the Law, we are not free to do WHATEVER we want, we should have perfect love in our hearts for everyone we meet and, of course, for God. That is why the Bible says that perfect love defeats the fear of Judgment. Because if you are perfectly loving God and everyone else, then you will not commit any transgressions that will be brought up on Judgment Day (of course, they won't be brought up anyway if you have confessed them to GOD and asked His forgiveness – He promised to COMPLETELY FORGET them).
It may sound strange, but when I think of Legalism, I think of the parable of the two sons whose father asked them both to work in the fields. The first son said that he would work in the fields, then he never got around to it and didn't go. The second son said that he would NOT work in the fields, but ended up going anyway. Well, of course, the one who actually worked did the will of the father.In the same way, one man studies his Bible all day long until he can't see straight, then he goes to church and sings and listens to a sermon and speaks to his friends, then he goes home to study some more. A second man gets off work, stops to get a couple of beers, then sees a homeless man at an intersection. He gets the homeless man something to eat and puts him in a hotel room for the night, making sure all of his immediate needs are met. He does not push the Gospel down the man's throat, but he does let the man know that what he has done has been sponsored by his local church and given in the name of Jesus.Ok, who did the will of the Father? The guy going through his check list of things he thinks he is supposed to do, or the guy putting his love into action and helping somebody out. The Legalist would never get that far – he would still be caught up over the fact that the second man stopped for a couple of beers! However, I assure you that the second man is doing the will of the Father. That is not to say that anything the first man did was wrong. I believe in all of those things; reading the Word, corporate worship, etc. But if your life is not characterized by the Law of Love, then all of the "religious" things you do are no more meaningful than someone clashing symbols together all day long for no apparent reason. It is just a lot of noise.
Are you still legalistic? The next time you find yourself in the "judgment seat" concerning another person, ask yourself if that thing that has offended your fragile sensibilities actually violates the two premiere commandments (as if you should be judging anyone else anyway). Does it keep that person from loving God completely or from loving his neighbor completely? Or is it something more along the lines of keeping you from accepting that person completely? If it is, then it is more your problem than it is theirs.I challenge you to go one week applying that test to all of the things that really get under your skin. Legalism is a difficult tumor to remove from the mind. For some people, if it was removed there would be nothing left!! However, with practice and patience, and asking God to change your outlook, it CAN be done – and you will find yourself blessed more than you ever imagined possible.