Sunday, August 18, 2013

So, in focusing on something beyond standards and convictions, I fear I possibly took a step back over that line into legalism (or Phariseeism, as I prefer to call it). It has bothered me all week that I wrote that line about “lingering over photos of attractive men online.”

It bothers me because there’s also the principle that it isn’t wrong to appreciate beauty. And because I’m a writer, with a Pinterest account, and sometimes I find pictures of people who remind me a lot of my characters. There’s a terribly thin line between looking for story inspiration and, well, going beyond. And that line may be different for each of us.

Here’s the problem: the human heart is drawn to legalism. We want the lines to be cleanly drawn, so we know exactly which side to step on, and which not to. And even when we say that we won’t define convictions for anyone else, we can catch ourselves saying, ­This is wrong, about something that might not be, or maybe not for all.

But it’s more complicated than that, and yet simpler. God wants us to be led of the Spirit, not by rules.

Always, always, our hearts twist back to the rules. The brazen serpent, once shaped as a symbol of temporary salvation for a wayward people, later became an idol. The Law itself, embroidered upon and propped up by the rules of men, because it wasn’t definitive enough on its own.

Rules give us something solid to gauge by. They’re safe, comforting. They let us know exactly where we stand.

Being led by the Spirit, however is an intangible. While it might sound appealing in theory, there’s no hard-and-fast measure to show us what it looks like, or to give us a sense of how well we’re doing. (Except by how we extend love and grace to others—but that still isn’t very measurable.)

Being led by the Spirit requires more faith, more surrender, more discipline, than merely following rules.

It requires us to lay down our pride, our grasping for control, our self-protection and insecurity.

So ... what’s the benefit?

Life. An unparalleled intimacy with the Creator of the universe, the Giver of that Spirit. The assurance that every step we take is ordered by Him, and the ability to choose the good rather than being enslaved to our darkest natures. The freedom that comes with the surrender of our impulses and passions, knowing that God can and will use even those.

And then, when we come too close to a line that God Himself has laid down, we’ll know to pull back before we cross it.

Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage. Indeed I, Paul, say to you that if you become circumcised, Christ will profit you nothing. And I testify again to every man who becomes circumcised that he is a debtor to keep the whole law. You have become estranged from Christ, you who attempt to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace. For we through the Spirit eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness by faith. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails anything, but faith working through love. (Galatians 5, NKJV)

1 comment :


    A favorite defense for those who do not want to obey God's terms for pardon, is to label strict obedience to God as Phariseeism. Is Phariseeism keeping God's law to the letter?

    LEGALISM DEFINED: Strict and literal adherence to law.

    Were the Pharisees guilty of legalism? No they were not. The Pharisees practiced illegalism. They were not legal.

    Matthew 26:59 Now the chief priests and the whole Council kept trying to obtain false testimony against Jesus, so they might put Him to death.

    Is obtaining false testimony an example of strict adherence to God's law?

    Matthew 28:11-13...the chief priests...12 And when they had assembled with the elders and consulted together, they gave a large sum of money to the soldiers. 13 and said, "You are to say, 'His disciples came by night and sole Him away while we were asleep.'

    Is conspiring to bribe men to lie, strict adherence to God's law?

    Matthew 23:14[ Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you devour widows' houses, and for a pretense you make long prayers; therefore you will receive greater condemnation.]

    Was devouring widow's houses an example of legalism or illegalism? Were the Pharisees literally following God's law by devouring widows' houses?

    Matthew 23:23 "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For tithe mint and dill and cummin, and have neglected the weightier provisions of the law; justice and mercy and faithfulness; but these are the things you should have done without neglecting the others.

    Jesus did not reprimand the Pharisees for their strict compliance to God's law? No, it was the exact opposite. The Pharisees were neglecting strict obedience to the law.


    The legalism of the Pharisees was because they followed man-made traditions, not because they followed God's law to the letter.

    Mark 7:1-7 .....5 The Pharisees and the scribes asked Him, "Why do Your disciples not walk according to the traditions of the elders, but eat their bread with impure hands?" 6 And He said to them, "Rightly did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written: 'This people honors Me with their lips. But their heart is far from Me, 7 'But in vain do they worship Me, teaching for doctrine the precepts of men.'

    Jesus rebuked the Pharisees for teaching the traditions of Men. Jesus did not scold them for literal obedience to God's laws.

    Mark 7:8 Neglecting the commandments of God, you hold to the traditions of men."

    The Pharisees were not practicing legalism by strict obedience to God's law. They were illegal for neglecting God's commandments and keeping man-made traditions.

    Is teaching what Jesus said in, Mark 16:16, being Pharisaical.
    (Mark 16: He who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved....)

    Would it be a tradition of men to say that "has been baptized shall be saved?" No it would not; it would the words of Jesus Christ.

    To claim that Christians are practicing the legalism of the Pharisees because they say you have to be obedient to God's terms for pardon in order to be saved, is factually incorrect.




    A. FAITH: John 3:16
    B. REPENTANCE: Acts 2:38
    C. CONFESSION: Romans 10:9-10
    D. WATER BAPTISM: 1 Peter 3:20-21



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