Thursday, April 24, 2014

Is it Legalism?...or is it Love?

Have you ever been labeled a Pharisee?  I have.  Many times.  And there was a time that I was just that.

You can read my testimony in this post, but the short version is that my salvation was, first, a "checklist salvation", and what followed that was a life of continuing to check the boxes on the list, and always wondering if I really was saved.  Just trust me when I say that there's hardly room for love on a list.

For a few years now, I've been wrestling with how a few truths from God's Word fit together.

Sin.  Grace.  Freedom.  Obedience.  

There doesn't seem to be a magic equation for explaining it.  But we have the Bible, and the book of sixty-six books explains it all perfectly!

The factor in the formula that makes it equate to the right "heartitude" is LOVE.





Now, let me explain what I mean by "heartitude".  Heartitude is my word for the attitude of the heart.  It is our reason for doing what we do.  Heartitude is our inner motive.

Okay, so back to the equation...

There comes a time in the walk of every Christian that we must realize that it is ALL about love.

Love took the cross to save.

Because of that love for us, we return the love for Him.

Because we love Him, we want to do what He wants us to do.

LOVE must be the motivation for EVERYTHING. 

Do we love the Lord enough to trust that His way is best and to do it? 

"If ye love Me, ye will keep My commandments."  John 14:15

Do we love others as much as we love ourselves--enough to make choices that place them and what they need higher than what we want and are free to do? 

"For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not turn your 
freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve 
one another."   Galatians 5:13

Do we truly love the Lord with our emotions, inner self, acts, and thoughts? 

 "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul 
and with all your strength and with all your mind'; and, 'Love your 
neighbor as yourself."  Luke 10:27

As I have been wrestling with all these truths lately, I am reminded of how many times I've been called a Pharisee for standing up for truths in God's Word.  Things like modesty, being a keeper at home, and so many more.  I used to view these things as black-and-white..."rules", if you will.  I never told others how they were to live, but my reasons for choosing them myself were always a few words on a page.  That's it.

But in my own testimony, I tell you how I finally realized what God's grace was and what it meant for me.  I finally realized that I didn't save myself, and could never save myself, but that Jesus' death on the cross was what saved me.  I finally understood where my faith, because of God's grace, led to my salvation.  And THAT led to my want to obey, rather than doing it because "I have to".

 "For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do 
of his good pleasure."  Philippians 2:13

Last night, I remembered that it was Saul who was the Pharisee.  The "Pharisee of Pharisees".  As in, top dog legalist.  Blue-ribbon rule-follower. 

But then he met Jesus.  And he became Paul.  Paul, the gold-medal preacher of grace.

And then...THEN he wrote the letters that are now teachings for the church.  He gave sound doctrine, which was inspired by God Himself, to the churches to which he wrote.  It is the same doctrine which is there in the Bible for churches today to teach believers in their flock.

What the world calls "hate" and "judgmental", the church has been calling "legalism".

Yes, it's true.  Unfortunately, the same teachings Paul wrote after his conversion are often called legalism by believers today.  The teachings of the man who wrote approximately two-thirds of the Bible are legalistic?   Surely not!

No--they are not.  Of course they are not.  This man was set free from being a Pharisee!  He doesn't go forth and lead others into that path!

It is all about the motive of the heart.  If love is the motive, then it is not legalism, it is obedience--and obedience with the right "heartitude".

Let me give one example:  modesty.

Modesty is all about how much we LOVE. Do we love God enough to not attract attention away from Him in any way, be it the manner we dress or act? Do we love ourselves enough to not have to reveal a part of our body for someone else's pleasure and approval? Do we love our husbands enough to keep our mystery only for his eyes? And do we love our brothers enough to not to tempt him with the lust of the flesh? Modesty is not about our personal liberty in Christ--as in what we have the right to wear or not wear--it is about having the right and responsibility to point everyone to Him (and not distract away from Him) with our actions, our attitude, and our apparel.

It is because He loves us that He calls us to that which He calls us.   It is love that saves us, and it is love that obeys our Savior.  We are not free to do whatever we want. Grace and freedom have been so perverted. 

Obedience is not the opposite of freedom in Christ. The opposite of that freedom is bondage to sin. Obedience is the effect of true salvation. It is the act that comes after faith. It is the evidence that He lives in us. His love for us activates our love for Him, and our love for Him prompts our obedience. Freedom is the gift, and obedience is the thanks for that gift.

 "If ye love Me, ye will keep My commandments."  John 14:15

The evidence is in the outward, but He sees our heart. He sees our MOTIVE. What is our motive?

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