“If Stanley Hauerwas is correct to assert that most Christians in America today are ‘functional atheists;’ that is, most Christians live in such a way that it makes no difference that God raised Jesus from the dead, then surely even more Christians today are inadvertent heretics, trodding paths of belief the ancient Church long ago labeled dangerous detours.” - Tamed Cynic
Grace. Such a boring, overused, misunderstood, and cliched word. But also a powerful, meaningful and “awefully” refreshing reassurance of how we can have contentment in our lives. Grace can counteract the subversive power of legalism. Normally, when I see a blog-post on “grace”, or “mercy”, or “hope” or any other christian-ese terms I won’t read the post, but hear me out on this one.
Unfortunately legalism is rampant across the evangelical church’s landscape but I see it quite a bit more now that I live in the south and it’s something that needs to be corrected before a person tips too far to the side of a Pelagianistic theology.
Maybe legalism in some way stems from the Enlightenment era that taught us knowledge (or at least the attempt at the accrual of knowledge which to the church meant bible studies, time alone with god, Sunday school, read the Bible in __ days plans etc) is power. Or maybe legalism stems from the Protestant work ethic which has been taken hostage and also misconstrued as an individualistic, American work ethic to pull yourself up by your boot-straps; but no matter where it originated from the legalistic mindset can sink in so perversely within a person that it can trick a person into relying on themselves for rescuing them from a life of sin (“salvation“) instead of recognizing what Christ has already done for them on the cross. Grace. We need to embrace and rest in this word.
Admittedly, I’m a results driven person, I like results; plus I’m in sales and it’s my job to produce results.
RT @BestSalesTips: By setting sharp, clearly defined goals, you can measure and take pride in the achievement of those goals. #selling #sales
The results-oriented mindset obviously works great for my job (my managers smile upon good results) but when the results-oriented mindset carries over into my theology sometimes my spiritual activity (busyness) can be misconstrued by myself as “spiritual results” that I personally have accomplished. This is not a good thing. About ten years ago I came out of the heavily-bunkered-in legalistic camp (mindset) that I was entrenched in for most of my Christian life prior to that point. I was trying to do so many things in my life to please God that I left no room for grace. I used to believe that if I can control my activities then I can drive results and again, results (in my mind) were good so therefore I was reinforcing this behavior on my own by simply being involved in an activity. Do this, do that, pray now, pray like this, serve now, serve here, put your right hand in, put your right hand out, put your right hand in, and shake it all about etc, etc, etc. Well, the evangelical church, to drive involvement into their own Christian ghetto (churches place high emphasis on driving numbers – results) they constructed church programs and activities which unfortunately helped propagate this system in my life which pushed me towards thinking that spiritual activity pleases God and therefore if God is pleased he will “save” me. If you extrapolate that line of thinking out logically, in essence my activities would help me in attaining my own “salvation” so it is up to me to save myself. The “works/legalistic” mindset pushed me further away from the understanding and realization of grace – what Christ had already done for me on the cross.
Not long after trying to be involved in as many church-related activities and individual activities as possible my mind and life had a blowout by ultimately not being able to control everything in my life and I swung the pendulum the other way into a laissez fair, anything goes lifestyle. Bad move too. What happened in that time period is a post for another time.
RT @darrinpatrick: Anyone who tries to control everything in his world ends up with a very, very small world. via @RickWarren
In summation, legalism is man’s attempt at attaining something that the grace of God has already provided. I’ve rambled on a bit but I feel Darrin Patrick (pastor at The Journey Church in St. Louis) has hit the nail on the head with his teaching on legalism and grace. I can wholly identify with what Darrin is talking about in this teaching. If you have 35 minutes to spare (in actuality we all do) you can listen to Darrin’s teaching here, or watch it here.
Like I said before…grace. We need to drop the need for “doing/knowledge” and instead embrace and rest in the contentment and wholeness of this word – grace. Robin Williams epitomizes and illustrates what happens when instead of spitting out what we know, we are able to step back and breathe it all in. (Good Will Hunting)
Contentment via grace because of what Christ did for us.
Cheers! Vaya con Dios.