We are reading through the book of Romans in our Thursday night Bible study at church. I am enjoying it so much. The Word truly is bread and I am filled when I leave on Thursday nights. I think book studies are great, in fact we just started Lord, I Want to Know You by Kay Arthur with our ladies. But I don’t think there is enough deep, genuine study of God’s Word alone. God’s Word alone is sufficient. So, we’re taking a portion of scripture, observing it, getting correct interpretation (There is only one interpretation and that is the correct one!), and then applying application.
Two weeks ago, we went through Romans 7:1-6. The verses are speaking about being bound to sin and the law and then being bound to Christ, which brought up a great discussion about legalism. Legalism. Such an ugly word. What is legalism? My favorite definition from those that I’ve read is this one: “the judging of conduct in terms of adherence to precise laws.” So, how did this apply to me? I have personally struggled with legalism and admittedly, still do on occasion. In my past, in churches I have been to, it seemed that there were certain sins spoken of often in sermons or in teaching. It seemed that those sins were ‘worse’ than others. Some of them were what you would expect but some were not. Some weren’t even really sins but more of opinions about what was right or wrong without biblical backing, which is scary, dangerous stuff. This lead to thoughts that if I was doing these things, God was not pleased with me. If I didn’t do these things, God was pleased me. It also lead to thoughts of “if I do this, God is not happy with me, so He will punish me.” What terrible, wrong thoughts about God! And it still plagues me to this day. I’ll explain later more of how I fight those thoughts.
At the same time, there were also things that were spoken of often about what I should be doing. I needed to be at this, this and this. I also needed to be doing this and that at home. Oh and I needed to make sure I was doing this too. And if I wasn’t, God was not pleased. If I was, God was happy with me. So mentally, in my mind, I had a check list. If I did all of these things, I was a good Christian. If I didn’t do them, I was backsliding or a ‘carnal Christian’ (which is not even a true term). So, my check list of what to do and what not to do decided whether or not God was happy with me. Essentially it decided whether or not God loved me. My list became my idol and my relationship with God was pretty much non-existent. My outward walk became more important than my heart for God, my worship of God, and my relationship with God. It took me a while to even realize what was going on! It was such a part of my life. I was living for others. Unfortunately, this can also cause us to become very judgemental of others and even begin to think highly of ourselves when we are doing more or seemingly doing better than someone else, on that ‘list’. Oh, isn’t it so horrible? It sounds a lot like the Pharisee in Luke 18!
Let us remember this, “For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, the Lord looks on the heart.”
So, how do we stop this? For one, it’s very dangerous to speak against specific sins from the pulpit. When preaching a text, of course, preach the text. But to pick and choose specific sins to harp on is just dangerous. Also making laws about what you should be participating in and such is the same. Personally though (since I’m doubting many pastors are reading my blog! Ha!), what can we do? My answer: Preach the gospel to ourselves. Remind ourselves of grace.
Grace. Christ came to cover our sins. Because of my trust in Christ’s sacrifice for my sins, God sees me as His. He loves me because of the blood of Christ. It’s His righteousness, not mine! Because I am in Christ, I am reconciled with God. My standing with God does not change! Romans 8:1 says, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” No condemnation! What a glorious thing! So, I remind myself of grace. I remind myself of His love. I remind myself of what He did for me.
So now, let’s ask the same question as Paul did… “What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound?” (Romans 6:1) and then his answer.. ” By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it?” (verse 2). What a great question! Do we keep sinning because of grace? Of course not! We can never justify our sin because of grace! We have died to sin and come alive in Christ! Will we sin? Of course, we will battle our flesh until we are out of this earthly body! But grace, the gospel, compels us to love Him. J.C Ryle writes, “If we love a person, we like to please him. We are glad to consult his tastes and opinions, to act upon his advice and do the things which he approves… Well, it is just so between the true Christian and Christ!” When we dig deep and know grace, our heart is overflowing with love and gratitude. And when we love Christ deep, the only way to love him, we desire to obey Him!
So, my friends, let go of those chains of legalism and live your life in the grace you’re already covered in! Erase that mental check list and just spend time with your Father. Ask Him to help you break down those walls. It is still a fight for me. He is always faithful to remind me of His grace and I know He will do the same for you! He loves you abundantly!