Christian Stereotypes: Legalism

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For a lot of people – when they think of Christianity or “Religion” in general – they think RULES.  Their thoughts automatically go to the things you have to do to join that “club” or “Church.”  How you have to dress a certain way, talk a certain way, appear to have it all together, and have a certain record or past.  The word for all of these rules and hoops to jump through would be LEGALISM.

Legalism is a common complaint about Churches or Christians.  I know as a student Pastor when I have to “lay down the law of the land” when we go to camp or have an event (i.e. No bikinis/speedos, no cell phones, no guys in girls dorms and girls in guys dorms, drugs, alcohol, weapons, etc) that all the students are shutting down because “THE MAN” is trying to bring them down….

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And if we are being honest – when we see the Bible or Open it’s pages – this is what we see – A RULE BOOK for Life and a bunch of things to Do and Not to Do in this life.

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GOD AND HIS RULES

Perception is reality in most cases.  When people read the Bible they see a God of rules.  Who told Adam & Eve what they had to abstain from.  Who gave moses the 10 Commandments.  Who told the Israelites how to “keep clean” and the exact measurements of the Temple and how should they worship Him.  Then we get to the New Testament and Jesus is telling people how they should act and telling them to sell everything to follow Him and even tells them to “obey everything I have commanded you” in the Great Commandment.  Finally, Paul and other writers are telling the Church how to live this Christian Life in the best way.

Wow – so many rules and guidelines.

That’s one perspective – but ARE WE MISSING THE POINT?

It’s easy for us to get caught up in the rules and the to dos and even transfer that to our own Churches and set the precedent (even without saying the rules out loud) that you have to act a certain way, BEHAVE a certain way, look a certain way to be a part of us.

We want our kids to “Be Good” and have good “Morals” over seeing them enter into a sanctifying relationship with Jesus Christ (which isn’t so Cut and Dry).

So what are we missing?

THE GOSPEL

When we put too much emphasis on Rules – we in turn put too much emphasis on Ourselves.  It is up to US to do this and that to get to belong to a Community or a Church, it is up to US to do good works, it is up to US to look the part, it is up to US to worship well and pray enough and read the Bible more.  But that is NOT the Gospel.  The Gospel KNOWS that we are not very good at being good.  That “All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23).  That “it is by GRACE we have been saved, through FAITH – and that is not from US, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9)

So can we stop playing the RULES game and get back to submitting to the Gospel?

Can we get away from the Religion and get back to the Relationship?  Go from trying to look clean to realizing that we have been made clean?  Go from the burden of trying to do it on our own to the blessing of knowing that it has already been done for us?  Go from the hardship and heartache of failing to be “good enough” to realize the HOPE that we have in Jesus because He was perfect and died a perfect death for us?

“For I delight in loyalty rather than sacrifice, And in the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings.”
Hosea 6:6

“More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ, and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith”
Philippians 3:8-9

KNOW GOD.  KNOW WHAT GOD DID FOR YOU.  MAKE GOD KNOWN.

God has ALWAYS cared about your Heart.  He wants your heart to beat for Him – not to be veiled by guilt or shame or expectations from man.  Fall in love with Jesus, because He already loves you unconditionally.

**If you want further information on how Jesus really feels about “Legalists and Religious Rule Followers -read Matthew 23:13-39**

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