We’ve all heard the buzz when a Christian leader falls into sin. A Christian organization’s false and harmful teaching is exposed. Or the government we value make hard decisions. We hear a friend slam a person or government or political issue and we can’t believe we can feel so polar opposite. It’s easy to get discouraged and wonder what is going on in the Christian world!
I don’t have answers, but I’ve done some musing on these happenings and just want to share. I’m hoping to discuss and learn together. No black and white answers, no rights and wrong decisions, just musings. Okay?
A wise sage said it best,
“There’s nothing new under the sun.” (Ecclesiastes 1:9)
I’ve sat under the teaching of a wide variety of pastors and teachers. I’ve sat through their conferences and applied many ideas, so I feel balanced in my perspective. And I realize there are two sides to every coin. On one side of programmatic teaching, there may be a grand purpose, love for God, with the intention to share ideas, but the flip side has the potential for greed, power, and pride that can accompany any man or idea.
Creating A New Tower
As I’ve matured (okay, gotten older!), I see more clearly the consequences of historical events or ideas. It’s a blend of experience and retrospect. But one thing we need to remember is that God won’t tolerate another Babel. The construction of yet another tower to help us reach Him. Programs, schools, teachers who take on idol status, churches (yep, even churches) all must come toppling down when they become more important than a total love for God and His Word. When they lack gratitude for Jesus’s redemption and the Spirit’s work.
This world and everything in it was created by and for God, and when a person or group begins teaching that following God requires more than what is taught in Scripture: more of their instruction; more work; more rules; more book study; more, more, more of anything, then we can expect the wrecking ball to come in and do its work. Pharisees and white-washed sepulchers come to mind. There is a difference between works and work, but it takes discernment!
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which on the outside appear beautiful, but inside they are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness. “So you, too, outwardly appear righteous to men, but inwardly you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness. Matthew 23:27-28
Yes, we’re shocked by what we’ve heard friends or pastors or organizations say, but we really shouldn’t be surprised. This is the stuff of the Bible. Remember David and his sin? Temptations abound and humans are sinners. We are like sheep – followers – and we often follow right into a leg trap. We can get confused about who we’re actually following. The amazing thing is that God uses it all for good, good to those who follow the Lord. Truly!
Our trials born, our hopes vanquished, our dreams ended are all good if they humble us and draw us into a sweeter relationship with our Father and our Savior.
If we will only listen to the Master, we will hear Him remind us that this life, this love, is all about and all for Him. We can have no false master, no video saviour, no false works. Only Jesus.
They love the place of honor at banquets and the chief seats in the synagogues, and respectful greetings in the market places, and being called Rabbi by men. “But do not be called Rabbi; for One is your Teacher, and you are all brothers. “Do not call anyone on earth your father; for One is your Father, He who is in heaven. “Do not be called leaders; for One is your Leader, that is, Christ. “But the greatest among you shall be your servant. “Whoever exalts himself shall be humbled; and whoever humbles himself shall be exalted. Matthew 23:6-12
Our zealousness for Christ gets us into these binds. We forget — only God has the secret recipe for grace and law. For predestination and choice. For being able to rest in Him, while at the same time, doing His work here on earth. We want the answers to how it all works together, but only He has the beautiful solution. We must simply trust. “Trust and Obey, for there’s no other way, to be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey!”
Be An Example – Imitate Christ
We, like sheep, are to follow the Shepherd, not men. In Philippians 3:17, 1 Timothy 4:12, and 1 Corinthians 11:1 we are called to imitate Paul as he imitated Christ and we are called to be an example to others. But we easily make the mistake of believing he meant more than was intended.
Paul gave specifics to living as a believer but we, like the Pharisees, have added on exacting rules for marriage, clothing, entertainment, music, food, and child training. Remember Paul also tells us to not worry about whether one eats meat or not? The example he calls us to follow and to be for others is in how we live, and move, and have our being. He was calling us to live and love and serve like Jesus. The example was to love and serve the Master, with our actions being an outflow of that love.
And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us, for ‘In him we live and move and have our being’…. Acts 17:26-28
Oh, how we want a pattern, a recipe for success in our marriages, our child-raising, our finances! We pine for and grab onto the latest and greatest idea to get there. But Jesus has so many incredible words for us if we will only listen….“I am the way. I am the truth and the life. Listen to Me. Obey Me. Follow Me. Have my Love. Have My joy. The truth will set you free.” Only He has the perfect recipe.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying to go it on our own! We were built for community. We need to hear and follow the example of others who can help us in our Christian walk, BUT….there’s a red flag when those external actions become our central focus rather than a heart devoted to God.
This is only the tip of the iceberg on this topic. There are so many nuances and deeper issues we can chew on and think through.
- What is legalism?
- How do we do the work of a Christian without letting it replace Jesus’ work?
- When to let grace abound and when to move forward and seek hard for answers?
It’s important to discuss these issues. It’s so easy to get off track.
It’s way too easy to follow. Even for me, a self-imposed rebel, but like I’ve shared before, I’m really just an independent thinker! Following the crowd caused me to view myself and my questions as rebellious. God wants my independent heart devoted solely to Him. He calls me to hear His voice, pause to consider His ways, and follow Christ.
It’s okay to listen to preachers, teachers, and other Christians; really hear what they are saying, but always study Scripture and pray for wisdom before taking a step in following their example. Believe that faith in Christ alone will bring salvation. Not by my works. Not by my might, not by the hair on my chinny, chin chin! By faith alone!
So I guess I’m a rebel for Jesus. Writing this post helps me to work through the complexities of truth and lies I’ve heard over the years; discovering the line between legalism and the work of a Christian. And if my writing helps only one of you to see through this fog, then my work was worth it!
More on this subject soon.
Brethren, join in following my example, and observe those who walk according to the pattern you have in us. Philippians 3:17
Let no one look down on your youthfulness, but rather in speech, conduct, love, faith and purity, show yourself an example of those who believe. 1 Timothy 4:12
Be imitators of me, just as I also am of Christ. 1 Corinthians 11:1