Moving Past Legalism

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I asked my oldest son to listen to my last post, “Orthopraxy.” He decided I needed to write a book on how grace became real to me. That seems huge and slightly boring.

Okay…a LOT boring. But he did make me think.

The first time I heard someone tell me I needed to give myself a healthy dose of grace was when I requested a psychiatric evaluation from Dr. Frank Minirth. You see, I had burned out from giving, giving, giving to the church.  I didn’t know how to say no and didn’t want to disappoint God.  If He was opening the door for so many opportunities, wasn’t I to walk through? 

Now I know, I had an underlying belief not based upon scripture: I must prove my love for Him.  My upbringing would not allow me to rest.  I thought my good works were proof of my commitment.   I would do whatever I imagined He asked without complaint.  I would be poured out as a drink offering just like Paul. 

Can you hear unrealistically high expectations and the personal severity in those sentences? 

I felt I must prove…I was not allowed to rest…I would do whatever…I would be poured out… 

I got in the way. Perfectionistic legalism had been my taskmaster, and although I’d learned the truth of His word, I didn’t understand how my sense of duty was getting in the way.

Duty before devotion leads to legalism and self-righteousness. 

But His yoke is easy and His burden is light. All who are weary and heavy-laden are to come to Him and find rest for their souls.

He became our sacrifice because the Law (the list of rules) could NOT save us

If I believed His sacrifice was enough, then why was I trying to add to it?  If I return to orthopraxy (right living for salvation) I have trampled on the blood of Christ.  I’m trying to add to a work which is completePerfectOnce for all.

“But, Michelle,” you ask, “aren’t we told to do good works?”

Yes.  We are.  The ones He’s prepared beforehand that we should do.  NOT the ones we imagine we are to do to gain kudos from Him.

Some works are completely from the flesh and others are from the Spirit.  Only those works which are from the Spirit will make it through the fire at the Judgment Seat of Christ.  The works from the flesh will be burned like wood, hay, or straw.  If I can pat myself on the back for what I believe I’ve done for Him, that’s all the kudos I’m going to get.  The works of the Spirit may not even be discernible this side of heaven.  Sometimes they appear so good to those of us who only see flesh, we imagine we’re doing wonderful things for God.  But the motives, which only God sees, will be revealed.

Before, I was taking the work on myself, imagining I was causing Jesus to be happiest with me.  Hoping He would love me more, because I wasn’t really sure His love extended to me.  And when I couldn’t do it (keep up the work) anymore, I felt I had let Him down.  And now what would I do???

Trust His work, not mine…

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4 responses »

  1. Thank you, m’am. It’s taken a lifetime (well, 40+ years) to get some things learned. I’m so glad He promises to complete it all. Love you!

  2. Learning to say no can be one of the hardest tasks to learn, especially for someone as caring as you Michelle, and when I read your blog I see a very caring person.

    I don’t believe we need to be given a reward to do good works. My faith is that this is part of our nature.

    My understanding of Christian doctrine is, as you say, that good works will not in it’s self bring the Christ Follower the reward of Heaven. My perception is that for the CF the only thing that will make Jesus unhappy is if you stop listening to your soul. Listen to your soul and you will do good works.

    The great reward for doing good works is to make the world better, and this will make you feel better about yourself.

    I am an egotist. Nothing makes me feel better about myself than to help someone. That this may make the world better is a bonus.

  3. Hey, Ed! You said:

    “My understanding of Christian doctrine is, as you say, that good works will not in it’s self bring the Christ Follower the reward of Heaven. My perception is that for the CF the only thing that will make Jesus unhappy is if you stop listening to your soul. Listen to your soul and you will do good works.”

    It’s interesting to me that in scripture many times soul and spirit are so intricately woven that it’s difficult to discern which is which. I love the verse that says, “For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any double-edged sword, piercing even to the point of dividing soul from spirit, and joints from marrow; it is able to judge the desires and thoughts of the heart.”

    This tells me we can get very confused about what is leading us, and I think legalism may fall into that confused place. Without reading God’s Word and listening to His Spirit we will, inevitably, follow our own way.

    Thanks so much for your encouraging words, Ed. You always help me to feel I’ve been heard. 🙂

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