I was 14 the first time I was introduced to the poison that is causing Christianity as a whole to become weak in America. I believe that it is flooding and killing our churches. “You can’t hang out with her, she wears pants, and she’s worldly” is how I remember hearing it. I was a 14 year old little girl, who had been in church her entire life (but was not saved yet), completely naive to this concept of “worldliness” and “legalism.” Too young to understand the condemning spirit that exists within people who claim to be the hands, the feet, and the mouths of Jesus; and to be able to separate it from how Jesus actually sees me. I was so oblivious to the battle that would rage on within me for years to come. And if I’m being honest, probably the largest struggle I face within myself on a day to day basis to date.
Let me preface this by saying, legalism and conviction are not the same thing. I know some dear, God fearing people, that have loved me well and have likely prayed for me more than any other human being on this planet; who live very strict, very conservative lifestyles–but they are the exception, not the rule. They are the ones who can welcome the “sinner” into their homes without making them feel judged or unloved, because they don’t live the same way. These are the people who will sit in an alter and pray with you for hours on end, just to hear from God, because they love you and believe in the power of prayer. They are the ones you can call at 3 am when you are battling Satan in a way that the average “everyday Christian” won’t understand. For these people I am eternally grateful.
But… For everything God ordains, there is a counterfeit. Legalism is the counterfeit to conviction. I’ve spent the majority of my saved life (10, almost 11 years) in constant comparison to someone. I’ve lived my life wanting to be someone else, because I was not ever good enough. In my mind, it didn’t matter what I did, I was/am still that worldly little girl that “real christians” shouldn’t hang out with. I’ve spent 10 years begging God to tell me to do a, b, or c, just so that I could fit in somewhere, just so I could be like these people. I have longed so deeply to be a part of these certain groups of people only to be left feeling condemned or unworthy. What is really bothersome to me though, is that I don’t believe most people intentionally make others feel this way. At least I hope they don’t. I believe legalism takes root in the mind and eventually penetrates the heart, and a person becomes so bound by this chain of legalism that they genuinely believe their doing good for a lost world. It’s been within the last year or so that God has began drawing a line in the sand between conviction and legalism, so I’m still learning.
Conviction is powerful thing. It permeates your soul, your thoughts, your heart, your spirit. Conviction will bring forth change if we’re seeking the holy spirit. It will light the path to Heaven. There is no denying it’s source. You see, if the God of the universe is powerful enough to open a sinner’s eyes to the fact that we need a savior, HE is certainly powerful enough to bring conviction into a person’s like to make them more like HIM.
Legalism puts God in a box, where we, as HIS children, are unable to relate to or love completely those who are different from us. It isolates us from the rest of the world. Granted, we are called to be in this world, but not of it, but, we are also called to be the salt of the earth and the city on a hill. God’s Word does not contradict itself. It is inspired, holy, pure, unadulturated truth. Here is where people like to argue the whole “we don’t have the original bible in its language, we have man’s interpretation of it.” I agree with this to a point, BUT, God’s word is truth. All of it. God is sovereign enough to give us the parts we need to make it to Eternity– through Jesus. Either you believe the Bible in it’s entirety or you don’t. We cannot pick through which parts we want to apply to us and which we do not. To do so, would be to cheapen the gospel and weaken it’s foundation. We must read it and try to understand the significance of what we do have and how to apply it to winning souls to Jesus.
Now back to my point, God does not need me to try and fix the sinners I come in contact with, mainly because I am one of them. He does not need me to point out their many failures or struggles. He does not need me to explain to them how to dress like Jesus, talk like Jesus, walk like Jesus, and smell like Jesus. When did loving Jesus become about a list of rules? When did it become about what I can do in my power to be different. The pharisees looked at scripture that way. As did the sadducees. The disciples, however, did not. Collossians 2 talks about how we as Christians do not have the strength to will ourselves to righteousness (trust me, I’ve tried). Instead, we must be led by the Holy Spirit. The New Testament is full of truths about grace and mercy. It’s the story of the bridge God created for us to Eternity. It’s beautiful, and it’s simple. The gospel is so simple.
>>Jesus came and lived a perfect life. Fully God. Fully man. We were/are/will always be sinners and could not make it Heaven. So He DIED for us- a propitiation for our sins. He took our punishment. He took our debt, our death, and He DEFEATED IT. Why? Because He loves you. He loves me. He loves all of us. EVERY. LAST. ONE. of us! He died so that we can live, but only if we accept HIM as our savior and CHOOSE to have a relationship with HIM. <<
Relationships require sacrifice. They require change. When you get saved, things should be different. The way you dress should be modest. The way you speak should be upright, pure, and gentle. The way you behave, should be proof of a heart change. To be alive in Christ is to die to ourselves. When we become saved, we become a new creation- one that yearns to be like Jesus and to live for HIM– but that can look different for different people. We are all called to reach someone, somewhere, in some stage of life. Who are we to decide, what “rules” our brother or sister should be following, when we truly have no idea what or where the Lord is leading them? When did we stop trusting God to be God and change his people? He changed me, and if you’re reading this, I hope He’s changed you. If you’re truly saved, then you’ve seen, felt, and tasted the power of God, so why do forget that HE is still able to change hearts, and trust Him to do so? Maybe we should just focus on loving each other. Honor the standards that God has set forth in His word for your life. Ask God to convict you in the areas where you may be falling short or legalistic, and let us, as the Church, just preach the Gospel. We focus so much on our doctrines and our perception of scripture, that people are dying and going to Hell, because they feel they’ll never measure up to the standards that many are shouting in the name of Jesus. Hold each other accountable to God, but instead of focusing on all of the outward, Let’s start shouting to the world that JESUS LOVES YOU. YOU ARE WORTHY. YOU ARE UNDERSTOOD. YOU ARE WELCOME HERE. WE LOVE YOU! If we can “catch em’, God can clean em’.” I am still convinced that love will always defeat hatred. Right will always defeat wrong. Light will Always defeat darkness, and GOD WILL ALWAYS DEFEAT SATAN.
We need to get over ourselves and learn to put our personal convictions in their rightful place (HONOR YOUR CONVICTIONS ALWAYS, but do so while loving others), and figure out a way to love a lost, hopeless world to Jesus. If we can’t do that, we must reexamine those convictions and find the foundation of them, because it we are professing Christians, then that foundation should be God, which according to scripture, is the definition and meaning of LOVE.