A friend of mine, a godly and generous individual, had a hit piece written about her/him concerning a type of recreational activity this person enjoys. That opinion piece was then jumped upon by a blogger who called for businesses to no longer buy/sell this person’s product … without ever contacting the person in question to get her/his side of the story. Some comments online would make your blood turn cold. Whatever happened to “they will know we are Christians by our love?”
It all boils down to legalism, pure and simple. And legalism is a sin!
It ought not to be this way.
But it was because of the false brethren secretly brought in, who had sneaked in to spy out our liberty which we have in Christ Jesus, in order to bring us into bondage. (Galatians 2:4, NASB95)
It grieves me when I see things like this happen in the body of Christ. Something I learned many years ago is that when there is no specific instruction in Scripture under the New Covenant about something (for or against it), then there is liberty and each Christian must listen for the instruction from God for him/her. If God tells you that you shouldn’t ever drink wine or other alcohol, then for you to do so would be a sin. But it doesn’t become a sin for your brother or sister in Christ to have a glass of wine just because you were told not to. (My friend’s story has nothing to do with alcohol. That is just my example.) A more spiritual example would be baptism and fasting. We are told to be baptized. We are not commanded to fast, although it is good for us to do so as a spiritual discipline (and we are given many examples of it).
Why do so many believers fall into legalism? Two reasons, I think. (1) They don’t know the whole of Scripture. They don’t study it for themselves or interpret Scripture with Scripture. They have a very narrow focus on a very few passages in the Bible and make an entire doctrine about a line or two. Trust me, believers and unbelievers alike can twist what the Bible says into some mighty wrong rules by taking them out of context. And speaking of rules (2), it is so much easier to follow them than it is to hear the Shepherd’s voice and obey.
Some men came down from Judea and began teaching the brethren, “Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved.” (Acts 15:1, NASB95)
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Believers, beware this phrase: Unless you [insert something that must be done or must not be done] you cannot be saved. Saying those words diminishes the grace of God. Salvation is by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone. And sanctification, which follows salvation, is worked out one day at a time throughout the rest of one’s life; it is a very personal journey, unlike anyone else’s.
I’m reading the Book of Acts right now, and in this morning’s reading, I came to this verse:
For David, after he had served the purpose of God in his own generation, fell asleep, and was laid among his fathers …. (Acts 13:36, NASB95)
God has a purpose for each one of us. It is no accident that any of us are living in 2013. We were born for such a time as this. One of my pastors often said we must discover the will of God and then do it for all we’re worth.
My friend has impacted people around the globe for Christ. She/he is serving God’s purpose for her/him in this generation. She/he will go on serving God’s purpose, despite what’s happened, and when she/he goes to glory (I hope a long while from now), she/he will hear, “Well done, good and faithful servant. Enter into the joy of your master.”
Following rules won’t get that for anybody. Walking and living as a disciple of Christ, loving Him with all of one’s heart, soul, mind, and strength, and loving one’s neighbor is what it takes to finish well.