Tag Archives: Legalism

The Kingdom or chaos

There are some “things” that are not things at all. Darkness is not some “thing,” but rather the absence of light. It’s the same with cold, (the absence of heat), hunger (the absence of food), ignorance (the absence of knowledge), and chaos (the absence of order). In the strictest sense, you can’t honestly speak of these concepts as “things” because they are each understood only by removing something which actually exists, (light, heat, food, knowledge, and order).

As far as I’m concerned, this fully answers the question of why God “created” evil. He did no such thing. God created what exists, not what doesn’t! Every thing he created was good, including Lucifer and free choice. But when Lucifer and his angels freely turned away from God and led creation into the same rebellion, humanity divorced itself from the Good, and chose to live with our backs to God, complaining with darkened minds that He had no business creating evil in the first place. We are like runaways whining about the distress of being orphans!

E. Stanley Jones points out that, “It’s either the Kingdom or Chaos.” To reject the Kingdom is to embrace disorder and confusion. Like it or not, the Creator has a meticulous plan for the way His universe will operate: Matter obeys certain laws, electricity honors other rules, as do biology, economics, agriculture, and the human heart. We marvel at natural laws and honor the way they work in the real world, yet insist on making up our own way when it comes to life and human endeavor.

The Messiah says, “There is a way home; a way to put this Humpty-Dumpty world together again.” And then He steps into Human flesh and declares, “I am It! I AM the way! I am what man was always intended to be. Follow me and lets turn this mess around again.” The world has lost it’s way. Our failure to choose the Way is a choice to remain lost. It’s a choice between something or “no-thing”, the Kingdom or chaos. For me, that’s a no-brainer.

Preaching against sin

We Christians have earned quite a reputation for making a front-and-center issue out of sin. (Let me be clear before I go further: Sin IS a serious issue. Not only does it kill and destroy, but it cost Jesus his life to free us from it’s poison).

But isn’t it curious that the Jesus of the Gospels seemed to preach so little against sin? (In the Gospel of Luke, Jesus never mentions the word “sin” even once!*) He never seemed to think it was necessary to lecture Zaccheaus about dishonesty, to confront the sinful woman about her prostitution, nor to have the good Father lecture the prodigal about his selfishness and debauchery. Instead Jesus went about inviting people into relationship, and seemingly forgiving them before they asked. “Come unto me, you who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” “Believe in me, and you will never thirst again.”

Why do we assume that preaching the gospel means hammering on sin? Indeed, is “preaching against sin” even necessary to proclaim the good news? I’m convinced our neighbors already know about their sins. They don’t need us to point out their lies, their affairs, their selfishness and addictions. Most honest people are already painfully aware of their offenses towards God. (The exception seems to be religious people, who were the ones Jesus most often addressed about the subject). What our neighbors DON’T know is the love of a Savior who accepts them right where they are, the delight of being alive and adopted into God’s family, and the hope of a Kingdom that is making all things new.

It may take awhile to rebuild our reputation, but I believe it’s past time we hang up our fixation with sin and begin offering grace to the world.

* Since posting this, one friend pointed out that it depends on the translation. I was using the New American Standard Version at the time of writing.

How to shipwreck everything

In the early days of Christianity two dangerous heresies presented themselves to the church: legalism and gnosticism.  Take your choice, either will shipwreck your faith.

Many Believers with Jewish roots embraced the lie of legalism: Jesus and the law.  Jesus clearly brought them into life through no effort of their own, but labor and laws kept the whole apparatus in motion.  It was a hamster wheel of performance with religion shouting from the sidelines, “IT’S NOT ENOUGH!  YOU MUST DO MORE!  More Bible reading!  More prayer!  More attention to witnessing!  More careful obedience to the law!”  Paul blasted the Galatians: “Are ye so foolish? having begun in the Spirit, are ye now made perfect by the flesh?”  (Gal. 3:3)  Legalism in today’s church reveals itself in endless cycles of “recommitment”.  We cry tears at the altar, make pledges and promises, beat ourselves up, and decide one more time to “do better”.  But nothing really changes because it’s an empty system of human effort and determination.

But Greek believers chose Gnosticism:  Spiritual growth meant ever deeper experiences and knowledge.  We see it today in the frantic pursuit of supernatural experiences.  “If only I can get to those meetings and fall-out under the power of the Spirit, I’ll reach a new level of spirituality.”  Hogwash!   Gnosticism, too, is a hamster wheel of chasing ever deeper experiences:  “You’ve had Holy laughter?  But have you had gold dust fall on you?”  “Oh really?  Well what about an out-of-body experience?”  And so we run from here to there following signs, wonders and experiences.  (Signs and wonders are rather to follow us, but that’s for another day!)

The key to spiritual growth is neither deeper commitment, nor endless supernatural experiences.   It is in the simple choice of believing God.  “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ… for therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith.”  (Romans 1:16-17)  Faith in what?  In the fact that Jesus has accomplished the entire work himself, and the only thing left for me to do is to believe that good news.  Everything begins and ends right there in the wonder of receiving all that God has so freely given.