Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Legalism vs. Grace

In other words, 
legalism is our rulebook for living. It is our formula for success—if I just follow these rules then everything is supposed to be ok. If you struggle with an eating disorder, your rules become your life.  A way that you can measure how you did that day. To determine whether or not something is good or bad or if YOU are good or bad. Legalism causes us to live in the black and white. But is that how life really works? NO. Life is messy. It doesn’t fit into the black box or the white box because other people don’t follow our rules and that becomes the source of great anxiety for many of us.

You could argue, what about God’s rules, like the Ten commandments, surely those are black and white and must be followed. Yes, we must heed God’s commands but if we stay stuck in the rules we run the risk of becoming like the Pharisees where the rule following is only for outward display, not an inward gesture of the heart.  God doesn’t say “Follow these rules and you’ll get into heaven”. NO. Salvation is a FREE gift. Undeserved. So why are we so caught up in our rules?

I think many of us can agree that salvation is a free gift, but maybe we feel we don’t deserve it.  If we view God as legalistic, then it is logical that we would view ourselves in the same way—defining our self worth by means of our adherence to the law.  Maybe we think we’ve fallen too far for God to save us? Or that we are continuous failures, that its all or nothing, and that we never measure up? So we cling to legalism, rigid rules, to somehow purify us or to try fill the emptiness of our hearts. 

Colossians 2:20-23
20 Since you died with Christ to the elemental spiritual forces of this world, why, as though you still belonged to the world, do you submit to its rules: 21 “Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!”? 22 These rules, which have to do with things that are all destined to perish with use, are based on merely human commands and teachings. 23 Such regulations indeed have an appearance of wisdom, with their self-imposed worship, their false humility and their harsh treatment of the body, but they lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence.

But God isn’t a God of legalism. He is a God of grace.

Grace is God’s free and unmerited favor for sinful humanity. 

Romans 3:23-24 “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus."

God loves you regardless of what you’ve done in the past or what you did today.  Legalism gives the illusion of control, order, symmetry, something by which to evaluate your performance.  But grace doesn’t give a measure, just love.  It forces you to accept your imperfections and it takes changing them out of your hands and puts it back into God’s hands.  That is SCARY isn’t it?  You have to trust that what God has in store for you is better than what you can come up with on your own. 

Romans 8:35, 38-39
35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? 38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, [b] neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Judy Halliday in Thin Within “In the case of those who struggle with disordered eating, the standard of legalism might be to be “thin” to achieve a certain weight at all costs or the belief that when we “lose weight” life will be perfect and we will be free from all our problems. When we adopt external methods to constrain our behavior, we are buying the lie that victory can be won with our self-will.  While “losing weight’ might result in an immediate increase in our sense of self-worth and value, it is temporary and does not change the deep-rooted feeling that we are irredeemably flawed nor does it satisfy our silent hunger for intimacy with God…striving for perfection, we are living the lie that we can make ourselves more acceptable to ourselves, to others and to God if we just follow the letter of the law.  Under grace we are free to turn to God as we really are, free to learn from our mistakes, free to change and grow and free to allow him to help us to become all he intends us to be.”

So who is in control when you let grace reign?  NOT YOU! God! We can’t turn to external things to cope with our struggles like controlling our eating or not eating. We need to turn to God. We need to give Him our brokenness, our fears, our shame, our grief, our relationships.  Only God can set us free from the inside out. Other coping mechanisms get us stuck in a cycle of destruction and despair. 

Are you ready to leave legalism behind and start living by grace?

Saturday, January 2, 2016

Burn Bright

Natalie Grant's song Burn Bright reminds us of God's promises to us when we feel broken and tired on our journey. God promises to bestow a crown of beauty for ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair (Isaiah 61:3). She reminds us that when we feel we cannot even take another step of how we just need to run into the arms of Jesus.