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Showing posts with the label #Legalism

When Christians won’t even let you think.

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Some Christians get awfully dogmatic.Dogma is another word for doctrine, Christianity’s fixed ideas or official beliefs. It’s an old-timey word, so you tend to only hear dogmain older churches, or used to refer to that one movie about fallen angels who try to take advantage of a dogmatic loophole. But while the adjective doctrinal tends to mean “deals with doctrine,” dogmatic tends to mean “demands we follow doctrine.” Dogmatists are the doctrine police of Christendom.And while the older churches have a settled, limited, fixed number of dogmas… certain Christians kinda crank out a new doctrine every week.Fr’instance this one Texas pastor I know; I’ll call him Alfons. He has a newsletter called “These Doctrines,” in which Alfons goes over all the things he expects the Christians of his church—and really, Christians everywhere—to believe. For the most part they’re typical Fundamentalist principles: God’s a trinity, Jesus is both God and human, Mary was a virgin when she gave birth to hi…

Proselytism: Don’t force Jesus upon people!

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PROSELYTIZE'prɑs(.ə).lət.aɪzverb. (Try to) convert someone from one belief to another.[Proselyte 'prɑs.ə.laɪtnoun, proselytism 'prɑs(.ə).lət.ɪz.əmnoun.]From time to time, when we Christians share the good news of Christ Jesus with other people, we get accused of “proselytizing.”It’s one of those words which, to quote Inigo Montoya from The Princess BrideGiphyProperly, to proselytize means as we see in the definition above: You’re trying to convert someone. And you’ve not made it an option: They must become Christian. They will become Christian. You’re gonna try every tactic you can to make it so. You’ll promise outrageous things, you’ll fudge a few details, you’ll threaten ’em with hell. Whatever it takes.Forced conversions, hard sales pitches, and death threats (and hell threats) are all definitely forms of proselytism. Is that really what we’re doing?Well… sometimes it is. And it should never be. God’s kingdom runs on grace, and if our presentation of the gospel ever tu…

Cults: When churches go very, very wrong.

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CULTkəltnoun. A religion centered on one particular individual or figurehead.2. A group (usually small) whose religious beliefs and practices are outside the norm: Too controlling, too strange, too devilish.3. A misplaced devotion to a particular person or thing.4. A heretic Christian church.[Cultic 'kəl.tɪkadjective, cultish 'kəl.tɪʃadjective, cultism 'kəl.tiz.əmnoun.]I throw this word “cult” around a lot, so I’d better define it. First, what other folks mean by “cult,” all of which are included in the above definition:Sociologists, anthropologists, and other social scientists whose job descriptions end in -ist, tend to use definition #1: A cult is any religion with a guru in charge. And technically Christianity falls under this definition, ’cause we got Jesus.Popular culture leans towards definition #2: A cult is a creepy religion. If it weirds them out in any way, they call it a cult. Even if it’s Christianity. If we trust Jesus a little too much for their comfort, they…

Jesus takes out the Law’s curse.

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Galatians 3.10-20.So the legalists among the Galatians (and legalists today) thought of the Law as how we get right with God: We obey his commands, and because we’ve racked up all that good karma, we’re righteous and God owes us heaven. Problem is, God works by grace, and if we were hoping to be justified by merit, the Law indicates we have no such merit. We’ve broken the Law repeatedly. We got nothing. We’re cursed.But we weren’t meant to be righteous by obeying the Law. Righteousness comes through faith in God. Through trusting Jesus’s self-sacrifice. Through the good news that God’s kingdom has come near.God promised Abraham he’d bless the world—both Abraham’s “seed,” his descendants; and the gentiles, all the non-Hebrews not descended from Abraham—through Abraham. Ge 12.3, 18.18, 22.18, Ga 3.8Pharisees presumed God’s 613 commandments was this blessing: If only the world would follow the Law, they could be blessed! But Paul recognized this makes no logical sense. Because Abraham wa…

Legalism versus grace.

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LEGALISM'li.gəl.iz.əmnoun. Excessive adherence to law or formula.2. Dependence on law or merit, instead of grace and faith, for righteousness before God and salvation.[Legalist 'li.gəl.istnoun.]The absence of grace is legalism: Subtract the optimistic attitude, the forgiveness which should immediately follow when we slip up, the trust that God can take care of the details and manage our biggest messes. It’s when people figure yeah, God saves, but he only cares to save those who merit it with our good karma.Most Christians are aware legalism is the wrong route to God. The evangelists drummed the idea into our heads pretty early: Salvation is through grace and nothing else. We can’t earn salvation; we shouldn’t try. If we try, we’re kinda trying to do an end-run around God and the system he set up, which is for Jesus to take out our sins. And the only reason we’d wanna do an end-run around God is pride, sin, delusion, or some other evil or self-centered motive. Don’t be that way…

How’d you go from grace to legalism?

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Galatians 3.1-4.Because humans are selfish, we’d honestly prefer the world work to our satisfaction: We get maximum output with minimal effort, or get freebies and special favor, and who cares whether everybody else does; and if others wrong us, we take it out of ’em sevenfold. But on humanity’s better days, we’re willing to accept reciprocity and karma. In fact we look at karma as an ideal: It’s fair. It’s just. Everybody gets what they deserve. It’s considered right and moral, and it’s even upheld in many a religion. Even ours. Eye for eye, tooth for tooth, and all that.Ex 21.24 God forbade satisfaction and revenge, ’cause we always go way too far. But reciprocity’s acceptable.Of course I remind you God’s personal practice, his ideal for his followers, is grace. Is for us to not be fair, but generous and forgiving in other people’s favor. He’s gracious to us, so we need to be gracious to others. ’Cause if we don’t pay it forward, he’ll actually stop.Problem is, humanity uplifts karm…

By Law we’re good as dead. So live for Jesus.

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Galatians 2.14-21.To recap: Simon Peter (whom Paul calls Κηφᾶς/Kifás in this passage, ’cause that’s his Aramaic name כיפא/KifáJn 1.42), in a lapse of judgment, was segregating himself from gentiles. Paul objected ’cause Peter’s motivation wasn’t based on the gospel, but on legalism: We’re not right with God, nor saved, because we obey the Law. We’re right by trusting God, and only by trusting God.Galatians 2.14-16 KWL14 But when I saw they weren’t orthodox with the gospel’s truth, I spoke to Kifa in front of everyone:“If you Jews live gentile, not ‘Jewish,’ why do you obligate gentiles to live ‘Jewish’?15 We’re naturally Jews, not gentile sinners:16We know people aren’t right with God by working the Law. It’s through trusting Christ Jesus.We put our trust in Christ Jesus so we can be right with God through a faith in Christ.Not in working the Law: No flesh is right with God by working the Law.”Peter knew this stuff already, but that’s the thing about legalism: We’ll get so fixated on…