A Liberal Order That Seeks To Shut Down Christian Charities Doesn’t Deserve To Survive

Christian post-liberals on the right have seen how readily the liberal center-left and the Chamber-of-Commerce right surrender to the extreme and illiberal left. It makes them wonder: Why not us?

A Liberal Order That Seeks To Shut Down Christian Charities Doesn’t Deserve To Survive

Dec 26, 2019

It is a basic Christian teaching that good works are insufficient for spiritual salvation. We should also remember they are unlikely to suffice for cultural and political salvation either.

Chick-fil-A’s abandonment of The Salvation Army is yesterday’s news, but its lessons should be remembered, for they explain our cultural and political trajectory. That the chicken chain capitulated even though everyone was “eating mor chikin” is instructive regarding the power of the LBGT lobby and its allies. That they directed this power against a Christian organization dedicated to feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, and sheltering the homeless — including those who identify as LGBT — is even more instructive.

It exemplifies how hard-liners are driving the cultural left. It is not clear that a majority even of those who identity as LGBT hate The Salvation Army. For example, Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg volunteered for the organization (albeit for a photo op) a couple of years back. Now he is facing criticism from LGBT activists, as those running the movement want total victory, not coexistence. And they are winning.

The campaign included government officials from Buffalo, New York, to San Antonio, Texas, retaliating against Chick-fil-A for its support of The Salvation Army. Even without full control over the government, the left has been aggressive in its use of government power against Christians who believe traditional teachings on human sexuality. The left seems to target particularly those engaged in charitable work, rather than protecting them on account of their good works.

The left’s legal wing is trying to compel Christian hospitals to perform abortions and sex-change surgeries, Christian schools to affirm same-sex relationships, and Christian charities such as women’s shelters to pretend men can be women. A purportedly serious Democratic presidential candidate wanted to tax dissenting Christian organizations, including churches, into oblivion.

The left won’t even spare elderly nuns. When the Trump administration ended Barack Obama’s legal campaign against the Little Sisters of the Poor, various Democratic attorneys general made a point of continuing that unholy effort.

The Rise of Post-Liberal Christianity

This should not surprise us. Jesus promised that the powers of this world would hate his followers, not that they would love us if we were virtuous. While we Christians should always strive to be more like Christ, we should not succumb to a quasi-Pelagianism that presumes our winsomeness determines how others receive the gospel. Christ himself was crucified, and the grace and charity many martyrs exemplified did not save them from persecution unto death.

But that we should expect trouble in this world does not mean we should be disinterested regarding politics, nor does it excuse governments that oppose the church and oppress its people. That our nation seems to be starting down this path has intensified Christian reconsiderations of liberal political theory. Although our government ostensibly protects the freedoms of religion, association, and speech, procedural liberalism increasingly appears insufficient to protect our rights or to ensure a culture of tolerance and pluralism that includes Christians who maintain the traditional teachings of our faith.

The supposedly neutral principles of the legal left consistently restrict the rights and opportunities of orthodox Christians, and the left always pushes the envelope. Christian litigators should, of course, do their best to defend our rights, and thank God for their efforts, but it should be no surprise that more and more Christians are intrigued by varieties of post-liberal thinking, including previously marginalized ideas such as Catholic integralism. It is understandable that Christians are turning against the system of liberal democratic capitalism as it turns against them.

Post-liberal Christians are unlikely to find their minority status daunting, for they see that minorities can win if they are determined and the institutions they face are weak and full of cowards. After all, a minority of hard-line leftists control cultural, economic, and political pressure points that grant them power far beyond their numbers.

For example, the 2020 Democratic field is so radically pro-abortion that even The New York Times has noticed. The Democratic Party stands for abortion today, abortion tomorrow, and abortion forever, as Sen. Elizabeth Warren illustrated in promising that at her inauguration — angels and ministers of grace defend us! — she will wear swag to rep the nation’s largest abortion chain.

Christian post-liberals on the right have seen how readily the liberal center-left and the Chamber-of-Commerce right surrender to the extreme and illiberal left and wonder: Why not us? A decadent and despairing culture with weak institutions and degraded elites is precisely the sort that a determined minority might govern.

Thus, they see an opportunity as our culture disintegrates despite its wealth and technological prowess. Liberal individualism seems to be devouring itself: Fertility is down, loneliness and depression have increased, and deaths of despair from suicide, drugs, and alcohol are way up.

Should Liberalism Be Preserved?

Perhaps it is time to be bold and reorder society toward the highest good, rather than accepting liberalism’s dishonest promises of “live and let live” neutrality. As some post-liberal thinkers note, we increasingly live in a non-Christian integralist society that mandates belief in sectarian dogmas, such as the mystical belief that a man may become — indeed, may already be — a woman. Therefore, they see the alternative to post-liberal Christian politics not as liberalism, but as some sort of post-Christian illiberal politics.

I am sympathetic to some of the post-liberal thought developing on the right. I see the appeal, especially as liberalism’s promise of legal neutrality is exposed as so much fiction. I share many of the critiques of liberal political theory and find its discourse far more interesting than the stale talking points of neoliberals and neoconservatives.

But I am neither Catholic nor Calvinist enough to be much of an integralist, and I remain more skeptical of the likelihood of governmental efficacy and rectitude than many post-liberals seem to be. I also remain attached to many liberal practices, such as the right to trial by jury.

I am, in short, still thinking over these matters and am not entirely in either camp. From this in-between, I would recommend post-liberal thinkers reflect on the frailty and fallibility of human institutions. I also suggest that the defenders of liberal democratic capitalism take the critiques of post-liberals seriously. A liberal order that seeks to shut down Christian charities for nonconformist views on human sexuality does not deserve to survive.

Nathanael Blake is a Senior Contributor at The Federalist. He has a PhD in political theory. He lives in Missouri.

https://thefederalist.com/2019/12/26/a-liberal-order-that-seeks-to-shut-down-christian-charities-doesnt-deserve-to-survive/

Mighty Warrior

by Discerning Dad

Judges 6:12“When the angel of the Lord appeared to Gideon, he said, “The Lord is with you, mighty warrior.”

I struggle to know if I am moving in God’s calling in my life.  After all, days turn into months and years and the grind is real.  Who am I that God can use?  My past, my sin, my fear, my doubts are all reasons for why I am not qualified.  God couldn’t possibly use someone like me, look at what other people are doing in God’s name, look at the ministries, the salvations, the miracles… how can I measure up?

Let’s take a look at Gideon, he was a mighty warrior for God and one of the most famous of Israel’s judges. If you look at when God called him, he was not even close to who we think of him today.  God first saw him and called him a “mighty warrior.” Why? Had he won battles yet? Had he defeated Israel’s enemies yet? No… but God saw him for what he could become, he called this out of him before Gideon even believed it. In fact the next verse (13) Gideon answers the angel by saying “Pardon me, my lord, but if the Lord is with us, why has all this happened to us? Where are all his wonders that our ancestors told us about…. But now the Lord has abandoned us and given us into the hand of Midian.”  God responds to this by saying “Go in thestrength you have and save Israel out of Midian’s hand.  Am I not sending you?”  God shut down Gideon’s doubts pretty fast, Gideon is overcome by his circumstances and basically tells God that He abandoned them, he says this directly to God’s angel, talk about being bold!  God responding with “Am I not sending you”, as in- I know what I am doing, I chose you for a reason if you were to but act upon it and believe it.

This should have been enough right?  I mean, if God told you directly that he was sending you, would you obey?  Or would you come up with excuses? Take a look at Gideon’s NEXT response in verse 15 “But how can I save Israel? My clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my family.” Gideon still had excuses, he refused to believe God knew who he was calling and tried to correct God by telling him where he came from.  The Lord then responded “I will be with you,” as if to say, none of your past matters, I am calling you into a mighty future.  The rest of the chapter is Gideon asking for signs from God to confirm even more what has already been spoken.

You have to give Gideon credit for his boldness in the face of God, he was worried that he couldn’t be a mighty warrior for God and yet here he is, in front of the creator of the universe, telling Him how He is wrong.  I find it interesting too that God allowed Gideon to express his fears and concerns without giving up on him, he came through on Gideon’s asking for a sign and did not go and choose someoneelse.  God knew what he was doing and God knew why he called Gideon.  Fast-forward some verses and Gideon destroys Israelites enemies and fulfills what God spoke over him as a “mighty warrior.”

It’s been said that God doesn’t call those equipped but equips those he calls…

What does God’s calling look like on your life?  Have you been walking faithfully in it or have you been running away from it because you are not “qualified.” What I have seen in my life is that following through on God’s calling is taking small steps and saying “YES” to God, in whatever that may be, big or small.  God is patient and wants to hear your fears and doubts. He may not always answer a “fleece” (v.39) we put before him, but he will always encourage us and always sees us for who we really are and the“mighty warrior” we can become!

Discerning Reflection: What is the reason I use for why I “can’t” do something God is calling me to do? What have I said YES to that has turned out to be a blessing to me or someone else?

Prayer- God, help me see myself as you see me. Help me walk in the calling you have placed on my life, however big or small it may be.  Help me not use excuses from my past as to why I can’t but give me boldness and guide my steps.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Tim Ferrara

 

 

TBT- Mighty Warrior

Choosing To Forgive

by Discerning Dad

“Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which bind them all together in perfect unity.” Colossians 3:13-14 NIV

Most Christians will agree that forgiveness is the right thing to do, after all there are over 100 verses in the Bible that talk about forgives or forgiving others. And yet, forgiving other people can be extremely hard to do. It seems to come easily for children, I know that my children will quickly forgive each other and move on about their day. They never bring up infractions from a week, month, or year ago! Why does this get harder to do as people move into adulthood? As you become adults, the wrongs levied against you become more severe, we build up walls over time, and we can analyze a scenario to judge if someone is deserving of our forgiveness.

A recent Barna study (1) among practicing Christians said that:

76% offered unconditional forgiveness to someone else

55% received unconditional forgiveness

27% identify someone they don’t want to forgive

23% identify someone who they can’t forgive

22% struggle to receive forgiveness for something

We can learn a lot about forgiveness in the Bible. Let’s take a look at the story of Jacob and Esau.

Jacob had God’s favor but he was not a good brother to Esau in the least. He took advantage of Esau when he was weak and traded him some stew for a birthright (although Esau was not very smart to have agreed). Jacob also betrayed his brother by stealing the blessing from his father by dressing up like his brother, with his mother’s help nonetheless! This was a double betrayal for Esau from his brother and mother.

Jacob brought about division against him and his brother and he had to flee for fear of repercussion. The interesting thing is that the brothers meet up again, many years later in Genesis 37. Jacob is justifiably scared of this encounter. He does not know if Esau will attack him and steal everything. Jacob separates out his wives and children into groups so that if one group is attacked, the other can flee safely. Jacob also prepares a generous gift for Esau when he arrives.

Surprisingly to Jacob, Esau embraces his brother and even rejects the gifts that Jacob brings saying, “I already have plenty, my brother. Keep what you have for yourself.” (Gen. 37:9) The brothers are reunited despite the past. God blesses both of them as they grow in livestock and wealth that they eventually have to split up because the land cannot support both groups.

Esau made a decision to forgive his brother. Jacob did not ask for forgiveness before it was offered. Esau had every “right” to stay bitter and even steal from Jacob his possessions. Esau chose the high ground.

Esau was betrayed by his own flesh and blood, how often does family betray their own? This hurt can be harder than others to recover from. If a stranger hurts me, it may make me sad but I can move on. When family hurts you, it sometimes makes the relationship irreparable and can cause devastating psychological damage.

The same can be said for our church family. Too often I hear and have experienced fellow Christians who hurt and betray their own, either through difference of beliefs or petty arguments. This can result in unforgiveness and someone choosing to not go to church or not let another Christian brother or sister close to them again in case of a future hurt. If an effort to control your surroundings, you end up taking extreme measures that hurt you in different ways such as the lack of fellowship and community. We are meant for relationship with fellow believers and to meet together regularly (Heb. 10:25).

Forgiveness does not forget the past. It does allow you to keep the past from controlling your future.

Forgiveness does not excuse or condone previous actions and it does not mean you have to sign up to get hurt again.

Forgiveness should be given even when it is not asked for. The person you forgive does not even need to be present in cases of death or abuse. You can still forgive them before your Heavenly Father.

Forgiveness is more an act of release for YOU than the other person. We hold on to unforgiveness because it gives us power, but it also destroys us in the process and steals our joy. They say power corrupts, I would say that unforgiveness corrupts our spirit.

There’s an old saying that says, “Harboring unforgiveness or bitterness is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.”

But we only forgive those who deserve it right? After all there are some actions that are reprehensible, that cannot be forgiven even if I wanted to? I don’t want to judge but I also can’t forgive because of what this person did to me…

If anyone “deserved” to hold on to unforgiveness it would have been Holocaust survivor Corrie ten Boom. She tells of an amazing story of one of her captors after the war, coming to a camp where she was preaching about Jesus. She chose forgiveness there on the spot when he told her who he was and what he had done.

Corrie ten Boom then told of not being able to forget this incident. She had forgiven the person, but she kept rehashing the incident and so couldn’t sleep. Finally Corrie cried out to God for help in putting the problem to rest.

“His help came in the form of a kindly Lutheran pastor,” Corrie wrote, “to whom I confessed my failure after two sleepless weeks.” “Up in the church tower,” he said, nodding out the window, “is a bell which is rung by pulling on a rope. But you know what? After the sexton lets go of the rope, the bell keeps on swinging. First ding, then dong. Slower and slower until there’s a final dong and it stops. I believe the same thing is true of forgiveness.

When we forgive, we take our hand off the rope. But if we’ve been tugging at our grievances for a long time, we mustn’t be surprised if the old angry thoughts keep coming for a while. They’re just the ding-dongs of the old bell slowing down.” “And so it proved to be. There were a few more midnight reverberations, a couple of dings when the subject came up in my conversations, but the force — which was my willingness in the matter — had gone out of them. They came less and less often and at the last stopped altogether: we can trust God not only above our emotions, but also above our thoughts.”(2)

What unforgiveness in your life do you need to let go of today, like letting go of a helium balloon? Let unforgiveness float away from your life and allow the Holy Spirit to heal broken wounds like only He can.

Discerning Reflection: What areas of my life do I have unforgiveness? Do I forgive as quickly as Jesus commands? Who do I need to pray about forgiving today that God is placing upon my heart?

Prayer: Lord, thank you for your immense gift of forgiveness that you gave us through your Son’s sacrifice on the cross. Help me to not hold on to unforgiveness which can lead to bitterness. Reveal to me today who you would like me to forgive, even if they are not asking for forgiveness.

Tim Ferrara
Discerning Dad
1- https://www.barna.com/research/forgiveness-christians/
2- http://www.sermonillustrations.com/a-z/f/forgiveness.htm

Choosing to Forgive

Where Have All the Fathers Gone?

“You are not a man because you can make a baby. You are a man when you can raise a baby! It is time to man up and defend your child”  

by Godinterest

As soon as Rhys heard the front door open, he jumped up and began shouting for joy, “Mom Daddy’s home, Daddy’s home!”. His heartbeat racing and his brown eyes shining excitedly, anticipating playtime with Daddy. A wide grin spread across Rhys’s face as Daddy acted like a big bear. Daddy quickly dropping down onto one knee so that he’d be at his son’s height to horse around the living room. Sadly this scene is becoming a rear sight to see.

Today let’s talk about the invisible dads, the ones who don’t marry Mummy, don’t support their kids and don’t hang around for the hugs, kisses and nappy changes. There are millions of them around the world, and their numbers are growing.

“Today, more than one in four births is to an unmarried mother, and more than one in 10 births is to a teenager. These numbers portend a future of fragile families. Once considered primarily a racial problem, fatherless homes have increased across a wide range of demographics over the last ten years.”

How have we come to the point where a child with two parents is the exception rather than the norm? It is time that we put the issue of fatherless families front and center on our national agenda.

So who’s the real problem here? And why should we care?

It is time to shift our attention to the issue of male responsibility, and to the indispensable role that fathers play in our society.

Firstly, it would be an oversimplification to assume that two parents are always better than one as there are many courageous and loving single moms and daddy’s who are able to balance the competing demands on their time and attention, to care and provide for their children alone.

However, contrary to the sentiments of our culture and though our society is only beginning to recognize it, the presence of fathers within the home is vital to the moral integrity of a society. The short-term effects are already far too evident as statistics  reveal that the loss of fathers is reverberating throughout the world in the form of social pathologies ranging from teen pregnancy to drug abuse.

Fatherless children are  five times more likely to be poor and twice as likely to drop out of school as children who live with both parents.

Boys, without proper male role models, look to other sources for the male bonding they need. In the inner cities that often entails gangs while in the suburbs it tends to be online.

“According to the latest statistics, the increase in the proportion of single-parent families accounted for about half of the overall increase in child poverty from 1979 through to 1987.”

The Scriptures warn us about the power of fatherhood, as well as the long-lasting impact that fatherhood has on us all. Exodus 20:4-6.” Fatherlessness is the most harmful demographic trend of this generation

The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree

“The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree” could be both about habits/behavior and also looks. Have you ever thought about that? Do you often find yourself reacting to a situation the way your father did? or scarier yet…do you ever see your mannerisms in your son? The footprint of a father leaves a permanent mark on the soul of a child.

Fatherhood is under assault

We hear a lot about the war on women…but it is the war on Dads that is causing the greatest damage in the world today. It’s not hard to find. If you watch any popular sitcom on television today, you’ll likely notice that fathers are typically portrayed as childish, irresponsible, lazy, incompetent and stupid.

The doofus dad stereotype isn’t new. There’s Fred Flinstone, and even Charlie Brown’s monotone parents. But according to Tierny, the consistency of these new portrayals has slowly created a new norm opposed to what being a father used to mean.

Dads make a difference. Dads can be heroes — if only we give them the chance. We remain optimistic that family still has more influence than media.

We all need another hero

Fathers are representatives of God on earth; as our heavenly father is the giver of life so also are the earthly father’s givers of life.  Malachi 4:6 says “And he will turn, the hearts of the fathers to the children, And the hearts of the children to their fathers, Lest I come and strike the earth with a curse.”

God understands the importance of a father’s love and cares towards their children and He has set the standard by being the first example of a loving father.

“The SARRI report quotes research which  found that “the presence of a father can  contribute to cognitive development,  intellectual functioning, and school  achievement. Children growing up  without fathers are more likely to experience emotional disturbances and  depression.”

“Girls who grow up with  their fathers are more likely to have  higher self-esteem, lower levels of risky  sexual behaviour, and fewer difficulties  in forming and maintaining romantic  relationships later in life. They have less  likelihood of having an early pregnancy,  bearing children outside marriage,  marrying early, or getting divorced.”

A father’s touch

The first thing, therefore, that a father can do for his children is to love their mother. Another part of a father’s task is that of a protector for his family. But, Daddy also has another task in the home, which is to combine tenderness with strength, and to model the combination so consistently that the children regard the combination as natural.

Our kids must come to know naturally both that dad’s standards protect them, and that his love makes them strong.

Where have all the fathers gone?

Our courts do not value fatherhood as much as motherhood. In 2015 it is still the case that mothers and fathers do not have equal rights

And herein lies the problem. Our expectation of the role a separated father should play in his children’s lives is so low, that when half of dads who win “access” to their kids can’t even sleep under the same roof as their offspring, academics declare this to be an overwhelming success. One of the fruits of the feminist movement many claim is the idea that a woman is more responsible as a parent than the father is.

“He is not my Dad…he is just someone you sleep with!” How many mothers have felt the sting of those words? That is why God hates divorce. We should too.

Our culture has put asunder things which God has joined together–things such as tenderness and strength. It is the job of the father to put them back together again.

Fatherhood, like Motherhood has is its own rewards – as most dads have found. Sadly, for the others, the invisible ones, it is a gift foolishly squandered.

https://godinterest.com/2018/04/01/where-have-all-the-fathers-gone/

What does it mean to be human?

Sim Chen Xing November 29, 2019

“What does it mean to be human?” A senior commanding officer joked with me as we chatted over our morning coffee. He was a deputy commanding officer when I was back in my service in the air force, we shared quite a lot of pretty good experiences doing exercises and operations together. We reminisce about how the squadron used to be and the things we used to do together as a squadron. “It’s all different now,” he sighed.

“Things are becoming increasing transactional. People are working for the sake of working,” he added. “The bond that we used to have, it’s not as strong now.”

“Yes, the current batch of officers are all strawberry generation,” my fellow sergeant commented pretty abruptly.

“You can say so! Even the new batch of commanding officers are like that. They can work efficiently with the least resources. But they’ve lost the human touch.”

“How so?” I asked.

“I remember proposing to them to execute a certain task for the well-being of the men. You know what the commanding officers asked me? What are the orders regarding this that you’re proposing? How long can we drag before we fully implement this proposal? I was furious when they said that,” he shared with so much passion that he almost banged the table we were on. “I mean, it’s for the well-being of the men we’re doing this. We should not be doing it out of obligation? Why drag?!”

I watched as he narrated the incident in disbelief. He looked at my friend seated beside me and asked, “Are you married?”

“Yes,” he answered.

“If you have a child and you want to bring the child out, would you ensure that all the necessities for the child are taken care of before going out?” the senior commanding officer asked him.

“Of course I will,” my friend answered.

“Then I don’t understand why the new batch of commanding officers is behaving so transactionally. There’s no…”

“Love? No love, sir?” I answered.

“Yes. No love for their fellow men. It’s not human.”

The sharing of the senior commanding officer threw me into deep thought about the current social state of Singapore. People-people relationship is no longer bonded by a common goal nor is it by love (regardless whether for the country or for each other). Rather, it is grounded on transaction; on the mechanics of the organisation.

“I’ve got to say I like how Singapore is progressing,” the commander continued. “But the education sector will need to work something out; inculcate certain values such as love and ethics to balance efficiency and being human. If not, the success of our future generations will also be the cause of their downfall.”

I paused as I pondered on the things he spoke about. It reminded me of what I reflected upon yesterday — the success of Singapore and how we are at the forefront of global politics. But on another hand, we’re also experiencing a certain degree downfall alongside it. As I listened to the rest of the stories that he wanted to share with me, I cannot help but remember that this was the exact same struggle that another chairman of a charity shared with me — people who serve in charities only wanted to serve time and leave, not minding the goals of the organisation nor do they have any love for others.

“What sets us apart from animals?” he joked. “We both work as a team. We both complete daily tasks. We both eat and we both die. But animals know the importance of teamwork. What about us? We’re full of our-selves. So, what makes us human?”

I was dumbfounded at this question. I figure he’s right! If we aren’t able to look beyond current task-related obligations, then how are we able to have love? If we can’t find meaning beyond our transactional lifestyles, how can we experience interpersonal bonds that transcend the immediate present?

I figure the only way we can transcend legalistic obligation is through the overcoming of it. The layperson may consider working on a certain task while knowing the meaning behind why he is doing it. Understanding the goal of the entire organisation may give meaning and value to the task one is doing, no matter how minute. However, we know this is not lasting in the long run and this principle cannot be applied across the board.

So there must be an alternative to bond-building. There must be an alternative for us as humans to be humans once more. We need to redefine humanity beyond who we currently are.

Putting our innate purpose of existence on organisational goals may add value to our identity within the task we are allocated to. But the value stops there. It stops when we put down our task and depart home for the evening. Since our lives does not just encompass work, so our value cannot be tied purely to organisational goals. So what if we tie it to our families and our loved ones? What if we live our lives in a way that will benefit our family? If we do this, we will need to consider what becomes of us when they grow up and depart from us. We will need to redefine our identity and value when any one of our loved ones depart from this life. This then is meaningless.

So if meaning cannot be paired to things of this world, whether organisational goals nor our loved ones, so should it be paired to that that is Greater than Life? This is exactly what the Bible reminded us to do. We are reminded that “whatever we do, work at it with all our heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since we know that we will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ we are serving” (Colossians 3:23-24, NIV). When we pair our value to that that is the Giver of Life, the value of all that we do — be it family-related (Col 3:18-21), or work-related (Col 3:22) — will magnify itself exponentially.

Consider now that if it is truly the Lord Jesus Christ we are serving — regardless of what we are doing — then this Jesus Christ who was raised from the dead will release us from the Law so that we may serve in the new way of the Spirit.

Therefore, at the end of the matter, being human isn’t about fulfilling our duties on earth neither is it about the pursuit of career-related successes. Being human is about overcoming life itself. Being human is to long to hear the Giver of Life saying, “Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!”

Being human is to enjoy our Maker’s happiness the way He intended for us.

Image by skeeze from Pixabay
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https://themanifoldwisdomofgod.wordpress.com/2019/11/29/what-does-it-mean-to-be-human/

Obedience Versus Legalism

by Simon Schrock

Don was an elder in his evangelical-type church. He saw much looseness about holiness in his congregation. He loved God and experienced His grace. His conscience called him to a more careful obedience to God and to His Word. Don visited a congregation that practiced some of the New Testament teachings that were missing in his church. This church took a scriptural, careful position on remarriage after divorce, the wearing of jewelry, washing one another’s feet and the wearing of the headship veiling by their sisters.

Don saw the obedience to scriptural teaching, so he raised these issues with his pastor and asked why they are not obeying these scriptures. The pastor’s response was, “That’s legalism! Where is the grace of God in that?”

Incidents like this could be told hundreds of times over. But is it legalism?

Scriptural commands are wiped out under the label of legalism or pharisaism. “It’s pretending to be holy without really being holy”

Expressions and words develop certain meanings at given times in history. “The religious right” is an expression used today in a derogatory manner against certain people. During the reformation period, derogatory terms were hurled at our Anabaptist forefathers. Luther called the Anabaptists ketzer which means “the perfect ones” or “you little perfect ones.” This was said in a belittling way, making light of their obedience to scripture. The term legalismis used in a similar way today. When a believer follows the Word of God, often those who do not measure up, or are lacking, come up with some belittling expression like, “Oh, she’s legalistic” or “He’s pharisaic.” Is obedience to scripture legalism?

Consider Joe (or it could be Sarah). He may be Baptist, Mennonite, Amish or Catholic. He may be of some old orthodox order. He grew up going to church, sat through many morning services and knew he wasn’t right with God. He knew there was a heaven and a hell. His own sinfulness haunted him, especially when he read another friend’s obituary in the newspaper.

So Joe joined a church. He said the right words at baptism. He attended church and kept most of the rules. He gave to the offering, didn’t steal or commit adultery, and never killed anyone (literally, that is). He was an all around good mainstream citizen.

When his conscience doesn’t let him rest with peace and assurance . . . he gives a little more to the offering . . . or attends the evening service . . . or stiffens his modest dress code . . . or some other noble disciplinary act!

He has “done” his duty toward God, and he expects God to admit him to heaven when he dies. . . on the basis of his good works! Is Joe legalistic?

Legalism: What Does It Mean?

Strict, often too strict, and literal adherence to law. Theology: The doctrine of salvation by good works.[1]

“A keeping of the law, particularly in a formal sense, and a regarding of obedience as meritorious, having merit, deserving merit, praise.”[2]

From these definitions, legalism can be good. Good Christians ought to be legalistic enough to obey laws. Legalism can be eternally bad. It is a major cause of missing salvation. Pharisaic legalism is spiritual poison. However, Webster’s definition, “The doctrine of salvation by good works” fits its most common usage in religious circles today.

What then is obedience? “A willingness to obey, submission.”[3]

“Doing that which is commanded according to scripture, obedience will eventually follow from true faith.”[4]

Was Don a pharisaic legalist for carefully obeying scripture?

Were the Anabaptist ketzer acting like they were the perfect ones, even though they said, “the very best you can possibly be-you still need the grace of God.”[5]

Was Joe a legalist?

Jesus has the answer:

And he spake this parable unto certain which trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others. Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself God, I thank thee that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican. I fast twice in a week, I give tithes of all I possess (Luke 18:9-12).

Here is a legalist. The Luke 18 Pharisee and Joe were legalists! It’s the person who puts confidence in his own self-righteousness. It could be trusting your ability to keep the right rules or the church’s standard of conduct. It could be comparing yourself with someone less righteous than you. It could be the scale system telling yourself, “I’m 51% good and 49% bad. I’ll make it to heaven.”

Saul of Tarsus was on his way to Damascus to exterminate Christians. The risen Lord met him on the way. Suddenly, at midday, a light from heaven shone around him. Saul lay prostrate on the ground as he heard the Lord say, “Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me?” Saul replied, “Who art thou, Lord?” And the Lord said, “I am Jesus whom thou persecutest.”

Saul, trembling and astonished, said, “Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?”

God later used this man to instruct the church with epistles on how to live between Pentecost and Christ’s return. He wrote commands from God that taught: Do not take your brother to law. Do not be conformed to this world. Owe no man anything but to love one another. Be modest in your apparel. Was Saul (now called Paul) a legalist for saying, “Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?” And then conforming to God’s will? Was he a legalist for allowing himself to be used to write scripture with commands to guide the church through the centuries until Jesus comes again? Is someone a legalist today by giving a careful heeding to Paul’s writings? Was Don’s careful obedience to scripture displeasing to God? Did God say, “just trust My grace and don’t get too serious about Paul’s writings with commands”? Don’t worry about modesty-just blend into the culture of jewelry and fashion . . . ? Does God’s Word say that? No!

Walter Beachy contends, “Careful obedience to scripture that issues out of a regenerate heart is not legalism.”[6]

Now, back to legalistic Joe and the Pharisee! Joe is invited to a businessmen’s prayer breakfast. After all, he is a good church man and he must keep a good front, so-he goes along. At the meeting, he hears this testimony:

“I went to church regularly I would sit there and plan my work for the week. I gave to the offering. I sang in the choir-but I was lost! I was like the Pharisee in Luke 18. I needed Christ. I became the publican. I yielded my life to Jesus Christ and received His forgiveness. I now have peace.

This troubled legalistic Joe all week. The next Sunday a visiting minister preached, “You Must Be Born Again.” Joe, like the publican who said, “God, be merciful to me a sinner,” was converted to Christ. He found peace with God. He experienced God’s mercy.

Now he wanted to thank God for His mercy. He wanted to honor God and show appreciation for his salvation. How can he do it?

He reads the scriptures. From the words of Jesus he learns that, “Ye are my friends if you do whatsoever I command you” (John 15:14) and “If you Love me, keep my commandments” (John 14:15). He reads further, “He that bath my commandments and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him” (John 14:21). Continued study of the scriptures reveals that obedience is the way to know God:

And hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments. He that saith, ‘I know him,’ and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But whoso keepeth his word, in him verily is the love of God perfected: hereby know we that we are in him (1 John 2:3-5).

Joe also takes serious note of 2 Thessalonians 1:7, 8:

And to you who are troubled, rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Ah! To show God I love Him, I obey Him! To find out what pleases God, I read the scriptures.

Does Joe still go to church? Yes, so much the more as he sees the day of Christ approaching. Does he still give to the offering? Yes, even more than before, and with joy and rejoicing. Does he still obey authority? Yes, with a new depth of appreciation. He is more careful in obedience than ever. Is he legalistic? No! It’s his expression of love for God. It’s his affirmation that his faith is for real. It’s not a dead faith. “But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead? You see then how that by works a man is justified and not by faith only” (James 2:21, 24).

Doesn’t Jesus condemn legalism and pharisaic religion? Yes, he surely does. But is that the same as Luther’s ketze; or Don’s pastor’s charge of legalism?

From two scriptures we can see a number of legalistic hypocrisies that Jesus condemned:

And as he spake, a certain Pharisee besought him to dine with him: and he went in, and sat down to meat. And when the Pharisee saw it, he marvelled that he had not first washed before dinner. And the Lord said unto him, “Now do ye Pharisees make clean the outside of the cup and the platter; but your inward part is full of ravening and wickedness. Ye fools, did not he that made that which is without make that which is within also? But rather give alms of such things as ye have; and, behold, all things are clean unto you. But woe unto you, Pharisees! for ye tithe mint and rue and all manner of herbs, and pass over judgment and the love of God: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone. Woe unto you, Pharisees! for ye love the uppermost seats in the synagogues, and greetings in the markets. Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye are as graves which appear not, and the men that walk over them are not aware of them” (Luke 11:37-44).

Then spake Jesus to the multitude, and to his disciples, saying, ‘The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat: All therefore whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and do: but do not ye after their works: for they say, and do not. For they bind heavy burdens and grievous to be borne, and lay them on men’s shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers. But all their works they do for to be seen of men: they make broad their phylacteries, and enlarge the borders of their garments, and love the uppermost rooms at feasts, and the chief seats in the synagogues, and greetings in the markets, and to be called of men, Rabbi, Rabbi’ (Matt. 23:1-7).

Jesus Condemned Selective Obedience

“But woe to you, Pharisees! For you pay tithe of mint and rue and every kind of garden herb, and yet disregard justice and the love of God: but these are the things you should have done without neglecting the others” (Luke 11:42, NAS).

“Woe! You pay tithes but omit justice and the love of God. You obey in part, not in full.” He didn’t condemn the good they did. It was what they didn’t do.

Selective obedience and pharisaic religion abound in the church today. Most believers literally observe 1 Corinthians 11:16-34, but ignore the first half of the chapter. Why?

Jesus Condemned Deceptive Obedience

“All therefore whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and do, but do not ye after their works: for they say and do not” (Matt. 23:3).

The scribes and Pharisees brought a woman to Jesus that was caught in the act of adultery. Then they asked if the law of Moses didn’t command her to be stoned to death. Jesus stooped down and wrote in the ground with His finger. He also said to them, “He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her” (John 8:7). Whatever He wrote must have convicted their conscience about their own immorality. They were ready to bring condemnation on this woman while they were guilty themselves. Jesus condemned this deceptive obedience.

Jesus Condemned Outside-Only Obedience

“Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye make clean the outside of the cup and platter, but within they are full of extortion and excess. Thou blind Pharisee, cleanse first that which is within the cup and platter, that the outside of them may be clean also” (Matt. 23:25, 26).

Jesus condemns appearing outwardly as a non-worldly Christian, but inwardly having a heart of selfishness and immorality Jesus condemns an outward show without the joy of the Lord within.

I have noticed that many people who have divorced their partners and married another become more vocal with their “testimony” for the Lord and are very involved in the “Lord’s work.” That’s how one woman described her husband and father of their three children: “He divorced me, married another woman. Now he goes to church. I’m confused. Living in adultery and doing good works.” Could this be outside-only obedience? Jesus condemned selective obedience, deceptive obedience and outside-only obedience.

FALSE WAYS TO OVERCOME LEGALISM

Disregarding Discipline

Joe was a legalist! He followed the rules of the church–but he didn’t have spiritual life. Often when legalists find the news of God’s grace, they think their freedom is in throwing away the rules. That’s reaction, not a love action. “Without conversion, discipline is legalism. Without discipline, conversion is counterfeit.”[7]

For the legalistic Joes that find Christ and His grace, here is a word from Jesus: “These ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone” (Matt. 23:23). Throwing off discipline is not the answer to legalism.

Lighthearted Holiness

A nonchalant, lack-of-concern attitude is not Christ’s answer to pharisaic legalism. The casually indifferent, nothing-matters-to-God attitude is not the answer. Many professing Christians live as though obedience doesn’t matter and that God’s grace will cover. That does not overcome legalism. It comes closer to the sin of indifference. Oswald Chambers gives this reminder:

‘You cannot do anything for your salvation, but you must do something to manifest it. . . you must work out what God has worked in. If you are still the same miserable crosspatch, set on your own way, then it is a lie to say that God has saved and sanctified you.”[8]

Indifference Toward Authority

Bro. Sid may be approached by a leader in the Church about a matter in his life. He may reply like this, “I get my orders from God. I’m not bound to a legalistic authority structure.” He reacts, referring to Jesus’ condemnation of the acts of the Pharisees. Sid suggests that his church leaders are like the Pharisees and that Jesus wrote them off.

Actually, Jesus had a different word for Sids with such attitudes: “The scribes and Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat: All therefore whatsoever they bid you to observe, that observe and do” (Matt. 23:1, 2). Indifference toward authority does not overcome legalism.

OVERCOMING LEGALISM AND ITS APPEARANCE

Be Certain the Spirit Lives in the Form

Legalism is an outside form without the Spirit of God living inside. If you have an outside form of godliness, but inside the heart is “full of hypocrisy” and iniquity that denies the Spirit the power to overcome sin, then repent. Invite the Spirit into the form and stand with the publican and pray, “God be merciful to me a sinner” (Luke 18:13).

Affirm and Testify of Your Hope

One reason for being accused of legalism is being too silent on where your hope really is. Affirm and testify that you are trusting Jesus Christ who shed His blood, died, and rose again for your salvation. I’m reminded of Ed Davis, an egg customer I served years ago. After my knock on the door. Ed opened it and exclaimed to his wife, “Mamma, there’s a saved sinner at the door.” Don’t be bashful to let others know you are a “saved sinner.”

Offer a Sacrifice of Praise

“The joy of the Lord is your strength” (Neh. 8:10). People who practice disciplined obedience will be observed. May you demonstrate a joyful walk with the Lord.

Those who practice a more careful obedience are often called conservative. An acquaintance once observed, “I didn’t know you could be spiritual and conservative.” For him, it was either/or, but it should be both. A spiritual joyful conservative was unknown to him. “Rejoice in the Lord alway and, again, I say, ‘Rejoice’” (Phil. 4:4).

Practice Obedience as an Act of Love

Obedience is your opportunity to express your love and commitment to God. It is not a burden to endure. When God sees loving obedience, He is pleased and worshiped. That is not legalism. Obedient Joe’s life is now a constant worship of God as he walks through a sinful world. This poem says it well:

I would not work my soul to save For that my Lord has done But I would work like any slave For love of God’s dear Son.[9]

Be Assured–Obedience Is the Key to Knowing Jesus

Jesus said, “If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine” (John 7:17). Insight into the true teachings of Jesus comes by obedience. “Spiritual darkness comes from something I do not intend to obey.” Faithfulness and obedience in little things is what makes strong Christians in bigger things.[10]

Careful loving obedience from a born-again heart is not legalism. It’s an honor to God.

FOOTNOTES

  1. Webster
    2. Concise Dictionary of Christian Theology
    3. Webster
    4. Concise Dictionary of Christian Theology
    5. Sermon by Walter Beachy.
    6. Sermon by Walter Beachy.
    7. Russel Brown.
    8. Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest.
    9. Source not available.
    10. Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest.

This article is from the September 1997 issue of The Sword and Trumpet.
Address: PO Box 575, Harrisonburg, VA 22801-0575 USA

http://www.bibleviews.com/Obedience-Legalism.html