Thursday, July 15, 2010

Legalistic Thinking vs. Grace Thinking

I thought a very simple illustration of how legalistic thinking differs from grace thinking might be helpful to you, for your own life or to help others.

A Pharisee, who was a lawyer, asked Jesus a question to test Him (Matthew 22:36).

"Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?"

Jesus answered,

"'You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.' This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets."

This is a pretty familiar passage to many Christians.

How The Legalist Thinks

Very simply put, here is how a Legalist reacts to that passage in his unfortunately bondage-ridden mind:

All right! There's a couple of commandments I can sink my teeth into! I'm going to buckle down and do my best to follow those commandments! If I can follow THOSE commandments, I'll be in effect following ALL the commandments!

"I'll work hard to follow them! I'll read my Bible diligently, pray at least a half-hour a day (I think I'll use the A-C-T-S Method...Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, Supplication), and see what I can do to serve my neighbors!

"Commandments and obedience, that's what it's about! After all, doesn't God deserve it?

You get the idea.

And if you're thinking, "What's wrong with THAT?", please read on.

After another round of "buckling down" to obey those commandments, the Legalist will think one of two things:

(1) "I've done pretty well this day [week, month, etc.]! At least better than Joe and Sue over there! All right! I'm gonna keep up this obeying stuff!", or

(2) "Oh no, I've failed again! What a total jerk I am. Am I even saved? I've confessed that sin a thousand times! How can I even face God? He must be VERY disappointed in me. Probably even angry. And why not? What a low-down skunk I am."

And he doesn't go to the Lord right away, because he is too ashamed and doesn't "deserve" to.

Self-righteousness or Despair. The two pendulum swings of the Legalist.

How The Grace Thinker Thinks

"Wow! It's all about love, isn't it Lord?! You loved me first, died for me on the cross and are now living in me!

"It's no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me!

"I never could, and still can't, follow Your commandments perfectly enough to earn Your love and favor, but You did it for me when You nailed the commandments to Your cross and I died to the Law in You!

"You forgave me all of my sins, even the ones I haven't even committed yet! How wonderful and loving and gracious You are!

"I'm free! Free to follow You without condemnation, as You live your life in me, and work in me to will and to do for Your good pleasure!

"The more I understand the depth and breadth and length and height of Your love for me, the more I love You Lord! I can't help it!

"I love You because You first loved me, and You're showing me more and more how great Your love and grace really are!

"And as You fill my heart with love, a Fruit of Your Spirit, I find I love my neighbor too! It's a miracle!

"Thank you Lord! I confess those sins I've foolishly fallen into today, but I can face You freely because I know You've already forgiven me, and just want me to walk in fellowship with You, warts and all! How really great that is! No condemnation! Free!

"I DO love You, and I DO love my neighbor, because You're pouring out Your love in my heart even now!"

Final Comments

Should we sin, then, so that grace will abound? Paul the Apostle anticipated that question.

Because if all our sins are forgiven already, why not live like the devil?

If we're born again, Paul reminds us that we are a new creation. We've died to sin, and in our new heart, our new spirit, we love Christ and hate sin.

So now when we sin, it goes AGAINST our nature. And that's what happens when we walk by the flesh.

When Christ came into us to indwell us, we became "one spirit with Him" (1 Corinthians 6:17).

So now when we walk by the Spirit, we not only walk by the Holy Spirit, we also walk by our own new spirit! And when we do that, we will love the Lord and love our neighbor.

It's not about commandments. It's about love.

That's biblical Grace thinking.


Lizzy said...

Thanks! Thank you God for your grace! :D

Eleanor - UK said...

Good Bless you Terry, in all that you do. People are suffering worldwide because God has been deliberately sidelined in the majority of our Public (State) services. For example, a Nurse, here in the UK, was dismissed from her job because she offered to pray for a Patient. This is just one of numerous examples. Despite all of that, I know that our God reigns and He will overcome the evil.