Friday, February 23, 2007

Obedience = Moralism?

have you ever met that guy that tells you faith in Christ is a bunch of do's and don'ts? you MUST not dress that way. you MUST not listen to that music. you MUST read so many chapters in your bible every day. you MUST be republican. you MUST not hang out in those places. you MUST give this much money every week to your church.

is that obedience to Christ? NO. Jesus doesn't come to us with a list of "do's" and "don't do's". Walking with God is so much more than that. Walking with God is an adventure beyond all comparison. to walk with the Creator of the universe! to abide in His unending love and be the object of his great mercy while spreading the good news of His love to the ends of the earth. to hear His soft voice in your heart and to respond - whether is sharing your faith or serving your neighbor. to seek His face all your days, when the sun is shining and in the dark night of the soul. to trust in Him and walk in FAITH no matter what you see in the natural. to trust in the things that are unseen because you know the things that are seen are just passing away anyway. to offer up a heart of love and worship and then to let your heart overflow into a journey with Jesus. that is obedience to Christ.

this hit me between the eyes at a prayer meeting last night. God is not calling His people to some sort of moralistic lifestyle, but rather to throw off all the encumbrances of life and the sin that so easily entangles so that we can run this great race with Jesus. if you are trusting in Jesus, He did away with all your sin on the cross. penalty paid for. now He wants to run with you. are you bold enough to say yes? it will be a wild ride...


Tara Leo said...

Amen, Seth! "So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal." 2Cor.4:18..."We live by faith, not by sight." 2Cor.5:7
Something that hit me last night in the meeting...along with all that you said, was in Hebrews 12 where it talks about throwing off all that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles...then, to fix our eyes on Jesus..."who for the joy set before him endured the CROSS..." We are pointed to the cross...It's all in the birth, new life, forgiveness, life eternal..."the old is gone the new is come" We need to claim the power that is held in what took place on the cross! For Jesus has made all things new! Praise God! So, yes, this earthly life is NOT life...the ETERNAL is what is REAL. "But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body." -Phil.3:20-21
In Him,

Jonathan said...

Yes...Wow...when we abide in Christ fruit is produced in our life

(Gal 5:22-23)
22 But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!

That is freedom!

Susanna said...

Hey Seth, I struggle with this on an almost daily basis--am so used to doing things myself that I think that's the way it works with God. I have to be constantly reminded (as my brother did yesterday) that I come before God SOLELY on the basis of what Jesus has done, not ever anything I've done.

What a relief.

Daniel said...

have you ever met that guy that tells you faith in Christ is a bunch of do's and don'ts?... Jesus doesn't come to us with a list of "do's" and "don't do's".

First, I think an important distinction needs to be made between the "Law" as God gave us that we should "write upon our hearts", which Jesus interpreted for us in the Sermon on the Mount, and the "laws" that were made to deal with special cases, abuses, loopholes, etc when people had no intention of keeping the "Law" in the first place.

I think we would benefit here by looking at the nuancing that Jesus applied to the law: see Matthew 5:17-20. As C.S. Lewis warns us on many an occasion, the Christian especially must always beware creating nefarious personas who exhibit the traits which we are too hallowed to hold ourselves. The call to observe the law is not omitted under Christ - it's actually much higher. In fact, I will go so far as to say that Christ came not that we might be freed from the Law, but that we might be able to keep it!

See the following link for a recent conversation I had with Mark Davenport on this subject:

Daniel said...

My link was truncated: try this one.

peacereality said...

we have been called to a higher law. the law of love. loving God and loving one another. Jesus truly fulfilled all the righteousness of the law. we are called to follow Him, the One that fulfilled all righteousness. the One that lived the life we should have lived and died the death we ought to die. we are to draw near to Him and be fed and taught and led by Him. i'm not saying go run into sin! check out Romans 6 if you think that is what i'm saying. i'm saying that as you follow Jesus, as you fix your eyes on Him and follow after Him, you can know that the law has been fulfilled by the One who stands in your place.
as far as the matthew quote, it is important to note that he didn't come to abolish them, but "to fulfill them." done. on the cross He said, "it is finished." now, he calls us to live a life of internal devotion to God and righteousness, not some sort of show of outward righteousness for others (matt 5.20). again, i'm not espousing lawlessness in the least, but rather that Jesus wants our hearts, not just a checklist of do's and don'ts. as kyle smith says, when you've got the heart, you've got the man.

Daniel said...

Oh I know you weren't trying to in any way validate sin. I also know Mr. Peacereality is looked at as an example for righteous living within his Christian community, and I commend him for that.

But I think he misunderstands the point I was trying to make, which is that I'm actually MORE wary of the person who says that Christianity is about "accepting Christ" than I am with someone who imposes a list of "Do"s and "Don't"s. And I think that by painting too precise a picture of legalism, with the implication that grace is its opposite, we can end up making false assertions about what grace is because we're looking at the reflection of legalism to define it!

If you've ever read the book "My Heart, Christ's Home" which Franklin Graham uses in flyer-form with his tent evangelism materials, you'd see suggested that Christ DOES come to us with a list of DOs and DONTs. (Not that I in any way advocate this book. The main thing I dislike about this is the "if-you-start-sweating-and-your-hair-stands-on-end-it-must-be-God" approach, which is sadly the way the Holy Spirit's role in a meeting is often described to me.) But Jesus made serious demands upon people that were hard to come to grips with. Leave your occupation; hate your parents; don't bury your dead father; exchange all these things for a cross. We both agree here that we've been called to something higher. But if someone challenges us to good deeds, the biblical perogative is not to say "you're legalistic", but to give our cloak as well - that is, out-do him in holiness in order to heap burning coals on his head.

So I wouldn't say that [walking with God is] "so much more than" an appeal to alter our behavior and become Republicans ;). It would be more correct to say that Christianity gives us a compelling REASON for the DOs and DONTs - and that faith gives us a seemingly irrational, non-utilitarian basis for obedience to Christ's commands. Paul will go on to say that these commands are defined as good deeds when we do them in faith, and he'll suggest that some good deeds (or omission of less-than-inspired behaviors) are not required, but beneficial to us. But if we are serious about the challenge of Matthew 5:16, we'll do well to observe the things that Paul suggests, but doesn't command of us.

The person who tells me that Christianity requires certain actions/behaviors can be best evaluated based on his assessment of the quality of the behaviors he lists. Notably, most of the people I know who think Christians must be Republicans are the people who hate Republicans the most. Or Christians must not listen to rap music, because rap music is cool and I don't want uncool people listening to my music. But if he associates Christianity with something that is good, is that a similar context in which Paul says that he intends to be "all things to all people"?

The following is a true story of a young guy named Chris I knew who is now in jail. Having been newly converted, and having just left a church which had a strong (many would say legalistic) emphasis on sobriety, he applied to the Lighthouse and was accepted. Some night shortly after he had moved in, he was accosted in the hallway by three or four senior residents - a combination of student leaders and year-team staff - who had just returned from a night at the bar celebrating someone's birthday. None of them were drunk, but they were clearly relaxed. Chris confronted his roommate, who had been part of the group, and was the most affected by the alcohol. His roommate said it wasn't a big deal, and they had freedom to drink alcohol as long as it was outside of the house. Chris was very upset that the standard of those living in the house was so low, and left the house inside the month.

Who was correct?

peacereality said...

very good point daniel. grace is not a reflection of legalism. good point. i think for the first part, we are speaking a similar thing - obedence to Christ in faith. i don't think you are advocating do's and don'ts, though i'm not sure your example really illustrates that point.

Daniel said...

I don't have a problem with "DOs" and DONTs" if the modivation is correct - that is, the appreciation of laws (plural) comes from appreciation for the entire law (James 2:10), which is followed not just out of obedience to Christ, but also out of value for preserving unity in the community, which Paul said was very important. (That was the main reason I included the example in my previous post, but I'll try to give some other pertinent ones below). Jesus defended the law more than he often receives credit for; he was a rabbi, and in some ways, a very traditional one.

I'll also note that Jesus was respectful not just the law, but the culture he lived in. Modern Christianity has little value for circumcision, the Jewish Sabbath, and tassels - all of which Jesus no doubt observed (though these became less commonplace among Christians as the religion expanded beyond their culture). In a world of Christian pluralism, modern Jewish Christians might still celebrate the passover and consider it a part of their faith - something that might be deemed legalistic outside their culture.

But actually we're often dealing with people creating new laws of a sort - and this is not necessarily a bad thing. Kyle preached a few weeks ago about the unimportance of appearance in regards to welcoming outsiders into Christian meetings - clearly putting value on a form of hospitality. But if he were to preach this message in a black church in the south, he would probably be run out of town. Everyone there dresses up for church meetings.

So it's important to understand the motivation and cultural context of someone who has certain "DOs" and "DONT's" as part of their paradigm before writing them off as legalistic. While these might be somewhat isolating to outsiders, they do help to create a sense of unity for those who observe them, and so are not altogether bad. Although I hate charismatic Christian rhetoric, it's a classic example of something that falls into this category. I suspect that Lesslie Newbigin would agree.

Daniel said...

I should also make an important distinction between guarding one's culture and imposing it on outsiders. For example, a prep school requires all of its students to wear uniforms. And visitors who want to apply to the school probably have to dress up as well. Alumni don't have to be asked to dress up; they'll probably do it anyway. Those who want to do business with the school aren't required to dress up, since they're not directly associated with the school. However, they're a lot more likely to close a deal if they do.

Another example: in my concert choir rehearsals, people can come and listen if they want to, and no one will complain. But if they want to sit with the choir, they had better be prepared to sing along with them.

And when a high-caliber musical group performs a piece, anyone in the audience ought to maintain a certain standard of dress and learn when to/not to clap if he wants to attend. First-time offenders are forgiven, but the people who brought them and didn't educate them will be held responsible!