Welcome to the first blog entry of the second season of New Direction, where we search the Spirit, Scripture and more discovering the New Direction God is leading his church in this post modern culture. Today, we take a look at subjective Christianity and legalism.
I received the following note from a friend.
“I was just thinking this morning that I wish I had more time to read my Bible. I have family in town this week so I have not had as much time as I would have liked. Also I have a lot of pet projects that I try to split my time between.
I LOVED your commandments of Jesus video. I think it gets to the heart of all my frustrations. We get so worried about the minutiae of religious life that we forget to be loving. So that was great.
I have been thinking a lot about the accessibility of the gospel message. Maybe it comes from my tendency to approach spiritual things intellectually but I think about some of the people I met as an LDS missionary in Brasil. They couldn’t even read and were not educated so it would be extremely difficult for them to dig into the Bible and come to understand, for example, subjective Christianity. They will continue to go to a church relying on the pastor’s sermons and the opinions of friends. There are many who can read who will do the same thing not out of laziness but simply because they don’t know it is important. Is the gospel message only for the literate and educated? “
The Bible seems to lay down a number of concepts. Think about these scriptures for a minute…
Romans 1.18 “18 The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness, 19 since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. 20 For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.”
Luke 12.47 “And that slave who knew his master’s will and did not get ready or act in accord with his will, will receive many lashes, but the one who did not know it, and committed deeds worthy of a flogging, will receive but few. From everyone who has been given much, much will be required; and to whom they entrusted much, of him they will ask all the more.
Romans 2.14 (Indeed, when Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature things required by the law they are a law for themselves, even though they do not have the law. 15 They show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts sometimes accusing them and at other times even defending them.)
Ps 19.1 The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
My short version… God has written his law into our hearts. We know it’s wrong to murder someone in cold blood, even if we are not told. We know that there is something bigger than us out there, even if no one tells us about God, because of the wonder and scope of nature around us. No one is without excuse as far as knowing and following God.
Yet, at the same time, God holds us accountable for those things we do know. And, in fact, the more we know, the more we are held accountable. God expects us to live up to the light and truth He has shown us, but does not hold us accountable for those things we are ignorant of.
Those who worship God in a legalistic fashion still glorify Him if it is done out of faith and love to Him. Paul discusses this very topic in Romans 14. We should accept those of ‘weaker’ faith, and not push them in things they do not understand. Because if they do something outside of their faith, to them, it is sin. What is important is that they seek the LORD with their whole heart, even through their imperfect understanding.
On the other hand, if that legalism is weighing them down…or causing confusion, because of your freedom in Christ (and greater faith, as Paul implies), you can use your understanding to show them that their salvation and walk needs not depend on such trappings.
This is yet another aspect more easily understood when we think about subjective Christianity. Hopefully this helps. This easily opens up a few more subjects begging for further exploration, which we will hopefully get to in the next entry.
Until then, feel free to reach out to me with any questions, thoughts or comments. You you’re interested, you can always keep tabs on what I’m working on via my blog and twitter feed.