Legalism or Grace?
Read 2Cor.5:12-19. Verse 17 says we are now a new creation in Christ. When we become Christians, we get rid of some bad habits and start to develop new Christian ones: go to church, give offering, bible studies, youth group, visit lonely people etc, and we feel good about ourselves.
When I was a new Christian and perhaps others as well, we think that these Christian activities are like paying your debts to God. I came out of my spiritual bankruptcy and then started paying. In order to do what? To please Him? Then I began to doubt about my salvation. I was doing my best as a Christian, but I failed, I felt guilty. Then gradually out of frustration, I was falling short of my spirituality. I was surrounded by non-Christians friends, when they swore, I swore too, though not often. I was no different from them. Why?
First, because we are legalistic by nature. We think so much of what we can do, to progress in our Christian life. We want to perform in order to earn God’s special blessing. An example of this was Peter: After listening to Jesus’s conversation with the rich young ruler (Luke 18:18-29), Peter said to Jesus, “We have left everything to follow you. What then will there be for us?” They had left their fishing business etc. Peter had already added up his merits points, and he wanted to know in advance how much reward he would have.
Second reason, Our Christian culture reinforces this. Those of us who work with missionaries and were converted through mission work may have this attitude. Let me explain. Once we became Christians, we were told to attend church services, give our offering, attend discipleship programs, SS, camps etc. These are good, but be wise and careful. We need to be careful, that we are not doing these different Christian activities, to gain some merit points 10/10; because if we do, we are assuming that our performance in these areas earns God’s blessing for our lives.
The right thing to do and to realise is that we do these things (Christian services), because God’s grace is working in us. We offer our services, resources, our will, because it is God’s grace working within. What do I mean? It means that His grace is sufficient enough to work in our life (his undeserving love and mercy, which I don’t really deserve, even a single and tiny bit) ---is more than enough working in my heart to motivate me to utter praise and thanksgiving, and to render my services.
You see everything is by grace, legalism demands, but grace gives. Legalism is a burden, but grace is freedom to serve with joy. All by grace and by grace alone. (To be continued)