In my previous attempts at a Christian life, I drifted heavily toward legalism over a relationship with Jesus.
I can’t say for sure what makes people drift toward legalism in their Christian life, but I can explain why I did: Some of these things I have written before. In no particular order:
- I wanted to be God over my own life rather than give Jesus the throne of my life.I had too much confidence in my own willpower even though there was no power in my will in many areas of my life.
- When I did want God in my life, I wanted Him as an elixir to temporarily drive away the misery that my selfish life and decisions drove me to.
- When I was getting high off of God, instead of pursuing a real, permanent relationship with Him, I would avoid it by sinking into legalism- trying to maintain being in the good graces of God by following rules.
- Part of what drove my particular blend legalism is I wanted to feel superior to other Christians. I wanted to know more because I thought knowing would make me better than you. And if I believed this particular blend of Christian doctrine (and I swung around from Calvinism to Catholicism) not only would I win honor and glory as a defender of a particular branch of faith, God would overlook the fact that I wasn’t interested in a relationship with Him or the fact that I had no interest in leaving the sins that cause me to feel miserable enough to use Him as a drug in the first place.
I was a non-repentant, hypocritical mess who completely missed the point. Looking at what I just wrote here I see my sin and pride left my religious beliefs in a terrible gordian knot.
Now that I’ve arrived at a point where I hate my sin so much that I admit powerlessness and let Christ have the throne, I find myself in the early days of an actual relationship with Jesus. These few weeks convinced that my particular blend of legalism is only cured by an actual relationship with our Savior.
On Thursday, I began the short devotional series “Beginning a Relationship with Jesus.” Day one of the devotional contained this, which spoke to my heart:
“The story of the Bible makes it clear that the point of knowing Jesus is for a relationship, not rules. As you begin to explore what God tells us about Himself through the Bible, you are going to find that being in a loving, committed relationship with Him is the main thing.
“So saying that the main idea of Christianity is to follow teaching points is like saying that the main idea of marriage is to share your household bills. Not exactly what we hope for in a great love story!”
One of the incidents the authors of the devotional cited was after the Fall in the Garden of Eden.
“In Genesis 3, we read about Adam and Eve choosing to turn from God and live life apart from Him. When the relationship was broken, God came looking for Adam and Eve. He didn’t come to punish or shame them but to restore the relationship.”
He asked them where they were. But the authors added a dimension to this story that I had not considered before. God obviously knew what happened with Adam, Eve, and the apple and He knew where they were. According to the authors, God was looking for reconciliation in the broken relationship.
Another angle they suggested was also interesting. “Where are you?” could refer to asking where Adam and Eve were in their mental/emotional state. I’ve been in arguments where the words “Where is your head at?” were uttered. Or as Kelsey Grammer’s character, Dr. Frasier Crane asked another character on that long-running sitcom “Tell me, what color is the sky in your world?”
As I type, I think of the famous Sermon on the Mount from Matthew where Jesus’ discourse dealt with rules. In issues such as adultery and murder, our Lord not only never said: “If you want to be with God, simply stop sinning and follow these rules.”
Reading the text from Matthew 5:1 through 7:27 tells me that Jesus’ message was that we are screwing up and are completely missing the mark even when we think we are following all of the rules and that the distance between God and us is so great that we need a relationship with Him.
I’ve fallen so far from Him that any attempt at “being good” or exercising will-power is the ultimate act of futility. I need a savior.
That is not to suggest I am being anti-law or that I believe the rules do not apply to me as I used to. But that’s another topic for another day.