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The Law from Within

By Dr. Richard J. Krejcir
Hypocrisy causes more problems than any other endeavor human or satanic in giving the church a bad name in the world! "They Will Know That we are Christians by our Love." So will they?

Hypocrisy causes more problems than any other endeavor, human or satanic, in giving the church a bad name in the world!

 
When I was in grade school I went to a private Episcopal school and often we would sing a hymn:
 
"They Will Know That we are Christians by our Love..."
 
So, will they with you and your church? The question is, is this true today, does the world know who we are because of our love, or who we are because of our rules that we ourselves don't even follow? Are we known for the purpose we are called too or the subtle rules we make up from our own law from within our fallen nature?

The law from within is legalism, it is the making up of whims and procedures that distract people away from the true gospel. Legalism is just another form of hypocrisy according to the non-Christian. And another word for discontent among the people who choose not to go to church. People see a series of actions that have to be done in a certain way, such as a certain dress, or the certain look, or knowing the right words for prayer or a hymn. The reason is that people see the distortion and over-obedience to what seems to be silly laws of no consequence, such as no playing cards or dancing. Or they're afraid of walking into a church service only to be completely lost and confused as to what is going on. When others in our midst are not conforming to our law from within, we quickly turn and bite as a well-trained police dog. We pronounce harsh judgment and sentencing, we are then careless of the consequences because we are right in our thinking. This biting is judgmentalism, and it comes from the law we make up by ourselves when we are not in tune with our Lord.

The Truth or the "Tilt"

True legalism is our love and devotion to earnestly seek out to love and serve the Lord. But legalism can be corrupted and distorted to be a series of rules and regulations, where salvation is based on merit. This form of legalism skews the true purpose and meaning of how we are saved out of our fallen nature. For there is nothing we can do or add to God's plan of salvation, to gain favor, it is only what God has accomplished through Jesus Christ that earns our salvation. The result of this salvation is what should be our gratitude and desire to model Christ with His character living out in our lives. Where Christians treat people with respect and kindness, not with the attitude of being arrogant and condescending to others. We are called to be humble and filled with compassion and love, where our deeds reflect the nature of our heart, a heart bought by our Lord who gave us His Grace. Grace is the ultimate, un-earnable gift.

The Pharisees saw legalism as a series of systematic rules to try to earn the approval of God based on their ancestry to Abraham. Every single law and rule was laid down in minute detail. All these rules and regulations kept the people spinning around like a dog chasing it's tail. The result of this chase is that the very laws the Pharisees created conflicted with what the law was all about, which was to be in a covenant with God.

One of the reasons for these feelings of superiority that the Pharisees had, and that we feel today is that we are more educated. We are in a superior position, with the ability to look back and judge. We feel we have more knowledge, and thus have more to offer. We feel we are more established and can look at the past with condescending retrospect. And some of this is true. We do have more knowledge today, after all we are in the information age. It's not a matter of the knowledge we have, it's about how we use that knowledge, and if we use it. It's been said people do not care how much you know until they know how much you care. It's also been said that knowledge is power, so are we willing to use the power to further God's kingdom, or will we try to use the power to destroy it? Can we truly look at ourselves with the same eyes that others see, or that Christ sees? Are we willing and capable to use the power that Christ gives us for his glory?

The hypocrisy of legalism is when the Christian expects the non-Christian to conform and when they don't conform they are shunned by the Christian. All too often a non-Christian will visit a church, maybe with a relative or friend, only to hear or receive some kind of sarcastic comment or look. I honestly believe most Christians do not do this intentionally, although some do, rather, they forget whom they are representing. This is a destructive force; yes, we have rich traditions that we should not give up; however, we need to be sensitive in nurturing a non-believer. And we should not expect the behavior from a non-believer to be the same as a person who grew up the church! We need to be sensitive with the way we look so we do not stare, as well as what we say, and how we say it. Remember people are watching, remember what is most important is what God calls us to be. Remember Christ's sober warning to the Pharisees, and to us - Do not be a snake!

 

" You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? Before your very eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed as crucified. I would like to learn just one thing from you: Did you receive the Spirit by observing the law, or by believing what you heard? Are you so foolish? After beginning with the Spirit, are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort? Galatians 3:1-3

In Galatians 3, Paul is rebuking the Galatian church for mixing up grace and law. Although the Galatians had become Christians by the knowledge of the resurrection, they did not continue to walk by faith in their new life in Christ, rather they decided to be religious by creating all kinds of rules and regulations and still subscribing to their Jewish ancestry. Paul is trying to explain to them that Christianity and Judaism are no longer on the same path, and being a Christian does not make you a Jew, nor does being born a Jew make you a Christian. Paul is clearly expounding a warning against legalism that we are not to base our salvation by doing some kind of good works or deeds, or by following a set of rules. Salvation is generated by God's grace alone, our only effort is our faith in Jesus Christ. There's nothing we can do to gain favor with God, there's nothing we can do to win salvation; when we have the view that we can gain spiritual favor by our own efforts then we have a skewed understanding of grace and God's Word.

Paul's call to the Galatians is that they are foolish and bewitched not only because of their misunderstanding of grace but their wrongful proclamation of it. This is also a stern warning for us when we misrepresent God's truth. Legalism is not a small matter in small churches; rather it's a very significant issue that is rampant in the church across America. I observed this myself and heard countless callous stories by individuals who I talked to over the years, and have seen the statistics that back this statement up. Legalism is not denominational traditions or the traditions of a local church fellowship, but rather the atmosphere that envelops, constructs, and controls the flow of the Holy Spirit which is the very oxygen to the breathing Christian.

In the Old Testament, God gave Moses the law. The law displayed to the Jewish people the holiness of God, and that they had to be perfect to enter His presence and offer sacrifices of restitution to cover their sins. This law conveys the majesty and awesomeness of God's holiness, a good understanding of the law gives us a better understanding of the immeasurable value of Grace. We cannot have grace without the law. The problem is when the Christian, who is saved by grace and no longer bound to the law, goes back to the law or creates their own law to give them a better sense of being religious. One of the objections of the gospel by non-Christians is that it is too simple, so there is a natural tendency to add to it with their own efforts. This puts the focus on us as human beings in our effort to work out and move forward with our salvation. It ignores the truths of God's Word and the wonderful gifts He bestowed on us. When we trust in ourselves to work out our salvation, we're not in the love relationship, and definitely not in a trusting relationship with Christ and what He has done for us.

 

Why we judge: Our independent and untrusting nature

American Christians tend be very independent and do not like to submit or relinquish authority to other people. It interrupts our perceived notion of independence and self-determination. Yet one of the main aspects of the Christian life is yielding our will over to God's will. Satan uses our strong willed nature to his advantage, to deceive our thinking and steal us into judgment and self-determination. There are good aspects of self-determination and it made our country great. For instance, the drive to go west, to colonize and form cities, build infrastructure, and pioneer the greatest country with honor. But don't confuse rugged independence with self-surrender. It is one thing to be a pioneer and have an adventure into the unknown; it is another thing to build and pioneer relationships, and not alienate and divide when it comes to people and the mission of the church. And most importantly is to be surrendered and poured out to our Lord, so He is the focus of will and not us!

So American Christians, {having the opportunity to travel around the world, Americans tend to have this attitude more than the rest of the world} tend to focus on themselves as the paramount of importance in their circles of influence. Thus anyone that does not conform to their perceptions of self-will is deemed inappropriate and less of a person; unworthy of interaction, but worthy of provocation. That is the rationalization for put-downs and judgments. Our rebellious nature rises against anyone not conforming to our needs and world view. World view simply means how we view the world, based on our experience and limited knowledge. So when people fail us, or do not meet our expectations, we quickly judge them. Can you just picture Christ cheering us on, saying go for it, judge those people, you're better than they! Not the Christ of the Bible! Only the Christ we make up in our minds.

Self-righteousness

It's easy to consider ourselves better than everyone else. After all, we look at ourselves in the mirror and we see everything from our own eyes, in our own perspective. We have only our own experience and knowledge to go on, thus we're used to ourselves. Thus all of our knowledge and experience flows through our eyes, mind and then is re-compared to the previous knowledge and experience we have. Our entire existence is self-centered. Since we are the only source of primary information, we tend to filter out all of our incoming information through our self-notions. That is again our world view. This is a dangerous game, while we view our desires as the most important focus in life, even over Scripture. It's dangerous and deadly because it is counterproductive to the work of Christ. It's deadly because, in my experience, I see people actually kill themselves over issues of being judged. And it's deadly because of how it destroys the body of Christ, the church that was once in someone's corner with support and encouragement is no longer there. We must be aware of the self-righteous attitude, the tendency to push aside the work of our Lord and His righteousness and replace it with our perceived ability to save and control other people. Replacing them with our views, and our judgment, so we feel superior, even over God. We may not say it openly; but we will say it to ourselves, whisper it to each other, and display it in our actions.

I found myself being judgmental towards my wife once{okay it's been more than once}. I had a superior way of washing dishes. Having worked in restaurants in my youth, I had a lot of experience with washing dishes, and know very efficient ways of doing it. So when we were first married, I observed how my wife washed dishes, and I quickly butted in to show her my superior way of doing it. She was not impressed, because she saw my attitude as being judgmental, regardless if there was a better way or not. I failed to appreciate my wife's efforts, and my condescending remarks were clearly wrong.

Righteousness is peace with God, that God is our source in all aspects of our life. When we judge others based on our knowledge, we evaluate another person's behavior and actions without checking out the circumstances and facts behind it. Just like Pat Boone's experience. We do not know the heart of someone, only God does. We usually don't have all the facts because we are not omniscient or omnipresent. When we see someone, we get such a tiny spec of information, and from that tiny spec of information, we then come up with great pronouncements of righteousness on our behalf. We have to see how clearly wrong this is. There is no "Gospel of the self," rather just the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We cannot base credibility, respect, or value a person for such limited observations. Nor should we expect people to do it to us.

Hosea states, "When I fed them, they were satisfied; when they were satisfied, they became proud; then they forget me." Hosea 13:6

This is a passage that explains a step by step process of discontentment. We were given the gift of grace, yet we forget it. We put it off and replace it with our own efforts, and the result will be pride and a lack of morals and self respect.

A righteous attitude will manifest pride. And out of pride comes the rotten fruits of arrogance, apathy, envy, anger, lust, ambition, greed, aloofness, and ingratitude. Then when we become infected with these age-old diseases, it will barricade our relationship with Christ and cut us off from the character and reflection of Christ to the world. It has been said we cannot control our circumstance, but we can control our attitude. When we cannot control our pride, we cover ourselves from the call and blessings that Christ has for us. What in fact happens is we forget who we are, who we are in Christ, and who we are as spiritual beings. We actually dismiss God from our life and replace Him with the god of ourself and the law from within. We become atheists, even though we go to church and even serve in leadership positions. An atheist has no practical use for God. Do you? The only thing that matters to God is us as His child, our love relationship with Him. Humbleness must be our character and not pride, or we will become a disgruntled Christian, which is not too far from a disgruntled postal worker. So remember who you are in Christ and put away the pride that blinds us and constrains us from the truth and love of Christ.

Real righteousness is finding our worth in what Jesus Christ has done for us, and recognizing that we are unworthy, our worthiness is only in the judgment that we should receive yet are mutated by Christ's righteousness. We must relinquish our need to be validated and to be the sole benefactors of worth and value. We must realize we are inter-linked to form the fabric that Christ uses to further His kingdom. Each one of us is a thread that intertwines into each other's thread; if you pull one of the threads out, it would effect the whole garment. However, one thread does not hold up the entire garment. Our Christian goal is not to sit up on a perch and judge, only to gain the upper hand; but, we are to simply trust and obey our Lord and engage in society with the purpose of Christ. When we realize our completeness is based and earned solely on what Christ has done for us, then the need to put others down should dissipate, and the less we need to defend or puff ourselves up.

What grace really is

Too many Christians dispense grace and mercy with a tiny spoon. Such as the decorative spoons you would collect on vacation and place up on a mantle, but this is not what Christ would have us do. Not the spoons, but the dispensing. We must learn that performance oriented Christianity has no basis in the kingdom of God. We cannot judge people on their ability to perform tasks. So that when they don't meet our expectations we write them off. Do not confuse this with job performance. A good work ethic is essential to be a good Christian witness. A staff member in the church has a job description that should be Biblically based and well thought out, and compared to others in the field. The staff member has an obligation to work hard and fulfill that job description. This is a different kind of performance.

The performance I speak of is when the rules of society are placed over against the rules of our Lord. To illustrate this, I was playing volleyball with a group of guys after church one Sunday, when they started to pick on another person because of his T-shirt. This was all in fun, but the person that they were picking on did not take it that way. He felt hurt and never came back. So one of the guys that picked on him, called him and went to apologize to him; this is an aspect of grace. The willingness to admit when we are wrong, and seek forgiveness. Grace is not judging someone for the superficial things such as outfits, especially to the non-Christians who are not used to Christian culture. When we pick on each other, we need to realize the magnitude of hurt this creates. There are times to have fun, tongue and cheek, but it always needs to be practiced with the attitude of love and care.

In Christian circles, we hear the phrase "we are not under law but under grace." Perhaps you may say this often, or hear it said to you with a flair of condescendment; but when this is said, do we say it in the truth that is meant, or as an excuse to do what ever we want. Is this a statement of expounding the greatest gift ever given in the history of the universe, or is it a sly attitude to excuse our deviant behaviors?

Christ gave us grace; He saved us when we totally did not deserve it. Most Christians cannot fathom the efforts and ordeal that God went through to secure our salvation, thus we don't treat each other in the same characteristic. Christ has fulfilled the law in regards to the debt that we owe and the sin that we were cursed under. So where and when does responsibility comes into play?

Galatians 3 states, "Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree. He redeemed us in order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus, so that by faith we might receive the promise of the spirit…no one can set aside or add to a human covenant that has been duly established, so it is in this case…" Galatians 3:13-15

The Christian must have a healthy understanding of what grace is, so we can reciprocate it to those around us. That Christ paid our price of the broken covenant between us and God, a price that Christ did not owe. We deserved the wrath, punishment, and the condemnation but the curse was lifted, and lifted not by anything we had or could ever accomplish ourselves. Then we are filled with the promise and blessing of Abraham that all the world may know.

"I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all the peoples on earth will be blessed through you."Genesis 12:3

This is a preamble of the gospel, and what I believe is also one of the main themes of the Bible; that God will use us to spread His Word by our actions through his Grace and Spirit. Grace is a promise and a reality for the Christian, and it is also a responsibility. Grace is not a divine excuse for us to rationalize our will and desires', thinking it is a get out of jail free card. Christ delivered us from the curse not the responsibility.

"So then, the law is holy, and the commandment is holy, righteousness and good."Romans 7:12

The law reflects God's character, it is HOLY! And God is JUST. So our responsibility is for us to reflect this in our actions {yes this statement will be repeated many times, because most people just do not get it!}. The law was not the curse, it was only the container for it, and the curse was for those who did not follow it. Yet God promised redemption, to which we have today in the person and work of Jesus Christ. God promised blessing to the people who followed Him, and a curse that was brought on themselves to those who would not follow. Today we Christians have the problem of accepting Grace with a shallow pan, which only holds the promise but will not hold the responsibility. We focus on the love and acceptance, yet we are not loving and accepting to others. We think we have a license to kill, with no contract or covenant to the provider of the Grace. When we do this, judgment will continue, and the loss of our culture will continue. When we know what Grace really is and submit to it, then our misplaced judgments and actions will be neutered. That there is room in our lives for something greater than us, which is binding and permanent. So are we focusing on ourselves or on what Christ has done? Are we following God's law or our own? The law does not save us, but will point to our responsibility and to the Holiness of whom we serve. That we learn to submit to the authority of Christ with the attitude of trust and the gratitude of what He has done. And what becomes of us is growth and maturity. A life filled with blessings flowing and coming out from our walk with our Lord to those around us. That our fruit is love and care, if not what we will have is a life filled with unhappiness and contempt.

We must guard ourselves from the fallacy that we deserve more. This was the lie of the devil to Eve in the garden, that she deserved more than what God had already given her. When we have the idea of I do not have enough in my life, whether material possessions or blessings, our attitude becomes corrupt. And what flows from this corrupt attitude is discontent and self-pity. We need to protect our rights and especially the rights of those who cannot defend themselves, such as children. But what we are not to do is keep the focus on our rights over and against our responsibility. Our focus needs to be in the gratitude of the gift of grace, and not what we did not get, so we do not become consumed with ingratitude, and then let it turn into hostility. The ungrateful Christian will quickly turn to legalism and in turn produce the various forms of discontentment toward others. Because they are unwilling to see the love that Christ has for them, and then they are unable to give it out to others. They do not see the appreciation from others or even from God, so the focus is the poor me attitude. And this attitude will reciprocate discontentment in a very powerful and focused way.

When we fully recognize our dependence in Christ, and fully feel the love and acceptance we have from Him, then our spiritual walk will increase. When our walk increases then the flow of love and care will proceed from us in a powerful and focused way. Because then we will see that we already have all that we could ever want or need. All that we are, and all that we could ever be is found in Christ.
 

Ó 1998, 2001, Rev. R.J. Krejcir excerpt from the upcoming book 'Pew Sitting' www.intothyword.com

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