August 23, 2017

The Gospel-Believing Christian In The Midst of Legalism

I’ve wanted to write an encouragement for many of my readers whom I know seek to live out the Gospel in the midst of a legalistic time and place. I pray this is a gift for you if you find yourself in such a place.

Galatians 3:1 Oh, foolish Galatians! Who has cast an evil spell on you? For the meaning of Jesus Christ’s death was made as clear to you as if you had seen a picture of his death on the cross. 2 Let me ask you this one question: Did you receive the Holy Spirit by obeying the law of Moses? Of course not! You received the Spirit because you believed the message you heard about Christ. 3 How foolish can you be? After starting your Christian lives in the Spirit, why are you now trying to become perfect by your own a human effort? 4 Have you experienced so much for nothing? Surely it was not in vain, was it? 5 I ask you again, does God give you the Holy Spirit and work miracles among you because you obey the law? Of course not! It is because you believe the message you heard about Christ. 6 In the same way, “Abraham believed God, and God counted him as righteous because of his faith.” 7 The real children of Abraham, then, are those who put their faith in God.

I am not a legalist. I am a New Covenant Christian. This is a crucial distinction for me, one on which I pray I never compromise.

As a Christian, I am staking my all on the Gospel. I am staking nothing on the law. As a minister, I am called and ordained by the church to proclaim the Gospel, not the law. When I can no longer speak, I pray that all I have spoken will be Gospel, Gospel and again, Gospel.

I respect and appreciate the law of God, but as one who embraces the Good News of being embraced by the Gospel of God’s gracious embrace of sinners in his Son, I believe the primary purpose of the law of God is to lead us to Jesus Christ. The law shows us God, it shows us his righteousness, and it shows us that we need a savior. Under the ministry of the Holy Spirit, the law of God has useful work to do in the life of the Christian, but the new birth and the life we have in Christ is not a life empowered by the law. The law can be a guide, but it can never produce in our lives or in the lives of any other person the work of the Holy Spirit.

Legalism, however, goes beyond the wrong use of the law as revealed in scripture. Legalism as I observe it in the lives and thinking of my fellow Christians consists primarily of using legal means as a way to produce immediate results, particularly in the restraint of evil and the creation of external obedience. These legal means are traditions, religious and cultural expectations, human-created rules, uses of power to produce conformity to some external standard and well-intentioned, but ultimately powerless, crusades of moral enforcement.

This kind of legalism is everywhere in conservative evangelicalism. Fundamentalism is drowning in it. My Baptist tradition is deeply involved in it. Many well-meaning persons in evangelical ministry are far more committed to legalism than to the Gospel, despite their nods and amens when the Gospel is proclaimed. Again and again, legalistic “Christians” go back to the law and its power to make a dent in the flesh. For the Gospel-believing Christian, this is as wrong a road as one can be on, and it must be avoided and clearly marked out as the way that must be avoided.

The kind of legalism that is eating away at the very soul of evangelicalism comes from several sources.

First, legalism is often a manifestation of being deprived of preaching and teaching that clearly explains the Gospel. Millions of evangelicals sit under largely Gospel-less preaching, and hear thousands of sermons on legalism and moralism in their lifetimes. As a result, they have an actual aversion to the Gospel, and are offended when the Bible’s actual teaching about legalism is proclaimed. As scripture says, these persons stumble in offense at the preaching of Christ, but eagerly embrace the categories and works of law. Law is simply easier to understand and makes sense when you have not been taught that the Gospel is for all of life and is the engine of everything Christians do. Preachers who starve a flock from eating the feast of the Gospel, but feed them the gruel of legalism, are particularly to be avoided. Pity the starving flocks, and fear for the shepherds who would not feed them.

(This is true, by the way, even if the legalism is delivered by the coolest, most successful and attractive pastor you’ve ever heard, or from a beloved old pastor at your home church or the rip-snorting young evangelist that just blew through town. A diet of legalism is a desertion of a minister’s calling. Where is Christ and the Gospel? Front and center and constant? Or buried under a mountain of lessons, principles and moralism?)

Secondly, legalism is embraced by those who have rejected the Great Commission (“Go and make disciples, baptizing them in the name….”) and have embraced the culture war in America as their primary agenda. Legalism is the standard response of those who believe the Christian mission is to fight against bad people and bad things in society, to win elections, to pass laws, work for the appointments of judges and protect children and families from any exposure to the sinful world. Legalists misuse scripture, such as being the “salt of the earth,” to say that the Dobson agenda is the primary mission of Christians. In fact, the Bible could not be clearer that we are called to proclaim and bear witness to the Gospel of Jesus Christ and his Kingdom, not moralize the pagan cultures we live in. We are not involved in the political and moral renovation of this world apart from placing the Gospel at the center of our lives. We are not seeking to protect or promote America, conservatism or Dobson’s views on legislatively enacting moral values. Christians are discipling those they are evangelizing. Christians are not trying to enforce Christian morality on unbelieving society.

(Christians can and should work for justice and righteousness in society, but that is not our Great Commission from Jesus. It is being just and merciful people and good citizens as God commands us to be. This adorns the Gospel, but it is not the Gospel.)

Thirdly, legalism is appealing in situations where power and control must be, in some way, exercised as part of Christian stewardship. Parents and pastors, for example, have responsibilities in their spheres to exert a certain amount of power. There is no avoiding the use of the law in situations where some conformity is necessary for order and peace. But those exercising power and control must be the first to know the limits of the law and the limits of legalism. Power and external control can shape external behavior. They cannot produce spiritual fruit. They cannot convert. They cannot bring a person to faith in Christ. Legalism cannot produce love. Legalism fits in well when power and control are exercised apart from the priority of the Gospel, because more immediate results are possible. But legal results, whether in a person, group or culture, will never bring about faith in Jesus that is real, love and obedience that are real or genuine discipleship.

Legalism is always attractive to those who cling to what THEY are doing to be “good Christians” for assurance. The Gospel offers spiritual means, God’s promised power to accomplish his ends and the assurance that God is more glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him.

When legalism dominates, and the Gospel is neglected, the results will be obvious almost as soon as the legal controls are removed. Of course, legalists usually learn that they must ignore the actual results of legal means as compared to Gospel means. If legalism’s results are ever compared to the genuine work of the Spirit, the difference will be obvious, but by that time, the legalist will be blaming someone else for not using enough legalism, and they will be contemplating how to use even more tomorrow.

What is a Gospel-centered, Gospel-believing person to do when legalism prevails all around them?

First of all, return to the scriptures and renew your personal vision of the Gospel. Read the mercy of God in Genesis. Read the gracious deliverance of God in Exodus. Read the many examples of God’s love for sinners in the old covenant Bible. Then read the glories of the Gospel in the new covenant scriptures. Luke. Galatians. Ephesians. Romans. Saturate yourself in the grace of God. Rejoice in it. Breath it in. Go with the Shepherds and kneel before your salvation. Go with the prodigal and weep. Then stay there. Do not follow the siren song of legalistic righteousness. Your righteousness is a gift entire, from that infant, from that father.

Secondly, prepare to be told you are not concerned with morality, righteousness and the battle for the culture. It will not be easy to be faithful to the Gospel when you are accused of being absent from the fight to save our country, etc. But we are clearly told by scripture what we are here to do: We proclaim not ourselves, not the law, not legalism, but Jesus and the Good News of his kingdom. We evangelize and plant churches. We preach, teach, pray and serve. We are to make disciples. We are to be ambassadors of reconciliation, seeking to persuade others not to be moral, but to repent, be reconciled and believe. We are never called to promote or establish legalism.

Third, root out legalism in your own life. Where you have proclaimed Jesus, then go with Jesus all the way. Determine that no one will ever hear from you that Jesus is the mediator and the one who provides a perfect salvation, yet see in you a heart that is filled with legal righteousness and a life of external obedience. Have no compartments where legalism is allowed because it gets results. Be a Gospel Christian, a good news bearer, a witness of the Gospel invitation, a servant of others for Jesus’ sake.

Fourth, be kind to legalists. Teach them the Good News. Give them books like The Gospel for Real Life by Jerry Bridges. Don’t legalistically condemn legalists. No, let the Gospel condemn legalism by the joy and true obedience it produces, and start with how you treat the legalist who is accusing you of being soft on….whatever. Thank God that your journey has not taken you to the empty cisterns, but to the over-flowing streams. Pray that the Gospel will be seen, heard, loved, believed and honored among those who name Jesus Christ as Lord.

Finally, boldly announce the message that Christ is the end of the law to all who believe. Announce that God does his transforming work through hearing the message of faith, not by associating himself with well-intentioned legal means. Be an obnoxious Protestant. Let the Reformation bells ring. If you err, err on the side of grace and Gospel, and not on the side of law and legalism. If you are to suffer or be rejected, may it be because you tenaciously refused to know anything but Christ and him crucified in the midst of a generation that prefers the works of the law to the perfect work of the cross.

Be prepared, in this culture war obsessed, legalism addicted, Gospel ignorant time, to be told you are everything but a Christian when you stand on the one thing that makes you one.

Honor the Gospel and let the Holy Spirit do the rest. Enjoy the kind of life that legalists can’t enjoy. Read, celebrate, embrace, seek peace, be reconciled and above all live the joyous Christmas Gospel! Thanks be to God for his incredible GIFT.

Comments

  1. Jen E – I like the diagram. Tell you pastor I want to plagiarize him. GRIN. Or better, ask your pastor for permission, and e-mail me a scan of his sermon (and diagram) if he has one in writing. My e-mail is on my website.

    iMonk – several have pointed out my concern. I have met too many Christians who use the word “legalism” as a way of either not obeying or out of “getting out” of something because they don’t “feel” a “leading” to do it. Even St. Paul had to point out that just because grace abounds does not mean that we can sin. In church settings, “legalism” has all too often been used by the post-post-modernists to argue that no one may critique any whim of worship which they may invent.

    The Alcoholics Anonymous Twelve Steps may actually present a good balance. (I will not vouch for other “Twelve Steps” programs around.) The first three steps are a recognition of our total incapacity to save ourselves, our need for a Savior, and turning ourselves over to him. But, notice that the next steps form a wineskin within which I can change, through the power of the Holy Spirit. You could call that wineskin legalism. Those who have successfully gone through the program would call that wineskin blessed.

  2. Anything I add would be mostly redundant, and many people have pointed to the various problems above.

    I’d like to just add a pointer and a thought. First the pointer – this wonderful course by Keller/Clowney is well worth listening to for both pastors and laymen:

    http://deimos3.apple.com/WebObjects/Core.woa/Browse/rts-public.1674108893

    Secondly, we have to remember that it’s God that opens our eyes to grace. Whilst it’s true to say that many of us have been in church situations where we didn’t hear grace – it’s also possible that if we went back into some of those situations we would hear grace – but solely because God has opened up our eyes in the interim.

  3. I have to admit that I believe the Gospel, when rightly preached, will generally lead to a charge of antinomianism, but then I am very Lutheran in my reading of Paul. Sin boldly and all that.

    Let’s take one: Going to worship. It’s a work. You can’t rely on it. But it’s an evidence of living faith. It’s a desire of the redeemed heart. But life is complicated. Maybe there was abuse, etc and it is hard to go to worship.

    God knows what is a work. If I start judging the works of others too closely, I fall under Jesus’ condemnation of “Judge not,” which is telling us to stop playing God.

    Works always accompany faith, but Christians who attach required works to faith are claiming to know something only God knows.

    I preach faith. I let the Spirit deal with the heart. Jesus is the perfect example of faith and works. Proclaim him. Teach him. Follow him.

    Let God sort out who has done “enough.” What do I know?

  4. God loves us as we are and toward that we are still to become. This enables us to see ourselves beyond what we are, and live in part, as if we are what we will one day be. Since the work God is doing in us has not reached completion, the knowledge of the costly grace of his love allows us to be as forgiving of ourselves when we stumble as he is of us. We can ask forgiveness, and begin again without despair because God’s promise that he will bring to completion that which he began is irrevocable and certain regardless of our many failures. In the same way, we are then able to extend this precious grace to others for it was freely given to us by Christ. The works of God then, are no more than the natural outworking of the life of God through men and women that live according to the gracious inworking of the love of Christ. And on it goes.

    And yet, I need to be reminded of this all the time. Thank God for his patient faithfulness.

  5. Thanks MDS. Anna A I think you hit it on the head . Another quote on legalism that a professor shared with me a while back:

    ” Legalism always comes dressed in biblical clothing ”

    Sometimes I get a bit afraid when people start standing up for ” being more biblical ” . Maybe its because Im afraid they are trying to push christian legalism by trying to pass it off as a concern for being biblical. Sometimes I wonder, depending on the context and person, if ‘being biblical’ has just become another synonym for legalism.

  6. imonk do you think it’s wrong for believers to ask people for their fruit to show they are truly saved? “Show me your fruit and prove to me you’re saved”…..do you think thats wrong? Thanks.

  7. In an interview with Steven Chalke (I believe it was in the Wittenburg Door) he said “The problem is that people generally read Jesus through Paul. We need to read Paul through Jesus.”

    My level of grace went way up after I made this switch. It was made before the above mentioned interview, but it resonated with me because I immediately recognized the profundity of the statement. Jesus always left us with nowhere to stand but upon Him. All of the angular certainties diminish after one begins to center themselves in the gospels and read out from there. The biblical beatings go way down.

  8. “Legalism is the standard response of those who believe the Christian mission is to fight against bad people and bad things in society, to win elections, to pass laws, work for the appointments of judges and protect children and families from any exposure to the sinful world. Legalists misuse scripture, such as being the “salt of the earth,” to say that the Dobson agenda is the primary mission of Christians.”

    All that and a couple of hours in church on Sunday morning, and there’s not a minute remaining to do what Jesus and the Bible actually tell us to do.

  9. Of course, in reformed evangelicalism right now, Chalke is mostly known for calling penal atonement “child abuse.” I get his point, however. How do we read anything in scripture rightly other than through Jesus?

  10. Yes, I almost refrained from giving attribute to the quotation. But then I thought I’d extend him a little grace since God doesn’t mind using even donkeys to speak a little truth.

  11. I have the official tail and ears 🙂

  12. And I a little below the tail.

  13. Ky boy but not now says:

    whoa
    “I had a question for all and for anyone to answer ……….Do legalists enjoy studying the bible to basically control others with their bible knowledge?”

    Not sure how it all ties together but we know a lot of couples/friends who study “do” Bible looking for “the answer”. They really don’t want to learn but to have a cheat sheet of “the answers”. I think a lot of legalism gets it’s strength from this type of person.

    “Tell me the answer. I don’t have time to figure it out.”

  14. “I had a question for all and for anyone to answer ……….Do legalists enjoy studying the bible to basically control others with their bible knowledge?”

    I’m sure some do. The church I went to that had a healthy dose of legalism for the most part genuinely loved God. They were grateful for what Jesus had done and wanted to be pleasing to him. They believed in “Be ye holy; for I am holy.” I dare say that most real legalists are KJV only folks

    In their case, it started with Christian Conscious. If x, which is allowed Biblically, helps get you into situations where you stumble, it’s best for your walk with God to stop doing x. This is a true statement. At some point, it grew and morphed into “Not doing x is good for everyone” eventually into “If you do x, which causes so many people to stumble, you must not be walking right with the Lord.”

    It’s not an inevitable progression but an easy one to make. It’s really easy, when trying to obey the commands of Jesus (and all of the NT following it) because you feel it’s your due response to what Jesus did (take up your cross and all that), to drift into using the NT as a sort of checklist for yourself. Once you have a checklist for yourself, it’s almost impossible to not apply that checklist to others. It’s simply human nature.

    Ever notice that the most rabid anti-smokers are almost always FORMER smokers? How many alcoholics preach drinking is a sin? Sometimes it’s self righteousness. A lot of times it’s because they care about the people around them and want to protect them.

    Legalism is as easy to slip into as antinomialism. Both pose equally great threats to the gospel and the Body.

    DD

  15. iMonk, I love what you do here the most when you give us grace with both barrels.

    It is radical, it is nonsense, and of course people can go off the rails and abuse freedom. That doesn’t stop “grace + nothing” from being the truth.

    Man, your statement “Your righteousness is a gift entire,” is enough to stop you in your tracks if you let it. May we all let it do so.

    Sean

  16. caucazhin says:

    I see youve been sharpening your sword of truth monk and you really cut through all the BS with it…
    Praise B 2 God ! ! !
    Heres a couple of pages everyone will love who agrees with monk on this

    http://www.realanswers.net/realanswers/?p=58

    And heres a very short very insightful clip especially for calvinists

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6et2ZSodS0g

  17. Headless Unicorn Guy says:

    In their case, it started with Christian Conscious. If x, which is allowed Biblically, helps get you into situations where you stumble, it’s best for your walk with God to stop doing x. This is a true statement. At some point, it grew and morphed into “Not doing x is good for everyone” eventually into “If you do x, which causes so many people to stumble, you must not be walking right with the Lord.” — DaveD

    Which leads into “x is FORBIDDEN”.

    And since y might lead to x, y also must be Forbidden.

    And since z might involve y…

    This is called “Can You Top This?”

  18. Headless Unicorn Guy says:

    italics off…

  19. And additionally H-U-Guy,

    you can’t do A,B or C either because it might look like Z to Joe. Joe thinks X is forbidden so therefore he doesn’t do Z or Y just to be safe.

    Joe might stumble if he thinks you are doing Z (he’s the weaker brother . . . who’s been a Christian three times longer than you) when really you are only doing something that looked like Z to Joe when it was really A, B or C. Now I’m really getting confused. Makes one want to go back and scrub monastery toilets just for some relief.

  20. And, of course, we need an authority figure telling us what to do so none of us have to actually think for ourselves, because you know how sinful your thoughts are.

  21. Great post. I just want to take the opportunity to say thank you. Thank you for speaking the truth and allowing God to use you as you do so. I know He has used your words in my life. I just posted today about culture wars vs Gospel (before I read this post). Now reading this and re-reading my blog I can see that I’ve been listening to you!

    haleyballast.blogspot.com if you’re interested. 🙂

  22. Headless Unicorn Guy says:

    you can’t do A,B or C either because it might look like Z to Joe. Joe thinks X is forbidden so therefore he doesn’t do Z or Y just to be safe. — JMJ

    Until all is Forbidden, and what is not Forbidden is Absolutely Compulsory. North Korea with a Christian coat of paint.

    Joe might stumble if he thinks you are doing Z (he’s the weaker brother . . . who’s been a Christian three times longer than you) –JMJ

    I have zero tolerance for “Professional Weaker Brethren”. That’s “Just like Tyranny of the Perpetually Offended, but CHRISTIAN (TM)!”

    And there are a lot of them out there. I have a burned-out preacher bud who has to constantly hide from the Church Ladies just to be able to function. St Paul talked about “milk and meat”; well he’s got to deal with parishoners who not only reject the meat, but spit out the milk as well. “WE WANT CANDY! WE WANT CANDY!”

  23. Headless Unicorn Guy says:

    And, of course, we need an authority figure telling us what to do so none of us have to actually think for ourselves, because you know how sinful your thoughts are. — IMonk

    Until the only difference between Christians and Communists is they quote different Party Lines. And Christ becomes just a Cosmic-level Comrade Dear Leader.

  24. Thanks once again for reminding us of what really matters. The legalism of the culture wars in particular has a big impact where I live, and not a good one. The result is that people see moralists, not servants of the kingdom or followers of Jesus. The gospel is drowned out by the shouting, and this saddens me beyond words. My response has been to become pretty much a conscientious objector with regard to the culture war.

    One thing not mentioned in your post but that occurs to me as I observe the legalist landscape is that legalism is always accompanied by at least an undercurrent of fear; sometimes fear even becomes the driving force (again, witness the culture wars). What a stark contrast to the biblical admonition to love and the truth that perfect love casts out fear!

  25. Yes I’ve noticed that as well. Legalists use fear and ‘holiness’. They use fear by quoting specific verses that talk about the last days. Some even use fear by quoting verses that speak of false prophets or false teachers or false or fake christians. This creates a church culture or enviornment of suspicion. This also leads to a kind of serious and solemn kind of christianity. This is not to deny that there are false teachers or that we live in the last days but I think Legalists sometimes use these things to control people. They also use the idea of being holy as a way of laying a legalistic vibe on people.
    Another thing I’ve noticed is that there is also a connection between Legalism and insecurity in a leader or pastor or christian. Some people get into ministry because of insecurities. They might be insecure of there physical looks. They then hide behind the bible by being really dogmatic to cover up their personal insecurities. Their dogmatism then becomes their identity. Being ‘serious about God’ becomes a blanket to cover up their insecurities. I have seen this. I remember seeing one pastor who had a reputation of being serious about obeying and following God. When he preached he would be dogmatic and serious. But then I would notice that he would have times when he would ‘crack’. His dogmatic image when behind the pulpit would crack in informal or unplanned situations such as being face to face with people. It was those unexpected or informal times when I observed this about him. Legalism and insecurities and control can sometimes be working together. Insecure people want to be in control. They need to have everything planned out. Informal or unexpected situations are avoided. Next time your church invites a pastor to a retreat or to your church try telling them ” We changed the schedule. We have alot of free time now before you speak ” .
    I point this out because I think this is phoniness. I think its phoniness when a pastor steps behind the pulpit and speaks with dogmatism and with a bull doggish vibe and presents himself as someone who’s got it together but then when he’s in informal situation he starts to crack. There’s a difference between acknowledged weakness and insecurities and transparency behind the pulpit and a phony ‘holier than thou’ image.

  26. I am a Legalist…and I find some things written up top incorrect on usages of the word “Legalism in the Christian World”. Example: written in the book of Psalms 1:1-2 “Blessed Is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, or stand in the seats of mockers. But, he delights in the Laws of the Lord..Day and Night…” I pondered to myself as to the highlighted area up top-one; as well as quotes made I found, from Saint Augustine,Immanuel Kant, and my former Professor Dr. Goetz–prime examples in Christian Ethics. It appears that legalism can go beyond the improper use of scriptures; but, infactly “when and where is the key”…It can be used as a way of correctiveness; or, better yet, a crucial neccessity in the restraints from EVIL. Saying that than, ST. Augustine makes it clear in a small , but distinguishing statement, I wish certain fellow Chrisitians could hear..”Whoever tells a Lie, however good his intentions may be to protect a position/claim, must have a direct answer for his consequences of it…however unforseen they may have been…a lie ~ is a lie, is a lie. Secondly, Immanuel Kant is strongly opposed to the view (As I am) “To Truth Tell to Only those who have a right to it….therefore, lying is customly seen. Second, the duty to tell the truth makes no distinction between persons , but is “a unconditional duty that holds in all circumstances”…. Meaning that it is our duty to be truthful to everyone.” By lying to One Person , we do injury to all persons…and so forth…..” This therefore, is violating the principle of Justice…Gods Laws observed. What I find as an atrocity of Sin, as well the statement of truth written up top that “millions of evangelicals are sitting under gospel-less preaching–hearing more repetitiveness of turmoil and gossip, moral ethics of their interpretations of ones life, the should be’s….when they can’t get their own acts together themselves”. This is quite frightening to me….and keeps me greatly in a stance of “Legalistic Christian Skeptisum” verifying all teachings through heremenutics glossings over of my personal convictions instilled through my sound Doctrine,and the Holy Spirit involvement–mostly. Legalism Is Not a negative…rather a heads up folks to what on earth is around us, pay attention–also, containing a greatness in verification through grounded Pastors–without the need for gossip involved. Rather sound teaching gaining “Mercy and Forthrighteousness”…better equiped really in the end anyways. Rahab

  27. Here’s the test which I think reveals legalism’s presence and heart:

    Do you trust God to work in the heart of a person who has claimed Christ, even when that work is not apparent to you? IOW, do you trust that if God shapes the heart of the believer, then all the rest re moral behavior will eventually fall into line? Or do you think that you have a need to try and discover a man’s heart to discern their salvation for yourself? Do you think that without your input or the input of your leaders, that God will be unable to pull a believer back from their errors and sin?

    The Christian life is a process of purifying the heart and “putting on the new man” so we can be in communion with God and live His love in this world. And that is God work. It has seemed to me for quite some time that our tendency towards legalism reveals a lack of trust in God. We do not trust God to shape and transform our hearts, much less anyone else’s. So we set up requirements, test and rules to ensure the good result which we do not trust God to provide. However, if we really trust God and His devotion to completing the good thing begun in us, even our sin is not so threatening because we know that God will arrive with his rod of correction and pull us back on course. This is freedom. And this is the freedom that legalism does not trust and tries to inject itself into managing.

    Just my $.02

  28. Psalm 109

    In the end results of prayers…….Psalm 23

    Amen Rahab

  29. To sum it up legalism is phony christianity and phony holiness. It’s a hollow shell. It is alluring to believers because it is clear, predictable and concerned with being biblical. There are well known pastors who have a legalistic bent. Their ‘seriousness’ about being biblical and their joyless countenance speak for themselves. They have either directly or indirectly pushed a christianity that is about trying hard to follow God and obey Him out of one’s own strength. They have given a picture of the christian life that is all about keeping God’s laws…… joyless, lifeless, striving, mechanical and serious. They present the christian life as an endurance test to see who can suck it up and make it to heaven by pulling oneself up by their own bootstraps. When one comes to faith in Christ there is joy and passion and love and life and power……..but after that it’s all about moving on from cultivating an intimate and real relationship with God through His Spirit to focusing on getting down all of God’s rules and trying hard to obey them and trying hard to avoid sin. Knowing one’s bible and attaining more theological or biblical knowledge is what the essence of the Christian life becomes about. Sin avoidance and trying hard to obey God is what we’re offered. No intimacy, no life, no power, no infatuation with a living God.
    It’s all so sickening and yet people look up to these pastors and are so amazed by their bible knowledge. It’s all a bunch of fraud.

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