Monthly Archives: October 2017

On Biblical Literalism

Biblical Literalism…or the belief that the Bible should be taken literally. It’s the viewpoint of many – but by no means all – in the fundamentalist/evangelical church.

But I don’t think that this viewpoint does the Bible justice. The Bible is a complex tome, written by many different people over a vast period of time. People with hugely different viewpoints, from all walks of life and from many different cultures and in many different circumstances.

In short, the Bible was not written as a Rulebook, an Instruction Manual for Life, God’s Great Plan, to be believed and acted upon word-for-word; it was written, by those many people, to tell us what their views were on God. To tell us stories, to tell us the history of a people (the Jews), to tell us how people’s viewpoints on God have changed over the centuries, to offer advice – and many other reasons. To take it literally and to treat it as completely infallible is to fail to let it live up to its huge potential; to fail to give it free rein and to miss out on so much of the wisdom that it contains.

But enough of my chatter. Here’s a great blog post on Patheos by the brilliant Matthew Distefano, about the problems with Biblical Literalism. Read this piece – it brings things into a better perspective than I ever could.

Over to Matt. Click here to go to the blog post – ‘5 Things We’ll Miss If We Take The Bible Too Literally’ – or click the image below (that would be Matt in the picture)

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The Power

One of my favourites of all of Don Francisco’s songs is ‘The Power‘. Telling the story of the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, it speaks of a massively supernatural experience for an un-named member of the group of Jesus’s friends who met together on that morning.

And something that always strikes me with this story is that those guys were just ordinary people, just like you and I. God was fulfilling His promise on that day, just as Peter said (Acts 2:17-21) when he quoted the prophet Joel (Joel 2:28-32), “…I will pour out My Spirit on all people…”

All people. That includes you and me! There is only one Holy Spirit. He’s the same now as He was then. There’s no ‘junior’ or ‘budget model’ of the Holy Spirit. That same Spirit that came on Pentecost is exactly the same One Who comes to us now; He’s the One Who lives in us and guarantees our inheritance as saints of God (Eph 1:13-14; 2Cor1:22). Now if that’s not completely awesome, then I don’t know what is. The indwelling, tangible Presence of God, living inside ordinary people like you and me. The incredible assurance of knowing that we belong to God – our inheritance as saints is guaranteed. It’s almost unbelievable, isn’t it? But it’s true. I and many other believers can testify to that awesome Power living within us and giving Life to us in our mortal bodies, and giving us that assurance that we are indeed God’s children (Romans 8:16). Paul is not talking about some bookish theory or idea; he’s not talking about stuffy, dusty doctrine, he’s talking about a real, fizzing, bubbling, tangible reality for which all the doctrines in the world are simply no substitute. This is why nothing that anyone says to us can shake us from that knowledge – because it’s real. Some may say, ‘Ah, but the Bible says…’ or ‘Ah but in our church we don’t believe that…’ Well that doesn’t change what I know, and it does not change the believer’s assurance. It simply can’t.

So, have a listen to this song. Let it minister this fabulous truth to your spirit: If the Spirit of Him Who raised Christ from the dead dwells in you, then He Who raised Christ from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies because of His Spirit Who lives in you. (Romans 8:11) Let this truth minister to you in all its incredible reality and power.

This is real.

This is you

This is now

It was a crowd of mixed emotions
That walked back to the room
But steadfastly we set all our minds to prayer
Waiting together with His relatives and friends
Well above a hundred of us there
Some of us He’d healed; some He’d raised up from the dead
Some He’d called as He went walking past
We recounted all the stories, with no detail left unturned
Determined with a will to make it last

Outside in the street, the Feast’s cacophany began
As crowds from all across the world convened
Flowing upwards to the temple, with their firstfruits in their hands
Unaware of all that we had seen
Dawn turned into daylight, just like all the days before
And again we lifted hands to God in prayer
And though no-one had imagined what the morning held in store
Still all of us felt something in the air

Then faint at first, we heard a sound that slowly grew to more
Like a tempest far away upon the sea
Descending ’til it filled the house with an unabated roar
Like an army’s final shout of victory
And right there in the midst of us
From nothing burst a flame
And tongues of fire rose high into the air
Then separating, settled down on each of us the same
And at once the sounds of praise were everywhere

And the flood of joy inside me then was more than I could bear
Like peace and laughter joined into a whole
‘Cause the power that came from Jesus that we’d felt for all these years
Was flowing deep and wide within my soul

Praise you, Jesus, for your Holy Spirit
Praise you, Jesus, seated on the throne
Praise you, Jesus, for the power you’ve given
Praise and glory unto you alone

Praise you, Jesus, for your Holy Spirit
Praise you, Jesus, seated on the throne
Praise you, Jesus, for the power you’ve given
Praise and glory unto you alone

Praise you, Jesus, for your Holy Spirit
Praise you, Jesus, seated on the throne
Praise you, Jesus, for the power you’ve given
Praise and glory unto you alone

– Words and music by Don Francisco, used here with his kind permission

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Fly to Jesus

This entry is part 19 of 20 in the series Fiona

Today it’s a year since I lost my wonderful wife, Fiona.

How does one mark a whole year since we lost such an incredible lady?

Well, I can think of no better way to honour her memory than to post a number sung by our beautiful and supremely talented daughter, Ellie Rosie (that’s her stage-name).

Here’s a picture of Ellie singing at Fiona’s and my ‘wedding’, in December 2014, when we renewed our vows:

Fiona had an astonishing singing voice, and Ellie’s is equally astonishing. Here Ellie covers a beautiful song – Come to Jesus, by Chris Rice – which Ellie discovered on Hillary Scott’s album ‘Love Remains‘. I think this song sums up Fiona’s life perfectly, from her initial salvation, through all she experienced in her life, and right up to where she is now – ‘On Glory’s Side’. Fiona has indeed flown to Jesus and rests in His arms. And she would have loved this song.

 

Take it away, Ellie:

 

Weak and wounded sinner
Lost and left to die
Raise your head, for love is passing by
Come to Jesus
Come to Jesus
Come to Jesus and live!
 
Now your burden’s lifted
Carried far away
Precious blood has washed away the stain,
Sing to Jesus
Sing to Jesus
Sing to Jesus and live!
 
And like a newborn baby
Don’t be afraid to crawl
And remember when we walk
Sometimes we fall, so
Fall on Jesus
Fall on Jesus
Fall on Jesus and live!
 
Sometimes the way is lonely
And steep and filled with pain
So if your sky is dark and coursed with rain,
Cry to Jesus
Cry to Jesus
Cry to Jesus and live!
 
When the love spills over
And music fills the night
And when you can’t contain your joy inside,
Dance for Jesus
Dance for Jesus
Dance for Jesus and live!
 
With your final heartbeat
Kiss the world goodbye
Go in peace, and laugh on Glory’s side,
Fly to Jesus
Fly to Jesus
Fly to Jesus and live!
Fly to Jesus
Fly to Jesus
Fly to Jesus and live!

 

– ‘Come to Jesus’, by Chris Rice

 

Vocals, piano and keyboards by Ellie Rosie

 


Header picture is of Fiona in 1987, at the age of 23, not long after our first child, David, was born.
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Conforming to the Pattern of This World

This entry is part 4 of 5 in the series Coming Out

Today, I conclude my mini-series with an appeal to those believers who remain unconvinced about what the Church’s attitude should be about Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer/questioning (LGBTQ) people, and those of other ‘different’ sexualities (so, LGBTQ+).

It is a fact of life that society in general is slowly becoming more ‘tolerant’ of LGBTQ+ people. Not too long ago, it was actually illegal, in the UK, to be homosexual. Nowadays, of course, same-sex couples have the right to form ‘civil partnerships’ and also to be married, just like heterosexual couples. It is gradually being recognised that the emotional, financial and practical needs of these couples also need to be met by allowing them to have a legally-recognised relationship. So, things like inherited pension rights, sharing of tax benefits; in short, all the rights that a heterosexual married couple would have.

This is not because there’s a ‘gay agenda’. Sure, some people have been extremely vociferous in their campaigning for equal rights for LGBTQ+ people. But most LGBTQ+ people don’t have such an agenda. They just want to live their lives with their loved one – who might just happen to be of the same gender – in the same way as other couples do, and to enjoy the same rights that others in equally-committed relationships have.

Many Christians see these changes in society as being ‘The World’ encroaching upon society in a negative way. This is quite understandable if one’s attitude towards LGBTQ+ issues is a negative one. The ‘gay agenda’ is thought of as a threat to the idea of a more ‘godly’ society (which many Christians believe is God’s will) and they therefore find the idea of gay marriage/civil partnerships to be offensive, and, increasingly, ‘worldly’.

And so, they might well quote Romans 12:2 – about not conforming to the ‘pattern of this world’ – that pattern being seen as LGBTQ+ affirming –  because they consider that affirming Christians are ‘conforming to the pattern of the world’; that we are gradually becoming more ‘worldly’ by accepting ‘worldly’ things like same-sex marriage and so on. They will likely quote James 4:4 – “You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world means enmity against God? Therefore, anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God”.

Well, these arguments need to be addressed, if indeed it is true that the ‘world’ is dragging sexual morality ‘downhill’ with its affirmation of LGBTQ+ people.

However, I don’t actually believe that this is the ‘world’s’ way at all.

I would instead point out that, notwithstanding the excellent progress which has been made, legally speaking, in the area of LGBTQ+ rights, still ‘the world’s’ pattern is generally to reject LGBTQ+ people. They are persecuted and vilified in public, in the workplace, in schools, and of course in churches. You ask the ‘man in the street’, and particularly those over the age of about 40 or so, and this will be the opinion: ‘They’re queer, those folks…’ If you’re lucky, you might get a grudging, ‘…but so long as they keep theirselves to theirselves… ‘  LGBTQ people are ostracised in the playground; excluded from certain public places; personae non gratae in certain pubs; they are still seen as ‘odd’ or ‘wrong’, and – let’s not kid ourselves – they are still assaulted by homophobic thugs on a daily basis. This is aptly illustrated in the United States, where the homophobic attitudes of President Trump have been taken by some in society as a licence to allow renewed persecution of LGBTQ+ people. This is actually really happening in the real world, to real people. In addition, the self-harming and suicide rates are far higher amongst LGBTQ+ people than those in people of more ‘conventional’ sexuality. Despite current legislation legitimising same-sex relationships, and despite the undoubtedly increased tolerance (especially in British society), still the general consensus in society is that these people are somehow ‘wrong’ or ‘different’, and of course no amount of legislation can change that feeling.

Therefore, I think it’s safe to say that actually ‘the world’ too hates, or at least in some way discriminates against, LGBTQ+ people. It’s a complete misconception that Christians and other religious people are the only people who have a special problem with people of ‘different’ sexualities. The way of the World is not one of acceptance, but of rejection.

Now, Jesus hung out with the social outcasts of His day – prostitutes, tax collectors, political zealots, non-Jews. Those deemed unworthy or unclean not only by the religious extablishment but also by society in general as well. Tax collectors, for instance, were as universally hated as parking enforcement officers are today 😉 He set us the example to follow; not so much as a set of Rules, but to show us that the natural consequence of knowing Him and becoming like Him in His Grace and mercy results in us treating others with the same gentleness and kindness that He has treated us. He went out of His way to go ‘against the grain’ of society’s opinions, in order to include the ostracised (see for example Mark 2:16).

No, the ‘pattern of this world’ is that of separation, segregation, judgementalism, hatred, us-and-them, ostracism and violence, and the other things in the list in Galatians 5:19-21. The huge strides forward made recently for LGBTQ+ rights are nothing short of wonderful and are a result of precious (and, yes, sometimes militant) people standing up for their rights and for fairness. This renaissance in gay rights is advancing the Kingdom of God because it results in goodness and love and peace. And Christians have no right to hinder this because ‘he who is not against us is for us’ (Lk 9:50). This is Christ’s Kingdom at work and indeed advancing, even though it has not usually so been advanced by Christians (although some Christians have bravely identified themselves with the LGBTQ+ rights ‘movement’)

Now, many people quoting the Romans 12:2 verse about not being ‘…conformed to the pattern of this world’, also miss out the second part of the verse, which is ‘…but be transformed by the renewing of your mind’. This is not correct Biblical  hermeneutics (interpretation), because the verse is actually a doublet expressed as Hebrew poetry. It’s what’s known as an antithetic parallelism. One part of the verse cannot be interpreted correctly without the other. And so the injunction ‘Don’t do this…’ is only complete when we read the ‘…but do this instead’. So, we don’t just not conform to the world, but we need to have our minds renewed as well, in order to indeed not ‘conform to the pattern of this world’. This transformation; this renewal of the mind, is how that non-conformance is enacted in practical terms.

Bearing all this in mind, then, I would therefore propose this idea: that this transforming of the believer’s mind into something other than the ‘pattern of this world’ is actually, in this instance, to move away from the pattern of hatred and persecution that the world inflicts on LGBTQ+ people, and instead to be ‘transformed by the renewing of your minds’ – to change our minds; to ‘Repent’ (for that is what the Greek word translated as ‘Repent’ means – metanoia – to change one’s mind) and simply treat LGBTQ+ people with love and kindness such as ‘the World’ does not do. In other words, the Christians, like myself, who are complete affirmers, are actually pioneers setting the example of what Christian affirmation of the outcasts of society looks like.

Conversely, the rejection and other mistreatment of LGBTQ+ people by Christians is actually conforming to the pattern of this world. Now there’s a sobering thought…

And, as a final point, that kind of love must not come across as judging them or otherwise condemning them. We must treat them as Jesus would treat them. We must treat them fairly; treat them kindly. And, we mustn’t think of them as ‘them‘! These are fellow humans we are talking about here; there is no ‘us’ and ‘them’, the same as there is neither Jew nor Greek; slave nor free (Gal 3:28). Let God’s Spirit bring you to metanoia – to repentance. Let Him change your mind!

I would request that, as a believer, you go before God with this concept, and just ask Him to speak to you about it. Come with an open mind – either way – and just ask Him what He would have you do. Don’t take my word for it. Ask Jesus what He thinks!


If you have enjoyed this article and mini-series, or maybe simply for a little more background on my journey to becoming a full affirmer, you might also be interested in reading some of my other articles on LGBTQ+ issues, which are linked to below. Remember that I too was once very firmly anti-gay. I was in the same position as many Christians still are with regard to ‘alternative’ sexualities. But God changed my mind – He brought me to metanoia; to Repentance, on these issues. And He can do the same for you.

Firstly, the link to the other three articles in this mini-series, entitled ‘Coming Out’

How I began my journey towards full affirmation

One of my earlier articles on ‘How the Church should Treat Gay People

The story of my first encounter with ‘different’ sexuality as a Fundamentalist Christian

Finally, this link will take you to all my articles on LGBTQ+ and sexuality issues, including those mentioned above.

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Are You About to Come Out to Your Christian Parents?

This entry is part 3 of 5 in the series Coming Out

In my mini-series on ‘coming out’ for LGBTQ+ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer/Questioning) people, especially young people with Christian parents, I have so far looked at the matter from the point of view of the parents of the LGBTQ+ person.

Today, I want to share another piece by Susan Cottrell of ‘Freedhearts‘. Susan is a strong, loving and totally Christian advocate of LGBTQ+ people and especially of those who are young people still living with their Christian parents. In this piece, Susan shares practical advice and points out relevant considerations for young people who may well have to ‘come out’ some time in the near future. Click the graphic below to go to the article.

If you are a LGBTQ+ person who is considering ‘coming out’, then I would definitely suggest you read that article – it’s brilliant. Susan has a huge amount of experience in helping and standing alongside people in danger of rejection, either by parents or churches, for either ‘being gay’ or for affirming those who are. Personally, I don’t give two hoots what people think of me as an affirmer, but then I am not in a position where such people’s opinions make the slightest bit of difference to me. But I understand that for some people, the stakes are much higher, and this is why I have done this mini-series.

Be blessed. Grace and peace to you.

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Did Your Child Just Come Out to You?

This entry is part 2 of 5 in the series Coming Out

In this, the second part of my mini-series on ‘coming out’ for young people of Christian parents, I want to share with you the wisdom of Susan Cottrell, of ‘Freedhearts‘.

In this piece, Susan gives sound advice to Christian parents whose child has just ‘come out’.

You think it might never happen to you? Well, how would you know? Because if your child is an LGBTQ+ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer/Questioning) person, they might not feel able to tell you, because they know your views on the subject!

I would recommend all Christian parents read this article – not only ‘just in case’ your child does ‘come out’, but also to give you a better understanding of how Christian parents of LGBTQ+ young people can continue to affirm and support their child once they ‘come out’ despite what they think ‘the Bible says’.

Click the graphic below to go to the article:

This is a real issue affecting real people, and we need to examine this, as a Church, in a Chrstlike manner.

I know a Godly couple whose daughter recently ‘came out’ and which caused much soul-searching in their congregation…and those people in that church have essentially been forced – by their circumstances – to learn how to continue in their acceptance of that precious young life. And, so far, they have done very well…they knew that child from a baby and nothing has changed, except that now they know something that God has known about all along.

So, I recommend you read the article – it will stand you in good stead should you need it!

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Traditional Christian Parents Reveal Changed Views on LGBT

This entry is part 1 of 5 in the series Coming Out

Like many other people close to the Father Heart of God, some years ago I ‘came out’ as a strong affirmer of LGBTQ+ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer/Questioning) people and their relationships. I’m writing this mini-series in order to help people whose children are part of the LGBTQ+ community, and to give you what I believe is a Christian perspective on the subject.

When the child of an Evangelical Christian ‘comes out’ as an LGBTQ+ person, all kinds of things could happen, from total acceptance right up to total rejection, and all shades in between. Personally, I don’t understand how a parent can ever reject their child, but tragically there are those who do. And the result of this rejection, for the LGBTQ+ child, can result in ruined lives – I won’t go into detail here but sometimes we are talking homelessness, suicide, severe emotional trauma – you get the idea. And that’s just with the parents – the person coming out has other social links too that could also bring suffering: church; school; friends; colleagues. It’s not easy by any means.

But today we’re looking at parents. In this short video from Facebook page ‘Christians Talk’, various Christian parents describe how they came to terms with their child’s sexuality, from the point of view of people who formerly had believed that LGBTQ+ was ‘wrong’. Also in this video are Rob and Susan Cottrell, whose work I have featured before in my blog, and will feature again over the course of this mini-series.

There we go. Meditate on that and hear what the Spirit is saying to you!

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North American F-86 Sabre

This entry is part 18 of 18 in the series Beautiful Destroyers

The F-86 ‘Sabre’ is certainly one of the most beautiful aeroplanes from the Cold War era, and is an icon of the classic jets genre.

First used in combat in the Korean War, the Sabre soon proved itself to be the best of the fighter aircraft in the United Nations’ arsenal, and it was the only fighter capable of facing the North Koreans’ MiG-15 fighters on equal terms. Other fighters fielded by the UN were either slower piston-engined prop jobs like the F-51 Mustang, or straight-wing jets such as the Lockheed F-80 Shooting Star and the Gloster Meteor, which were a good deal slower than the MiG-15.

But the Sabre was fast (it was just supersonic in a shallow dive), manoeuvrable, had good visibility from its bubble canopy, and was often flown by experienced combat veterans who had fought in WWII. In many ways, the Sabre and MiG-15 were virtually equal aircraft, each with strengths and weaknesses with respect to the other, very much like the Spitfire and the Messerschmitt 109 were in the Second World War. Here are a preserved Sabre and MiG-15 seen together at an airshow in the USA (photo is clickable to magnify):

But the Sabre is just plain beautiful, and that’s one reason why I’m featuring it in ‘Beautiful Destroyers‘.  Look at those lovely clean lines, the perfect wing sweep angle, the sleekness of the curves of the fuselage…this is a beautiful aeroplane in the same league in the beauty stakes as the Hawker Hunter.

In the photo above, you can clearly see the ‘bubble’ shape of the canopy; this gave the pilot an excellent all-round field of view; this is very advantageous in close-in air combat. There is an old fighter-pilots’ adage: ‘He who sees, wins’ and the Sabre’s canopy certainly fits the bill for that purpose.

Armed with six 0.50″ machine guns, the Sabre packed quite a punch – the six 0.50-cal machine guns were a proven weapons fit from the Second World War – but they did not have quite the range of the cannon with which the Soviet fighters like the MiG-15, and jet bombers like the Ilyushin-28, were armed.

Indeed the early Sabres were in some ways some of the last of the gun-only armed aircraft; changes in the performance of jet bombers meant that there had to be new developments in air-to-air combat that would enable fighters to bring down Soviet bombers which had nearly as good speed and altitude performance as the fighters that would be trying to stop them in the event of a war.

Eventually, the ability to stop fast jet bombers was realised by the advent of air-to-air guided missiles; indeed the Sabre was one of the first aircraft to be fitted with early versions of the AIM-9 ‘Sidewinder’ heat-seeking missile. But in the meantime, other methods had to be developed to enable interceptors to attack enemy bombers without being exposed to withering cannon fire from the tail turrets of aeroplanes such as the Tu-95 ‘Bear’. (Remember that at this time in history, the ‘Cold War’, the threat of nuclear war was ever-present, and the West and the East both poured tons of money into developing effective defences against enemy nuclear-armed bombers). The temporary stop-gap measure adopted by the USA and Canada, at least, was to arm their interceptor jets with many unguided ‘folding-fin aerial rockets’ (FFARs) which had explosive warheads but which had to actually hit their targets directly in order to cause damage. A good number of these rockets were carried by various interceptors, from 24 in the F-86D (below) and F-102A, to a massive 108 FFARs in the Northrop F-89D ‘Scorpion’. The idea was to attack enemy bombers using a single head-on pass, using a specialist radar-guided attack computer which launched all the FFARs at the target in one (hopefully devastating) salvo. Hopefully, the combination of reasonably accurate aiming and the ‘shotgun’ effect of having so many FFARs in the air at the same time, would bring down the enemy bomber before it got to its target. That’s what interceptors are supposed to do.

And so was born the F-86D ‘Sabre Dog’; the FFAR-armed interceptor version of the F-86. The inclusion of the fire control radar and the retractable rocket tray meant that the airframe shape was nowhere near as graceful as the gun-armed F-86s, but I suppose it was for a reason and it did its job. The F-86D was never intended for fighting against enemy fighters, though; its entire armament for its mission was based around the single salvo of FFARs, to be used to intercept a single enemy bomber. You only got the one shot. Here is the F-86D, and another shot showing its retractable rocket tray, which was just under the cockpit:

The big black dome on the nose of the Sabre Dog (which I feel spoils its lines!) is the radome containing the fire control radar for the FFAR aiming computer. Here’s another shot of the whole FFAR salvo going off:

Impressive though that looks, this technique is of questionable value at best; it was appallingly inaccurate, and it was fortunately never really necessary to use it for real, in this role at least. (See the Wikipedia article on FFARs for more on this)

Now, this is more like it. Here is a gorgeous painting of an F-86 punching off its drop-tanks as it prepares to engage a North Korean MiG-15:

Drop tanks were an idea from the Second World War, where fighters could extend their range by carrying extra fuel in external tanks. Because these external tanks increased the weight and drag of the aeroplane, they could be dropped, or ‘punched off’, as the enemy was sighted, hence the name ‘drop tanks’.

The fighter would then be lighter and cleaner and better able to engage the enemy. The idea was that you would use the fuel from the drop tanks first, so that the tanks would hopefully be empty by the time you ran into trouble and jettisoned them. Or, if you didn’t make contact with enemy aircraft, you could just bring the tanks home empty and use them again.

The Sabre served with many nations’ air forces , including the Royal Air Force, for many years and in many operational theatres, with the last ones being retired from service in the Bolivian Air Force in 1994.

So, there she is; the F-86 Sabre. Beautiful lines, sleek, fast and deadly. A ‘Beautiful Destroyer’ for sure.

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Five Signs You’re Trapped In Legalism

My blogging friend Mike Douglas comes out with some excellent stuff on his blog. And this post is no exception. At the risk of giving a spoiler, Mike uses at the end of his piece the three most important words that Jesus ever uttered – “It is finished!” Jesus has done it all for you. All you have to do is to enjoy the freedom.

The essay is linked to here, but I will also reproduce below what Mike wrote. This is wholesome stuff and it is my prayer that it brings you into ever-increasing freedom:


“A response from one of my readers got me thinking… He wanted to know why some Christians could be so harsh in their views and be so willing to judge others faith and salvation when they don’t agree with them.

Here was my answer to him:

‘How do you explain the far Christian right? In a word, fear.

For some believers, they think salvation or acceptance by God involves saying the right things, voting the right way, supporting the right things etc. If they don’t, they live in fear of being judged and sent to hell. Being ‘right’ is all important.

Therefore, if you or I were to disagree with them, we are not saved and cannot be one of them. Because we are wrong and being right is everything.

And, sadly, they also feel that since they are absolutely right, any disagreement is persecution for their beliefs.

Rather than being angry with such people, it makes me very sad. Rather than living in the glorious love, acceptance and presence of a loving Father, such folks opt for ‘never to be sure’ striving to make them good enough for God. I don’t want that.

Thanks for writing. Reject the legalistic nonsense. It’s all about Jesus!’

What is legalism?

In short, legalism is adding anything to the gospel. Legalism takes the words “Follow me” and adds rules, clauses, and rituals. It’s WRONG, and, over time, you believe its lies. The ultimate lie being Jesus wasn’t enough. Legalism shifts the end goal from Jesus to something else.

Here are 5 signs you might be trapped in legalism.

  1. You believe God loves you. But you don’t believe He LIKES you.

Right now, what God look like? Is he smiling? Frustrated? For much of my adult life, I pictured God with a slow, disapproving, puzzled head shake. Don’t get me wrong. I believed God loved me. But I didn’t believe he LIKED me. But He only loved me in the global sense that He loved everybody.

And we all know loving someone and liking them are two different things. When you like someone, you enjoy their presence. You welcome their company. You ask them over to watch the game or go to the movies.

And here’s what legalism does. If you don’t believe God likes you, you won’t draw near to Him. Legalism never allows you full access to God’s presence. At some point, the “I’m not good enough” or “God isn’t pleased with me” voices will speak to your heart, forcing you to retreat.

If you’re a follower of Jesus, God is pleased with you. And, when you suck at life, that doesn’t change. You can blame Jesus for this.

  1. You have never been sure about your salvation.

I can’t tell you how often I have asked Christians and others, “On a scale of 1-100, how sure are you that you will go to Heaven when you die?’ I have got many answers covering the full range of possible answers. But the least common answer is 100.

Here’s the rub. There are only two possible correct answers: 0 or 100. How we get to Heaven and the only way we get to heaven is putting our faith in Jesus. Either we have [100] or we haven’t [0].

Isn’t it awesome we can all answer 100! But so few of us do. We have doubts. Despite what the Bible tells us. We have doubts because we think we must measure up, there must be more we must do, or we think we might blow it. That’s legalism.

I have asked many Christians and others where they would go tonight if they died. Most aren’t sure. They might even tell you they’re sure, but if you asked their heart, you would receive a different answer. Do you believe in Jesus? In what He has done for you? Then your answer is 100. Learn to rest in what Jesus has done, not what you did.

  1. You compare yourself to other Christians.

Legalism rarely celebrates others’ successes. It says only the best get in. With legalism, Jesus isn’t the standard. The standard is the Christian beside you. If your life looks better than Jim or Jill, you’re good.

When you make God’s approval a competition with other Christians, you secretly hope people fail. Rather than walking with people through struggles, you give yourself a silent fist pump. Instead of celebrating with people who accomplish great things, you silently hope they fall.

And it leads to an exhausting life, one where you ride an emotional roller coaster because you’re worth and acceptance are tied to other people.

  1. You believe outsiders must behave before they belong.

This is the core of legalism. There’s a standard outsiders must meet before being accepted. Legalism says you worked hard to get to this point. You’ve been in the church game for a long time, and until others get to your level, they’re on the outside looking in.

If you don’t allow people in, whether it’s in your worship, your home, or your life, you’re making a declaration over them Jesus never made. You’re declaring some sins are worse than others, and certain behaviors are too ugly or distasteful for God. Praise God that’s a lie!

  1. You believe in joy and peace, but you’ve never experienced them.

Legalism lets you see God, but it does not experience His grace, joy, and peace. The church today is filled with people who are deeply spiritual, but distant from God.

If your spiritual activities aren’t producing love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control, you’re likely on the road to spiritual legalism. When you’re in God’s presence, you WILL bear the Spirit’s fruit (Galatians 5:22).

Is your heart increasing in joy and peace or cynicism and unrest? Does God appear more like a grumpy old man or a life-giving Father?

God knows you can’t live up to His standard. We sin every day. He doesn’t condemn you. He’s FOR you. Embrace the simplicity that Jesus did it all. Rest in the security of your salvation. Jesus has accomplished everything. It is finished! Nothing to add!”


This is excellent stuff. If I might add just a couple of observations: firstly, I mentioned above that ‘It is finished!”. When Mike says in his piece that for the legalist ‘Being ‘right’ is all-important’, I would agree entirely.

And one of the reasons why they feel so threatened by Grace, and those living under it, is that it threatens their ‘rightness’ and their carefully-constructed legal paradigms. One small puff of the wind of the Spirit and the whole house of cards comes crashing down.

When your security is in your Rules for who’s included and who isn’t, your security is not in the Finished Work of Christ. “It is finished!”

Secondly, and I find this really sad, but you will have met evangelists who say to their victims, ‘If you died tonight, do you know where you would be going?’ And Mike clearly demonstrates in his blog post that even once someone joins the Church, they still don’t know for sure, if they’re under legalism. Because they still don’t know if they ‘measure up’.

How sad is that? Jesus has done it all. All that is necessary for our acceptance with God, Jesus has done. God has given us everything we need for godliness (2Pet 1:3) However you believe that happens, just get hold of it.

Once again, let me write it: Jesus said, “It is finished!”

Wow!

 

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Faith and Law

One of the recurring themes in the New Testament is that the Law justifies no-one (Rom 3:20, Gal 2:16, Gal 3:11), but that instead we are justified through faith. And yet nobody would like to be known as a person who speaks against God’s Law, because the Law is said to be ‘holy…righteous and good’ (Rom 7:12). Clearly, then, there is a kind of tension between the two ideas.

Paul Ellis expands on these concepts in this excellent piece from his blog, ‘Escape to Reality’. This essay is well worth reading; I can’t recommend it highly enough. Click the graphic below to go to the post:

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