Category Archives: legalism

legalism

Christian Tyranny

The following is a guest post by David Robert Fuller. David blogs at Christian Consciousness, so go check out his stuff…but only after you read this and share your thoughts in the comment section. There’s a lot worth discussing in this post, the least of which is his use of periods and quotation marks 😉 First let’s talk Christian tyranny, then we can see who’s a grammar Nazi.


Now this matter arose because of the false brothers with false pretenses who slipped in unnoticed to spy on our freedom that we have in Christ Jesus, to make us slaves. But we did not surrender to them even for a moment, in order that the truth of the gospel would remain with you. – Galatians 2:4,5

I am concerned about one of my Christian brothers. He is a prominent member of my church, well known to everyone in the congregation. He says that he loves the Lord and is devoted to the Faith, yet he seems to experience some profound struggles in his Christian walk. It is not his struggles which most concern me, however, nor is it the fact that despite all the special consideration given him by his fellow Christians, no one seems to have a desire to see him grow beyond his spiritually immature state. What concerns me most is that I have the distinct impression that he doesn’t want to grow. He seems content to maintain a state of affairs in which he can play the role of a kind of Christian tyrant.

If there is a sin, this man struggles with it. Lust, drunkenness, immorality, drugs, gambling, smoking, swearing, and even occult practices are among the things that littered the former life of this dear brother. And he is apparently having an extremely hard time excluding these things from his life as a Christian, since everything he sees or hears reminds him of one or more of these things. He just can’t get away from it all. What’s worse, when he’s reminded of his former life, instead of being filled with the joy of his deliverance, he is rather filled with a desire to return to the very things he supposedly hates!

This unfortunate state of affairs has caused him to create a situation for himself similar to the famous “boy in the bubble”, who, due to the weakness of his immune system, was forced to spend every moment of his life within the confines of an artificial environment. In much the same way, this brother has devised a system for filtering out “impurities” and allowing only that which is “pure”.

For instance, all “secular” media is harmful to him. He can only be exposed to “Christian” music, television, magazines, books, and the like. He frequents only those events which are spiritually “edifying” (church functions mostly), and limits his business dealings to Christian merchants whenever possible. He cultivates friendships with Christians exclusively, since “bad company corrupts good character”. Even some “Christian” elements are filtered out, because they have the “appearance of evil”. He is very careful, because he knows that “…a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump”.

The upshot of all this is that special procedures must be observed by all those around him to avoid unintentionally short-circuiting his filtering system, which is so elaborate that it cannot be maintained by himself alone. This is where the tyranny starts.

I call it tyranny for three reasons.

First, tyrants manipulate facts to support their own cause. This is done by forcing others to conform to his standards by repeatedly quoting a couple of verses in the New Testament, which he conveniently takes out of context. He tells them that Romans 14:21 forbids them to do anything which he finds “offensive”, and 1 Thess. 5:22 prohibits anything that even “appears” to be evil, ignoring the fact that “…to the pure, all things are pure…” (Titus 1;15), or that Jesus Himself commands us not to judge by mere appearances (John 7:24).

Second, tyrants typically impose fear on other people. This is accomplished by saying it would be better for them to be thrown into the sea with a millstone tied around their neck, than to make him stumble; in effect, threatening their eternal life if they don’t do what he wants,when he knows that “…each of us shall give account of himself to God.” (Rom. 14:12).

Third, tyrants are self-serving. While they usually claim to serve some nebulous “greater good”, in this case “the things which make for peace”, it is really only an excuse they use to bully others into bowing to their own personal self-interests, however good and right they may believe those self-interests to be.

While I repeat my concern for this brother, let me hasten to add that I have serious reservations about passing judgment on someone whom I don’t personally know. I have never personally met this man, although he has been a church member for as long as I can remember. In fact, I don’t even know his name, because no one ever uses it when referring to him; maybe it’s because they don’t know his name either. Usually, everyone refers to him as, “the Weaker Brother”.

 

© 2017 David Robert Fuller

 

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Filed under Guest Posts, legalism

Building 429 Meets My Judgmentalism, Then Gets an Apology

The following post was first published in 2011, yet it is definitely worth revisiting. If you have not read this post, what it depicts is a perfect example of why I call myself a “recovering legalist.” Even now I cringe when I recall my judgmental, legalistic actions 6 years ago. But God’s grace doesn’t force immediate change; we grow in grace.

Some take longer than others.


The Story

For the last several weeks we have been going out to get some food after evening services. If you don’t know what I am talking about, let me explain:

Getting Food = going to a restaurant that sells stuff you could make at home for a lot less money, but tastes better and is more fun when you pay for it in the company of others.

Evening Services = gathering of believers at a local church that still takes place on Sunday nights, while most people stay home, in order to give the pastor something to do.

FoodFriday #17: Cracker Barrel - Old Country Store

Last night, after a great time of worship and hearing from God’s Word, my wife, our girls, our youth director, and I went to Cracker Barrel. When we pulled in, I noticed a really sweet Prevost tour bus sitting in the lot. I said to my wife, Valerie, “Now that has got to be a group, or a band, or something, because it takes somebody serious to keep one of those things on the road.

We gently maneuver our tired, aged frames (we’re getting old in our 40’s) out of the car and walk toward the entrance. As we walk across the front of Cracker Barrel, where all the rocking chairs are, my wife and I notice some interesting young men dressed in black. One of them had a black hat and a hairstyle that would make more than a few grannies say, “What died on your head, sonny?”

Myself? Well I am in a suit and tie. My wife? She is wearing a dress. WE are the “Reverend and Mrs. Baker,” you know. WE know how to dress on Sunday, unlike these guys. So, my wife walks past them first and gives them a forced, but gentle smile. Next, I walk by, thinking to myself, “These are definitely musicians…yep…the hair gives it away…they’re the Prevost riders.” I nod and smile.

Once inside the Cracker Barrel, my conscience started to bother me. Something wasn’t right. I have been around long enough to recognize when the Holy Spirit says, “Hey, I bear witness that those weird-looking guys out there are part of the Family.” That is when I come up with a brilliant, self-covering plan – send Katie, our 15 year old, out to see who they are.

I only had an old iPhone. And it was dark.

Katie,” I say, “go out there and ask those guys on the porch who they are or what band they’re with.”  Fortunately, and I knew this, there were others outside beside the “men in black,” so don’t think I sent my little girl out to talk to strangers, alone. She talked to strangers with other strangers there to help.

A few minutes later, Katie comes back in with the biggest smile on her face, beaming with a glow that could blind a man in sunglasses, saying, “They are Building 429!!

Now, here’s the point of all this. Here I am, someone who preaches against unrighteously judging others, especially Christians who look different (what’s normal?). What do I do? I walk right by a group of guys and assume, wrongfully, that evidently, just because they were not in suits on a Sunday night, they were a group of heathen beatniks heading to/from Nashville.  I messed up.

An Official Apology

Sorry, guys, for doing the very thing I hate seeing other people do. This is why I call myself a “recovering legalist.” Sometimes I fail. Last night I failed in a bad way. Up until last night, I had never even seen you before to recognize you in person. All I know is that the song you recorded, “Always,” is one of my favorites…I’ve shed more than a few tears while listening to it.

Please forgive my wife and I for acting like a couple of snobby, self-righteous, judgmental legalists. If I’m fortunate, maybe God will someday give this preacher some hair like yours.

May God bless you and your ministry. He WILL be with you always.

 


UPDATE: Shortly after this post was first published, Building 429 posted a link to it on their Facebook page. A little later we exchanged a few emails in which they graciously accepted my apology. I offered to buy them dinner the next time they came through town, but Jason Roy (lead singer) said that wouldn’t be necessary – then he offered me free tickets the next time they came to town! Cool, huh? But I never took him up on it – we just bought them, anyway.

Here is a more recent video from Building 429, “Unashamed.”

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Filed under Do not judge, General Observations, legalism

It’s All About Being “Real”

The Following was written six years ago in May, 2011. Sort of a “squeeze” from the past 😉


Have you ever been completely spent? Worn out? Empty? I have. As a matter of fact, I woke up this morning feeling like a squeezed out tube of toothpaste.

Yesterday was a great day. I was blessed to be able to preach in the morning, the afternoon, and the evening. The only problem is that when you go all day, preaching your heart out, by the end of the day you’re exhausted. When I got up to drive the school bus, I looked at that tube of toothpaste and said, “That’s me.”

Over the next couple of hours a thought came to me: how can you tell when a tube of toothpaste is empty? Usually, it is flat and rolled up. The compacted tube shows evidence that all of its contents have been used – there’s nothing left. Then what about the hard, stand-up kind?

These new containers for toothpaste are deceiving. Unlike the old-fashioned tubes, they do not compact and show any visible signs of being empty. They always look full. Then it hit me – what hypocrites! Those new-fangled containers are just putting on a show and never give any hint of being used up. In other words, they’re not “real.”

I want to be “real.”

This is not a lesson on hypocrisy. This is not a lesson on being a whitewashed tomb full of dead men’s bones. This is about being “real.”

Too often, especially in ministry, we are forced to put on a façade, thereby making ourselves appear to be something we’re not. It’s not meant to be hypocritical. It is meant to spare others from the truth of our own inadequacies – our own emptiness. Sadly, because we don’t want to be a burden or a disappointment, we endure the emptiness…the loneliness…the fatigue. Being “real” is risky.

There are limits to how much dirty laundry a pastor can air in public without losing his ministry. There are limits to how vulnerable he can be around others. But may it never be said that we have to pretend to be something we are not. We are human. We have weaknesses. We have limitations. We can feel “used up.”

Fortunately, unlike a tube of toothpaste, we can be refilled. And for that matter, even a seemingly squeezed out tube always has just a little more to give. God gives us what we need, when we need it.  The important thing to remember is that we shouldn’t try to act full, when we are empty. When we do that, that is when we act in our own strength. Let us then admit our weakness and emptiness, and in turn our heavenly Father will refill us with what will bring Him glory. Who knows, maybe it is our emptiness He wants to use most.

“And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.” – 2 Corinthians 12:9-10 KJV

Just keep it REAL.

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Filed under Christian Living, General Observations, legalism, Preaching

A Question of Dignity

Much is said about how people should dress, like “dressing down” and dressing for success.” But how should a minister, a pastor, a “reverend” dress? For that matter, how should a pastor behave in public? How should his position affect his demeanor? Ever thought about that?

It’s a question regarding the appropriate level of dignity exhibited by those in ministry.

Differences

Some of you may disagree with me on this, but I do believe that there is something to be said about the differences between pastors and the congregation. If you are Catholic or main-line Protestant this is probably a non-issue, but it is an issue in other circles, specifically in evangelical churches.

Many of us are well aware that Scripture teaches that there is no essential difference between one believer and another: “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28). Furthermore, many of us treasure the biblical doctrine of the “priesthood of the believer” that confirms all Christians have equal access to God, not needing the intercession or mediation of an earthly priest (Ephesians 2:18, 3:12; Hebrews 4:14-16, 10:19; and 1 Peter 2:5). Some folk, especially many of my Baptist brethren, even refrain from using terms such as “clergy” and “laity” because, in essence, we are all the same.

anthony political

The “official” me.

However, if we are all the same, if there is no difference at all, no difference in expectation or qualification, why then do we have such passages as 1 Timothy 3:1-7 and Titus 1:6-9? Why would Paul have instructed Timothy and Titus to ordain godly men to the work of “bishop” in the first place if there were no need for men of distinction?

The truth is that there is a biblical mandate of conduct for the role and specific offices of pastor, bishop, elder, teacher, and deacon. Those persons should be known as set apart, qualified, mature, devoted, and serious about the work (Titus 2:7).

I Struggle

I will admit, I struggle with this issue from time to time. You may not think it’s a big deal, but I think it is. The thing I don’t want is to be legalistic, prideful, arrogant, or aloof and never fun, accessible, down-to-earth, and humble.

But where does one draw the line? At what point can one say, “That [activity] is not appropriate for a person in that position” without coming across as elitist?

vbs ice cream head

The “ice cream” me.

Let’s face it, when it’s time for a fall festival or children’s activity, every one wants a pastor who is not afraid or too proud to look like a fool for the sake of a smile. It was Jesus who had little children running up to him, sitting on his knee, and enjoying being in his presence. The pastor who never laughs, never takes a shaving cream-pie in the face, or dresses up like a farmer for Vacation Bible School will never win the heart of a child.

On the other hand, the one dying in a hospital (or on the side of the road) wants more than a clown or a hip public speaker to kneel by his side or take her hand.

I struggle with where to draw the line, where being like everybody else must give way to the demeanor of one elected to lead. Sure, context is always going to make a difference, but is there no place for  gravitas in the modern church?

Grace and context. …Grace and context. That’s the only way I know to approach this.

I’d love to read what you think! Where do you see the line between dignity and doofus? 

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Filed under Christian Maturity, clothing, General Observations, legalism, ministry

Don’t Get Angry, It’s Just a Comparison

The following was written in 2012, but still very applicable. But before you get mad at me for what you are about to read, it’s only a comparison, not a dogmatic definition of right or wrong. …But I might be more right than wrong.

In Line

Every Tuesday my wife and girls go to Precept Ministries (Kay Arthur) in Chattanooga for Bible study. On some days I go with them and use the time to study. It’s a nice place to study, believe me. However, I am writing this on a computer at Precept while Kay Arthur is talking to someone a few feet away. She is distracting me.

Then, there are other days when my wife and I leave the girls and sneak out to get a biscuit. Today we had to sit in line forever. For jelly biscuits.

Jelly Biscuit – May I insert just one question at this juncture? Why is it you always have to ask for jelly when you order a jelly biscuit? What is it about “jelly biscuit” that confuses people? If I ordered a plain biscuit, I would not expect jelly. But when I order a jelly biscuit, why don’t they assume I want jelly? Why do I always have to ask for it?! Good Grief!

I Hear a Song

It was while we were sitting in line that I heard a song on Christian radio (J103). The song caught my attention because of the lyrics. May I share with you the words from the chorus?

You make me happy…Uhhh
You make me feel the way I do…
You make me happy, Yeah!
I wish the whole world knew you, too! (and then the song ends with a bunch of “la-la-la’s.”)

I started to laugh. Honestly. Was I supposed to be blessed? Encouraged? Uplifted? Edified? Happy?

I know, I know, I know…I know that there are plenty of great, contemporary songs out there. Chris Tomlin, for one, has more than a few. I love several songs from Building 429, Avalon, and the Newsboys. But seriously, why can’t more of them take the subject matter at hand a little more seriously?

I Hear the Past

Some lines from the past need to be heard more often, especially if the best we can come with today is “uhh” and “yeah.”

  • My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righeousness.
  • A mighty fortress is our God, a bullwark never failing.
  • Alas! and did my Savior bleed, and did my Sovereign die? Would he devote that sacred head for such a worm as I?
  • I will cherish the old rugged cross.
  • Riches I heed not, nor man’s empty praise: be thou mine inheritance now and always; be thou and thou only first in my heart; High King of Heaven, my treasure thou art.

Dear Christian song writers, you can do better than “uhh’s” and “yeah’s” and “la la la la.”

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Filed under legalism, music, worship

Go Ahead, Imagine!

A Confession

I am a few months shy of 50 years old, yet I still feel like a kid…most of the time…at least mentally…well, that makes me sound stupid…I mean, emotionally…now I am emotionally unstable…I didn’t say that; the keyboard did. When am I going to be the mature person I always wanted to be? When am I going to grow up?

From i4Daily: Plastic army men waiting for Smurfs to return.

If given the opportunity, I would like to take a box of plastic toy soldiers out to a dry, dusty field, cart a load of bottle-rockets and firecrackers, and sling across my shoulder a CO2 pellet rifle with a scope. Then, with the PG-version of a Gen. George S. Patton inspiring my verbiage, I would unleash the “shock and awe” of my personal arsenal in an bombastic display of testosterone-infused mayhem.

You women are probably rolling your eyes, aren’t you?

Is there something wrong with me? No, I’ve just got an IMAGINATION!

Growing Up

Since when did it become necessary to lose one’s imagination in order to become an adult? Did Jesus ever say that pastors should check their imaginations at the door when they entered the hallowed halls of ministry? Of course not! What kind of preacher would I be without an imagination? A pitiful, orthodox, dry, and sad one, I would think.

Growing up has nothing to do with the desire to have fun or play (even with plastic army men). Growing up has everything to do with being the person we are designed by God to be.

Growing up means accepting responsibilities, finishing tasks, taking stands, and putting others first. Growing up means not being tossed back and forth with every wind of change, or every wind of doctrine (Ephesian 4:14), but committed to truth, and speaking it in love (v.15).

Growing up may mean taking up one’s cross, but it doesn’t require crucifying the imagination.

His Imagination

Aren’t you glad God had an imagination? Who else could have thought up everything that is when there was nothing to compare it to? We should praise Him for His wonderful imagination!

PRAISE the LORD! Praise the LORD from the heavens; Praise Him in the heights! Praise Him, all His angels; Praise Him, all His hosts! Praise Him, sun and moon; Praise Him, all you stars of light! Praise Him, you heavens of heavens, And you waters above the heavens! Let them praise the name of the LORD, For He commanded and they were created. – Psalm 148:1-5 NKJV

Stop and think about it. We were made in the “image” of God (Gen 1:27). Surely, “imagination” was included in that likeness. We are the product of His very own “creativity.” He created us with an imagination so that we could appreciate the beauty of the unseen and long for the yet-to-be.

Eyes have not seen, and ears have not heard; we can only imagine.

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Filed under General Observations, God, legalism, the future, worship

Hair Today, Grace Tomorrow

Battles

You have probably heard it said before, but sometimes you have to pick your battles. At least that’s a common saying when it comes to parenting. Of course, there are sometimes when the battle chooses you, but for the most part, we can decide which battle should take priority. When it comes to my daughter getting her hair cut, well, I’ve decided that is a battle I am willing to invest few resources.

The other day my youngest, Haley, came to me and told me that she wanted to have her hair cut – and I mean CUT! I must admit, the idea of my beautiful little girl having her pretty hair scissored from her head made me sad. On the other hand, I was not as mournfully brokenhearted as Katie, Haley’s older sister. But, when she explained to me why she wanted it cut, and what she wanted it to look like, I just said, “OK, whatever makes you happy.”

However, since we are talking “battles,” don’t think “whatever makes you happy” will always be my response – no sir! Like I said, there are some battles worth fighting, it’s just that this one was not it. I mean, should she have come to me and asked if she could get her hair nearly shaved off and spiked and colored purple? Uhh, no. That wouldn’t have happened. And should she have come to me and asked for a tongue stud, or a tramp stamp… you get the picture… NO! And I would fight those battles.

Believe me, there are FAR more battles worth waging on behalf of our children, far more than ones over how short their hair should be!

But all Haley wanted was to have her pretty hair cut and styled shorter…and I wanted her to be happy…and there was really nothing wrong with what she was wanting to do. It was just hair – it can grow back.

Grace

But here’s the thing, folks. Should my little Haley gone out and done something that made me angry, something of which I would have strongly disapproved, would that have changed the fact that she is my daughter?

NO! Absolutely not!

If Haley had gone and got that tattoo on her back, or the nose ring, or the spiked hair…or far worse…yes, I still would have loved her, even though, as her dad, I would have been ticked. I would have been disappointed for my own reasons, but I wouldn’t have kicked her out of the house; she’s my daughter.

And that’s the thing about real grace. God loves us enough to let us live, even if our life choices prove to be out of step with the norm, or not what others would like. We are not talking about sin, but individual choices and decisions of life, where there is no real right or wrong, just the opportunity to offend or hurt. God’s grace allows us to be ourselves, within his boundaries, because He actually DOES want us to be happy.

Thankfully, though, when the choices of a believer DO cross the line and become sin, our Heavenly Father may be quick to discipline us, but He never stops loving us…we are family…we are His children.

So, the hair may be gone today, but grace isn’t.

How It Happened – In Pictures

 

Here is Haley, hair intact, with the Follicle Vampire about to strike.

Here is Haley, hair intact, with the Follicle Vampire about to strike.

img_5393

I had to keep reminding myself it could grow back. On the other hand, I could make a wig out of that!

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The finished product: A selfie-worthy cut on a beautiful daughter.

 

 

 

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Filed under grace, legalism, Parenting, Relationships and Family