Monday, August 4, 2014

Legalism or Grace

I read a blog written by a woman who regretted that she kept her virginity until she was married. She made a purity pledge at age 10 and kept that pledge. After she married, she felt pain and shame loosing her virginity. She stated that if she would do it over, she would not have made and kept the pledge. She based this on the pain and shame she now felt. Sadly, her problem is legalism and doesn't realize it. She never truly understood the gospel. She only understood moral legalism. She kept her virginity out of pride and shame. She was proud of keeping it and ashamed to loose it. Her motivation was to look good to others it was not gratitude for saving grace.

Christian churches today in America are determined to keep a moral law and to have our children keep a moral law. On the surface, this is good. However, the way we teach keeping the law is often shame based and not grace based. What needs to be taught is the gospel. Children and adults need to be taught that Jesus unconditionally loves them, that he lived a righteous life because we cannot and that he died because we deserve death. Once we accept that he died for us, we will still be saved by grace even if we "loose our virginity." Once we realize that we are saved, we are motivated by love and gratitude to keep the moral law. We tend to teach it backwards. We teach keep the moral law at all cost, change all bad behaviors and then be saved by accepting Jesus. What we need to be taught is that we are all sinners because we break the moral law and nothing in our power can make us keep the moral law. We need a savior because we are incapable of being righteous. God offers us grace to pardon us from our sins. Once we receive his grace, we are also given the power to change. The holy spirit will convict us of sin and behavior that needs to change. He will give us power not to change the behavior but rather change who we are on the inside which will also result in changes in behavior.

I just had a little baby girl. She is 3 months old. It is not my hope that she will make a purity pledge and keep it with all her might. It is my hope that she will enter into a saving relationship with Jesus Christ and allow him to change her from the inside. If she makes a purity pledge, I want her to rely on the holy spirit to keep it. If she fails, I want her to know that she is forgiven and still loved.

We also need to be careful not to teach only grace without teaching moral law. If we don't know the law, we won't know sin. If we don't know sin, we won't know that we need a savior. We need to be taught what is sin and that we are law breakers incapable of being law keepers. What we can't be taught is the law and that we are responsible to keep the law in our own power. We can't keep the law in our own power. We need to be saved and given the power to keep the law. John Bunyan is created with saying

Run, John, run, the law commands, 
But gives us neither feet nor hands. 
Far better news the gospel brings: 
It bids us fly and gives us wings.

The law show us sin but gives us no ability to keep it. Grace gives us forgiveness which gives us both motivation and ability to love. We motivated by gratitude for grace. We obey the law of love with love. We don't follow just a moral code, we live by a higher principle of love. When we and others fail we give and receive grace. 

I will teach her morality and I will punish my daughter when she is immoral, but I will also teach her grace. I will always let her know that Jesus died for her so she could be forgiven of her moral failure. I want her to know she was born a sinner and is a sinner so that she will know she needs a savior.

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