If you’re a Christian between the ages of two and 102, you probably have some shades of legalism in the way you live out your faith. If you’ve been a Christian most of your life, you’re probably even more guilty of this than most. And if you grew up in a Christian home* with no drinking (the Devil’s brew), dancing (vertical sex), movies (except Billy Graham flicks), cards (except UNO) or pants in church (except evening services), your name could be Lisa Anderson.
So imagine how I got blazed away this past quarter in Sunday school when our teacher, Navigators U.S. Deputy Director Bill Tell, gave us the scoop on overcoming a law-based faith to instead live out a grace-based one. He told us that Christian maturity is defined not by sinlessness (or “working toward” sinlessness), but on blamelessness. Not that we encourage sinful behavior, but we recognize the punishment for our sin has been taken once and for all by Christ, and if we really understand the magnitude of this, the trust we have in Him as a result leads to joyful obedience. Bill told us a bunch of other stuff that it will take the rest of the year for me to process, and the rest of my life to apply. Here’s one example in summary:
As a maturing Christian, I no longer define myself by my sin or the sin committed against me, but by who God says I am.
What does this mean?:
Sin and wounds are born out of a lie (John 8:44, Satan is the Father of Lies). We have layers and layers of lies around our hearts, many of which have solidified over years and years. These lies have caused us to make a vow that we won’t let people or circumstances touch us if they will hurt or disrupt us, or find us out. To protect ourselves, we devise a well-oiled strategy for not getting hurt, or for feeding the lie. We have to get to a place where this strategy stops working. We must counter the lies with the truth about our identity. The only problem is, that truth is often much smaller than the lie in our own heads/hearts, and it can’t compete. We must continue to saturate our minds/hearts with truth statements until that truth grows and can, with God’s help and the help of other believers, begin to counteract the lies.
How can we identify a lie? Check our abnormal responses to something innocuous. When we’re hurt, stop and ask, “What is underneath this that is causing me to feel this way?”
I realized during this study that one of my big lies is that “I’m only as valuable as I am useful.” I have a huge burden to be competent**, and can’t imagine why people would like me beyond what I can do for them. I recognized it because recently an issue came up where I, a normally rational and laid-back person, responded in a crazy and unbecoming manner. Boom! Lie. I had to uncover the reasons behind my response, and deal with them with humility and a healthy dose of reality.
Thankfully, I can go to Scripture and find many truths to counteract this lie. The love of my friends and family is a powerful example to me of my worth in their eyes. Most importantly, God’s presence in my life proves that I’m already loved more than I can imagine, and none of His love is contingent on how smart, funny, helpful, interesting or popular I am. He doesn’t reject me because I’m single, opinionated, prone to burn things in the kitchen, and/or possess an unhealthy attachment to Bill Gaither, Flo Rida or Trident Splash Strawberry/Lime Gum.
Bill talks a lot about grace. You can hear him talking about it here and here. What about you? Are you a recovering legalist? What trips you up most when it comes to countering the lies in your own life? Do you have a few people with whom you can be truly open and vulnerable? Hopefully we’re all on a pilgrimage…one that leads to Grace Land.
*My fam is totally awesome, and don’t worry, we recognize some of the patterns we lived in back in the day. And some of them were good, quite frankly. Nothing wrong with turning off the TV when you see trash. My mom and I still spar about a few things, but we usually settle our disputes by trying to outshout each other with Scripture references, then call a truce and go out for ice cream.
**I’m having Bill and his wife over for dinner tonight. I’m making a new chicken recipe. Major competency issues coming into play…