Monday, October 17, 2011

Legalism Vs. Discipline

“O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? It was before your eyes that Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified. Let me ask you only this: Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith? Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?” Galatians 3:1-3

This would be the Paul-getting-all-up-in-some-Galatian’s-faces passage. Twice he calls them foolish and twice he asks them a rhetorical question to help them further understand their ludicrous thinking as ludicrous (no, not the rapper). Yet more often than not these words rip directly into my heart, into my thinking, into my actions.

I would guess the majority of us struggle deeply with that fine line between self-discipline and religious legalism. Having our ‘lists’ so neatly centered in our brains so when they are transgressed by someone, anyone else we are appalled at their actions. Or the opposite, of fighting so hard against lists so when someone tries to dictate a certain truth to you your gut reaction is to punch them in the face rather than listen.

But before the ideals of self-discipline may come to bear on our lives we must first understand (and by understand I mean if we don’t get it the rest fails) it is the Spirit who enables faith and it is the Spirit who is perfecting (sanctifying, redeeming) us.

Now, in all our self-discipline if it is placed on the shoulders of others rather than left to being SELF-discipline we have made it a religious legalism. Also, when we start to see discipline in terms of ‘have to’ rather than ‘get to’ it becomes religious legalism. Lastly, when we start to see discipline as more important than Jesus’ sacrificial death and resurrection, we’ve made our discipline our functional savior… a functional savior to hang ourselves with.

Have we begun in the Spirit to now be perfected by the flesh? Did we receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith? These are the questions we must ask ourselves often, though our motivations can nor never will save us our motivations must be thoroughly examined, indeed we must learn to have quick minds. For in the course of life, or even just a day, we strive (because of the work of the Spirit) to be found in Jesus to the glory of God. Because He is our joy, not our actions or our intentions, Jesus, He is and can only ever be the one who saves us, completes us, and gives us true lasting joy.

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