Per Fidem Intrepidus means "Fearless Through Faith". My courage isn't my own, it comes from the Holy Spirit, it's my faith in God and my personal savior Christ Jesus that calms my fears and allows me to move forward in this fallen world. Personally I'm afraid of a lot of stuff, but having the faith that Jesus adopted me as his little, sin filled, brother keeps me going.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Worship The Lord, Not The Law

Legalism - it's not just for Pharisees anymore.
Last week while writing a blog on the legalism of diverse Christian sects and false leaders I made a connection with the Pharisees and wrote "To me it seems that the Pharisees were worshiping the Law rather than worshiping the Lord" and I have the feeling that the Lord wants me to know that he gave me a true statement when He allowed me to write and publish that. It didn't hit me at first but as I reread the post I realized this was an awesome truth and to put an exclamation point on the subject this Sunday Pastor Lovejoy spoke extensively on the Mosaic law, the legalism of the Pharisees and how Jesus fulfilled the law setting us free from a system that was set up as an example for us. Or did He? And which law are we talking about? Most of the time when you talk law in a biblical sense we're talking the Mosaic Law, but there's more law than that out there...

I'm not saying that the Mosaic Law is a bad thing, it's a wonderful thing! It's been around for over 3000 years, nothing else from that time period has survived intact like the Mosaic law has. From the law we have divine direction - God loves us so much that he looked down from his lofty holiness and gave us a clue as to how to act to appear righteous in his eyes. Through His law we uncover our sins, He gave us a mirror to hold up to show ourselves just how wretched we are. But I'm a Gentile, there's not a hint of Jewish blood in my veins. My family all descended from Picts and Gauls, historically I have more in common with wiccans (well, they think they're a celtic religion) than with Jews. Yet as a gentile the Apostle Peter exempted us (actually all of us gentiles) from the Mosaic law:
After there had been much debate, Peter stood up and said to them, “Brethren, you know that in the early days God made a choice among you, that by my mouth the Gentiles would hear the word of the gospel and believe. And God, who knows the heart, testified to them giving them the Holy Spirit, just as He also did to us; and He made no distinction between us and them, cleansing their hearts by faith. 10 Now therefore why do you put God to the test by placing upon the neck of the disciples a yoke which neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear? (Acts 15:7-10)
Ok, so I'm not bound to the Mosaic law, which is good, because it's pretty extensive; 613 commandments! I've broken every one of the the first 10, and there's 603 left to avoid breaking? I'd lose count as they fell by the wayside. And the dietary portion of the Law alone would condemn me to hell for all eternity if we were living exclusively by the Law. 

But there is an ancient set of laws that predate Judaism and apply to us Gentiles; the Noahide Laws. According to Judaism, any non-Jew who adheres to these laws is regarded as a righteous gentile and is assured of a place in the World to Come. These laws are:
  1. The prohibition of Idolatry.
  2. The prohibition of Murder.
  3. The prohibition of Theft.
  4. The prohibition of Sexual immorality.
  5. The prohibition of Blasphemy.
  6. The prohibition of eating flesh taken from an animal while it is still alive.
  7. The requirement of maintaining courts to provide legal recourse.
According to the Talmud the first six laws were given to Adam and Even in the Garden of Eden and the 7th law was given to Noah after the flood.  Personally However I really like the dietary laws in the Noahide laws better than the dietary laws of Moses:
Every moving thing that is alive shall be food for you; I give all to you, as I gave the green plant. Only you shall not eat flesh with its life, that is, its blood. (Genesis 9:3-4)
But there's other covenants too: The Abrahamic covenant which was for Abraham and his seed which promises to make Abraham a great nation and circumcision is a sign of this covenant and the Davidic covenant which stated that David's house, throne and kingdom shall be established forever. 

But laws are a dual edged sword, they can bring us closer to God and drive us away from him, they can give us an unearned sense of superiority over those that follow the law differently that we do. Such as the prohibition of Idolatry in the Noahide law. Orthodox Jews say that it's impossible for Christians to follow these laws because the worship of Jesus Christ violates the first Noahide law by elevating Jesus to the level of God. A Christian knows that Jesus is God and wonders why the Jew has a problem with that. I say that the worship of the Mosaic law violates Noahide law number one. This is all legalism.

Legalism is the excessive and improper use of the law and can take several forms. The first kind of legalism is where the law of God is kept in order to attain salvation. For a Jew this is proper and good, for a Christian this is heresy and false doctrine. As a Christian we believe salvation comes from God's grace through our faith in Jesus Christ and that following the law is the fruit of our being born again.
For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from works of the Law. (Romans 3:28)
The second form of legalism is where a person tries to maintain his salvation by keeping the law. This sounds reasonable on the surface: get saved, show God you mean to join Him by following His law. However it's impossible, there is both a curse and corrective actions right there in the Bible about thinking this way:
10 For as many as are of the works of [o]the Law are under a curse; for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who does not abide by all things written in the book of the law, to perform them.” 11 Now that no one is justified by the Law before God is evident; for, “The righteous man shall live by faith.” (Galatians 3:10-11)
The third form of Legalism is the most insidious form (at least in my opinion) where a Christian keeps certain laws and regards other Christians who do not keep his level of holiness with contempt. Where the bible clearly speaks about sin; adultery, lying, stealing, murder, etc. there are areas that the bible doesn't address so clearly. I like a glass of wine on occasion, while Pastor Raul Reis who comes from a background saturated in alcoholism, a glass of wine would be a sin. Would Pastor Reis get all judgmental on me for a glass of wine? He shouldn't if that's all it is is a single glass of wine, however if it lead to drunken behavior he darn well better get on my case. Would I get all judgmental on Pastor Reis for not drinking wine? No, this is a debatable area and Romans 14 tells us explicitly that we are not to judge our brothers in these debatable areas
Who are you to judge the servant of another? To his own master he stands or falls; and he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand. One person regards one day above another, another regards every day alike. Each person must be fully convinced in his own mind. He who observes the day, observes it for the Lord, and he who eats, does so for the Lord, for he gives thanks to God; and he who eats not, for the Lord he does not eat, and gives thanks to God. (Romans 14:4-6)
Holding others to our standards is the more severe standards of legalism. My friend celebrates the Sabbath on Saturday, I fast for lent, neither of us hold the other to those standards because our standards are between us and God, not between each other because we worship God, not the law he gave us.

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