I've always been a rule-follower.
It's just easier.
In fact, I like rules: the structure, the stability, the safety.
I like living in that comfortable zone with good guardrails.
So, this last week, when I decided I needed to work a little harder at eating in a manner that might help fight some inflammation issues I've been having, I looked for a diet that clearly spelled out THE RULES.
Lots of research led me to an anti-Inflammatory program that has good, measurable, doable "laws..."
For one whole week I've adhered to these rules and am beginning to see the rewards.
HOWEVER, I recognize I, also, do this in my Christian life.
I want the "program" all spelled out for me.
The do's and do not's bother me NONE!
BUT, as I study the book of Galatians, I realize Paul's biggest heartbreak is over proclaimed Jesus-followers who put the do's and do nots ahead of faith.
Paul scolds them with no little frustration in his voice; and, as he does, I recognize he's scolding me.
In my desire to "do the program" of Christianity, it's easy to slip across that blurred line of pleasing God with my faith to pleasing God with my good works.
Paul wasn't the only one who addressed this problem, and the writer of Hebrews reminds with an entire chapter (11) on what people who lived by faith looked like, because "without faith, it's impossible to please the Lord.."
When Paul calls the Galatians non-thinking, senseless and brain-dead (ahem! in so doing, he says the same about... "moi!"), he asks them how they became so easily "bewitched," or "fascinated," by law after having found saving grace in Jesus...
Well, perhaps the question is rhetorical, but it also requires some pondering (which I know is exactly what he wanted them/me to do)... We are fascinated, because:
- Good works/law - it's easier! it's measurable! From it, I think I know what a Jesus-follower looks like and how they act (this however leads to judgment...ugh!)
- Good works/law - it's objective. I wake up with a "to do" list already made for me, and all I have to do is check off the boxes.
- Good works/law- gives me some good, reliable guardrails of "safety..."
But...when it becomes the measuring-stick for pleasing the Lord or a means of judging others.... THEN:
Good works/law - leads to pride! When I do "right" my ego is stroked. When I don't do right, ego deflates and I look for more positive pats on the back to rebuild my ego. So, then I have to do more and more and more...
Through this whole ordeal, I compare myself to others - and we all know what comparison does:
It is the chief thief of JOY!
Living by Law will always lead us away from the joy of grace when it becomes our measuring-stick for pleasing the Lord.
AND....Good works/law - leaves no room for the Spirit of God to do His work of maturing me from within.
Living by Law will always keep us from living by the Spirit when it becomes our measuring-stick for pleasing the Lord.
This led Paul to ask another question, which he addresses: WHY, then, do we even have the law?
Reason says, couldn't God have just skipped Sinai? The 10 commandments? The other 400-some tedious rules?
Don't miss the point, Paul says. There's a purpose for the law...and it is GOOD!
(Are you confused, yet? 'Cause my first thought was that Paul couldn't make up his mind... But, WAIT FOR IT...hopefully, this all comes together!)
Here's the good...The Law serves like a school teacher for young children.
OK? (Well, think this progression through and maybe the confusion will clear - it definitely helped me.)
Law teaches me about my sin... I simply can't follow it all. Every day, I break one of God's rules, which is exactly why I needed a Savior. If I try to live by good works to get to heaven, well, I'll never get there!
So then, Law renews in me a greater gratitude and a deeper understanding of God's grace.
This then, leads to a renewal of my commitment to "walk by the Spirit" in order that I might look more like the One in Whom God the Father was well-pleased...
I want to be more like Jesus...the One who saved me by grace.
Now, this deeper understanding of grace gives rise within me a "want-to" to do good works. After all, I was created for good works, just not saved by them....
Here's the difference:
Because of Grace, I don't have to please God by doing good works...
He is already pleased with my faith (even if it is as small as a mustard seed)...
BUT, I GET to do them as an expression of my faith in Him...
And, these "good works" serve the purpose of bringing others into the Kingdom...by grace, through faith in Christ Jesus! Why? Because they see a difference in me...
Just like that anti-inflammatory diet - we will see results....The Lord calls it "fruit."
And this...changes everything!