Being a good Christian is a duty, but being a Christian is also a privilege. It is a binding contract, but it is also ultimate freedom. It is release from the law, but a restrictive lifestyle. What is the balance? How do we walk this tight-line? Well, I’ll tell you how not to. Don’t be:
The Hyper- Legalist
Did you know that a legalist is more than just an immature Christian’s favorite insult? Yes, there’s more to it than that. Legalism is the attempt to earn God’s favor through one’s activity. This is an immensely frustrating and lonely choice of lifestyle. These people emphasize doing, rather than being. It’s theologically flawed because God’s favor isn’t earned, it’s graciously given. And, it’s logically flawed, because it assumes you actually can do enough to be good enough. You can’t.
Let me get offensive for just a minute. These people show up in church once monthly, and their children are a total mess, but they believe themselves to be excellent Christians because they “read the right Bible.” These people “don’t dabble with that devilish new Christian music,” but they’ll gossip and slander everyone they know who does. These people get angry at the sin if unbelievers and complain about the culture, but believe themselves to be evangelistic because they give faithfully to the missions fund.
They get the duty part, but not completely, and not for the correct reasons. They do alright, but they do it for themselves. They do so because their system is reliant upon their own concept of goodness, rather than God’s definition of Biblical sanctification, which is a result of Christ’s goodness alone.
You’ve been freed to do for Christ alone, and you will only do things for the right reasons when you do them for Christ alone. We must subscribe to His system, so that we do Christlike things for a Christlike reason, not for His favor, but because He’s already given it to us. Christlike action should be motivated by His love for us, and our love for Him, not for an attempt to gain His love. How self-idolizing we must be to think that enough activity could increase a love for us that is already ultimately intimate.
Hyper-libertines are typically more outspoken about their spiritual immaturity. They’re proud of their “freedom.” They want everyone to know why they should be able to______. After all, Jesus died to free me from legalism, so stop judging! They leave out the duties because only legalists serve Jesus out of duty.
After all, it’s a relationship, right? Jesus doesn’t judge me. I can watch what I want. I can wear what I want. I can listen to what I want. I can do what I want to my body. I can hang out with who I want. Jesus gives me that right because of grace, right?
Bad question. How about these questions concerning your liberty?
- Who owns your body (2 Cor. 9:10-11)?
- Does Jesus care what you put in your mind (Phil. 4:8)?
- Is this ______ acceptable, or actually profitable for my spirituality (Phil. 1:9-11)?
Jesus does care about the duties. You should go to church. You should spend time in the Word. You should give back what He gives you.You should pray consistently. Don’t obssess over what you think you should be able to do, when what you should be doing is clearly laid out for you in Scripture.
My wife loves when I get her flowers, I mean, more than even the typical lady. She loves flowers. So, if I went home with flowers, gave them to her, and inevitably she asks with a smile, “what are these for?” I reply, “well, it’s my duty as a husband.”
Moment gone. Most of you would call that loveless because it is. My love for her, for which both I’m freed by, and bound to, motivated an act of love. That’s normal folks. Don’t ditch duty.
It’s a fine line, but it’s a line we must walk. Jesus freed you, to be a slave. What we must then do, is become like our Master, and this confusing tension will truly take care of itself. When we love Him as our victor, we will love Him as our Master, and both will motivate truly heartfelt service. This is not difficult if you simply love Jesus.