Legalism defined

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Rev. Nicholas Batzig writes:

If you want to demean someone in the church, you simply have to use the “L-word” when speaking to or about that person. The number of times one believer has called another believer a legalist is inestimable. Name-calling often ensues when someone in the church believes that another has said or done something that cuts across Christian liberty. Like its sister term, fundie, the label legalist has become something of a conventional religious slur in grace-oriented and gospel-centered churches. We must be extremely slow to use this word when speaking to or about others in a church fellowship. It may be that one believer simply has a weaker or softer conscience than another (Rom. 14–15). Additionally, those who love God’s law and seek to walk carefully in accord with it will always be susceptible to being called legalists.

We must guard against carelessly tossing around a charge of legalism. However, we must also recognize that legalism in various shapes and forms is alive and well in evangelical and Reformed churches. This too must be guarded against with the utmost determination. In order to avoid bringing a false charge against a believer, in order to avoid personally embracing legalism, and in order to help restore a believer who has fallen into legalism, we must know how to identify this perennial evil in both its doctrinal and practical forms.

For the rest of the essay, go here.

Shame, vulnerability & faith

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Sara de Moor writes:

Shame: The intensely painful feeling or experience of believing that we are flawed and therefore unworthy of love and belonging.

As Christians we believe that we—and this world—are flawed. We see evidence of brokenness all around us. This is the reality of living in a fallen world. But the next step, after the “therefore” in the definition of shame, is what is most destructive—and untrue. Shame is the intensely painful feeling or experience of believing that we are flawed and therefore unworthy of love and belonging. This is a direct opposite of the way Paul follows his statement of the universality of sin in Romans 3:23-24: “… since all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God; they are now justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus…”.

Shame makes it tremendously difficult for us to live out our belief that we are God’s beloved children, and that He loves us just the way we are. We have worth not because of what we do or don’t do, but simply because God created us in his Image. We have been redeemed by God’s grace, through Christ’s death and resurrection while we were still sinners, and God partners with us in His plan of redemption. As Reformed folks, our covenant theology emphasizes that God acts first, and that we respond to His sovereign grace out of gratitude. It sounds simplistic, but we cannot love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength and love our neighbors as ourselves if we don’t believe we are valuable, worthy of love and belonging, from God and from others. And this is not simply an individual, psychological concern; our shame and disconnection from God and others also inhibits our ability to embrace our callings as children of God, as co-workers in God’s Kingdom of reconciliation, because it stymies confidence and risk-taking. If we don’t believe we are worth anything and that we will fail at anything we attempt, why would we believe we could or should try to live obedient lives of service? I see this lack of confidence and resistance to following God’s call in our lives all the time in campus ministry, and it is destructive not only to individuals’ personal lives, but also to their ability to fully embrace their God-given gifts and use them for his Kingdom…

For the rest of the essay, here.