Saturday, June 7, 2008

Legalism Kills Joy

Here's a little secret that we have a hard time grasping: legalism kills joy. I heard an interesting little teaching today on the radio as I was driving to the store. It really got me thinking. It was some advice for women delivered by a woman concerning getting things done. She spoke of smashing old bananas to make banana bread rather than feeling the guilt of throwing them away and wasting them.

Now I love banana bread! But I wouldn't want my wife to feel guilty for not making it every time the kids didn't eat the bananas fast enough. On the other hand, I wouldn't want my wife feeling good for making it as a way to avoid the guilt of not making it. Does that make sense? The lady on the radio continued by encouraging women to get busy and clean out the junk drawer, do something around the house to make it more organized, etc. She then said something to the effect, "Just completing one thing made me feel so accomplished and free."

While I appreciate her heart in trying to encourage women and think she's said many correct things from what I can tell, I disagree with this particular message. It's amazing how freeing it is resting in what Christ has accomplished for me. It is not freeing to complete anything. It's constraining. If I feel free and accomplished by knocking something off the to-do list, then what do I feel when I fail to knock something off the to-do list? This kind of living over a long period of time will kill joy. The reason for this is simple. Rarely do we live up to our own expectations. And that is painful to deal with, because it bases our perspective on our performance rather than resting in God. On the other hand, some people do live up to their own expectations, and that's even more dangerous, because they justify themselves rather than resting in God. Either way, it's a failure to rest in God's provision of grace for us.

In saying this, I'm not saying we shouldn't do worthwhile things, like God is glorified by resting in Christ by perpetually resting on the couch. I'm simply saying the order has to be right. Remember Mueller from a few posts ago? We must do whatever it takes to get as happy in God as we can in the morning. Only in that way will we garner the perspective and power to love others in the right way. Doing our jobs in this world should flow from Gospel-centered joyful-hope. In this way, we won't assess ourselves on how well we accomplish something, or on how miserably we fail. We will assess ourselves on what Christ has already accomplished on our behalf, because we couldn't accomplish diddly-squat on our own. Now that's freeing.

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