For those who may yet be struggling with all the rules which are often passed off as representative of holiness, I want to share and encourage you to sit down and read through the book of Galatians. Perhaps do this several times and with different Bible versions. In another writing, Does Salvation Come And Go, this line of thinking was mentioned.
How these rules are taught varies greatly from church to church. What really distresses me is when I see people write on various forums that “it’s better to be safe than sorry” in regard to outward standards or other church rules.
What this says is that they don’t know for sure if the teachings are necessary in order to remain saved, so they will abide to be on the safe side. For them, it would be better to follow and find they were not mandated by God, than to not follow them and find they were necessary in order to make it to heaven. What is one more rule when you believe your eternal destination is at stake? For many, there is no long lasting sense of security when living in this manner. Most will slip up and break a rule here and there in a weak moment.
That mindset is so sad. People are believing that perhaps God may be hiding something pertaining to salvation and so they better play it safe and do what is taught, even though they obviously don’t see [whatever the teaching is] as biblical. It has been instilled in them to obey the pastor. Perhaps there may somehow be ‘fine print’ in the Bible that they don’t see, like what some businesses hide in contracts.
I mention reading Galatians because Paul addresses the problem of them starting out their walk with God by faith and then later becoming entangled with works. The Galatians believers were now trusting in those works to make them right before God. He brought to their remembrance how Abraham believed God, and that was credited to him as righteousness.
I want you to think about what I am going to share and let it sink in. This is what some do who elevate what is often termed holiness standards. Consider the following scenario:
How would you feel if you found out your child (or sibling, or anyone else you loved) was doing certain things because they felt that by doing so they would gain your favor and love? They feel they must perform just right in order to have your love. By cleaning their room, taking out the trash or doing well at school (or put just about anything in here), they think these things could bring them in right standing with you and you’d love them or would love them more. They feel if they fail to perform, you might cause them harm, even kill them, or kick them out of your life. Would you not be mortified to discover your child viewed you in this manner?
They don’t understand they have your love already- with or without doing these things. These acts don’t cause you to love your child more. While you may be glad, or thankful that they obeyed you or excelled at something, your love for them doesn’t hinge on these things.
Now tie this same thought to our walk with God. How it must pain the Lord to see His children trying to earn His love and favor. He *already* loves them and *already* accepts them. He has already given them His Spirit as a pledge of their inheritance. Think about it. Was the atoning sacrifice of Jesus so that he could give us another set of laws like in the Old Testament- taste not and touch not?
Many in unhealthy churches feel that by doing certain things it will keep them in God’s favor- or at least cause Him to not harm them. Do you have a false image of God holding a baseball bat, ready and eager to whop you at the first hint of anything done wrong? That is what being in an unhealthy church will do to you.
If while we did not know God- if while we were enemies and not following God- if while we were without God, He cared for us so much that Jesus took all our sins upon Himself and then offered His righteousness to us in exchange….why do we get this idea that somehow through certain actions we can cause ourselves to be righteous before God? Or cause Him to love and accept us?
What happens in many performance oriented churches is that our faith lets go of Christ and starts to hope and trust in our works. This is what the Galatians did. They had received the Spirit by faith, but now felt they must do things to be made right in God’s sight. They were trying to find favor with God by what they did or didn’t do. They were trying to become perfect by their own human effort. It doesn’t work.
I want to share how the New Living Translation puts a passage in Galatians 6:12 & 13. “Those who are trying to force you to be circumcised are doing it for just one reason. They don’t want to be persecuted for teaching that the cross of Christ alone can save. And even those who advocate circumcision don’t really keep the whole law. They only want you to be circumcised so they can brag about it and claim you as their disciples.“
Read that a few times and see if you don’t see similarities with a performance based church.
See Part Two.