In 33 (almost 34) years, I think I’ve seen every type of Christian. It’s almost like middle and high school cliques.
There are the pretenders, the over-achievers, the wannabes, the jocks, and the serious students.
There are those that ‘walk the walk’, but never ‘talk the talk’ and vice versa. There are those that make sure you follow the rules but don’t care if your heart is hurting. There are those who care if you eat pork or shellfish, but will never know that you go hungry.
There are all types of people in the world and in the church, and you’ll undoubtedly meet some or all of them in your lifetime. The odds of meeting a person as wonderful as Jesus are slim, but you can be like Him. You can surround yourself by people like Him.
You can have a faith-filled life and just watch what it does for your work in the process.
What is Legalism?
According to the dictionary, legalism is excessive adherence to the law. In relation to Christianity, legalism is the dependence on moral law rather than on personal religious faith. Why does legalism matter at all? It matters because it can hurt your faith life and your faith life is like your love life with your spouse. It’s necessary for a healthy relationship. So too is faith. Faith is necessary for a relationship with Jesus.
Works without faith? Pointless. It’s like the old quip “give the man a fish, feed him for a day; teach a man to fish, feed him for a lifetime.” You do the thing but have no purpose in the doing. No heart. No care. Just stress and pride.
Faith without works? James says faith without works is dead!
Christian platitudes are birthed by the faith-without-works model. “I’ll pray for you” seems nice in a social media comment, but drive to someone’s house and hold their hand in prayer and that faith suddenly puts on shoes. It carries food to the hungry. It stands on a street corner with a microphone. It visits the lonely, donates money, makes phone calls, travels to obscure places, the list is endless because the needs are endless.
What mountains might we move if we had faithful workers carrying the dirt?
What does the Bible Say About Legalism?
James, the brother of Jesus, has a lot to say about legalism.
In fact, James along with his brothers did not fully believe in Jesus. Yet James went on to be one of Jesus’ biggest supporters after His death and resurrection. He wrote letters to the 12 dispersed tribes. He taught the Jews that weren’t in Jerusalem. He wanted to send a message across the dessert about real faith. He spread the gospel in terms they could understand–and so can we.
James 2:14-17 says: “What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.”
Can you separate your faith from your works? James asks these tough questions, and you should too. Do you believe in God? If you believe in God, you believe as much as Satan Himself.
James goes on to give examples to help drive the point home. Abraham had faith that God would keep His promises. God promised children, but then he asked for something impossible. Abraham had to do what God asked and show the willingness to give Isaac up. In the end, Abraham’s faith and works strengthened the relationship and covenant he had with God.
What Does Your Life Say?
Does your own body operate apart from your spirit?
Do you find yourself doing things out of habit or tradition, not knowing why?
Are you practicing “faith” with no real purpose?
I encourage you to give James a look.
Does your church work in the community to back up the faith message we proclaim?
In Christian circles, we talk a lot about fruit. My grandpa always quoted Matthew: you’ll know them by their fruits.
Maybe we will know them by their fruits, but we’re looking for rotten fruit when we should be looking for fake, polished, wax fruit. We’re checking for over-ripeness, bruises, and decay when we should look for the fake fruit with no nutrients and no seeds for reproduction. We’re looking at their fruits when we should look at our own.
The fruit produced from a relationship with God doesn’t only look, smell, and taste good. It is also filled with the good things that nourish.
One of my favorite songs is by For King and Country and it tells this message well:
Let my life be the proof,
The proof of Your love
Let my love look like You and what You’re made of
How You lived, how You died
Love is sacrifice
So let my life be the proof,
The proof of Your love (“The Proof of Your Love”)
We don’t have to prove we have faith by doing a lot of work. We don’t have to justify our works by false faith. We only need to believe. Then God will do the work in us.