I’m tired of hearing folks beat up other believers over some thing they need to be doing. The latest one I just watched part of (until I couldn’t take any more and had to shut it off) was about how Christians need to be really overt and blatant about being Christians on Facebook or MySpace. I’m not sure how your religious status on Facebook ties into your actual walk. I am sure how your life and status updates in general can reflect your walk, but I’m pretty sure that they’re not the things that show your spiritual growth. I love the idea of folks wanting to see passion in the lives of believers, but what about growth? Growth is not just that you can quote Bible verses to people. Growth doesn’t mean how intense you are about others “living according to the Bible” (by which they almost always mean rigid rules and standards). Growth has very much to do with what Peter closed his second Epistle with:
You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, be on your guard so that you are not carried away by the error of unprincipled men and fall from your own steadfastness, but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
There are subtleties in these last two verses that make me want to scream and shout at legalists. The apostle is warning the readers to watch out for those who twist God’s word to their own destruction in the verses leading up to this thought. He warns them with this in full view so that they would watch to not be carried away by the error of unprincipled men. In the context of Paul there are two ways I have seen people take the message out of context: 1) Paul really was a closet legalist and wanted to see people burdened by the Law or 2) Paul was too gracious (as in Romans 5 & 6). Here’s the real deal: If you’re not being accused, like Paul, of saying people should be liberated to sin because you’re teaching grace like Romans 5 & 6 state clearly, then you’re not preaching grace appropriately. And like Paul writes in those very same chapters: sin should not abound because grace is a motivator and motivates us to stop sinning and to be living a life of abundant abiding. The measuring stick is not the Law, it’s grace. Grace is a tough measuring stick because it is infinite. Deal with measuring growth by grace like Peter suggests: grow in your understanding of it.
If you grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, not just by studying to be better, but by pursuing Him and His grace, you will grow in a measurable way: in context of grace. Grace, as a motivator, leads us to righteousness, but it doesn’t lead us to a rigid system that burdens and beats up. Grace leads to conviction unto relationship, legalism leads us to guilt and more flesh based works to try to make up for past failings. I call shenanigans because there is no good deed that goes unpunished in a legal system. Its not good enough. It isn’t meritorious, it isn’t paying God back. Grace is always sufficient. Always. Because its our justification in Christ that brings about our measurement in grace, it always measures up infinitely.
Christ when speaking to the woman at the well in John 4 talked about living water. The woman at the well was obsessed with getting that living water and which well it came from. Christ was referring to spiritual things that brought life abundant. When legalists bring out their rulers for success and growth I scoff. I used to have one of those rulers. I used to pull it out, measure myself by it in front of other believers, and then go back to my sinning in private. The legalist has outward works to judge by, but the heavenly minded believer doesn’t even see the ruler. The legalist can sin in private without being caught (until they’re being caught and are then found in scandal) while the grace based believer finds himself out of fellowship and quickly comes back to the Father through the past forgiveness of sins due to the totally adequate work of Christ on the cross. The legalist is constantly looking back wishing with regret that he had never sinned before while the gracious believer is constantly looking back at awe that the Lord forgave such a sin as the ones the believer committed. One would give anything to change the past, the other sees that Romans 8:28 is true: God can use anything, even shenanigans, for good. Give up the Law my Christian friends and the rulers that come with it, instead walk by faith in grace, grow in your knowledge of Grace, because it gets it definition, its source, and its motivation from God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.