Yesterday, while reading a blog written in 2007 by Kirk M (@blessings2you), I came across these words:
"God does not demand perfection from us. All He wants is for us to try to the best of our ability to do things right. If we fall short, He is there to carry us to the finish line. If we run out of steam, He is there to give us a shot of Godspeed to get us over the remaining humps. If we get distracted and end up out of bounds, He is there to bring us back onto the playing field so we can finish the game."
I grew up in a pentecostal denomination that had its roots in the Holiness Movement. There was an ongoing struggle between striving to live a life that pleased God (because the way His children behave is important) and legalism. There is a difference. We are not saved by "works of righteousness" (Titus 3:5-7) but at the same time we are also admonished to:
... walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, pleasing to all, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God,
Colossians 1:10 (MEV)
Our behavior really does matter and we must never forget that we bear the name of Christ nor forget who our Father is. We must also never forget that God's laws are not there to enslave us but free us. Oh what joy comes to us when we truly walk not after the flesh but after the Spirit. We overflow with love, joy, peace, patience, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness and self-control! (Galatians 5:22,23)
Here is the problem. When we attempt to live a holy life by following a list of do's and don't's (legislation), rather than simply following Christ, we find ourselves caught in the trap of legalism. What we do and how we do it becomes more important than God's love, mercy and grace. We displace Jesus Christ as our Savior and become our own. It is interesting to note that the truly legalistic Christian has little or no love, joy or peace. They are not patient or gentle but quick to criticize and discipline harshly. Their goodness is tainted by self-righteousness and self-righteousness is the opposite of meekness. Their faith, though they might not be aware of it, is in themselves rather than in God because they are striving to save themselves through their own works. Finally, because they are looking to themselves to control their flesh, their battle against the flesh is fierce and constant. They are fearful that the flesh will gain the upper-hand and they will be "found-out". The legalist walks in constant fear that they are not "good enough".
The men whom Jesus called to follow Him, were not perfect by any means. In fact, even in the days of the Early Church, we discover they still have flaws. We are and will continue to be a "work-in-progress" all of our days and personally, I think that goes beyond just our life in this world.
Here's the deal...
We are children and we are unable to be "perfect" according to man's standards. Someone, somewhere is always going to find a flaw. What God requires is for us to faithfully follow Christ. He wants us to be in fellowship with Him. He wants us to learn and apply what He teaches us to our lives. He wants us to share what He teaches us with others. This has a two-fold purpose. Not only will others learn about Him but the teacher, in teaching, becomes more rooted and grounded as well.
We need to recognize that without Christ we can do nothing but with Christ we can do the impossible; we can truly walk after the Spirit and not after the flesh. We can be overcomers not through our own strength but through Christ who dwells within us. All God wants is for us to take that first step and try by committing ourselves to Him, seeking His face and doing our best to be obedient no matter what. He will take care of the rest.
Grace not merit. You know to well the freedom in Christ is lost following do's and don't's.