Monday, January 21, 2008

Buying Grace?? - Legalism

"Legalism is like trying to buy grace."

This is a new phrase that I made up (though someone has probably made it up before me).

My pastor and I were talking about "Christian legalism" last week - he was asking for an illustration - and we got carried away talking about legalism in general (I am a recovering legalist). I like rules and could easily live with rules. For years God has been working in me to change my heart (I still follow nearly all of the same "rules", but my heart has changed).

Let me clarify what I mean by Christian legalism. It is not simply have a rule in a gray area (that is a conviction - and is a good thing). Legalism rears its ugly head when my conviction leads me to conclude that you are less spiritual because you do what I don't do (or don't do what I do). Let me say again that having convictions in gray areas is a good thing - the other option would be to be a moral zombie (maybe that's too harsh).

I got to thinking more about legalism - and realized I so easily try to "buy grace" from God. I think that if I do my devos, love my family, help hurting people, go to prayer meeting... - that God will love me more - or at least be more impressed with me (I also try buy grace by NOT doing things as well). Unconsciously, I am so often trying to buy grace. But the problem is that buying grace is impossible - grace must be unmerited, otherwise it's not grace.

I believe a word for "buying grace" is Simony - (the attempt to buy grace for money named after Simon the sorcerer rebuked by Peter in Acts). At one point in history (sparking the Reformation) - this was seen in the sale of indulgences - "As the gold in the coffer rings, the soul from purgatory springs." I just don't think we've come that from there - at least I haven't. It's a daily struggle.

How are you trying to buy grace? Any thoughts?

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