Friday, July 30, 2010

My Inner Roman Catholic

I've recently been convinced that, despite my deeply evangelical Protestant beliefs and heritage, inside me lurks a Roman Catholic which is dying to get out. Lest some of my long-time friends or (gasp!) parishioners reading this turn it off and conclude that Pastor Joe has finally gone 'round the bend, let me explain.

This week I was back to leading our Men's Bible study as per usual after several weeks of letting the other men take turns at sharing leadership. We are still reading and studying through C J Mahaney's The Cross Centered Life (which I cannot recommend highly enough, btw). Anyway, we came to my favorite chapter, "Breaking the Rule of Legalism." Mahaney defines legalism as "basing our relationship with God on our own performance" or, as he quotes Sinclair Ferguson stating more eloquently, "assuming we remain justified only so long as there are grounds in our character for justification."

That is what I mean by my inner Roman Catholic. I fall far too easily into this trap, thinking that the more I "do" for God and/or the more my character improves over what it used to be, the more God loves me, because I have earned more "merit" with Him. The Bible is pretty clear that nothing could be further from the truth. It was not from "works of righteousness which [I] have done, but according to His mercy He saved [me] (Titus 3:5)." Likewise, I received "every spiritual blessing in Christ in the heavenly realms" (Eph. 1) not based on my performance, but in spite of it. God chose me as His child quite apart from any merit, before I had done anything, either good or bad, but simply by His grace (Rom. 8-9).

How hard that is for me to accept, yet what freedom and joy fills my heart when I remember to embrace it. Thanks be to Jesus, who saved me in spite of what I have done and do, and who already loves me perfectly.

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