Seven Signs You Might Be A Legalist

I am currently preaching through the book of Romans and came to this passage…

Therefore you have no excuse, O man, every one of you who judges. For in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, practice the very same things. 2 We know that the judgment of God rightly falls on those who practice such things. 3 Do you suppose, O man—you who judge those who practice such things and yet do them yourself—that you will escape the judgment of God? 4 Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance? 5 But because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed. -Romans 2:1-5 (ESV)

Paul is communicating a number of important truths in this passage. But one takeaway (as seen in verse 4) is that Christians who have genuinely experienced the glorious truths of the gospel should not be harsh, judgmental, or unkind to others. Put it like this. If we really knew how gracious, patient, and kind God has been to us we would repent of our sin and stop being so harsh toward others.

When we fail to understand the gospel we run the risk of becoming highly legalistic in how we relate to the world and to other people.

HERE ARE SEVEN SIGNS  YOU MIGHT BE A LEGALIST

  1. You lack humility. “God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.” (Luke 18:11–12).
  2. You turn gray issues into black and white issues. Music, books, movies, modes of schooling, are not just something you have a personal opinion about. You impose your personal convictions on others. It’s really hard for you to believe that others can honestly love the Lord and disagree with you about what is wrong or right.
  3. You have a strong desire to make sure that other people know you are right.
  4. You lack grace, compassion and patience with others. 
  5. You think if it is “secular” it is wrong. Oddly enough, this idea that secular is bad can not be sustained if we think about it for very long. Is the news you listen to Christian? Do you shop at Christian stores? Do you only read books and articles that are written by Christians? Abraham Kuyper put it like this, “There is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is Sovereign over all, does not cry, Mine!”
  6. You have a really hard time dealing with the fact that Jesus was called “a friend of sinners.” Something about that does not sit well with you. You inwardly wonder how Jesus avoided becoming contaminated by the world. Jesus was called a friend of sinners because he was filled with grace, compassion and mercy.
  7. You have a critical spirit but think it is a discerning spirit.

THREE SUGGESTIONS FOR THE POSSIBLE LEGALIST

Take this issue to the Lord in prayer. Ask God to reveal to you if you are failing to show the same grace and patience that he has poured out upon you.

Another idea. Take a few people out (at different times) for coffee and ask them their honest opinion. I don’t mean the people who think just like you. Ask them if they can sense a spirit of legalism in your life. Give them permission to speak their mind.

If you come to the conclusion that you are a legalist ask God to forgive you and to soften your heart so that you love others the same way that he loves you.

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness. -Matthew 23:23

For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. -John 1:17

As for the one who is weak in faith, welcome him, but not to quarrel over opinions. -Romans 14:1

You observe days and months and seasons and years! I am afraid I may have labored over you in vain. -Galatians 4:10-11

If with Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the world, why, as if you were still alive in the world, do you submit to regulations—  “Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch”  (referring to things that all perish as they are used)—according to human precepts and teachings?  These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body, but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh. -Colossians 2:20-23

 

 

10 Indicators You Are Dealing With A Divisive Person (and what to do about it)

What The Bible Has To Say About Division And The Importance Of Unity

Scripture has a lot to say about the importance of pursuing unity with other brothers and sisters. The following verses are just the tip of the iceberg.

“A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion.” -Proverbs 18:2

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.” -Matthew 5:9

“If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.” -Romans 12:18

“I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment.”  -1 Corinthians 1:10

“I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” -Ephesians 4:1-3

“Complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind.” -Philippians 2:2

“And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.” -Colossians 3:14

Ten Indicators You Are Dealing With A Divisive Person

What does a divisive person look like? You may think that this is a rather easy question to answer, but it’s not.

  1. The divisive person is usually some who knows a lot about the bible and they probably have been a Christian for many years. So you would think that they know better, but they don’t. They know a lot about the bible but there seems to be a disconnect between their knowledge and the fruit of the Spirit (love, joy, peace, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self, control).
  2. The divisive person has a hard time maintaining friendships (even within their own family) because they usually find something they disagree with and refuse to associate with others when this happens.
  3. The divisive person seems to be more motivated by being right than being loving.
  4. The divisive person sabotages their own spiritual growth because they tend to stiff arm deep, messy, meaningful community where discipleship flourishes.
  5. The divisive person is highly dogmatic.
  6. The divisive person likes to build coalitions with others who agree with their point of view.
  7. The divisive person frequently finds themselves in quarrels but they believe the issue is with other people.
  8. The divisive person most likely has created an echo chamber where they only hear from people (teachers, authors, articles, social media, friends) that reinforces their own narrow views. The don’t listen, or they filter out, anything that would force them to think outside of the box.
  9. The divisive person ends distracting the church from the mission of making disciples because time and energy is used up in endless squabbles.
  10. The divisive person keeps people from experiencing the joy of unity and fellowship with others in the church.

What The Divisive Person Needs To Know

The first thing the divisive person needs to know is related to all the verses that are listed above, the Bible highly values unity in the the church. Jesus showed us how important unity is when he said this in John 17:20-21,“I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me.” When we are unified as brothers and sisters we reflect the unity of the Trinity to a watching world.

The second thing a divisive person needs to know is that it is a sign of being spiritually mature to disagree with someone theologically and still being able to experience unity. Do you think Jesus’ disciples agreed about everything? Do you think the Christians at Rome, Corinth, or Philippi agreed about everything? The obvious answer to these questions is no.

“In essentials, unity. In non-essentials, charity.”

At this point we should probably mention the difference between essential and non-essential beliefs. For example, I am willing to fight for the fact that Jesus Christ rose from the grave. This is an essential belief to our Christian faith. I am not willing to fight about pre/mid/post tribulation. I have my opinion, but I believe this is a non-essential issue. We can agree to disagree and still experience unity.

The other thing I would want to communicate to the divisive person is that each church has a Statement of Faith, or at least they should. The Statement of Faith does a pretty good job of explaining to all who will pay attention what is important to that particular church.

In my own personal experience a divisive person, all too often, fails to make the distinction between essential and non-essential beliefs. Or they are up in arms over issues that have very little to do with the church’s Statement of Faith. What ends up happening is that every disagreement feels like a hill that they are willing to die on. I think we should stop and consider these wise words from Francis Schaeffer:

“It is in the midst of a difference that we have our golden opportunity. When everything is going well and we are all standing around in a nice little circle, there is not much to be seen by the world. But when we come to the place where there is a real difference, and we exhibit uncompromised principles but at the same time observable love, then there is something that the world can see, something they can use to judge that these really are Christians, and that Jesus has indeed been sent by the Father.”

So, Where Do We Go From Here?

If you are reading this and you have a nagging suspicion that you are a divisive person then you need to know that it is OK to disagree with other brothers and sisters regarding non-essential beliefs. It truly is possible to disagree and still experience unity. As I already stated, the apostles disagreed and experienced fellowship and unity. The early churches disagreed (a lot!) and still worshipped and did life together.

If you are reading this and you are involved with a divisive person I would encourage you to love them, and if the opportunity presents itself, explain to them the difference between essential and non-essentials beliefs. Or, talk to them about the church’s Statement of Faith. Help them to understand that the Statement of Faith contains the teachings that the church believes they need to be in agreement about and that it is OK (and healthy) to allow for disagreement regarding issues outside of the Statement of Faith.

If you tend to be a people-pleaser like me it is extremely difficult because you want everyone to be happy and to get along. I have learned through many years of ministry that there is only so much you can do when it comes to dealing with a divisive person. The strange irony is that we can end up making ourselves miserable if we think we can make everyone else happy.

Would love to hear your thoughts and ideas for dealing with divisive people.

Partnering With Other Churches For The Good Of The City

PastorsSince I have been here at New Life Church I have slowly gotten to know a number of the local pastors. There is a group of us that meets every week for lunch at Perkins. It has been good just to get to know each other and share the ups and downs of ministry. Over the past few months we have begun praying as pastors on a monthly basis for revival here in Watertown.

“The coming revival must begin with a great revival of prayer. It is in the closet, with the door shut, that the sound of abundance of rain will first be heard. An increase of secret prayer with ministers will be the sure harbinger of blessing.” -Andrew Murray

I am excited to let you know one of the things we have decided to do is work together as churches and begin hosting times of worship and prayer. Praising God in song for who he is and asking God to work in a new way in the city of Watertown. In order to get the word out we have created a website that encourages people to be praying for the city of Watertown. You can find the website HERE.  We have also created a Facebook page HERE.

Goss Opera
The Goss Opera House. Thanks to Grace Ramey Photography for these great pics of Watertown!

Would you do me a favor? Take a moment to pray for Watertown, South Dakota. Pray that the Holy Spirit would be at work in a mighty way. Pray that Christians would be energized with renewed passion to love God and love others. Pray that those who do not yet know Christ would come to know and worship him. Pray that in all that we do that God is glorified. Thank you!

“All revival begins, and continues, in the prayer meeting. Some have also called prayer the “great fruit of revival.” In times of revival, thousands may be found on their knees for hours, lifting up their heartfelt cries, with thanksgiving, to heaven.”

-Henry Blackaby