Sometimes we know things to be true on an intellectual level, but we have a difficult time making application of those truths. The example that springs to mind is the Word of God. I would submit that the overwhelming majority of Christians today would say that they believe God’s Word…all of it. They would say that God’s Word is inerrant, infallible, divinely inspired, and sufficient for all life and practice. They would SAY that, I’m almost sure. The rub occurs when that Word that they just described must be applied to real life situations. It is at this crucial moment that we unveil just to what extent we actually believe God’s Word
Dr. David Jones, Associate Professor of Christian Ethics at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, once told me an equation that was frighteningly accurate: Stated belief + Actual practice = Actual belief. In other words, you believe no more of the Bible than you obey. Let that sink in for a moment. If that is true (and I am pretty certain that it is) then that means that there are virtually no Christians on the planet that ultimately believe the entire Word of God. The reason? We don’t live it out in real life. This brings me to my reflection on law and grace.
It seems that, while we desperately desire to affirm our belief in the truth of Scripture, we are determined to add our own opinions and standards to what God’s Word provides. I would venture to say that most of the time we don’t mean to do this, but it is practically unavoidable. We read the Bible, we try to understand what it teaches, and then we end up applying principles that may or may not be biblical.
We know that the Bible teaches salvation by grace through faith in Christ alone. However, in our practice, it may appear that an individual may also need to dress a certain way, act a certain way, and speak a certain way in order to “really” be saved. This is the subtle entrance of legalism. It is where we subconsciously communicate that it is more important for a new believer to be more like me than to be more like Jesus.
I don’t know how widespread this concept is. It may just be me. I don’t think it is, though. I believe that there are churches all over the country filled with well-meaning people trying to be faithful to Scripture that are unwittingly slipping into the mold of a modern day Pharisee. The problem is this: the Pharisees killed Jesus. That’s not really a group with which I want to be identified.
So let’s be careful, church. Preach the gospel to yourself every day and be reminded that no one can be saved by becoming more like you or me. “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9) God wants disciples, not Pharisees.