“It’s too radical.”
“You’re taking it too seriously.”
“We live under grace now, not the law.”
“It’s what in our hearts that counts.”
“You’re acting like the Pharisees.”
These are only some of the comments I have heard in the past few years of my walk with the Lord. We’re been making some pretty big changes to our lives, after examining our hearts and seeing how our apathy and worldliness has taken its toll on our walk with the Lord. From deciding to dress modestly in skirts and dresses to homeschooling the kids, from ditching the TV altogether (apart from movies we have pre-approved for the kids to watch) to deciding to trust the Lord with our fertility, we have had a lot of convictions placed on our hearts! And now we’re prayerfully made the decision to stop celebrating pagan holidays (you can read more about that here). I know that people have humored us along the way. (It’s been borderline patronizing, actually.) But I think that with this last decision, people in our lives have basically said, “Enough is enough already! It’s time to stop!” Everyone keeps telling me that the “drastic” or “radical” direction we’re going in our lives is simply not necessary. They point out that we live under grace now and now under the law, so it’s what’s in our hearts that really counts. And then they use that as grounds to completely rip apart our choices to life a life that it set apart from the world.
True, we are no longer under Old Testament law. Yes, we are under grace. And, yes, it IS the heart that counts. The problem I see therein is that when we reduce Jesus’ death on the cross to nothing more than an act grace that requires no further action from us beyond acceptance, then we are not giving true credit to just what he did on that cross! I believe that if we’re doing that, we should be examining our hearts deeper and understanding whether or not we truly even have a relationship with Jesus. Please don’t misunderstand what I am saying here. I am not arguing that we can earn or work our way into heaven. No way, not a chance. Works alone are not going to give us salvation… BUT, salvation without works is dead. (James 2:20) They go hand in hand, and I think perhaps that’s what modern Christians fail to see. So many of us nowadays want to use the free gift of salvation as an excuse to live how we please with the assurance that we’ll still get into heaven. But if we’re truly saved, if we’ve truly allowed Jesus to enter into our hearts, then we should be bearing fruit and in turn we should look nothing like the rest of the world. You see, true faith in Jesus Christ should evidence itself. If we see no evidence, we need to stop and examine those hearts that I keep getting preached to about!
I am not trying to live like a Pharisee. I am not making these changes in my life so that the whole world can look at me. In fact, to the contrary, I’m going along with these changed God has initiated in my life (sometimes with me kicking and screaming, I’ll be honest!) in order to bring the glory and honor to HIM! Believe me, I certainly didn’t want to give up Christmas. And in my sinful heart, dressing modestly is not something I was excited about doing. I have followed God’s nudging on my heart because I believe in obedience. Spiritual obedience is more freeing than anything in the world.
I see it kind of like this. Have you ever compared children who are raised in homes with clear, realistic boundaries with children raised without any rules or expectations at all? Which children lead a happier, more rewarding life? Some might say that the children with no rules are happier, but it has been my experience that children actually thrive more with clearly understood boundaries and expectations. These children are given the chance to choose from right and wrong, and to see the rewards of choosing to do right. They see the pride in their parents when they do right, and they learn from the discipline they receive when they choose to disobey. In the end, they grow closer to their parents because of their obedience! Can the same be said of children who have no rules to follow, and are left to act as they see fit?
We are God’s children. He gives us standards by which we live. All throughout the Bible, he is sets the tone for how we should live in order to bring him glory. When we become servants of Christ, then we can truly experience freedom! It’s not out of legalism or wanting to check off the list of rules that I followed today, it’s about a deep desire to show obedience to my Creator! In turn, I get the pleasure of knowing him more intimately and reaping the amazing, joyous rewards of walking more closely with him. It’s the age old paradox of freedom through servitude, and it’s an amazing thing to see being play out right before me eyes!
So, before you decide that we must have lost our minds completely, please think about these things! We are to live a life set apart from the world. If we’re calling ourselves Christians, but going o to live with one foot in the world and one foot in heaven, can we truly call ourselves followers of Christ?