One of the significant problems with legalism is the self-deception that says, “I have arrived.” Legalism counts on self-righteousness for standing with God. The prophet Isaiah made it very clear that our own righteousness is “filthy rags.” We need an alien righteousness for standing with God and He is willing to give us HIS righteousness if we will receive it by faith. While it is marvelous to know we have standing with God, it can be a little disconcerting once we see ourselves in the light of His holiness. We’ll have to say, “Okay, I’m not perfect!” If we really want to live up to who God designed us to be, we’re going to have to recognize and move on from our failures and sins. This can lead to a groveling form of self-denial that is unhealthy for the life that God has made available to us. (We’ll see this soon in Colossians 2). While self-denial is necessary as a follower of Christ, there are forms of asceticism that are not in keeping with His gift of life. I like what Mr. Weirsbe wrote, “Some Christians are so busy dying to self that they never come back to life and run the race.” God’s intent is not that we keep dying, it is that we might have life! The end for the believer is not more death; the desire of God is that we might have more life! We are to recognize that in Christ we are dead to sin and we are alive to God. Our lacking perfection is a given. But, let’s remember who we are in Christ and what we have in Him. This will help us lay ahold of what we have been laid ahold of for .
Many years ago I came across a book by Richard Foster titled, “The Freedom of Simplicity.” It resonated with me for two reasons. 1) I don’t have capacity to keep a lot of things going at the same time and 2) Trying to keep a lot of things going at the same time is not a healthy way to live. I knew people that had “a lot of irons in the fire” and it seemed like I should be like them. The problem was, all those irons want a lot of attention and my humanity was often overwhelmed with the details. Life is complicated enough without adding more things to the mix. Foster made it quite clear that complexity is the trick of the enemy to keep us distracted from the main thing—our life with God. The busy life is often extolled, honored and celebrated. Our culture looks up to people who are on the go, in the know and on a roll. But that way of living is not the way to life. Simplicity of life does not mean a life of navel-gazing. (Navel-gazing is “excessive contemplation of oneself or a single issue, at the expense of a wider view.”) Simplicity means the freedom to see the wider view with less clutter. Complexity is the enemy of eternal life. It distracts us from the Kingdom. Sometimes life is complex, no matter what we do, it comes at us without regard for our plans or schedule. If we are not single-minded, it will be very hard to navigate our way. I hope you can join us Sunday for Paul’s vision of simplicity. He counted all things as loss for excellency of one thing—do you know what it was?