It’s Monday Grace!
When legalists get a little power, they seem to want to stop people from doing anything that might be considered fun. Don’t watch television. No professional sports. No competitive personal sports. No sweets. No reading fiction. No frivolous conversation. You know. The list is long.
I invited a man to speak for a Sunday message when I was gone from my church many years ago. Just one message. He spent the time telling the people that having fun was wrong. We are to take joy in the things of the Lord, and those were only serious things. I heard about the message before I shared my next sermon, so I spent some time trying to undo the message. Laughter, I said, was a gift of the Lord. I believe He wants His people to laugh.
At the same time, most legalists tell people they should be sharing their faith. Come to Jesus and be serious, depressed, and angry like us. At least that’s the message many of these folks seemed to share. Come to Jesus and live under the bondage of rules and the oppression of failure. Doesn’t seem like good news to me.
When you have lived under the message of the legalist for a long time, perhaps born and raised into it, you find it hard to see the good news of the gospel. All the criticism, all the comparisons, all the failure create a heavy burden. Even when you get out, that burden seems to continue. Many people just turn their backs on the Christian faith altogether. The only way to begin to feel free is not to think about it at all. But most exchange the anxiety for anger, and anger is another heavy burden.
What if I could convince you that everything God expects of you He gives to you? The problem with the legalist message is that it is just half, just the bad part. You see, sin is wrong. It hurts people. It hurts us and the people we love. There are serious consequences to sin, not the least of which is the built-in addiction it carries. God wants people to stop sinning. He wants them to repent. He wants people to turn from their sin. Some of what the legalist says is true.
But God has overcome sin! The good news is that sin is not the primary story. In fact, it’s less than half the story. God loved us, even when we were sinners. He sent Jesus to wash away our sin and give us everything we need to be with the Lord forever. He still loves us!
The Good News is the love! I doubt that anyone gets excited about the legalist’s rules and burdens. Oh boy, more failure! No, I don’t think so. But release from failure, forgiveness and freedom and victory, these are the good messages that bring joy to the heart. The good news is that Jesus has come to give all of these and so much more.
Well, I know that someday we will be happy. That’s what the legalist says. In Heaven, when all of this is washed away, then we will be happy. But not today. This world is evil, and the things of this world are not to be enjoyed. The dangers are so many, and sin is so insidious. In other words, in this life we are supposed to “grin and bear it.” Cross your fingers and hope that the Lord keeps you out of serious harm. Try to do good, but never relax. That’s the legalists message. And, again, that isn’t good news.
No, the good news is for this life. We walk as forgiven people! Our sins are already washed away. Freedom and victory is ours because Jesus is in us and with us. We have peace because we have all we need. Heaven is a wonderful promise, but the days here can be good as well.
And all we need is a Person. A real person who is with us and cares about us. The good news is Jesus!