Hebrews 4, Chapter 3.
When we were legalists with long lists of rules to keep and actions to avoid, we thought we had it all figured out. Everyone was beneath us, we were told, as we embarked on a whole new way of life. We, yes we, would set a good example. Weren’t we something.
Then, the Lord allowed tragedy followed by disaster followed by tragedy cyclically, year after year, and we began to truly grow.
Being pharisaical was far more damaging to us than being honest sinners ever was. Trial and suffering were the only way God could reach us, for we, as legalists often do, thought we were already doing everything right. And so, God moved us through years of heartache, ripping us away from our new ways. In that process, we discovered what kind of harsh, judgmental, and arrogant people we had become. It was ugly. I shook my fist at God and quit talking to him.
Under the sway of social media and press attention, the current crop of remorseful young legalists, who thought they had all the answers, are publicly deconstructing as they turn from their rigid methods that have hurt so many. In contrast, I recommend private reflection and contemplation, not a public deconstruction which damages others. Had I processed publicly, I could have hurt many as I hurled my anger and my questions at God.
Instead, year by year, at the pace Jesus knew was best, he pulled us close and mended us with his written Word. Solid doctrine opened our minds to real biblical love and truth. We studied. We contemplated. We repented of so many things! We turned toward God, rather than away.
We emerged a more repentant people, heartily aware of our deep and abiding need for Christ, our many weaknesses, and our commonality with every type of sinner. In our solitude, God worked. A hard and arrogant heart requires this type of unearthing. All must be surfaced.
As a bad example, one not to follow, the apostle Paul held up his nation’s hard-hearted actions in the wilderness during their forty years of wandering, and he detailed why.
1 Corinth.10:1 I don’t want you to forget, dear brothers and sisters, about our ancestors in the wilderness long ago. All of them were guided by a cloud that moved ahead of them, and all of them walked through the sea on dry ground. 2 In the cloud and in the sea, all of them were baptized as followers of Moses. 3 All of them ate the same spiritual food, 4 and all of them drank the same spiritual water. For they drank from the spiritual rock that traveled with them, and that rock was Christ. 5 Yet God was not pleased with most of them, and their bodies were scattered in the wilderness.
6 These things happened as a warning to us, so that we would not crave evil things as they did, 7 or worship idols as some of them did. As the Scriptures say, “The people celebrated with feasting and drinking, and they indulged in pagan revelry.” 8 And we must not engage in sexual immorality as some of them did, causing 23,000 of them to die in one day.
9 Nor should we put Christ to the test, as some of them did and then died from snakebites. 10 And don’t grumble as some of them did, and then were destroyed by the angel of death. 11 These things happened to them as examples for us. They were written down to warn us who live at the end of the age.
12 If you think you are standing strong, be careful not to fall. 13 The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand. When you are tempted, he will show you a way out so that you can endure. (1 Corinth. 10:1-13 NLT).
This is us. We are them. We think we stand strong. They fell. We fall.
Grumbling is often the most telling sign. When we complain, we sit in judgment of God. We must understand this as we examine how to avoid hardening our hearts and how to encourage one another in our faith.Grumbling about our situation is often the most telling sign. When we complain, we sit in judgment of God. Click To Tweet
We think we stand firm, but we are actually not above committing any type of sin. We ignore God and live a life shaped by our own ideas of godliness, attempted in our own strength. Therefore, we typically wound the ones we love. Today, still, decades later, we continue to mend and repair heartaches we caused our children from that early era of rigid legalism and the enforcement of it. In my mind, this is the worst part.
It’s decades in the past, and yet I think of it every day, wishing I had never gone down that legalistic and hypocritical road and praying for God to mend their hearts. Yes, I know there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. I’m good with God, but I’m not good with myself.
Deconstructing legalistic, prideful positions that one never should have embraced in the first place can tear us down to the bones. This is right where we need to be. Without Jesus and his work on our behalf on the cross, we don’t stand a chance of receiving God’s grace.Deconstructing legalistic, prideful positions that one never should have embraced in the first place can tear us down to the bones. This is right where we need to be. Click To Tweet
It’s better for us to come face to face with our nastiness than to have never dealt with it. It’s better not to shove it away and deny it. And, here is why:
Hebrews 4:1 God’s promise of entering his rest still stands, so we ought to tremble with fear that some of you might fail to experience it. 2 For this good news—that God has prepared this rest—has been announced to us just as it was to them. But it did them no good because they didn’t share the faith of those who listened to God. 3 For only we who believe can enter his rest…
6 So God’s rest is there for people to enter, but those who first heard this good news failed to enter because they disobeyed God. 7 So God set another time for entering his rest, and that time is TODAY. God announced this through David much later in the words already quoted:
“TODAY when you hear his voice, don’t harden your hearts.”
8 Now if Joshua had succeeded in giving them this rest (when they entered the Promised Land), God would not have spoken about another day of rest still to come. 9 So there is a special rest still waiting for the people of God. 10 For all who have entered into God’s rest have rested from their labors, just as God did after creating the world. 11 So let us do our best to enter that rest. But if we disobey God, as the people of Israel did, we will fall.
12 For the word of God is alive and powerful. It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow. It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires. 13 Nothing in all creation is hidden from God. Everything is naked and exposed before his eyes, and he is the one to whom we are accountable (Hebrews 4:1-3b, 6-13 NLT).
God sees every single thing we think, do, and desire. We’re sinners. In our own strength, we can’t possibly overcome our own sinfulness. We can’t make lists of rules and pull ourselves up by our own bootstraps. It never works. God knows this.
And so, Jesus did the work of overcoming our sin. We rest in his work on the cross, his death, burial, and resurrection. The Sabbath exists to remind us weekly that only God can sustain us, body and soul. We can’t gain our salvation through our own works, nor can we keep it in like fashion.
TODAY is the day of salvation.
Enter into God’s rest by accepting that Jesus fulfilled the requirements of the law on our behalf. He died for our sins, yours and mine. He paid the penalty, and then he rose victorious. We can place our faith and our confidence in him alone. Rest in that truth.
TODAY is the day. Enter into God's rest by accepting that Jesus fulfilled the requirements. He died for our sins, yours and mine. He paid the penalty, and then he rose victorious. Place your faith in him alone. Click To Tweet
“So then, since we have a great High Priest who has entered heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to what we believe. This High Priest of ours understands our weaknesses, for he faced all of the same testings we do, yet he did not sin. So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most (Hebrews 4:14-16 NLT).
Lord Jesus, thank you for accomplishing what we could never do, the gaining of our salvation and the keeping of the same until we see you face to face. Please pour out your mercy upon us and give us the grace to rely on you and not on ourselves.
(Image courtesy of Bob Scudder.)
Christianity and pride don’t go together. And legalism is pride. It’s the height of I’m right and everyone else is wrong–and not only wrong but lower. Great post; important message.
You’re so right, Nancy. Legalism is poison. It harms everyone it touches and deceives the legalist into thinking that they’re right and better than everyone else. The remedy is repentance and turning to Christ.
Wow, Melinda! Such a good message that may step on our proverbial toes, but it’s the kind of “ouch” we absolutely need for our spiritual health. This: “Being pharisaical was far more damaging to us than being honest sinners ever was.” So true. And I also like how you mentioned a private reflection is preferred over public deconstruction because it does cause damage. Christians are broken saints still living with the capacity to sin. But progressive thinking has bled into many Christians’ lives. We do need to protect the basics of our faith and our Christian witness, while also pointing others to a Holy God who is the ONLY One in the spotlight.
Public deconstructing is so harmful, not only to the one reeling with questions but to the others who are listening. I so agree! The very act of deconstructing publicly and holding up Christ’s name to mockery is also telling. It may be an indicator that real and legitimate faith never truly existed, because once true faith has occurred, one has been in love with Jesus in a deep and committed way. If this hasn’t occurred, one needs to determine if their faith has ever been truly real. To publicly defame Christ is an act that causes me to shudder with fear for those ones who are doing so. The outer darkness beckons when a heart is that hard.
Even at the bottom of the hole, when I couldn’t understand why God was allowing so many bad things to destroy us in spite of our good works (I know, ridiculous, right? Thinking our good works made trials unthinkable, but so we had been told.) Even at that dark place when I quit talking to him and started throwing my Bible study book against the wall because the truth was so uncomfortable, even then, my mouth was sealed. It was a private fight, a love spat between my Savior and me. No one heard but the one wise believer I called for advice. She loved me well and told me to uncross my arms and to turn around to face Jesus. He would do the work in my heart, she said. I listened.
I turned and faced him. And he continued relentlessly to break me down until I recognized that not one single iota of my salvation could be accomplished by me. It was all Jesus. Even faith is a gift from God and so is true repentance. He did the heart work to turn me around and grow me toward faith that transformed me. It was so painful! That was twenty-five years ago, and I’m so grateful for all the years of trials that have provoked my growth. That period was private, it took time, and it’s been so rich! I constantly guard myself from ever, ever forgetting these truths.
Grumbling is such an easy thing to slip into! But you are so right that it is a bright sign pointing to the attitudes of our hearts. May we look at our pasts and know we’re forgiven, but understand we can’t go back to how we once lived. Thanks for these wise words!
We can’t go back, nor should we want to! Life in Egypt was hard servitude, whereas now we’re in a broad place with a loving Savior. Can we remember that when we’ve got an itchy throat, a cough, and two hours of sleep simultaneously? Will we grumble? Our response is telling!
Such deep truth here, Melinda. Christianity begins and ends with a heart overflowing with humility and gratitude, for we are all sinners in desperate need of a Savior. Period. In Christ, we are given more than we deserve or could imagine. But our desperate need for His grace and mercy continue. In fact, I find that the closer I draw to Christ, the more sinfully I see my own sin. May we draw near to the Lord Jesus, not in public displays, but in the quietness of our hearts, so He can reveal the secret sins and hidden faults. He speaks softly, but also with piercing truth. May we come back again and again with a heart softened in the nail-scarred Hands. When we see ourselves as any form of “good enough”, we are diminishing the magnitude of Christ’s gift.
Like you, Melissa, the more I grow in my relationship with Christ, the more aware I am of my sinfulness. This makes it far easier to simply present myself as I am, a forgiven sinner, a thoroughly flawed human being. It’s such a relief after those crushing years of legalism and keeping rules which, of course, a sinner can’t keep in her own strength. It’s such a blessing to be free of legalism!
I have such vivid memories of God, through Christ, breaking my pride (though sadly, it does raise its ugly head occasionally).
This sentence resonated with me: “In contrast, I recommend private reflection and contemplation, not a public deconstruction which damages others.” I am absolutely grieved by the social media posts that do this. When we take our sin to the Lord, He is good and gentle. When we take it to the world, it adds a whole layer of unnecessary pain for more than just the one complaining.
This is a timely message. Thank you.
That’s the perfect way to put this public deconstruction, Beth: “When we take our sin to the Lord, He is good and gentle. When we take it to the world, it adds a whole layer of unnecessary pain for more than just the one complaining.” So very true. I prefer not to hurt anyone. I’m glad I processed my legalistic viewpoints with just the Lord, so he could piece by piece free me from them and instill genuine doctrine and belief in their place.
Such a deep & powerful post… convicting & encouraging!
I definitely used to live legalistically – looking down on others with judgmental eyes… but having been humbled many times – I see truly – there for but grace I surely would go too. Perhaps not even grace, but only His sovereignty.
Such a great truth, “It’s better for us to come face to face with our nastiness than to have never dealt with it.” As uncomfortable as that may be – it frees us and those around us.
I think humility & love in our present circumstances can go great distances to heal our judgmental pasts. We need the same grace as the “sinners” we once judged – perhaps even moreso.
And I find – as much as I embrace humility, there is no end to how humble we can be – how dependent on what God says over our opinions. I surely have a great way to go.
Thank you for sharing about your own journey, Christina. A prideful judgmental attitude is a heavy burden to bear. Thankfully, the Lord doesn’t leave us like that, but refines us by showing us our sins, weaknesses, and inabilities. We’re just like all of humanity—quite capable of sin. These are the best lessons, the most humbling, and the ones that turn us toward Jesus. I’m grateful!
This is truly an important message. Our only worthy example is Jesus, who shows us the way, the truth and the life. Through Him, we can have eternal life.
And what a good thing it is that he opens our eyes to see that! Praise the Lord for that! Thanks for stopping by, Jessica.
Ouch! I had never thought about my grumbling is judging God’s actions. Being humble and loving everyone is not natural for us so we must ask God for His strength to live this way.
Grumbling was one of their major crimes. How like them we are! I’m so glad these warnings and admonitions are given!
This is a necessary message, Melinda. I especially appreciate this: “Grumbling is often the most telling sign. When we complain, we sit in judgment of God.” It is easy to point a finger while never meaning to encourage. We surely care about living as we ought, but it should be done while humbly acknowledging the planks in our eyes. Thank you for this challenge and encouragement.
If we can keep our planks in focus, aware continually of our own weaknesses, we’re far, far less judgmental and aware of the flaws of those around us. The legalist, however, is usually concerned more with the sins of the other, rather than the sins of the self. It’s an exhausting road being pharisaical, whereas, coming clean, owning, and dealing with our own sins is such a relief, for the Lord is with us, he has paid for them all, and he has forgiven! Praise God!
I have similar regrets with my own grown children. Thank you for putting words to my feelings. Now I can truly surrender and see the wonders of God since I’m no longer ‘in charge’ but God is. I blew it. He will make it right, by his grace. Thanks again.
Oh, sister, amen to that! They are in his hands. We pray for them, we apologize, we love them unconditionally, and we patiently allow them to work through learning to see God as full of grace, rather than full of condemnation. It may take a while, but only the Lord can heal, and he’s in the business of doing so!