The word “confessions” is part of the title of this blog, so I guess it is time to actually confess something. So far I have danced around the concept. I have sort of alluded to the ideas that maybe, just maybe there are things that need to be brought out in the open.
So here it goes: I do not do a good job of flossing.
I particularly feel convicted about this because I went to the dentist last week and found out I have a cavity. At my last visit six weeks ago I was told I had an area that was suspicious for developing decay. I was warned about the possibility of a cavity. I knew that flossing would be a good idea. I even walked out of there with the intention of flossing everyday in the hopes of preventing this tragedy. Things started out well, however, my good intentions failed me. I came up short.
So what happens next? I get to go back and have a filling. Certainly this is a sign of my failure, but it is also the solution to the problem I now face. One option would be to decide that I am not going to go back to the dentist till I get my flossing habits straightened out. I could try to get my own teeth clean first, and then present them to others. Sadly, we both know that my cavity problem would only get worse. My small cavity would turn into more decay possibly requiring a root canal or even tooth extraction.
Today there are two goals for my dental hygiene habits. The first goal is to do a better job of flossing. The second is if and when I mess this up, to confess my failure and to go deal with the problem I created.
No doubt there are many things in our lives that we should be doing that we are not, or we are doing things that are not good for us. The Apostle Paul had the same problem. He confessed in his letter to the Roman church that “I do not do what I want to do, and I do the very thing I hate.” When we find ourselves falling short, how do we respond? Am I trying to clean up my own life before going to God, or am I going to Him and letting Him do the cleaning?
Legalists tend to enjoy life less because they spend all of their time making and adhering to rules. One of the things I appreciate more than I used to is music. Occasionally I plan on posting information about music I enjoy.
Although their new album, I and Love and You, is over a year old now, today’s featured artist is The Avett Brothers. I received too much joy from discovering this band not to make them my first recommendation to you. As indicated by their name, the band consists of two brothers, Seth and Scott Avett as well as bassist Bob Crawford. In recent years they added a cellist, Joe Kwon.
It is very hard to categorize their music. Try to imagine music that is 2 parts bluegrass and folk along with 1 part rock. Some have referred to it as “punkgrass.” Whatever you want to call it, they have brought a folk artist style of music to the masses. They typically sing about realities of life. This may include love songs, but they also discuss the topics such as contentment and seeing kids dream big.
The group is known for their live performances. I have had the pleasure of seeing them perform twice. The artists perform at a high level of energy and the crowd picks up on this. They enjoy a set of avid fans. At their concerts the audience can be heard singing along with every word to every song.
If you are interested in learning more check out their website.
To celebrate the start of the Thanksgiving holidays I took my kids to a movie this past Wednesday. We went to see Megamind. In case you were considering taking your own kids and need a detailed review of the movie, I will quote my ten-year-old son. “It was awesome.”
Nobody likes a movie spoiler so I’m not going to tell you what happens. There was one part, however, that I thought was worth mentioning. At one point the main character, Megamind, quoted an age-old adage, “Don’t judge a book by its cover.” It is not a profound statement, but something that we still struggle with. Obviously the concept is that you are unable to determine exactly what something or someone is like just based on appearances. You actually have to get to know the person in order to really know who they are.
I really like to read, and I am always buying new books. Pretty soon my wife is going to have me attend A.comA. “Amazon.com Anonymous.” That website has just made it too easy to buy books. I wish I could know exactly how good a book would be just by looking at it. If only there was a person out there whose job it was to read every book ever written. He could then grade the book based on how good it was. The approval (or disapproval) rating could be placed on the cover, and then I would know exactly what book to buy. The guessing game would be gone. I would not have to waste any more time reading books I do not like.
Of course this approval rating system would only work if I liked the same types of books as the person who is rating them. What if their interests are different than mine? What if their background was so different than mine that what they found entertaining was completely boring to me?
This is what I have tried to do with people and churches. I have created in my own mind what I considered to be an absolute standard and then I used that to categorize people. I then made decisions about who I considered to be acceptable and who was not. In my mind Christians were people who went to an evangelical, Protestant church. They went every Sunday. They did not watch the NFL on Sunday. They wore ties or dresses to church. They were Calvinists. Their prayers sounded like the King James Version with lots of thee’s and thou’s. They voted for Republicans. They did not smoke cigarettes.
The only problem with the criteria I was using is that I did not find it in the Bible. I found it in my church culture. By limiting people to how they appear on the outside I have missed out enjoying other Christians and churches that love God. Rather than interact with people to find out what God has done in their life and heart, I tried to size them up without ever really knowing them.
What criteria are you using to judge people by their cover?
What is legalism? Dictionary.com defines it as, “the doctrine that salvation is gained through good works.” Technically it is the concept of adding law to grace. What then is grace? Once again dictionary.com says, “the freely given, unmerited favor and love of God.”
Seems pretty straight forward doesn’t it? If you look at our theology, none of us fall into the legalism category. Very few people would actually claim that they believe that they could earn God’s favor and their own way into heaven. I doubt that any of us are planning on making our case to St. Peter when our time comes based on how good we have been. Yet I have found that legalism is something much more subtle than what we claim theologically.
I think that our theology does not match up with our experience because grace just does not make sense to us. Grace is not something we can experience with daily life. Our society can only function on the concept of merited favor. If it did not, then things would completely fall apart. I doubt anyone wants grace to apply to medical schools. When a doctor is given a medical license they have to prove competency. They have to show that they are worthy of the license given to them, otherwise the standard of medical care would be compromised. We base our lives on merited rewards. We get and accomplish things in this life through our good works.
It’s a word that probably gets over used by Christians as well. It particularly gets thrown around during Christian fights. It is the ultimate insult to an evangelical. If someone does not agree with you, perhaps they pull out the “L” word. When people call someone else a legalist they are basically asking telling them to stop trying to convince them. I think this argument is often made because we do not like what God is trying to change in us.
Rather than assuming that legalism is something you need to find in others, I suggest finding it in yourself. One reason is because it is there. The other reason to find it would be to deal with it. I have been challenged to do this in my own life, not by choice, but by events that God has brought to me. I have seen God and His grace in new ways. My own personal legalism has kept me from totally immersing myself in God’s love and grace for me. Not that I have totally figured this out, but God is teaching me.
The point of writing about this is to share my stories. Some of these are funny. Some are anything but funny. Some of the stories are painful. But the end result for me has been to love God more.
Is there some area in your own life or heart where you have been trying to earn God’s favor?