At the group home where our oldest son, Chris, lives most of the week, is another Christian, and she and Chris are the best of friends. The bonding in the Spirit of these 2 ‘mentally retarded’ adults, to use the old expression, took place years ago the moment they met at the group home, without any effort on the part of any parent or staff. (Chris is mentally about 4, though nearly 37. His friend similar.)
When she is upset the staff noticed (on numerous occasions that continue to this day) Chris grab her hand and tell her “It’s okay _____, Jesus is with us”, and he will also just touch her arm and say “Jesus name!” after she has fallen and hurt herself, which happens due to her condition quite often.
When we bring Chris back to the group home after his weekly 2 day visit home, we usually have a meal before – McDonald’s or Pizza Hut for instance – and he often insists on bringing her some fries or pizza. Back at the group home I roll him to the table and she sits down next to him, and Chris tells her about his time with us. She shakes her head in agreement, hanging on his every word, eating a french fry here and there, like they were on a date all by themselves at a burger joint. It’s so cute and innocent and pure.
We wonder what heaven will bring when they can build on their friendship without the hinderances of damaged ‘earth bodies’.
While Chris loves watching Christian TV shows like “Gospel Bill” and “Animated Stories of the Bible”, and he looks at picture Bibles – he doesn’t know how to read. He has never written a thing in a journal about the Lord, he has no set prayer time, only goes to church occasionally when we bring him to house church functions or one of the staff takes the residents to a local church from time to time.
The same can be said of his best friend. Yet they are two of the most spiritually gifted, pure hearted, genuinely loving people you’d ever want to meet – they put the rest of us ‘normal’ Christians to shame in so many ways. Chris told me one day “Know what Jesus said to me dad? He’s going to walk through the mountains with me, yep, that’s what He said, He’s going to walk through the mountains with me one day. Yahoo! That’s so cool!” (As he laughed to himself) Yet Chris has no structure to his spiritual life at all.
As Chris and she were eating the remains of some french fries one day, the house manager who is also a believer, pulled me aside and told me this story as her eyes welled up with tears due to the beauty and innocence of the moment. Chris’ friend had been having some health issue and needed a chest x-ray. As the manager was explaining to her that they wanted to take a picture of her heart, her eyes filled with wonder and great eagerness as she asked with all innocence and sincerity, “Will they see Jesus?”
That’s the big question, isn’t it? If they looked at our heart, would they see Jesus? Chris and his friend don’t measure their walk with the Lord by their spiritual discipline, for they have none. They just walk with the Lord. They remain as children and have not only entered the kingdom of God, but walk with Him in it. It is only we so called ‘normal’ people who complicate child-like faith with all sorts of encumbrances, so here are 5 points that may help identify legalism and being religious rather than just walking with the Father and our Lord. After these 5 points shared over 3 weeks I’ll share a series on how to rid oneself of legalism and ‘being religious’.
You might be a legalistic believer if…
1) Your spiritual discipline defines your spirituality, and how you feel about your spiritual condition
This Christian measures themselves by what they are doing. You set rigid rules and/or spiritual goals for yourself like for instance, getting up at 5:00 to pray. Or maybe you ‘feel led’ to fast every Thursday. Or perhaps someone at church or a small group is reading through the gospel of John, 1 chapter a day together. It may be you go from activity to activity, prayer walk to city prayer meeting and if there isn’t something you’re involved with you feel listless, without direction, and rather empty. You measure where you are with the Lord by your spiritual activity and discipline that activity requires.
At the first of each discipline you feel really good about your Christian walk, but after a few days when you are tired, or it is getting harder and harder to get out of bed at 5am, or the church or city prayer meetings are incessant and boring, and you sleep in that first morning or miss that meeting, you feel horrible. You are sure you let God down and He is upset with you – and you feel bad about your walk with Him.
I had a person come to me saying they were sure God was angry with them. I asked why and they said because they made a commitment to get up early to pray, but all week long had just kept hitting that snooze button on the alarm because they were so tired. Now they were sure God was angry.
I asked if He told them He was angry. “No”. I asked what they sensed inside, in their spirit. “Normal. Peace. I can feel His presence.” So I asked why they thought He was angry since He was still inside and they sensed peace…they suddenly saw it was their mind poisoned by religious training causing themselves to measure themselves by their spiritual discipline that caused them to feel condemned.
Condemnation is not from God, for it is all about you, what you did or didn’t do, and condemnation pulls us away from God. Conviction is from God, is all about sin and repentance and making it right with Him, and draws us to God. Christians will not feel condemnation in their spirit, but they will be convicted.
I’ve run out of room today, but remember Jesus came that we might be born into the family of God – not born into a set of rules and structure, but into a family. He wants to commune with us 1 to 1, not a relationship filtered through a bunch of rules, regulations, and performance based guidelines we set up thinking that is what He wants – He doesn’t. As Paul said numerous times, all that matters is the new creation in Christ…and on that basis He walks with us…until next week, blessings,