Law on the Brain

 

 Last night I went to a party and met a guy (a non-denominational Christian) who wanted to talk to me about Jesus.

Great! I love talking about Jesus Christ!  But for some odd reason the conversation just would not stay there… it kept going back to all the things he (this gentleman ) was doing to become the person that Jesus wanted him to be.  “Oh I know I am totally saved by grace, no one can add anything to that!” He  threw that line in there about every five minutes in a 45 minute conversation that seemed like it lasted 45 hours.

“Here’s what I’m doing to apply this biblical principle, here are the things that my wife and I are doing to have a more Godly marriage, here’s what I am doing to be a more Christlike employee, a more Christlike son, a more Christlike brother, a more Christlike… yada, yada, yada.”

It was one of the worst 45 minute stretches of my life.

Then I told the guy I was a Lutheran, and he followed me around (after I managed to break away from him) so that he could have a chance to straighten me out on infant baptism.

This is what happens when well meaning preachers don’t know anything about distinguishing the law from the gospel. ” Yeah, I know I’m saved by grace, but.” The ‘but’ will give you ‘law on the brain’.

This guy is a perfect example of someone who needs to be killed off to his own religious project.

These poor people go into these places needing that ‘old Adam’ killed off… and instead they get their ‘old Adam’ fed a nice large meal…of you know what.

Is anyone else out there running into these poor Christians that are covered in chains? What can we do to help free them? 

I do want to add that I admire this persons zeal to speak of Jesus to strangers and to share his faith. I know many Lutherans that would never dream of doing so. (and also quite a few Lutherans that would dream of it… and do it !)

32 Responses

  1. St Steve,

    Yes baptist zeal is quite something to behold. However, it is due to the fact of trying to convince themselves they are saved by the evidence of this act. This always is necessary due to denying that a person can reflect on baptism to know that he or she is a child of God.

    This is of course gutting the law of God to love our neighbour as ourselves to be something we can do. Yes I run into them all the time. When I have the opportunity I execute the law on them with all its crushing force. This does not go over so good but I have seen the Lord do some great things in a few of their lives.

    God’s Peace. †

  2. Steve,

    What I find interesting in your response and behavior to the Christian gentleman you met at the party—you wrote… “It was one of the worst 45 minute stretches of my life.”

    A Christian who continuously boasts about all “they do” for God and His Kingdom pushes fellow believers and non-believers away from them (they don’t even realize it). Their conceit, pride and arrogance becomes too much for those around them and people begin to distance themselves from the person. It becomes about them, not about God.

    Many of the non-denominational churches/mega churches encourage this type of thought-process/behavior today. “Doing” makes money for these churches.

    Frankly, it’s a real turn-off.

  3. A person (and those around them) can become worn out, tired. Those around them feel like they can never “measure up”. It’s a contest. Climbing that ladder again. God’s Word can break the chains and set people free. We continue to share God’s Word—Jesus at the center.

  4. I find it fascinating to consider how easy it is for us to jump into ‘plan, project’ or ‘scheme’ mode regarding Christianity, when it’s actually about relationship – knowing HIM, sharing in His passion, His afflictions and His life. We can cocoon ourselves in improving this or amending that, but what happens when all of that is stripped away; when there’s nothing but a final breath before CHRIST becomes all forever? How much of our rush and fluster will mean anything then?

    We’re like Peter at breakfast on the beach.
    Jesus is asking us to really identify with Him, with the life He grants through faith, that we can genuinely begin to share with each other.

    Let’s hope and pray we can help each other – including our friend from the party – to get closer to that.

  5. Howard wrote, “but what happens when all of that is stripped away; when there’s nothing but a final breath before CHRIST becomes all forever?”

    Good words, Howard.

    Nothing but a breath before Christ.

  6. Matthew 11:28 Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.

    Jesus frees people from the burdens of sin, excessive demands placed upon them by the churches/society, oppression and weariness in the search of God.

  7. Great thoughts all! Thank you for your input.

    It was a very strange night. I tried talking to the guy, poring the law on him, etc., but he seemed to be impervious. Now I know that’s not true. No one is impervious to God’s Word…it will do what it will do.
    But this guy had almost a glzed look in his eyes while he was speaking with me. Very strange.

    I guess we ought try, and lovingly so, (even if that means crushing them with the law) get them in the path of the unencumbered word of the gospel.

    I’m going back out into the heat to shoot a baseball game. It is HOT out there today!

    Thanks again all!

    – Steve M.

  8. I know what it’s like. I can recall some years ago, having a chat to someone I knew who was heavily involved in latter rain (charismatic) stuff, and getting nowhere – it was like trying to put a nail into a blamonge! I’ve also encountered the ‘glazed’ brigade. Thankfully, God can overcome all such barriers (and don’t we know it)- grace wins through.

  9. Howard,

    I guess this stuff is all over the globe in one form or another, and has been with us about as long as the ‘Old Adam’ and ‘Old Eve’ have.

    You are so right, Howard, if God can grab hold of a numbskull like me, everyone is in play!

  10. I was just looking at the photo I chose (and I chose it on a hurry this morning before heading out to work), and I’m noticing that what I thought were some sort of enlarged distorted brains are really rams horns.

    C’est la vie! Brains, horns…you get the idea (I don’t know if I get the idea)…

  11. Dear Steve,

    I know the feeling quite well. Such people can get “intense” and *judgmental* with their legalism cum antinomianism. All these because they do not recognise bondage of the will, the *two* natures, God’s gracious predestination., etc . Sin is matter of “peeling off the paint from the wall”. It is not a matter of death and life. The Christian life is not repentance, i.e. starting all over again (to progress is to begin anew) but a progress towards the goal. I am sorry to say this: But this is Pharisaism. It is prevalent in evangelical circles (even here in Malaysia).

    Preoccupation with what the Spirit does *in* us is very very common. The Gospel is hardly understood properly (as extra nos). Law and Gospel is not distinguished. In fact, the Law is the ultimate thing. Legalism is always at the same time antinomianism because the legalist looks the *God’s* Law from *his* own standards. The legalist concludes that he is up to standard most of the time, he’s doing pretty well, etc. by the grace of God of course he’ll say. But then he turns around and start despising those who do not measure up to *his* own standards of the Law, Trouble is, his own standards of the Law fall far short of *God’s* own standards,

    As the good old Forde like to say, people look at justification as a one-time affair where the real business is our pet projects of becoming personally holy. But then justification would be treated as temporary loan with “sanctification” as a payback. Oh people’ll say that it is all by the grace of God. But it usually in the context of their *own* righteousness if ever there is such a thing. I know the feeling very well because I am surrounded by such people. They get upset when I talk about the two natures. They get upset when I talk about dying and being raised up in Jesus. They get upset when I refer to Luther. In short, they get upset when I share about the sheer grace of God!

  12. Jason,

    I guess that this phenomenom is not a localized occurance, which just goes to show you how this is a tendency within the hearts of all men.

    That we always seem to look just a little bit more righteous from that small patch of ground we occupy is exactly why the whole council of God needs to be leveled at the sinner.

    That much of the Evangelical community holds the sacraments in disdain is also much of the problem. As you say it is no longer “extra nos”, but rather from within.

    From ‘within’ is the last place I need to go when it comes to anything having to do with God and righteousness.

    Thanks very much , Jason. Keep on upsetting people! You are in excellent company. Paul, Luther, many other wonderful Saints, and our Lord Himself seemed to upset a lot of people. And along the way…a few are saved.

  13. So was this guy a “formula based believer” or a true “Law keeper” (Torah observant)? I’ve come across both types in the past several months and am amazed at what I’ve found out about Torah observance for Christians / Reconstructionism / Dominionism / hyper-Patriarchy. Yuk. I was just minding my own business and all this stuff just landed in my lap.

    Come see me at http://joyfullygrowingingrace.wordpress.com for a series in progress (with some other stuff , too) about a “rubber-meets-the-road” account of debating with those who are Torah observant Christians, as well as what I have learned about the “movement” by which they’ve been deceived. The Bible does not teach a Jesus + anything gospel. He did it ALL.
    Free in Christ,
    Wendy at JGIG

  14. Hello Wendy,

    As I commented on your site, ‘Growing in Grace’ (see above comment for link), for all these different groups, sects, offshoots, whatever you want to call them, the law is central and not Christ. They will pay Christ plenty of lip service and bring Him up plenty in conversation, but He is not the Christ that we know. It is not the gospel that we know… it is another gospel, and no gospel at all. It is basically all law. And the law kills. There is no life in it. That’s why you end up with little fascist armies of look alike, walk alike, talk alike Christians that are playin’ the game the best they can…or they are just fakin’ it…either way they are not under grace but under the law.

    It’s sad, but maybe if we can figure out a nice way to break the news to them (like pouring that law that they look to so much for life on them like a ton of bricks), they might finally break, and might be able to finally really HEAR the gospel.

    In any event…we’ll keep throwing God’s grace out there, and not blink in the face of the ‘law bangers’.

    Thanks for contributing to the conversation here at ‘the old Adam’!

    – Steve Martin

  15. Most conversations I have with Christians are dire.

  16. When you run into someone like this, who’s behavior just screams to your ability to discern, all you can do is plant the seed and allow the Spirit to work on him.

    “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!”

    I pray this man is not one of those spoken of here.

    “Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you—unless, of course, you fail the test?”

    I pray that I do not fall into the trap that I fear the man you speak of has fallen into.

    ~Timm

  17. Planting the seed and allowing the Holy Spirit to work (and prayer) is good.

    What is most upsetting to me is that people are being taught:

    “Here’s what I’m doing to apply this biblical principle, here are the things that my wife and I are doing to have a more Godly marriage, here’s what I am doing to be a more Christlike employee, a more Christlike son, a more Christlike brother, a more Christlike… yada, yada, yada.”

  18. I don’t know that it is necessarily a bad thing to do that. Should we not strive to be more Christ-like. The key is the reason we are striving. Is it because of the fruits of the Spirit, or is it because we are trying to earn our way into Heaven?

    The point that I’m getting at is that Steve did the right thing. Listen to the man, converse with the man. Identify an obvious concern. discuss that concern and move on. He planted a seed and IF the man needed the seed, we should pray that the Spirit will work on him from there.

  19. I think the point Steve is making (and my comment), the conversation shifts from Jesus-centered to man-centered. My Jesus and His cross always be the focus and all glory given to God. Blessings

  20. Doorman-Priest,

    “Most conversations I have with Christians are dire.”

    If that comment doesn’t speak volumes, then I don’t know what does.

    It is awfully disheartening to witness what is going on in many churches today (through the conversations with the churched).
    I attend a small congregation that is a very stong confessional Lutheran congreagation with Law/Gospel preaching every Sunday, and you’d be amazed at what comes out of the mouths of some of our members that have been with us for years. It truly is amazing. But I guess it is the Spirit’s business as far as who hears it and who does not.

    I havent been to you site in awhile, but I was just back there and you have some great posts up now. I anm looking foward to doing a bit of reading there very soon.

    Thanks very much, Doorman-Priest!

    – Steve M.

  21. Timm,

    I don’t think that you will evr fall into the trap that the gentleman I was speaking about is in.

    That poor fellow was on the religious ladder. Climbing up to ascertain greater “spirituality” and focusing on his performance.

    That is a very great danger in these places that stress ‘the self’. “How to’ Christianity , especially in the name of the Lord, just naturally puts people on the project.

    “You are totally saved by grace. Now here’s your list…get busy!” The onus is now shifted. It’s back on you…in the name of Jesus!

    This is why the external Word is so vital, and why Luther defended it so stubbornly against the Anabaptists who would neuter it in favor of the subjective Word. Taking Jesus out of the ‘center’ and putting the ‘old Adam’ right back in the middle of things again.

    Good comments Timm! Thanks!

    – Steve M.

  22. Timm,

    I don’t think that you will evr fall into the trap that the gentleman I was speaking about is in.

    That poor fellow was on the religious ladder. Climbing up to ascertain greater “spirituality” and focusing on his performance.

    That is a very great danger in these places that stress ‘the self’. “How to’ Christianity , especially in the name of the Lord, just naturally puts people on the project.

    “You are totally saved by grace. Now here’s your list…get busy!” The onus is now shifted. It’s back on you…in the name of Jesus!

    This is why the external Word is so vital, and why Luther defended it so stubbornly against the Anabaptists who would neuter it in favor of the subjective Word. Taking Jesus out of the ‘center’ and putting the ‘old Adam’ right back in the middle of things again.

    Good comments Timm! Thanks!

    – Steve M.

  23. “…the conversation shifts from Jesus-centered to man-centered. My Jesus and His cross always be the focus and all glory given to God.”

    Right on, Magdalene! (Oops…I’m dating myself again)

    I mean, that’s really ‘cool’ Magdalene!

    It’s a matter of emphasis.

    ‘Christ did everything for me on the cross. “It is finished.” Now I’d better get busy and show Him just how serious I am about all this stuff.’

    Well, were not serious! We’re not seroius!

    Jesus pointed that out to us in no uncertain terms in His Sermon on the Mount.

    You remember the Sermon on the Mount…it the sermon that most Christians turn into their own personal ‘become like Jesus’ righteousness project.

    Jesus was trying to kill them there…but they just can’t have that.

    “I’m going to become just like you, Jesus…but I won’t die trying!”

    Thanks Magdalene!

    – Steve

  24. There are the “run of the mill legalists”, as I would term them, and then there are “Law keepers”. Law keepers are people who know the OT and twist the NT, and throw Paul under the bus in the process. They know their bibles better than most, and believe that we are commanded to follow the Mosaic Law as Jesus did, to “be like Him”.

    This is a movement that is seductive in its appeal – If you really love God, you’ll obey Him; If you really want to please God you’ll obey His commandments – ALL of them. In my neck of the woods, this movement is not only seductive, it’s predatory. Strong word, I know, but accurate.

    Here’s the fatal flaw, and I’ll be writing about this on my blog . . . All false teaching meets one or both of the following criteria: 1) It will deny the deity of Christ in some way shape or form 2) It will perpetuate the Great Lie, “You will be like God” (Gen. 3:5).

    Here’s the reasoning of the Law keeper: Some, as in those who are neck deep in the Hebrew Roots Movement, deny the deity of Jesus outright. Others in the movement are more subtle and deny the Trinity. If they do that, SOMEONE has to lose their Deity. Check off item number 1.

    The more insidious and deceptive stream of thought is that at salvation, the Law keeper believes that they receive the Holy Spirit. Okay so far. Where they get off track is that instead of letting the Holy Spirit regenerate them and submit to His work of sanctification in their lives, it is the Law keeper’s view that the Holy Spirit ENABLES THEM TO KEEP THE LAW, AS CHRIST KEPT THE LAW, so that they can BE LIKE HIM. Jesus was God. We are not. We will never be able to keep the Law, even with the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. For the Christian to say that they can keep the Law completely (which is impossible on a pragmatic level without a priesthood and temple anyway . . . details, details) with the indwelling of the Holy Spirit is to say that they will be like God. Check off item number 2.

    So this Law keeping stuff is serious business. I guess I never realized just how big of a deal it really is. There’s a fine line between “I must obey the Law to be LIKE Jesus” and submitting ourselves to the Holy Spirit’s sanctifying work in us so that over time we more accurately REFLECT the love and character and image of Christ.

    There is soooo much more I could write . . . but then I wouldn’t have anything left to say on MY blog =o)!

    I’ll step off the soap box now . . .

    Humbly submitted,
    Wendy

  25. Wendy,

    Great comments! Lots to think about.

    You are so right about this law keeping business. I think that is why Jesus picked St. Paul to straighten out the law keepers, being that he was a law keeper amongst law keepers.

    It is serious stuff, but if we keep throwing it out there (the truth…the pure gospel) who knows…maybe a few will hear it.

    Keep on keepin’ on!

    I just got myself into a huge bucket of work, but hopefully I’ll get back over to your blog to do some more reading soon.

    Thanks Wendy!

    – Steve

  26. Acts 1:3-5 After his suffering, he showed himself to these men and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive. He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God. On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command: “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.”

    The Holy Spirit is a gift (from God). A promise kept.

    9 “…But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

  27. “This is a movement that is seductive in its appeal – If you really love God, you’ll obey Him; If you really want to please God you’ll obey His commandments – ALL of them”.

    The real problem with legalism, antinominaism and a whole bunch of other like evils is that they are the religious ‘fig leaf’ we can so often use to hide from the reality – the history – of ourselves (both as a race and as individuals). We are, in terms of our essential relationship with God ‘stone cold dead’ from when we stepped from the womb, and the only thing which changes this is not codes, or visions, or workshops, it is a man – the ‘mystery’ of the fullness of the Godhead in bodily form, here amongst us, full of grace and truth. Only in ‘eating and drinking’ of Him do find resurrection, only by His life working through our weakness, our failure, can we see something valuable amidst the torture of a world that has been murdered by deceit and rebellion. In Him, grace insures the sun rises each day and the rain falls, that each of us can glimpse, amidst the broken shards, the beauty of the eternal – heaven on earth. The tragedy, of course, is aside from grace, we will seek again to play Cain and murder such a gift through the pretense of a ‘godliness’ of our own devising.

  28. Howard’s extremely insightful comments ring with the confidence of one who has a solid Christology. The best advice I received when entering the seminary was from one of the great men of the American Lutheran Church, the late Rev. Alvin Rogness. He said, “Mark, whatever else you may do here you must come to terms with the meaning of Jesus Christ. The Second Article (of the creed) is the key.” Lutherans are sometimes criticized for being “second article Christians”, placing too much emphasis on Christ. I have received such criticism myself… and consider it a compliment!

    “For the Law came through Moses but grace and truth by Jesus Christ.”

  29. My answer: Keep bringing conversations back to the Gospel. Talk about the profound difference between WWJD Christianity and WDJD (What did Jesus do?) Christianity.

    Great post again, Steve.

  30. Dan,

    I guess that is about all we can do. If that doesn’t seem to spark anything then we could try pouring the law on then in very large doses. If that doesn’t work, well then we might just say sayonara. (unless of course they are close friends or family)

    Thanks Dan, and keep up the great job at Eucatastrophe.com

    – Steve

  31. Don’t you think what you accuse others of you are guilty of? You judge him for judging you. Hmmmm. Whats wrong with that picture?

  32. Hello Dan,

    I wasn’t judging anyone amd I’m pretty sure he wasn’t judging me.

    I think as Christians we have every right to critique each other and argue about what the gospel message is and how we are going about preaching and teaching this message.

    Otherwise Paul would have let Peter go right on circumcising Christians so that they could become Jews firsrt, and then Christians. Peter had it wrong and Paul straightened him out.

    The gentleman that I was refering to in the post was so wraped up in the law, and his performance, that is was a sad sight to see.

    It wasn’t this guys fault, he is just a victim of terrible, law based preaching where there is not an ounce of grace anywhere to be seen. It’s all about ‘you'(him).

    Is that a slightly different picture than I had painted for you the first time you read the post?

    Thanks Dan.

    – Steve M.

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