You know what can ruin my peace of mind? Does this happen to you?
It’s when people innocently and excitedly tell me that they are growing spiritually due to a new book, a new YouTube video, a new ministry, or something of the sort. When I hear of some book I haven’t read, or some preacher I haven’t followed, or some teaching I don’t know, then I put myself under a false condemnation that now, in some way, I am not living on the cutting edge! I’m out of the loop on the latest and greatest, and I feel this internal pressure to now catch-up and get on the ball with being a better Christian.
Does this happen to you? It’s not the other person’s fault. It’s something terrible I do to myself.
In the church today here is one way we get deceived: we put ourselves under law.
We came to Christ “apart from the Law.” That is, we were not born-again by keeping the Law of Moses. We came to be children of God when we received His life, by faith alone. Period. When His grace-offer collided with our faith, we received His life in our spirit, and we became the righteousness of God in Christ Jesus.
Now for an important question: Now that Christ is your life, what will not help you now?
What do we not need now?
We don’t need the Law as a means of self-improvement (Gal 3:3). We have The Holy Spirit and the Righteousness of Christ to lead us into the fruitfulness of God’s life in us.
In Rom 7:9 Paul says, “I was once alive apart from the Law.*“ Here, Paul is saying that after his salvation (which happened back in chapter 3) and his awareness of union with Christ’s life (chapter 6), he was walking in righteousness apart from keeping the Law. That is, without focusing on any law, he was “alive in Christ” (Rom 6:8, 11), joyfully living the Christian life.
Thus, when he was alive in Romans 7, he says that something came and “killed” him. Something came to him as an “alive” person, and killed his spiritual energy. What was it? It was a Commandment (7:9). The Law. (Or today it could be some so-called Protestant Church Law, Catholic Law, Charismatic-Full-Gospel Law, or My Sister-in-Law’s Law!). Someone was talking about not coveting, and Paul felt convicted to re-dedicate himself to the self-discipline of making sure that he kept that law. As a Christian he was supposed to walk in The Spirit, but he fell under the false guilt of being a poor-performing-little-Christian when someone showed up preaching “law.” Paul foolishly rose up in his own strength to be the great law-keeper he had been in his former life. He began to live under the burden of self-performance to stop coveting, and it resulted in condemnation of unworthiness before God.
Here’s another way it can happen. Someone comes up to me and says, “Wow, I’m reading the greatest book right now . . . and it’s changing my life” and I quit listening for a moment. I think to myself, “Phooey, I’m not reading enough . . . I’m so undisciplined . . . I need to get this book, too.” I let this other man’s comment put me under a law: “Thou shalt be reading all informative, new, hot-off-the-press Christian books . . . or you are losing!”
A young mother tells another young mother that she has been reading on the Internet, and has changed the dietary choices in her home, and the second mother says to herself, “Oh, Dear Lord, I’m failing as a mother . . . I’m not helping my family eat better . . . no wonder my baby still has a runny nose . . . I’m failing as a Christian mother . . . I might as well forget about home-schooling.” The second mother put herself under law, and her spirit was slain by the ruinous grief of self-condemnation.
A man comes to his preacher and says, “God has been teaching me to pray . . . and I’m now seeing that we are just not praying enough in the church today!” What happens in the preacher’s heart? He falls under the curse of condemning himself for not praying enough. The “law” in his head is, “Ain’t nobody holy enough today, for no one is praying as they should!” And the law throws him into shame.
There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus (Rom 8:1). So, don’t put yourself under the condemnation of not living up to some person’s latest spiritual shift and renewal. Don’t make a “Law” out of their new decision, and chastise yourself for not “keeping” that law for yourself. Bless them and honor them. But don’t put yourself under a false condemnation and lose your Christian peace. Jesus is not putting this on you. You are doing it to yourself. Stop.