Whenever we put a qualifier in front of the noun “Christian,” we might be inserting legalism. But we might not be. It depends on whether we perceive that qualifier as meritorious. Does it elevate us above other blood-bought Christians who don’t wave the banner of that same qualifier?
It is possible to be a “missional” Christian or a “radical” Christian or whatever, and that language is being used merely as a way of communicating something biblical that you want to call people to, something truly in Christ. But it is also possible — it all depends on internal factors, difficult to discern even in ourselves, much less in others — to use such qualifiers in a way that is truly legalistic.
Legalism is a serious accusation, as is obvious from Galatians. That makes me reluctant to use it in a targeted personal way, naming names. I could identify a specific man as a legalist only if (1) he makes an obvious theological blunder in writing, diminishing the finished work of Christ on the cross, adding something of his own to the empty hands of faith as the way of receiving that finished work, and he stands by his stated error even after appeals to reconsider, or if (2) I can have direct personal conversation with him and really press into what he means by what he says and I find out that, yes, he really is requiring more than the cross, received by mere faith, for peace with God. But without that clarification, legalism is an easy accusation to make, and a difficult one to prove. And any unprovable accusation is itself a wrong — a different kind of wrong, but still wrong.
It can get complicated, and quickly. Caution seems wise.
- It does not consistently present God as great and good.
- It gratuitously display graphic violence.
- It repeatedly changes important details.
It is worth to read his explanations for each here.
Carolyn McCulley states that there are three hindrances that keep singles from maturing in their Christian walk: Identity, Self-Centeredness, and Secrecy. She helps to discern all three:
A wise friend of mine once observed that single adults become emotionally stunted when we have not pushed ourselves to love others sacrificially. Loving and serving others is how we grow in Christlikeness. While marriage and family does not guarantee maturity, it certainly creates the opportunity for it. Therefore, single adults who want to pursue maturity should look for opportunities to be self-giving in the face of boundless opportunities to be self-centered.
I am a task-oriented person, so I have put reminders on my calendar every month to think about ways to serve others. It’s a sad truth: I have turned my relationships into To Do reminders! But if I don’t, my calendar defaults to being all about me. By intentionally thinking about whom to serve, by planning for other people’s milestones, and by putting down prayer reminders for the needs of others, I’m taking small steps to battle self-centeredness.
Our prayers are a good barometer of self-centeredness. Do they start with glorifying and thanking God? Are they full of petitions for His people? Have we first woven in thanksgiving for any answered prayers before firing off our petitions?
Self-centeredness is a hard thing to measure by yourself — maybe impossible. The Holy Spirit will prompt us through His Word, but we need to assume we have huge blind spots. Having a prayer and accountability partner, one who has regular access to your life and thoughts, can be immensely helpful for this evaluation. More than one partner is great, too. I say prayer andaccountability because grace and truth need to be equally present.
Read the rest here