The Most Dangerous Word

Nicodemus

Many times to better understand something, it is helpful to learn what the opposite of that something is.

I’m a student and proponent of Grace. But Grace can be a squishy word. So I would like to talk about the opposite of Grace, which is LEGALISM.

Pastor Tullian Tchividjian writes “Legalism says God will love us if we change. Grace says God will change us because He loves us.”

Nicodemus was a legalist. He was a Pharisee.

Max Lucado writes “It’s a fact of the farm. The most fertile ground remains barren if no seed is sown.”

This defines legalism. Legalism is obsessed about soil preparation but totally misses the point of the seed. This is how legalism thinks. Faith is an outside work. How you speak, act, pray, the image you portray.

If Nicodemus would have been a farmer, he would of had a degree from the University of Farming in cutting edge soil preparation techniques.

The Pharisees were really good at making the soil look good but they had one problem, (How many of you would love to have one problem? But it was a big problem) they produced very little fruit.

Nicodemus, was tired of his fruitless, shallow, look good on the outside life, so he is drawn to Jesus. He sees the fruit, passion, love and humility of Jesus. He sees Jesus breaking the rules so he can touch the untouchable and love the sinner that the religious leaders had shunned.

Nicodemus’ spiritual life has become a charade and it’s shrinking his soul, so the Gospel of John says that he came to Jesus at night. He’s drawn to Jesus, but he has a reputation to uphold, so he sneaks out to see Jesus at night.

Which is very symbolic of legalism. Legalism offers no light.

Legalism robs your freedom. It sets your standards so high that it leaves you paralyzed.

Legalism damages relationships. Nobody wants to spend time around people who feel they are spiritually superior to everyone else. The Bible says, “Love forgets mistakes. Nagging about them parts the best of friends.”

Legalism puts rules in front of people. I recently met a couple who were teaching a high school Sunday School class and they took some high school students to an elderly widows home to paint, clean and bring her a meal. The youth were reprimanded and the couple asked to leave the church because they happened to do these biblically good deeds on the Sabbath. The rule was more important than the person.

Legalism ultimately destroys your joy. Because there is always a gap between what you want to be and what you want others to think you are and who you really are! The gap destroys your joy.

And here is Nicodemus, he has no freedom, all his friends are legalists, he is putting rules ahead of people and his joy is gone, so he comes to Jesus.

In the dark of the night, Jesus tells him, “Nicodemus, I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God (No one can be good enough, no one can have flourishing relationships, no one can love people the way I love them, no one can experience a joy that is indestructible and liberating, no one can have eternal life) unless he is born again.”

Jesus gets right to the point “Nick your problem is legalism. Your soil looks good, but you have no seed.”

This meeting in the dark is a meeting between two opposing views on salvation.

All the world’s religions can be placed in one of two camps: LEGALISM or GRACE.

Either man saves himself or God saves him.

Legalism is a dark world. Fear (Have I done enough?) Arrogance (I have done enough!) Failure (I’ve made too many mistakes.)

Jesus goes on to tell him, “Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit give birth to spirit.”

Jesus says that salvation doesn’t come from church attendance, a certain set of rules or perfect theology.  

Jesus tells Nicodemus that Salvation is God’s business, Grace is his idea and it is at His expense.

In the dark of the night, Jesus looks at Nicodemus and shares these revolutionary words, “For God so love the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” (And you thought the guy with the rainbow, curly wig who sat in the endzone of NFL football games holding a sign of John 3:16 made this saying up, but this comes from the very mouth of Jesus.)

Nicodemus, the legalist, had had a lot of conversations about salvation. But not like this. This was the first time no rules, systems or secret decoder rings were needed.

“Everyone who believes can have eternal life!” Not “Everyone who achieves or succeeds or agrees.”

EVERYONE WHO BELIEVES!

When Nicodemus heard those words, his life was changed forever!

GRACE CHANGES EVERYTHING!

It gets you off the perfectionism treadmill, because as the Psalmist wrote “Nothing is perfect except God’s word.” I hate treadmills, because you run and run and run and you sweat, you get beaten down and tired and when you are done, you are standing in the exact same place you started. That’s legalism!

Plus, trying to be perfect is not only tiring, it’s narcissistic. Pastor Tullian Tchividjian goes on to say, “To focus on how I’m doing more than what Christ has done is Christian narcissism.”

Pretending to be perfect is also hypocritical. The Greeks used to call actors, hypocrites, because an actor is someone who pretends to be someone or something he or she really is not. This is the same word Jesus called the Pharisees.

Jesus told Nicodemus, “Your soul is tired and worn out because you have been on this perfectionism treadmill. Jump off, because salvation comes from me, not from your works. My Grace is available.”

Grace changed Nicodemus. How do I know?

A while later, Jesus was killed on the cross, by the legalists, and the disciples were scattering like cockroaches when the lights go on, but a man named Joseph of Arimathea asked permission to take Jesus’ body down from the cross and John 19 records that: “Nicodemus, the man who had come to Jesus at night, came too…” and he brought embalming ointment and he helped lay Jesus in the tomb.

Nicodemus, the one who came quietly, fearfully, secretly at night now comes boldly, courageously and confidently in the day.

Grace has liberated him!

Nicodemus had received the seed of Grace and now plants the seed of salvation, Jesus into the tomb and 2 day later that seed burst forth and defeated death once and for all!

Legalism Kills.

Grace liberates and brings forth life!

Our world is being destroyed by legalism.

Grace is our only hope.

EVERYONE WHO BELIEVES!

I pray you get off the perfectionism treadmill and receive grace!

You don’t have to pretend anymore!

You are loved and accepted.

 

A Leader’s Lament

motherteresatogether

Sometimes I care too much, my ego trumps reason
Sometimes I don’t care enough, it depends on the season
I beat the drum often, not wanting others to forget
Not sharing in my passion, they insincerely acquiesce

Only a few things matter, yet my brain is scattered
One word of criticism, and my worth is shattered
When it comes to living, when it comes to teamwork
Everyone talks the talk, but the walk is misgiving

“We” are stronger than “I”, as long as “I” gets the credit
My humility most impressive, I’ll tell you all about it
I want the truth, desperately seeking transparency
Yet words are guarded, dishonesty flowered deceptively

I’m here for you, I’ve got your back
I believe in you, there’s nothing I lack
Unless someone disagrees, unless someone moans
Then I need to step away, I need courage on loan

A fish out of water, is a fish out of air
I have something in common, it’s something I share
Take care of my cause, take care of my needs
Then I’ll let people know, you are a wise man who leads

But leading isn’t popularity, it isn’t first to please
It isn’t taking polls, it’s not putting people at ease
It means having deep convictions, having secure beliefs
It means staying true to course, not taking relief

The hill I climb is lonely, often feeling stranded
The hill I climb is baren, often taken for granted
The hill I climb is noble, the hill I climb is inspiring
As long as it does not get in the way of your living

Females raped and murdered, where is the rage?
It seems important, but message gets back page
The church is the answer, the message of justice we bring
But the words get muted, arguing over the songs we sing

Children die before 5, $20 is the solution
My debit card is low, comfort my main concern
I have the money, but I’m keeping up with the Jones’
Car, House, Boat, busy paying off the loans’

The world needs billions, seems overwhelming
Billions would not compare, if Christians were tithing
I can’t do it all, but I can open the door
If I learn to say “No”, I can do so much more

Boys without role models, absent of fathers
They are not on my block, so why even bother
But the needs are great, the opportunities do not lack
I am the change I pray for, but my schedule is packed

Options are good, until there are too many
Poverty cries out, “I don’t have any”
America the beautiful, everyone given equal chance
Unless born in the hood, equality becomes a fat chance

More concerned about position, more about my security
My dreams are much more daring, as I live in my safety
Been told to be quiet, told “balance” is for the wise
There’s no more heroes, “well rounded” is our demise

I check my heart, I check by pride
I check my will, putting desires aside
I live in abundance, my challenges are few
When I say I have problems, I ask, “Compared to who?”

People want the world to be like them
I say, they should want the world to be like HIM
As soon as I say my theology is a lock
I have just put God right in a box

My faith is bigger than Republican or Democrat
My faith is stronger than where the world is at
Jesus created this world, then gave his life
He asks me to love this world, then give up my life

Sometimes I care too much, my ego trumps reason
Sometimes I don’t care enough, it depends on the season
But one thing I know, one thing I am sure
That loving orphans and widows is a religion that’s pure!

A Tribute and Poem: Robin Williams

robinwilliams

There is laughter on the outside, sadness on the inside

Searching for some kind of peace, but chaos you can’t hide

They exploit your talent, while demons haunt your mind

Your smile is mesmerizing, your blue eyes intensely kind

 

Success is deceiving, never delivering its promise

World takes you for granted, while taking your profits

Your intellect, underrated, your brilliance, infectious

Your joy, grace and kindness were unarguably contagious

 

The world will miss you, so much heartache, much need for humor

With hatred and revenge all around, we will miss your candor

If the wise man said, “Laughter is good medicine”

Then you were one of the greatest physicians

 

Everyone searches for approval, but it’s only a show

The higher the high, the lower the low

We must appreciate the gifts of people that God has given

While making sure we don’t ignore them, seeing their burden

 

Actors used to be called hypocrites, because they would pretend

They created an alter ego that they’d creatively invent

Look at are own lives, much made-up, knowing how to play

People see one thing, while reality is so far away

 

Known as the king jester, yet your absurdity was filled with fact

Such sincerity, so many characters, miraculous ability to act

You spoke the truth, “No matter what people tell you and reveal,

words and ideas can change the world.”

 

Rest in peace Robin Williams and God bless your soul!