By Tammye Hamilton
I hate legalism.
When I was a teenager I had a friend whose church didn’t allow her to wear jeans, so when she came to my house I always let her borrow a pair. It probably wasn’t wise, but it just seemed so wrong to me. How was wearing only dresses making her holy?
The church has rightly rejected much of the unbiblical legalism of the past that paraded outward differences as a sign of inward holiness. It is refreshing and freeing that we have grasped grace in such a way that we don’t usually judge the inward condition of the heart by the outward appearance of the person.
But have we attached the concept of holiness to legalism so much that we have become unconcerned with personal godliness?
And as we have embraced not looking much different from the world, have we actuallybecomenot much different from those we’re called to reach? Have we sacrificed true holiness on the altar of cultural relevancy?
Are we so afraid the world will think we are religious that we don’t actually adhere to our religion in our personal lives?
Ephesians 1:4 says that “He chose us before the foundations of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before Him”.
The Apostle Peter was a guy who didn’t seem very holy. His behavior was outrageous at times. He asked Jesus questions like, “How many times dowe have to forgive?” I totally get that.
Like us, Peter had to grow in holiness. In his second letter he actually gives us a great teaching in just a few verses on how to actually live a godly life.
2 Peter 1:3-9 says “His divine power has given us everything we need for a godlylife through our knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and goodness. Through these He has given us His very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature,having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires. For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love.For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.
‘Wait, we have to “make every effort”?? I thought when I came to Jesus that He would just take all the bad, worldly stuff away and put all that good, godly stuff in me. He would just do it all!’
This is a misunderstanding of what it means to be a Christian. Followers of Jesus are adding virtue to our faith every day. We are not completed, perfect people. The characteristics of Christ are addedto our nature. We are actively cooperating with Him to replace our worldliness with godliness.
The good news Peter is giving us is that through His divine power we CAN be holy. No matter who we were in the past, when we follow Jesus and walk in the awareness of His power at work in our lives we can resist temptation and become godly.
We’re not called to live holy lives so we can get into Heaven or so we can impress others. Peter says if we live godly lives we will be effective and productive for the Kingdom. Shouldn’t every believer desire to be effective?
Holiness isnotlegalism, it is just being like Jesus. We make every effort to pursue godliness because we want to be like Him.