Sunday, November 23, 2008

139 Pounds of Contradictions

I've come to the realization that I am the biggest legalist in my life.

I preach against it and know it's wrong. But the reason I hate it so much is because I hear it so much from myself or the accuser. I am quick to attack others and be cynical of them, wanting it to be their fault, when in reality it isn't. Of course people can make the situation worse by not preaching grace, but ultimately, it is within our own minds, not from the pulpit that we hear the most legalism.

As for me, I am very prone to constantly whipping myself mentally for being so worldly, selfish, proud and foolish. It's beating me down and every time it does, I receive a fresh revelation of grace and the offer of Jesus to again make the effort to rest. I can choose to go on, mentally smacking myself around for not doing something, saying something, thinking something. I hate legalism, yet I hold onto it out of fear. I am afraid to let go of allowing myself to be smacked around. What if I get worldly and sinful?

"O, afflicted one, storm-tossed and not comforted, behold, I will set your stones in antimony, and lay your foundations with sapphires."

I know grace in my head. But it hasn't completely taken over perception of myself and Jesus. I am constantly pushed around mentally, always examining my actions.

I always feel Jesus is exasperated with me. I never see myself as someone yielded to God and bearing fruit. I never allow myself to think such things. Oh no. Grace seems to be for everyone else, but not for me.

I remind myself of the scarecrow, the tin-man and the cowardly lion all in one. While the scarecrow always thought he had no brain, he was the one who came up with a plan to rescue Dorothy from the witches castle. Tin-man always thought he was without a heart, yet he was the one crying when he started thinking about Dorothy in the witches castle. And lion thought he had no courage, yet he was willing to go into the castle and bring her out, risking his life. They all had what they didn't believe they had. They had it, they just lived in constant stubbornness and false humility of not believing it.

I am the righteousness of God in Christ Jesus, yet I can believe otherwise and allow myself to be miserable.

The truth is I don't need rules anymore. I have the life of Jesus Christ. I quench the Holy Spirit by introducing Mr. Law back into my life. I have to let go and trust Jesus to control me by His love. Freedom. I'm always speaking against legalism but constantly allowing myself to be hammered with it. I am 139 pounds of contradictions.


Joel B. said...

When I was a boy, I remember often having big dreams, but most of the time when it came down to it I'd be too scared to follow through. One example (of many): I wanted to go bike riding with a girl from my class named Michelle, and I finally worked up the nerve to ask my mom to call her mom, but then when my mom picked up the phone I said, "NOOOO, don't call!"

Talk about a contradiction! I wanted to do it, but I didn't want to do it. I was too scared, too shy, or whatever. Reality was so different than the dream. I've found the same to be true with grace. I love it, I love it, I love it! --- but yet living in the reality of it is a different story.

Well, eventually I got over Michelle before I even got to know her... LOL... but then life went on and I shied away from asking other girls out, but also worked up the nerve to ask some out. And eventually I found one who I asked to marry, and here we are a dozen years later!

Same with grace, and growing in it. Man, there are some times when I've felt so very legalistic with myself, and I've failed at 'living in grace.' Matthew, even four years ago, after having grown in grace for a decade, I came to realize that the problems that I was having in my marriage (as I've shared about on my blog) were due to my own lack of appropriating what I knew in my head to be true, and what I was teaching others about God's grace and unconditional love! I was trying so hard and being legalistic with myself about how to be a "better husband," instead of resting in God's love and grace.

The good news... since that time I've grown. And I continue to grow. And you are growing, and you continue to grow. One day at a time, a few steps forward, a few steps back, maybe more forward, maybe more back, but eventually ahead of where you once were.

But we can't be constantly measuring our growth. I was just thinking about this today as I listened to a legalistic preacher on the radio talk about growth. He said something like, "are you further along than you were in 2007?" He was talking about the upcoming new year as a time to reflect upon how well you've grown in your Christian life.

I had to talk back to my radio more than once today! It's not measured growth that we look for. It's CHRIST who we look to! In a year's time, I may just have taken more steps back than forward. Or I may have grown in leaps and bounds. But no matter... it's Jesus who I'm concerned with, and He's got my growth and inconsistencies in His care quite sufficiently.

Anyway... thanks for being so open and honest. I really want to encourage you that you're not alone (as you well know). :)

Grace Walker said...

Matthew, I appreciate this post from you so much. What a beautiful and honest way to articulate it. I can relate, 100%!

Joel, I also really got a lot out of your comment. Thank you for sharing.

megat said...

your blog very beautiful and more info ,make me excited. Congratulation!!

lydia joy said...

Hey Mattey Boy ~ Thank God I weigh slightly less than you, haha!!
I love it when you write these posts, because I really love your openness and I can always always relate!! However that said, I don't love that you are living in a bit of let me encourage you, as you have me many times.....
Remember you are on a journey and the more you fix your eyes on your Jesus the more you will see His beautiful grace and you will surely be invigorated by the life He is making available to you! Sometimes, we walk through the valley, but remember we are walking THROUGH it - we will never stay in the valley!
Remember that "feel" and "seems" are not secure states - your security and hope and confidence is fixed in Jesus finished work for you my friend.
Let me point you to the one who will show you that you indeed are not a contradiction, you are a King Priest, you have the very life of Christ living as yours!!! Jesus is never exasperated with you - he never grows weary and he wants to help you rise on wings like eagles, and SOAR!!!! Just let go and rest in Him my friend..........Much peace to you!! Love - Big Sis.....

RJW said...

How about a little warning next time?? I thought the wrong site had come up...trying a new look for the Holidays?? Polka dots are soooo becoming. :)

Nicole said...

Matthew, wonderful post! It's funny, but sometimes I find me fighting the same thing, the legalism inside myself more than anybody or anything else! It's a tough fight sometimes, but love always wins, and the grace of God will get through to us!!!

Hold fast brother, Father's grace and love is well worth it! I know you already know that!!!

In Freedom, Nicole!

Ole Henrik Skjelstad said...

I really enjoyed reading your article. Your experiences resemble my own in more than one aspect. I am finally, after many years with struggle, beginning to come to terms with my shortcomings and seek more and more often shelter by the cross. The Holy Spirit has also for many years tried to teach me to follow my heart, because there is where He dwells.

Leonard said...

Matt, thanks for sharing this, it helps me because I feel the same way sometimes and just knowing others have the same struggles, well it just helps. You are the real deal, thank you. Also if you like to add some weight to your frame you can stop over and take as much of mine as you like..tee hee, I'm carrying a little extra.

Joel, your like a compass, always pointing north.
hey I wanted to ask ya, when you talk back to your radio do you get angry at the legalism, I really struggle with that.


ps. Happy thanksgiving all. let me know Joel.

Joel B. said...

Hey Leonard,

Yeah, it's legalism that I get angry with when listening to the radio. :) I've shared that with Matthew and others before. I mean, I "get" the legalism that is out there. I understand the scriptures that are used wrongly. I've been there, in that legalistic lifestyle. When I hear it preached, I react internally with both anger and love... Anger from how it hurts people and love from the fact that I generally know where people got the wrong ideas, and I hope and pray for them to find true Life in Christ.

Leonard said...

Thanks Joel, I still get kinda, well flesh anger or maybe not, I have trouble discerning my anger sometimes so I think maybe I let my flesh get involved sometimes.
Thanks for getting back to me.
Love ya Bro

Matthew Daelon said...

Hey Leonard,

I struggle with that. Sometimes I will intentionally listen to legalistic teaching just to point out where they're wrong. That isn't good.

But I struggle with anger with people who teach legalism too. And then I start doubting my sincerity. It's a head trip.

But I was reading where Jesus said,

"How can you say to your brother, 'brother, let me take the speck out of your eye' when there is a log in your own eye. You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye and then you will see clearly to take the spec out of your brothers eye."

I have legalistic mindsets too. So we can't be grace pharisees either. Darn it. :( That is really hard for me to understand.

Leonard said...

Hi Matt. I did go through a phase that well, for better words, you could have called me a Grace Nazi, Its allot better now but I sometimes think I mix in my own anger with the Spirits displeasure of deception... At this point in time for me it wouldn't be safe for me to get in the mix of a regular meeting, I don't feel like I'm wise enough yet but I hope some day to be able to do some missionary work in the fields of the IC's, but I've got a ways to go so for now fellowshipping with my cyber Bro's and Sis's, and some Church at the warehouse seems to be working fine, for now.
Love ya Bro
Grace and Best always.

ps. thanks for your thoughts and sharing your wisdom.

Joel B. said...

My thoughts in all this, being one that goes through all this as well, is that we need to lighten up on ourselves. :D

It's fine if we recognize that we're being grace legalists and we understand that we need to not be so hard on others, but let the Spirit reveal it to us, not our own introspection, because we truly can be harder on ourselves than we need to be.

As we grow in grace - truly growing as the person God created us to be in Christ - we work a lot of this stuff out naturally.

On Sunday mornings at work, I scan the radio stations. There are a lot of "teaching programs" on the radio. I also listen from time to time to Christian talk radio on weekday afternoons on the job. My "talking back" to the radio is sometimes quite indignant.

Indignation: "Anger aroused by something unjust, mean, or unworthy."

A lot of my indignation is "justified," so to speak. And sometimes it really causes some great truth to rise up in me, if you know what I mean, and I become utterly thankful for the truth of grace and freedom. Other times I simply get angry and it does no one any good at all! ;)

But hey, I'm growing. I'm learning. I don't always get angry and indignant in the ways I used to, and in some ways I get even more righteously indignant that I used to, in a good way.

God's not our judge. He's our Father and teacher. If we're to be less angry (fleshly) about things, and He's showing us that, then it's out of love and not out of his own anger.

Sorry so long here (as usual). LOL. I could've really just said, "Let's lighten up on ourselves." :)

Leonard said...

Well I'm glad you shared those tid bits, thanks..

Oh and about apologizing for going on long,,,, well why don't ya just ligh,,,,, ahh never mind that's just to easy and besides you seen it coming.... LOL

Joel B. said...

Did any of you happen to catch Steve McVey's blog the week before last when he posted the five It's A New Day programs that he recently appeared on? They were all excellent, but as Steve himself said, if you watch only one, watch Day 5. The reason I bring this up here is because some of the things that are talked about on the program sort of relate to all of this. It's a very deep discussion about loving people unconditionally. In particular, one thing Steve said was (loosely quoted), "love the unrighteous and the self-righteous..."

The whole discussion melted my heart.

Free Spirit said...

I know I'm late poppin' in here. But, thanks for your honesty and for posting this piece of your soul. I know it's a little dangerous feeling to "put yourself out there," but thanks for doing so. As you can see,
I think more people relate to your struggle than you might first expect.
You're in a good place, Matthew!

Socoteanu said...

Wow, Matt. That post is very insightful. It's often hard to see that in ourselves.

Joel, "grace legalist" I love that phrase. That should be impossible. But I have somehow managed to be one many times....Anytime I think of myself better than a legalist because of grace I am being a legalist in another regard.

Joel B. said...

Yep, Socoteanu, I've been a grace pharisee/legalist myself many times as well. My personal tendency has been to shove grace doctrine at people whether they asked for my opinion or not. ;) I'm still recovering in that arena.

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