The pharisaical approach is the epitome of legalism. It occurs when we obey God's Moral Law to earn God's love and attain God's righteousness. Key symptoms may include:
- A lack of the fruit of the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23)
- A consistent lack of motivation for things like prayer or Bible reading
- Quite often, the commands of God feel like a curse
- Obedience feels hard
- God routinely feels distant or perhaps disinterested
On the other hand, we have the grace-driven approach. This occurs when we understand God's free gift of grace. Shockingly, our righteousness has nothing to do with our behavior. God scandalously applies righteousness to our sin-drenched souls out of pure generosity. Key symptoms may include:
- Feeling like you just won the lottery
- A desire to shout and scream like a crazy person
- A strong desire to meet with this God over and over in prayer
In a grace-driven approach, we don't obey because we have to but because we want to. The Moral Law, which condemned us outside of Christ, has now become our worship list. Obedience is now just one of the fun ways we say thanks to Him while He drenches us with favor; it naturally flows from our lives. Christianity is not a process in which we earn love; it's a process in which we reflect love. Or as it's often said, "We are not saved by good works. We are saved for good works!"
For the Christian, the Bible isn't a list of requirements but a list of results after experiencing God's love. Righteousness is not the reward of living rightly. It's the unmerited gift that, once understood, irresistibly results in right living. And suddenly the motivating energy that drives our quest for morality changes from striving to being thankful for what God has already done in and through us. This has a profound effect on how joy-filled and grateful your faith becomes and has a dramatic effect on how you motivate those around you to serve the Lord.
So which of these two approaches do you live out more? If you're like me, you probably vacillate between the two of them quite often. So the real questions become: How do we stop this craziness? How do we tip ourselves into the grace-driven approach once and for all?
Truth be told, it's incredibly easy to pick up burdens that God never called us to carry (Matthew 11:28). Even more, there's still a part of us that wants to earn God's righteousness. And why? Grace just doesn't seem fair! And, honestly, it's not fair. But you're lying to yourself if you think you can start earning His love. So allow me to give you a better analogy of who you are in Christ. I hope this will thoroughly persuade you to abandon all of your legalistic pursuits once and for all.
I've always liked celebrity auctions because they reveal how silly we all are. Some famous person blows their nose, and the rest of us immediately start bidding on the tissue. Then we can brag about our majestically framed snot-rag (and how it reveals our tight bond with the blower) when our friends come over. Our secret hope is that it will make them want to be our friends even more. (At least that's how it worked for me in fifth grade when I got my favorite professional wrestler's autograph.)
A while ago the news reported that someone spent a fanatical amount of money purchasing a creaky old doorknob from the estate sale of Marilyn Monroe. It was mind-blowing what this stupid old doorknob sold for. Of course it wasn't even a high-quality doorknob, not that I'm a doorknob expert. But I certainly know it had no intrinsic value except for the fact that it belonged to Marilyn Monroe.
It's the same way for those of us who belong to Christ. On our own, we're just another doorknob. What makes us special is that Jesus touched us. Just as the doorknob in the auction had gained merit by being associated with Marilyn Monroe, our merit comes from being associated with Christ. Now you might still be tempted to say, "But God: Look at me! I'm a freaking great doorknob! I read my Bible more than others. I even return rogue shopping carts in the grocery store parking lot." May I lovingly remind you that you're still an old doorknob.
Excerpted from Pharisectomy: How to Joyfully Remove Your Inner Pharisee and other Religiously Transmitted Diseases by Peter Haas. Copyright 2012 by Peter Haas. Published by Influence Resources. Used with permission. Watch Peter Haas this Tuesday on LIFE Today.