People live in distress. Christians live in distress. They’ve been promised freedom from the laws of sin and death. But they do not experience this freedom now.
And no one is willing to save them (for fear of being called a legalist).
Walk with me, man.
You struggle with lust for women and dwell on them in ways that are unhealthy. You have trouble looking at a woman without objectifying her or caring little about her personality in relation to her appearance. You want to stop (or so you say), but you can’t seem to shift your thinking.
For you (fictional reader man), your mind is perverted and your thought-life is hijacked. The reason you do not find success over lust and your impure mind is that the television and movies you entertain yourself with are filled with sex appeal in the form of over-sexualized female characters, tight/short cast wardrobes, crude humor, etc.
And who will tell you this? Who will enlighten you? Who will step out and say “If you want freedom from lust, try getting away from the pied piper of television. They play the tune you want to hear, but lead you to the cliff.” Your pastors will not, and your friends will not.
Why? Because they fear you.
They fear you will call them a legalist–that you will accuse them of putting burdens onto your back that are not packaged with a veritable, concise chapter and verse. But this is not legalism. Legalism is attained when one follows rules to earn one’s salvation or love from God whereas changing your life to find success has no bearing on your salvation or God’s love for you.
Of course God’s love is never based on our actions. But your success in life is.
Legalism as I have seen it accused today is fickle. Where in the Bible does it say: “Thou shalt not watch NC-17 movies.” Don’t bother looking–it’s not there :). And yet who will call you a legalist if you told them it was a bad idea to watch an NC-17 movie? No one. They agree with you. However, you may be called a legalist if you told someone it was a bad idea to watch PG-13 movies. Clearly these accusations of legalism are subjective at best and highly ignorant at worst.
I don’t blame the people who continually fail in areas of lust, depression, anger, etc who are in ignorance. For how will they know if no one tells them? Who is willing to look like a legalist for the sake of bringing someone freedom from an impure mind (which they claim to desire).
There are other areas of conduct that plague our Christian culture that few are willing to combat by agreeing with God. You can see it coming. Nathan’s about to talk about booze.
I challenge you to be a teetotaler. Don’t drink alcohol unless it is medicinal. (And I’m not referring to self-medicating)
“But Nathan, that isn’t in the Bible!” Right you are–there isn’t a verse in the Bible stating that here in America in 2010, you [insert name here] shouldn’t drink alcohol socially. But this is not about the law. This is about success here in this life. In this life, I believe it is wise to stay away from alcohol. The rapes, murders, spousal/child abuses, car accidents, ETC should be enough example for you to know there is much possible danger down that path. The pros are zero and the cons are numerous.
When your Christianity has deepened, your decisions stop being about “What am I allowed to do?” and they shift to “What should I do?” They move from “What isn’t that bad?” to “What is good?” You cease to follow the crowd and ascertain what is of the world and what is of the Spirit. This won’t make you popular, but you’ll find success from your struggles. God has already given you freedom if you will simply trust and obey. But He will not make you obey.
Maybe you’re like me. I say I desire to think on what is pure, noble, and decent. But instead I walk about humming a Flight of the Conchords song or the latest SNL Digital Short. Those things are legitimately funny. They’re also legitimately trash (usually). They legitimately give the enemy a foothold in my thought life. If my eye causes me to sin, I should gouge it out. I would rather have freedom from crude thoughts and humor than partake in wasted laughter. Alcohol is the same way. It opens doors and brings you down paths where you shouldn’t be–and later on down the line: you’ll wish you weren’t there.
Is it a sin to kiss someone else’s spouse in a romantic way? No. It’s a sin to commit adultery. And yet we can see that slippery slope, and we’re comfortable calling people out who engage in this sort of behavior. We’re comfortable “judging” them.
But some bondages are not so easy to follow back to their source.
Perhaps you don’t feel far from God. Perhaps you don’t feel your prayers are bouncing off the ceiling. Perhaps you do not struggle with depression, lust, anger, wicked thoughts, etc. Perhaps you are living a life of success in the Spirit.
But if you are struggling, and you want to get closer to God: quit messing around. Look around and see what contends for your mind and time. Perceive what in your life speaks louder than God. Don’t go with the flow.
Beyond that, don’t be afraid to agree with God when the culture disagrees. You might be the only one willing to go out on a limb for them and save their life. Many are going to heaven, but they’re living hell.