Abraham Lincoln once wrote, “I have never united myself to any church, because I have found difficulty in giving my assent, without mental reservation, to the long, complicated statements of Christian doctrine which characterize their Articles of Belief and Confessions of Faith. When any church will inscribe over its altar, as its sole qualification for membership, the Savior’s condensed statement of the substance of both Law and Gospel, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all my heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and thy neighbor as thyself,” that church will I join with all my heart and all my soul.”
Who would not want that?
Legalism occurs when well-meaning people construct barriers to the Father that keep people from either experiencing the fullness of the most amazing relationship one could have, or they constrain them from ever having that relationship at all. These barriers can often come in the form of a list of certain do’s and don’ts that can leave us feeling guilty and condemned.
Now, do I believe being an active part of a church matters? Of course. The writer of Hebrews would agree (Hebrews 10:25). Do I believe that, as one of God’s children, we should attend church, tithe, and find ways to serve? Absolutely. There are countless Bible verses that would testify to these. But none of them were given to be legalistic, construct guilt, or serve as a means of condemnation. Going to church should be something you find helpful, encouraging, and life-giving. What I fear, is that going to church has not been any of that to many of you.
So, allow me to say, if you have encountered legalism, I am sorry – whether it be at the commands of others, and even at the hand of myself.
It is my hope then, that you can be freed from that, and thus, find the amazing joy of being an active part of a church – a loving, serving, giving church.
There is nothing like a God-grounded, God-centered, God-filled church. Jesus is the Cornerstone of it (1 Peter 2:6), and on that stone, we are “being built into a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, offering ourselves as a spiritual sacrifice to God” (1 Peter 2:5). Because of Jesus, we now have a natural, God-given connection with one another, and that connection is evident every time the Church, goes to church.