Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Legalistically Applied Scriptures

Legalism is a cancer which has sadly spread its way into the majority of the Christian church in some form or another. Legalism is not only annoying, but spiritually harmful. By binding yourself to rules and regulations that are not set upon us by Scripture, we choke up our spiritual lungs and impair ourselves. This also can be harmful in evangelism. Who would want to be involved in a religion that seems as if it chokes the life out of you by making it where you can't do anything to enjoy yourself? Let's take a look at a few Scriptures and see how they actually apply to the life of a child of God.

Abstain from all appearance of evil.- I Thessalonians 5:22, King James Version

This is an easy verse to misinterpret, especially if you only use the King James Version, which mistranslates this verse. The Greek word behind this is eidous and the Aramaic says tzevutha. Eidous does not only talk about "appearance" but also "type" or "kind". Tzevutha is best translated as "affair" or "business". Either way, this verse is not talking about staying from stuff that "looks" evil. Jesus could easily have been sinning by drinking with tax collectors and sinners. Did that not look evil to the religious authorities?

This is often used by people to say that we shouldn't celebrate Halloween, go to the movies, or dress certain ways. This is not at all what the Apostle Paul is talking about! He is just talking about avoiding every form of sin and unrighteousness. Paul would not care if you celebrate Halloween or go to the movies with your girlfriend (I don't care if you're watching Saw or Bambi).

Finally, my brethren, what things are true, and what things are decorous, and what things are right, and what things are pure, and what things are lovely, and what things are commendable, and deeds of praise and approbation, on these be your thoughts. - Philippians 4:8, Murdock's Syriac New Testament

I get very aggravated when people put this one in my face. The first rule of exegesis should be reading the verses before the one you're trying to interpret, or better yet: read the entire Book! Context is key when studying the Bible, not matter what topic you are researching. Verse 4:4-7 say this, "Rejoice ye in our Lord, at all times; and again I say, Rejoice. Let your humility be recognized among all men. Our Lord is near. Be anxious for nothing; but at all times, by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, make known your requests before God. And the peace of God, which surpasseth all knowledge, will keep your hearts and your minds, through Jesus the Messiah." Let's take a look at verse 4:9 whie we're at it: "What things ye have learned, and received, and heard, and seen, in me, these do ye: and the God of peace will be with you."

This verse is not telling you what to watch or read or play. This verse is talking about thinking on the things of God and on His Word. Is thinking about dusting your house pure and lovely? What about washing your car or even thinking about what to cook for supper? The entire tone of Philippians is upbeat and encouraging, so we can infer in context that Paul is telling us to have peace of mind by thinking on the things of God and about all that He's done for us. If you spent your life trying to live by Philippians 4:8's common interpretation, you would be no earthly good and would not be able to function!

And whatever ye do in word or act, do it in the name of our Lord Jesus the Messiah, and give thanksgiving through him to God the Father.- Colossians 3:17, Murdock's Syriac New Testament

Many people interpret this verse in such a way that it seems to make it where a person cannot really enjoy himself. I'm not saying that we shouldn't enjoy glorifying God; I am questioning what exactly glorifying the Father is in this verse. Many people will watch movies desperately trying to find redemptive messages and Christian messages and such things in an attempt to bring glory to God. I agree that this could be fun, but do you really think that this is something that we have to bind ourselves to like robots?

I believe that you are bringing glory to God merely by using your Christian liberty and not sinning! This is liberty that God gave us through what Jesus did on the cross. We are not bound to live our lives by 613 commandments that we cannot keep. We have the Holy Spirit of God the Father in our lives to guide us into righteousness if we submit to His Lordship in our lives.

Paul is not talking about doing mundane tasks like cleaning your house, washing your car, doing your laundry, or even doing hobbies for God's glory. I believe we are glorifying God by showing the liberty He has given us to do things that we enjoy (as long as they aren't morally reprehensible, of course). I can't find redemptive value in sharpening a pencil, or stapling two sheets of paper together, personally. If you can, I would love to hear your explanation on the matter! Paul is saying that we should live our entire lives to give glory to God. We should have the heavenly Father first in all things and seek to worship and praise Him with righteous lifestyles and not do anything in order to glorify ourselves.

God wants us to enjoy life without sinning. God understands that we get bored without hobbies. Aside from being obsessed with the things of God, theology, and scholarship, I am also a movie buff and gamer! I don't live my life for the cinema or for the Xbox though, I live my life for Jesus Christ my Savior. If you want to go see watch Harry Potter, go ahead! If you wanna play Grand Theft Auto V, go ahead! If you wanna listen to the Rolling Stones or Rhianna, be my guest! Don't be so heavenly minded that you can't enjoy life or help your brothers and sisters in non-religious tasks, but don't be so earthly minded that you can't serve God or hear His voice either! God loves you and wants you to enjoy life, but He mostly wants you to enjoy serving Him. Enjoy serving God most of all, and enjoy life without living like the devil. It's possible; did you know that? God bless.