January 17, 2017
I am currently in an Old Order Mennonite church where rules are religion. I am getting sick of people relying on the preacher to be their god. They believe if you question any of their rules, you are being nothing shy of rebellious.
My community have four page letters of rules that they do not let anyone have a copy of because, they say, "it causes unnecessary questions an contention." For example, we can have a cab on any piece of farm equipment except the tractor, because it might get misused. And, like the Amish, no cars are allowed; the horse and buggy is a sign of righteousness. Man-made rules take precedence over more important spiritual matters such as hate, anger, malice strife and such. What does it mean to strain gnats an swallow camels?
How is a good way to leave such a church in a Christian manner without the ill feelings? My older brother left, and my dad told the family very strictly not to have any interaction with him at all. I said to him: "I am going to because they didn't do anything wrong or sinful. They just left a cult for true Christian religion." My, what a heated discussion that led to.
Needing help and prayers.
Thank you for taking the time to write and share some of the struggles you are facing. I can relate and so can may others who have come to the cross point of grace and legalism. God did not create anyone to fit in someone’s else’s man-made box.
What you describe in your email is so similar to what Jesus talked about in Matthew 15:8-9. He said to the most religious people of His day: These people draw near to Me with their mouth, and honor Me with their lips, But their heart is far from Me. And in vain they worship Me, Teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.
Legalism has always been an outward show and lip service. Legalism is the enemy of God’s grace. Legalism nailed Jesus Christ to the cross.
A legalistic man will say: look at everything I’ve done for the Lord. On the other hand, the man under grace will say: look at everything the Lord has done for me.
Those who live under the strong hand of legalism and law, say to themselves: I’m not too bad, for I have never committed adultery, worshipped idols made with hands, stolen or murdered. I go to church, wear plain clothes and live a different lifestyle then most of the world; therefore, God must be pleased with me.
Those who live under the wonderful and free grace of God, say to themselves: I’m undone and a man of unclean lips. I’m no different than anybody else in the world. I’ve come short of God’s glory, sinned against a Holy and righteous God and done my own thing. But for the grace of God, I would be cast in the lake of fire.
You cannot – will not – ever feel free under legalism. God does not live there. If you want to know God, you have to first be born into His Kingdom (John 3). When one is born again, his eyes open up (2 Cor 4:4), his sins are canceled out (Acts 3:19), he passes from death to life (John 5:24) and from darkness to light (Acts 26:18).
The new (or second birth) is an event that takes place in the moment of time, just like the first birth was an event. The first birth allowed you to enter the physical world. The second birth allows you to enter the spiritual world. Legalism, law and man-made works do not play a role in the new birth. It is a gift from God. But like any gift, it has to be received. You cannot pay for it.
God's Word is clear: “For by grace ye have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.” Ephesians 2:8-9
Salvation is described as a gift. The American Heritage Dictionary defines “gift” as “something that is bestowed voluntarily and without compensation. When someone gives you a present, you don’t ask “How much do I owe you?” Your only response should be “Thank you very much.” The only acceptable response to salvation is gratitude and praise to God for His indescribable gift (2 Corinthians 9:15). Salvation is a gift to be received (Romans 6:23), not a wage to be earned.
Have you received the gift? --the gift of everlasting life (Romans 6:23). Jesus paid the price and is offering it to the world; to you. Some reach out and accept the free gift of God and are saved, others continue to work for it.
I hope this helps. I’m here to listen, help and pray for you Jason.
Note: the writer's name has been changed to protect his identity.
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