I grew up a paint-by-number Christian. I put all the right colors in the right places, and when I was finished, I still only had an imitation of something real. In the past few years, I've been discovering what it really means to serve God from my heart.
Here's what I think: I think that the most important thing in the whole world is to love and serve Jesus Christ. And you can't really serve him if you don't love him, and that love starts in the heart when Jesus changes you. Christianity is inward. A person can follow a list of rules and keep the "right" appearance all they want, but unless their heart is clean and longing for God, that's all they're doing - just following some rules made up or interpreted by people and church boards.
A Christian is supposed to be a beautiful person - one who just shines from the inside out and who can see something positive in every circumstance because they can see God in every circumstance. A real Christian is somebody who is always trying to see more of life from God's perspective, because that's what wisdom is - God's perspective on anything and everything. And a real Christian is somebody who overflows with gratitude because they understand their own spiritual poverty.
Christianity is not about pointing your finger in someone's face and telling them they're going to hell because one of their personal standards is different from yours. Jesus never once did something like that. Christianity is about being a "little Christ" and just shining Jesus to the rest of the world. I hope I never get stuck in legalism again. It all dark there. The focus is completely wrong. You're always terrified of doing the wrong thing or looking the wrong way. There's no Jesus in legalism.
But - Jesus said that He didn't come to make the law void, but that He came to fulfill it...to complete it...to show us what the law really means. God said that His people should be perfect and set apart (holy) as He is perfect and set apart, and He gave the law to set the standard for what that meant. But the problem was that the people thought the law was too hard...they started loosening up the commandments and making the prohibitions a bit more lax, all while paying the right tithes and making the right sacrifices and saying all the right prayers. And God told the prophets over and over that He would not accept the people's sacrifices because they came from hearts that were not pure. So why should we believe that He'll accept our sacrifices today if they come along with unclean thoughts and unrighteous anger and lives that refuse to accept Jesus' peace?? The Bible says that for hypocrites, there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth, remember?
One reason people were so attracted to Jesus was that He taught a different standard with such authority. Jesus didn't get rid of the law. Jesus taught that to obey the law wasn't enough...he taught that the heart was more important...obey the laws, but take it a step further. Not only shouldn't you murder, you shouldn't even have unrighteous anger toward someone. Not only shouldn't you commit adultery, you shouldn't even look lustfully at someone. Not only should you love your neighbor, you should also show love to the people who hate you. Read the Sermon on the Mount...it's full of this stuff. Live for God from your heart first, and what comes out will be natural and beautiful.
I fully believe that the demands of righteousness under grace are far more demanding than they were under the law. And why shouldn't they be? Not only do we have a new standard of holiness, we have the perfect example to follow. What I don't understand is why people think they're free from the law when they're really just throwing themselves back into the lifestyle of the Pharisees...doing all the "right" things to be seen of all the right people. I prefer to keep my heart clean with Jesus' help because I want God's face to shine on me.
I refuse to be a paint-by-number Christian. I'm one of God's originals. :-D
That girl in Switzerland