Tag Archives: Legalistic

Brennan Manning and Grace

Last week, the Christian community lost one of its more impactful members when Brennan Manning pasted away.  With his passing, blog posts and news articles are looking back at Manning’s contributions and either praising or condemning his message on grace and the Christian life.

I am more saddened than surprised by the reactions towards Manning and his message.

The message of grace is still a difficult message for the church to hear, but I think that is true of most of the messages that can bring about true change in a person’s life.  When you hear about sin and repentance, there will undoubtedly be some who rush forward with the need for grace and mercy as they attempt to justify the acceptance of the person despite the sins that are present.  When someone wants to talk about the overwhelming grace the God provides despite sin, the other side will leap forward with the need for repentance and condemning the message of being part of a false gospel.

Reading through some of the book reviews for Abba’s Child and The Ragamuffin Gospel, you can get a glimpse of the conflict between the two sides.  Unfortunately, this is not limited to the works of Manning as Clark Whitten got a similar treatment with his book Pure Grace as well as Dietrich Bonhoeffer with his book The Cost of Discipleship.

While I understand the motivation of both positions, the conflict goes to show how tightly people take an either or approach to the Christian faith.  It is easier to gravitate to the extremes with Christianity.  When you are in the extreme position, a person does not have to look at both sides honestly to see what is being said.  In the extreme, a person can unknowingly move away from the relationship with God as they embrace the legalism of their position.  Yes, there is as much legalism in those who proclaim grace is all that is needed as those who proclaim the message of repentance and forgiveness.

Grace is one of the more difficult concepts to understand as a Christian. 

I have struggled with my own understanding of grace.  In the beginning, I understood that I was saved not based on what I had done but based solely on the actions of Christ.  Once you realize that there is a standard that God has setup and that there is no chance of being worthy of it, one is left with either accepting the gift of salvation that is offered or rejecting it as it often seems too easy for us.  I mean there is no other god in any religion that accepts a person just as they are and many people cannot get past that. 

The message of grace seems to get cloudy as we move past the idea of God loving us just as we are and try to embrace the message of who we are supposed to be come.  When you finally understand that grace was not free to God, as there was a cost, the desire to perform begins to manifest.  I think most Christians will agree that there is a standard that God has set.  How can we not try to uphold that standard once we are saved?  And if we fail to change and just rely on grace to keep us saved, aren’t we making grace into something it isn’t?  Is grace really just a blanket that we can through over our behavior and disregard any change or growth?

Yes, God loves me just as I am, but does He really want to leave me this way?

My life is a witness to vulgar grace — a grace that amazes as it offends. A grace that pays the eager beaver who works all day long the same wage as the grinning drunk who shows up at ten till five. A grace that hikes up the robe and runs breakneck toward the prodigal reeking of sin and wraps him up and decides to throw a party, no ifs, ands, or buts. A grace that raises bloodshot eyes to a dying thief’s request — “Please, remember me” — and assures him, “You bet!”…This vulgar grace is indiscriminate compassion. It works without asking anything of us. It’s not cheap. It’s free, and as such will always be a banana peel for the orthodox foot and a fairy tale for the grown-up sensibility. Grace is sufficient even though we huff and puff with all our might to try and find something or someone that it cannot cover. Grace is enough…

Sin and forgiveness and falling and getting back up and losing the pearl of great price in the couch cushions but then finding it again, and again, and again? Those are the stumbling steps to becoming Real, the only script that’s really worth following in this world or the one that’s coming. Some may be offended by this ragamuffin memoir, a tale told by quite possibly the repeat of all repeat prodigals. Some might even go so far as to call it ugly. But you see that doesn’t matter, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly except to people who don’t understand…that yes, all is grace. It is enough. And it’s beautiful.

What we miss in the message of Manning and others who preach grace, is that there is a balance.  Through grace, we enter into a relationship with God.  That grace is always there and will always allow us to approach our Father and not fear rejection.  That is the message of grace that the Church has been missing.  Yes, once we are in the relationship with God, we will change.  We will not remain the same person as we were as we begin moving into the person God knows us to be, but the message of grace doesn’t change.  Yes, we will struggle as we walk out our relationship and yes we will sin, but grace still abounds and allows us to approach our Father despite our failures.  That is the message of grace that gets lost. 

The Church has seemed to stop sharing that message of grace as it has unknowingly beaten down the children of God as they stumble.  We have focused so much on not sinning and holding the standard that we forget what allowed us to approach God in the beginning.  We get lost and struggle to be good again so God will accept us, while all the time we could always just approach our Father.  We become legalistic in trying to uphold a standard that we move away from the relationship that sustains us.  We are beaten and broken down and many slowly fail to believe anymore.

While Manning’s message has its share of controversy, we should praise God for the impact He made in Manning’s life and the lives of His children through Manning.

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Tithing Discussion

This is my response to a post at Slaughter of the Sheep on Creflo Dollar and something he said on tithes. I am not supporting what he said, but I was defending the position of tithing. For some reason it surprises me that people reject the concept of tithing so much, but to each their own. I question the intent of not tithing when there is such a legalist approach to defending it. Just say you don’t feel like God wants you to tithe and be done with it. My opinion though. 

Actually the term tithe means tenth, which is the percentage of his increase that Abraham gave to Melchizdek. It is true, that it is only mention once that Abraham gave a tenth to a spiritual authority. It is only mentioned once that Jacob gave a tenth to God as well. But now we have two different people that gave a tenth to God. 

Back track to Cain and Abel, both brought an offering but only one was acceptable. Cain’s offering was not rejected because it was of vegetation, it was rejected in the spirit in which it was given. Abel gave of the first of his increase and gave the best of what he had to give. Abel gave cheerfully where as Cain did not. This is the first offering, so following the Law of Firsts, we will see how God honors the first fruits offering and a cheerful offering. 

Abraham also gave a first fruits offering, following tradition, but he gave a certain percentage to a man who represented God. Another Law of Firsts here. Now he gave a tenth of all that he had, so that would be food, livestock as well as material possessions. Everything else he gave to the government authorities. 

Jacob was a bit different in his tenth. His vow was that he would give God a tenth of all that God has given him if God would be with him and keep him, give him bread to eat and clothing to wear so he could go back to his father’s house. Now you could say that God is our father by adoption and say that this would apply to us if we choose to follow the vow. You can be literal and say this was between Jacob and God and was limited until he returned to Isaac. Your choice. 

You mention Deuteronomy 14:22-29 which is a neat passage. This passage starts out with the tenth being used in a feast with God. You are to celebrate the increase that God gave you with Him. If it is too far to travel with the goods, you convert it to money and travel then buy stuff for the feast when you get to the place where God chooses. You are still taking the tenth and using it to honor God. And verse 29, you give a tenth of all your increase to provided for the Levities. A common theme. The people are to provide for those who represent God in a ministerial function. 

If you want to go back to the establishment of the tithes, being plural, to the tabernacle and later temple it was for the provision of the priests. No money was given them as all was provided by the nation. A national religion. They had no rent or utility payments. There was no need for money. There was not just one tithe. A tenth was given for various sins in addition to the tenth given for the yearly increase. The levities even gave a tenth on the tenth that they were given by the people. The spirit is that a tenth is given from the increase to honor god. A tenth is a significant portion. You later see a tenth being the unite of measurement that the King was to collect from the people as a tax for the nation. The tenths to the priests still continued though. 

We have the most quoted tithing verses in Malachi 3. God is talking about being robbed in tithes and offerings. No longer being limited to just a tenth, we now have offerings added on top of it. Now was God only wanting the money going so the priests could focus on the work of ministering to his people? If that is the case, doesn’t it still hold true for today? Maybe it was the spirit in which people were operating in. Perhaps they were not honoring God with their material possession, instead placing all of their trust in them instead of God. I think Jesus alluded to this somewhere =D 

Now Jesus admonished the Pharisees, the legalistic religious people, for giving exactly what was required for the temple. Neither more nor less. They put more emphasis on following the letter of the law instead of the spirit of the law. They focused on acts that were works based instead of acting out of love and service to others. When the poor woman gave, Jesus pointed out how she gave out of her poverty. The woman trusted God to provide for her. 

There was a money keeper with Jesus and money was given to the apostles for the church. Paul openly asked for money in order to support the church and believers around the world, so giving money to the church is not a bad thing. 

Now back to Abraham. While he only gave once, it was mention twice in the Bible. The man who lived by faith and gave money to Melchizdek who’s priesthood Jesus is from is mentioned twice for such a random occurrence. Interesting. 

I don’t hold that everyone is required to give a tenth of their increase to God in order to be faithful. I hold that God made promises to those that want to honor Him with the tenth plus offerings out of the willingness of their heart. If you don’t want to, then don’t. There is nothing written that says you will be struck down or cursed for not doing so. It is not a sin, unless you put it into the love God with all of your heart, mind, and soul. That is between you and God though and I will not be passing judgment. If you want to defend the fact that the tithe is no longer legally required, make sure you are not taking a legalistic approach in your justification. 

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