Confessions of a Law Addict

I confess. I’m addicted to the law. If you’ve ever read the account of the prodigal son and identified with the older brother, or read the passage about the woman caught in adultery and (if you’re being honest with yourself ) you would have been in the crowd ready to cast stones, you probably are too.

Thankfully, God’s grace provides hope for all of us addicts.

I recently finished reading Pastor Tullian Tchividjian’s book, One Way Love, which is all about law and grace, how they are different and how they work together. It was a tremendous book and a reminder that I fall back into what he calls “performancism” all too often. And when I do, it’s wrong. (If you want to win a copy of One Way Love details are at the bottom of this post).

“[T]here is a difference between taking pride in what we do and worshipping it. When we worship at the altar of performance— and make no mistake, performancism is a form of worship— we spend our lives frantically propping up our images or reputations, trying to do it all —and do it all well— often at a cost to ourselves and those we love. Life becomes a hamster wheel of endless earning and proving and maintenance and management and controlling, where all we can see is our own feet. Performancism causes us to live in a constant state of anxiety, fear, and resentment until we end up heavily medicated, in the hospital, or just really, really unhappy.” Tchividjian writes.

I agreed with his diagnosis that when performancism invades the church or the life of a Christian, the result can be that “we can give people the impression that Christianity is first and foremost about the sacrifice we make for Jesus rather than the sacrifice Jesus made for us; our performance for him rather than his performance for us; our obedience for him rather than his obedience for us.” (One Way Love, Kindle page 68-69)

Do you see the problem?

Unfortunately, for my type-A, to-do list making, control freak self, falling into legalism is easy. Turning Christianity into a bunch of rules to be followed, rather than a life to be walked out in faith and gratitude that all my sins (past, present and future) are already atoned for can be a real challenge.

That’s why I liked One Way Love. I chuckled as well as felt remorse and embarrassment  over Tchividjian’s description of himself as a young believer, because it reminded me so much of my own early years as a Christian.

He writes, “I was a very legalistic young believer. It’s not uncommon for people who have recently undergone a conversion to experience an overzealous phase. In my case, I was trying to protect myself from going back to what I used to be. I wrongly concluded that, although I had been saved and pursued by God’s grace, it was now up to me to erect stringent boundaries and lay down the law on myself and everyone around me— only then would I be able to avoid the pain and self-destructiveness I had experienced before.” (One Way Love, Kindle pages 766-770)

That was also me during my teen years, although for different reasons. I took it upon myself to be some sort of enforcer of God’s Law rather than a communicator of God’s grace (clarification: God’s Law is Holy and just and right. It was the way I handled it that was wrong). My witness would have been more impactful if I’d taken the latter approach and even better if I had communicated both properly in tandem.

There have been some misconceptions floating around about this book. Having read the whole thing I can tell you, Tchividjian does not tear down the Law, rather he affirms it and what the Bible says its purpose is and then shows how the Gospel of God’s grace takes it from there and can inspire obedience out of love and gratitude rather than fear of reprisal.

This book was both convicting and encouraging. It reminded me of how great God’s grace is, and I needed that. It is something I need to remember more often. I liked the book so much I want to share it with someone.

One Way Love Giveaway Details: All you have to do to enter the drawing is leave a comment here on this page between now and July 20th. I’ll announce a winner next week. But if you wouldn’t mind sharing this with your friends on Facebook or on Twitter to let more people know, I’d be grateful for that. Disclaimer: I do not know Pastor Tchividjian, he is not affiliated with me in any way. I just found his book very helpful and want it to minister to someone else.

20 thoughts on “Confessions of a Law Addict

  1. I like this. Ive also experienced this dangerous legalistic view. It’s so easy to fall into the law and merely turn Christianity into a do and don’t moralistic rule book, but doing so misses so much of Christianity, which is a completely reorganized view of reality and how we relate to it. It misses the important part, the heart behind the one who obeys and the heart of a God who is good, the source of good, the only true good. If that book (which it sounds like it does) gets at the fact that Christianity is not about doing things to earn your way to the common misconceptions of heaven, but rather about a God whose presence you to broken and in the wrong to earn your way into and still offers you a path in free of charge for you, despite the inconceivable, cosmic, loving loss he endured as Jesus on the cross. The beauty of that kind of love we live within, and sadly in spite of blows me away! Thanks for sharing!

  2. Entering the giveaway. There seems to be a lot of controversy around this author right now, but I would be interested in reading this. I read his Jesus + Nothing = Everything book and thought it was really good.

    • The controversy was part of the reason I started reading it after I heard him interviewed on Fighting for the Faith. I’ve shared that interview in a previous post if you want to hear it.

  3. It’s funny how we call the parable in Luke 15 the Parable of the Prodigal Son. It’s really the parable of the two brothers. Better yet, it’s the parable of the older brother.
    Legalism is a very real temptation for all of us. I’ve witnessed plenty of it in the church. Unfortunately, we rarely identify with ones like the Pharisees or the prodigal son’s brother. We tend to think that’s “someone else.”

  4. I guess it’s always easy for a child of God to fall into “Phariseesm”, even now as I am convicted of it as a form of sinful pride it’s still daily struggle to love and self examine and correct or rebuke. Great sharing and I do hope to win the book too .:)

  5. I guess quite oftenly a child of God falls into “Phariseesm” Even convicted of it as a form of sinful pride it’s still a daily struggle for me to love and self examine and rebuke or correct with the right attitude. I do hope to win the book too. 🙂

  6. Great book! Heard Pastor Tullian speak at WOF last October. Read the book immediately. I’ve since given 4 copies away. 🙂

  7. I got so much out of the DVD study of One Way Love, though I haven’t read the book yet. The videos changed my entire perspective on myself, helping me to not see myself as having to earn my worth through my job (which I had been doing). Someone at work said something that absolutely shattered me, and it was around that time I was watching One Way Love. I was taught/reminded that God’s grace covers that need to be accepted. I am on the right path because I’m where God has asked me to be. I am His daughter. I am covered in grace.

    Thanks for writing this!

  8. Entering the give away. I read a few paragraphs inn the local Christian book store and it seemed like a great read.

    If it’s anything like his sermons, it’s chock full of encouragement and truth. I’m not affiliated with the presbyterian church (Non denominational), but started listening to him after hearing a clip of his sermon on WayFM Radio. You should listen if you haven’t already.

  9. Pingback: One Way Love: Winner Announced | Steak and a Bible

  10. Pingback: My Five Books of 2014 | Steak and a Bible

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