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The list

June 16, 2009

I have to be honest – this post broke me. Dr. Van sent it out in his “Cogitations 1130 Jne 15 list,” and I was instantly snagged. Please know, I don’t post this to bash any one, any church, any school, any group. I am posting this because I fall into this trap every day. I’ve never read the book, but I am praying that its message would grip my heart and remind me of who I really am every day.


I grew up in a Christian home, had parents who loved me and loved God. I went to church every Sunday, learned all the stories, gave my offerings – even went off to a Christian college. And I loved God – and I still do. But I had a problem – legalism. I didn’t know it was a problem, at least not for a long time.

I was addicted to “the list.” The list was made up of all the things that you were supposed to do and not supposed to do if you wanted to keep God happy with you. Most of the things on the list were good things – some of them even came right out of the Bible. But some of them didn’t. They were passed along to me from several sources, but mostly from the traditions of the church. Since I am not much of a rebel by nature, I had no problem with keeping the list. The problem was what the list did to my Christianity. It became way too much about performance, and not enough about reality. And “spirituality” became more of an issue of conformity than obedience.

And the list led to “the line.” The line was somewhere on the list. When a person kept enough of the list to make it to the line, he could feel good about himself, and about his supposed relationship with God. By measuring up to the line, a person could feel like he was good with God. And he could also feel like he was better than others. Think of it as spiritual arrogance.

But the line led to “the look.” Appearances became the most important part of life. And what was seen on the outside was prioritized over what was happening on the inside. It’s not that things weren’t happening on the inside in my life – they were. But things like peace and love and joy weren’t as important as the Bible says they should be. And no one was judging my spirituality by that.

It got worse. When you are a legalist, you spend a lot of time evaluating others, making sure they measure up. What does their “list” look like? Does their list include all the important things that are on mine? And where is their “line”? Is it up there where it should be? Or can I consider myself superior since my line is higher? And do they “look” like they should? Or can I look down on them for looking better myself? This evaluation was often called “fruit inspection,” when in actuality, it was judgmentalism.

Then one day I picked up a book by Jerry Bridges by the title of Transforming Grace, and that is exactly what happened in my life. I was transformed by finally understanding what Grace was all about. The list? I couldn’t keep one good enough to please God – that’s why I needed Jesus, both for salvation, but then to live the Christian life. And measuring up to the line? It wasn’t making God love me any more – He loves me because of who He is, not what I do. And my concern about looking good? He was more concerned about who I was than what I did. My view of Christianity was changed. It was no longer my doing things to please God, it was my doing things to express gratitude for what He’s done in my life. It’s not about a list. It’s about love.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Kara Bohonowicz permalink
    June 19, 2009 8:50 pm

    Hmmm….I wander onto this just in time to notice that Grace is chasing you down. Grace has transformed my life completely. This article is fantastic. I am a radical grace lover. For more info check out Joseph Prince Ministries online or on church channels. For a long time I have wanted to let you guys know that Grace is the truth of the gospel. The new covenant of grace as opposed to the old covenant of law. Grace empowers us to obey as we realize how loved we are as opposed to trying to obey and fearing punishment. God’s grace makes you read your Bible differently, live differently, see more miracles, have true freedom, see others with Grace, shame and guilt melt away…even physical healings occur when Grace and liberty is preached as Paul did! Hallelujah!

  2. July 5, 2009 2:25 pm

    Awesome thoughts there. Wow.

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