5 Steps to Build a Better Legalist

Jesus directed a large percentage of his teachings in the Gospels against the legalism of the Pharisees and other religious teachers of the day. A legalist is a person who thinks they have earned God’s love and affection based upon either how much they know, how many good things they do, or how many bad things they don’t do.

Now, legalism is the human heart’s problem.  Non-Christians can be legalists but unfortunately Christians are the worst legalists.

Despite the definition of a relationship with God as salvation by faith alone, human hearts are always going to be tempted to look at how good they think they are and think that even if God’s not impressed at least, everyone else should be.  The alternative to the life of legalism of course would be making your lone hope for forgiveness the work of Jesus, trusting only His righteousness and His goodness.

Now, when hearing the two side by side (trusting your goodness or trusting Jesus’) you might ask, “Why would anyone trust their goodness when Jesus’ life of love and perfection is so infinitely better?”

Simply:  we don’t see as God sees.  God sees our heart clearly, and we don’t.

He sees our sinful motives clearly, and we don’t.

And He sees Jesus’ work on our behalf constantly, and we don’t.

You would think that the church would fight harder against legalism, especially when Jesus uses such harsh language against legalists, calling them “a brood of vipers” (Matthew 23:33) and “white washed tombs” (Matthew 23:27).

But I’m afraid the church in America is a legalist factory.  We just keep churning them out.  In fact, we are good at it.  Let me show you it’s done.

Here is the 5-point plan for building a better legalist.

One:  Withhold affection when someone sins or makes a mistake.

Two:  Invent rules for Godliness without either the desire to explain your reasoning or explain their benefit.

Three:  Care more about other’s opinion of your performance than you do God’s opinion.

Four:  Assume what you say or what you do gives you a place of superiority or authority.

Five:  Speak often of others who used to be really good but aren’t any more.

We are so prone to these 5 things, we often don’t see that those types of actions actually blind us from grace and inhibit compassion towards other.  We don’t see that those types of actions are traps that lead to self-righteousness, Christian ghettos, and hardness of heart.  Unfortunately, we are all susceptible to these types of thoughts and actions because we just don’t see our hearts and the hearts of others like God does.

1 Samuel 16:7 For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart

Thankfully, God sees differently than you and I see.  That means that God not only knows the things we think and do in secret, but He can also see all the great things that He is going to do in our lives.

So, when we are discouraged or sad, we can trust that God sees things and knows things that we don’t, and that gives us a great hope as we have faith in Jesus for the forgiveness of our sins.

 

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The Gospel of a Runner’s Sacrifice

Acts of selfless charity are rare these days.  Sometimes, they make the biggest impact, and no thanks is even possible.  It is in those moments, we are most reminded of God’s grace and goodness.

This past weekend, I ran the Emerald Isle Marathon.  My goal was to qualify for the Boston Marathon, and to do that, I needed to run 26.2 miles in 3:24:59.  Along the way, I wanted to honor God, inspire my family/friends, and give hope to other epilepsy fighters out there.

I qualified by less than 30 seconds, and I have an anonymous Good Samaritan to thank.

The Emerald Isle Marathon is small.  There are typically less than 100 runners, and this year, there were only 73.  Despite the race’s size, there were lots of folks helping out along the course to make sure everyone was hydrated and making the correct turns.  That’s where my story begins.

Somewhere around mile 6 or 7, I made a turn, grabbed water on the run, and nearly ran into a young boy on a bicycle.  My first reaction was frustration, but I decided to just keep my head down and not let it worry me.  A few moments later, someone tapped me on the shoulder.  It was a runner who I had just passed.  Apparently, the young boy on the bike was there to make sure that no one missed the turn.  I didn’t know that and had run off course.

I quickly turned around and thanked the runner for her selfless act.  She didn’t have to come after me.  She could have just run her race.  By doing what she did, she sacrificed her time, and I passed her again soon after.  I have no idea what would have happened to me if she hadn’t run me down.  I would have continued in the wrong direction to I have no idea what.  I’m sure I would not have qualified without her help.  As it was, I qualified with less than 30 seconds to spare as it was.

After I crossed the finish line, I looked for her because I wanted to say thank you.  Unfortunately, after an hour of looking at every finisher I could, I never saw her to say thanks.  I hope she finished and met her goals like she enabled me to do.

Showing kindness and being selfless is rare these days.  This runner’s kindness was a sacrifice of her time for the sake of me, a stranger.  In the Gospel, Christ sacrificed Himself for me, and I was something more alien than a stranger.  I was His enemy. And while I will not be able to say thanks to that runner, I want to live my life thanking Jesus and reflecting his selflessness to others…just like that one runner did for me.

If you want to follow more of what’s going on with Gordon, check out the website www.jgordonduncan.com and his recently launched podcast at

https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/this-is-gonna-hurt-the-podcast-of-j-gordon-duncan/id1356352968

Gospel Rich Books

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Gordon Goes To Vegas Part Four – Final Recap

You can read my earlier recaps of Gordon Goes to Vegas at Day One, Day Two, and Day Three.

I woke Day Four in Vegas knowing that it was going to be a long haul ahead.  This day of the 10XGrowthCon was packed, and I was flying all night long back to VA.  But I was no less excited as there were a few of my favorite speakers on the docket.

I began my day with 25 minutes of stretching in the hotel room because I knew I was going to be sitting a ton in the next 36 hours.  Feeling great, I packed up my hotel room and checked out.  Thankfully, one of my three buddies from the day prior invited me to meet for omelets again.  A genuine friendship was established.  We talked about ministry, business, and family struggles and have kept up since the event.  That alone was one of the best takeaways from the trip.

With all that done, I headed into the event. Coach Burt began the day.  Don’t know Coach Burt?  He is a former high school teacher and present social entrepreneur/coach.  I loved him.  He was less, “Let me sell you my product,” and more, “I want to see you grow in each and every area of your life.” His genuineness from a stage to 9,000 people made me examine the way I speak, causing me to wonder if I connect with my 100 folks like he did to thousands.

Tim Storey spoke soon after.  Tim Storey is often called Hollywood’s pastor, preaching each week in the hills and even spending time as Oprah’s life coach.  His message was upbeat, genuinely faith-filled, and inspirational.  I am not much for clichés, but sometimes a crowd just connects with them.  He talked about how, once you achieve goals and move into a new area of growth and faith, you don’t want to go backward.  He said, “Once you’ve touched the flames, you can’t live in the smoke.”  Not how I would say it but, wow, 9,000 people ate it up.  I was fortunate enough to meet Tim later in the day.  He made a point to tell me that he was emphasizing faith in this conference, and he hoped it made an impact.  I believe it did.

Following Tim Storey was Lewis Howes.  Lewis is the host of the “School of Greatness” podcast.  I love this podcast and have listened to nearly episode.  Lewis’ quiet humility and confidence are infectious.  His story of missing out on the NFL because of an Arena Football injury and living on his sister’s couch is inspiring.  His talk was a bit similar to others I have heard, but it was fun and full of energy.  Just by chance, as I was walking around the arena to stretch my legs, I bumped into Lewis.  He and I had a real conversation. Lewis’ father is dying, so I asked how he was doing.  I shared the story of losing my father.  It was a nice moment and probably my favorite of the whole trip.

There were other speakers, but I will admit after 24 plus hours of talks, I was beginning to lose focus.  When the time came, I headed to the airport.  If you paid, there was another day of speakers, but I chose not to pay and stay.  I headed to the airport for the long trip home.  I got through security easily which never happens to me, and I walked around talking to Amy and the girls.  Processing had already started because I didn’t want this to just be another conference without any real change happening.

I settled in for the long wait for my flight.  I was sleepy which made me hopeful for dozing off on the plane.  That wasn’t going to happen.

On my flight, I was stuck way at the back.  After an hour or so in the air, I dozed off.  About 15 minutes later, I woke up with a start.  The stewardesses were literally handing a fellow passenger up over everybody, crowd-surfing style, to the front.  He was unconscious.  Anyone who was still awake (or awoken) was shaken.  I eventually found out that the young man fell into unconsciousness, and they were trying to revive him.  He was reportedly alright.

After what felt like the longest night in the world, we landed.  From landing to home took 2 hours.  With just a tiny bit of sleep, I needed to stay awake for the drive home.  Thankfully, my Uber driver was talkative.  A young Nigerian man, he spoke of faith and opened up about the questions of Catholicism versus Protestantism.  Thankful for the conversation, I still struggled to stay awake.  When he dropped me off at my car (with another 40 minutes of drive time ahead), he kindly asked if I was going to be okay.  I was, but barely.  I got home and slept for 3 hours.

All in all, I’m glad I went to the 10XGrowthCon, and I would like to go next year.  I doubt I will ever find a ticket that cheap again, though rumor has it that the conference will be in Miami which would be nice.  I think the talks and notes will continue to affect me, and I imagine processing them here and on my upcoming podcast, “This is Gonna Hurt”.  Look for it on iTunes.

We’ll see what the long-range benefit of the conference was, but I know I’m changed in many ways from the talks, the sharing of the gospel, the lessons in public speaking, and lots more.

Thanks for reading all of these updates.  Feel free to interact with any thought you might have.

Gordon

You can find all of Gordon’s adventures at www.jgordonduncan.com

Gospel Rich Books

If you would like to learn more about Gospel Rich books, we offer a host of challenging and encouraging resources.  You can find them below:

Gospel Rich Books Amazon Catalog

Gospel Rich Books Blog

And to enable more writers to publish their works, we offer the BestSeller Template which is a publisher ready resource that authors can cut and paste their works into to make them Amazon ready.

Thanking God for the Man After God’s Own Heart

A brief mediation on 1 Samuel 13…

1 Samuel 13:13 And Samuel said to Saul, “You have done foolishly. You have not kept the command of the Lord your God, with which he commanded you. For then the Lord would have established your kingdom over Israel forever. 14 But now your kingdom shall not continue. The Lord has sought out a man after his own heart, and the Lord has commanded him to be prince over his people, because you have not kept what the Lord commanded you.”

I Samuel 13 tells the story of Saul losing his kingship.  In a hasty moment of sin, Saul offered a sacrifice to God that only Samuel the priest should have offered.  Because of this, Samuel tells Saul that God is taking away his kingship and giving it to a man after God’s heart.  We will learn that that man is David.  We can understand it in this way.

Saul lost his kingship, and David took the kingship.

Saul lost his status, and David gained status.

Saul was punished for his sins, and David walked in righteousness.

There is a similar transfer that takes place for those who trust Jesus as He is our man after God’s own heart. Our hope is that Jesus takes our place, but Jesus takes our place in a redemptive fashion.

We didn’t obey, but Jesus obeyed for us.

We earned punishment for our sins, but Jesus was punished for ours.

We deserved death, but Jesus died for us.

We earned the punishment of hell, but Jesus gifts us the reward of Heaven.

Jesus lost his life, so that we might receive eternal life.

Jesus’ obedience gives us hope, so that we can obey and enjoy that hope.

This is all God’s grace to us because we deserve punishment just like Saul did, yet in God’s grace, His has poured grace that gives us hope.

Gospel Rich Books

If you would like to learn more about Gospel Rich books, we offer a host of challenging and encouraging resources.  You can find them below:

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And to enable more writers to publish their works, we offer the BestSeller Template which is a publisher ready resource that authors can cut and paste their works into to make them Amazon ready.

 

 

Spiritual Training Has Greater Value But We Can’t Neglect Physical Training As Well

1 Timothy 4:8 For while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.

Paul makes a wonderful point in this short verse.  He teaches us to value the spiritual training that calls each child of God into greater intimacy with their Savior, Jesus Christ.  Each Christian is called to train themselves in the disciplines of prayer, study, etc. just like an athlete trains themselves to run, lift, and swim faster, stronger, or with greater endurance.  These spiritual disciplines have greater value and have a greater impact on the life of the believer and all who are around them.

But, the Apostle doesn’t devalue physical exercise.  Instead, he reminds us that physical training has value, just not as much as spiritual training.  Why is this so?  Because the body is the temple of the Holy Spirit.  Paul says in 1 Corinthians:

1 Corinthians 6:19 Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, 20 for you were bought with a price. So, glorify God in your body.

We glorify God by how we care for our body.  Again, the greater glory is spiritual, but the body, and our care for it, gives glory to God as well.

Unfortunately, the Christian culture rarely speaks of physical training and care.  Many spiritual leaders are out of shape and don’t recommend any measure of discipline or restraint.  Very few teachers speak on the sins of gluttony.  Even fewer offer Godly examples of what care for the body should look like.

So, while spiritual training has the higher value and greater impact, physical training is important.  If the body fails, spiritual ministry will be hindered and at times, prevented.

Let’s not be those who neglect one truth by over-emphasizing another.  God desires us to glorify Him both physically and spiritually.

Gordon Duncan

Gospel Rich Books, Editor

If you would like to learn more about Gospel Rich books, we offer a host of challenging and encouraging resources.  You can find them below:

Gospel Rich Books Amazon Catalog

Monthly Gospel Rich Journal

Gospel Rich Books Blog

And to enable more writers to publish their works, we offer the BestSeller Template which is a publisher ready resource that authors can cut and paste their works into to make them Amazon ready.