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Has God ever Broken your Legs?

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There is something that shepherds have been known to do to sheep that on the surface sounds brutal and inhumane. If one of the flock (particularly a little lamb) is consistently getting lost and wandering off, the shepherd will find it, break its legs, place it on his shoulders, and nurse it back to health. What happens during the healing process is that sheep learns total dependance on and trust in the shepherd. Because of it’s broken leg, it needs the shepherd more than ever and doesn’t leave his side. More importantly, the shepherd doesn’t leave the sheep’s side.

At first, that causes us to potentially be angry and the shepherd, or offer up other ways to train the sheep. However, if the shepherd continued to allow that sheep to wander, before long, it’s going to be eaten by a predator. By breaking the legs, the shepherd now has the opportunity to keep the sheep safe, but to teach it dependance on the shepherd, which is really the ultimate goal.

By comparison, there’s an aspect of our relationship to our Shepherd that is difficult to talk about, and even more difficult to go through - His discipline. The writer of the book of Hebrews explains it much better than I could:

“And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons? “My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor be weary when reproved by him. For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.” It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.”
HEBREWS 4:5-11

Our world has made discipline an enemy of love, but that passage teaches us that it is the very limitless, extravagant, perfect love of God that fuels His discipline of us. As a matter of fact, the author goes so far as to say that if you’ve never experienced the discipline of the Lord, you’re not a legitimate son or daughter. That means that in all of our efforts to avoid the discipline of God and not talk about it because it’s uncomfortable, we’ve avoided one of the indicators that we are His children!

His discipline is always meant to draw us closer and make us more dependent on Him, which leads to holiness and the fruit of righteousness. It may be painful, but it will lead to your greater pleasure in Him. We may be tempted to get angry at Him or think we know a better way for Him to work in our lives, but if we trust Him and the discipline He brings, it will always result in our ultimate good. If He is able to take all the brokenness and sin of our lives and turn it into something beautiful, how much more can He use His very own work of discipline for our good and His glory?

Has God ever broken your legs? How did you respond? You can be sure that if He has brought discipline in your life, it is because He is the Good Shepherd who desires to give you abundant life. In the meantime, you and I must stop our wanderings and depend fully on Him and His leading in our lives.

How Do I Know if I'm Legalistic?

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We live in a DIY (do it yourself) culture. We have figured out how to create really useful tools out of things like plastic soda bottles. If something breaks in our home, there’s probably a YouTube video out there that will walk us through how to fix it - after the person recording the video tells us their life story and why they love cats of course. Not only that, but if we think we are getting sick, a quick search of our symptoms on Web M.D. will quickly allow us to diagnose ourselves with a disease that will surely kill us.

The point is, in the information age, we have the ability to figure out what’s wrong in our lives and what we can do about it. Can this be done with legalism? I would venture to guess that most of us hate legalism and would be willing to do almost whatever it takes to make sure we don’t become legalistic ourselves. Unfortunately, we all have at least some tendencies that border on legalism in our lives. So how can we know if we’re being legalistic, or if we are actually pursuing holiness? I’ve come up with a list that is not exhaustive, but I think may be helpful in examining ourselves to see if we’ve fallen into this slippery slope that we hate so much.

1. The Joy is Gone.

Maybe our best biblical example of legalism would be the Pharisees and religious leaders in the Gospels. Out of every story we read of these men, you would be hard pressed to find even a hint of joy in their lives. Life for them was about keeping the rules, making sure others kept the rules, and adding to the rules to be really sure nobody broke them. Holiness was not a joy-filled pursuit, but hard work that was not for the faint of heart. If you can’t remember the last time prayer, Bible reading, or Christian fellowship stirred true joy in you, you may be showing signs of legalism.

2. Holiness is a Checklist Rather than a Pursuit.

Most of us have experienced the guilt of beginning a Bible reading plan and not following through. The popular “Bible app” has a feature called “streaks” that shows you how many consecutive days you’ve been in the app. I’m willing to bet that many of us have read the Bible on a particular day just to keep our “streak” alive. Legalism causes us to treat following Jesus like a checklist that ensures God still loves us rather than a pursuit of God. Holiness becomes more about checking a box than checking our hearts.

3. Your Standards are Higher for Others than Yourself.

Legalism asks of others more than it asks of ourselves. It holds others to a standard that we pray God doesn’t hold us to. In this way legalism becomes its own fatal flaw. The more we focus on how others are measuring up, the less we pay attention to our own walk and the further we drift away from the very standards we are holding others to. Pretty soon, our lives are flooded with the sins we spend all our time condemning others for.

4. You Can’t Celebrate Others’ Spiritual Success.

In John 9, the Pharisees spent so much time condemning the man born blind that they never actually celebrated his healing. Their immediate reaction was to ensure that he didn’t “cross the line” by giving glory to Jesus for this healing. While we don’t necessarily handle things exactly like the Pharisees, our legalism can often quench the joy and zeal of others because we never celebrate spiritual victories in their lives. Encouragement of others can quickly starve out our legalism because if we are able to celebrate their success, we won’t have as much time to condemn them for their failures.

5. People have Stopped Asking you for Spiritual Advice.

Jesus says of the legalistic Pharisees that “…they (the sheep) will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers” (John 10:5). Legalism steals from, kills, and destroys others. So why would they continue coming to you when you continue to burden them with guilt and shame rather than pointing them to repentance and redemption? If people avoid you when it comes to spiritual guidance and direction, it might just be because you’ve become a Pharisee, and they are looking for Jesus.

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How loudly are you breathing right now? By that simple question, I have probably made you think about something your body has been doing almost without thought all day. Our lungs fill with air, our heart beats, our organs function, and all our body continues to live often without us even giving the process of life a second thought. God is the giver and sustainer of that physical life. When we are not even considering the functions of our bodies, He is continuing to keep us alive. And there is an even greater life still that He gives to us:

John 6:57 - "As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever feeds on me, he also will live because of me."

It's a powerful thing to say that Jesus came to bring us life (John 10:10). This verse adds another mind-blowing level of glory to that truth. Jesus is saying that in the same way that He has life because of the Father, we have life because of Jesus. We could mine the riches of this statement for all eternity and still only scratch the surface of its beauty.

For those that feed on (believe in) Jesus Christ, they are united with the life of Jesus in much the same way that the life of Jesus is united with the Father, and the Holy Spirit in us is the proof of this (Ephesians 1:13). This is why the concept of the Trinity shouldn't remain in thick and dusty books on theology. The truth and life of the Trinity is at work in us every single day, providing the life and grace that we need to walk in the works that God prepared for us.

This truth is also why you can't find satisfaction anywhere else but in Christ. If your very life comes from Him, then to search for life anywhere else is quite literally a pointless pursuit. It's on the same level of absurdity as eating dirt, hoping that it will sustain your hunger and keep you alive - it won't because it can't. For us to search for life outside of Jesus is as absurd as Jesus searching for life outside of the Father. If you think that language is too strong, you don't quite understand what it means to be in Christ and to "live because of Him."

To make this truth even more encouraging, let me point out also that this is why once we are "in Christ," we cannot lose that position and status. It's not possible for you to lose your salvation because you've been united in Him in much the same way that He is united to the Father. This is just another reason why it's called "Amazing Grace." To believe in Jesus is to be united with Him forever. The reason you can't lose your salvation is because you didn't purchase it in the first place - Jesus did - and He's the "author and perfecter of our faith" (Hebrews 12:2).

What do we do with all of this? Well, there's about a thousand applications of this truth. My encouragement to you would be to rest in it today. Meditate on your life in Christ and what that means for you because of the sacrifice of Jesus on your behalf. Rest in Jesus with more confidence than you place in your heart continuing to beat without your input. He gave you life and He will sustain your life. That's Good News if I ever heard it.

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