Christ-likeness: Holiness, Not Legalism

Sometimes leaders think that if they just push and pull people hard enough, they'll do what they are supposed to do. What they fail to realize is that if they help people "be" who they should be, people will tend to "do" what they should do. Holiness begins on the inside and works its way out. Holiness begins as an inward reaction toward what God has done according His grace and mercy.
When leaders take a heavy-handed approach toward holiness, people tend to feel burdened down, oppressed, and condemned. -- That's legalism.
A hands-toward-God approach, however, is a Christ-like approach leading to rest, freedom, and deliverance which leads to holiness. -- That's grace.

Holiness should not seem burdensome.

When Jesus said, "take my yoke upon you and learn from me," He meant that He would bear the load when we link ourselves to Him. His approach was not that of a task master for He goes on to say, "for I am gentle and humble in heart." Yoking ourselves to Him releases the burden -- "and you will find rest for your souls." (Matt. 11:29-30)
Legalism puts a burden on people that is too hard to bear (Lk. 11:46). Leaders should be helping people, not further weighing them down.

Holiness should not seem oppressive.

God sent Jesus to redeem people under the law, to make them sons, not slaves (Gal. 4:4-7). "It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery." (Gal. 5:1)
Legalism enslaves people. Rather than being yoked to Christ, they are yoked to a rigid standard that makes people keep trying harder and harder and never getting released. Leaders should be warning people to steer them away from such bondages which stand contrary to life in Christ.

Holiness should not seem like condemnation.

Remember that God sent Jesus to save us, not condemn us (Jn. 3:16-18). He made it clear that no amount of works would make us holy, only grace (Eph. 2:8-9). Reflect on the following verses:
... saved us and called us to a holy life -- not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time. (2 Tim. 1:9)
And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work. (2 Cor. 9:8)
For if you are trying to make yourselves right with God by keeping the law, you have been cut off from Christ! You have fallen away from God's grace. (Gal. 5:4)
For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. It teaches us to say "No" to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age. (Titus 2:11-12)
Do not be carried away by all kinds of strange teachings. It is good for our hearts to be strengthened by grace, not by ceremonial foods, which are of no value to those who eat them. (Heb. 13:9)
If God's grace is both the motivation and means for people to become holy, what, then is the leader's role? Should leaders take a hands-free approach? To the contrary, leaders should be quite proactive in helping the church become holy and blameless according to God's heart.

A Hands-Toward-God Approach Leads Toward Holiness.

Look how the New Testament apostles actively encouraged the people they led to be holy. They took a hands-toward-God approach. Some of the implications for you as a church leader follow:
  1. Pray for the people you serve.
    May he strengthen your hearts so that you will be blameless and holy in the presence of our God and Father when our Lord Jesus comes with all his holy ones. (1 Thess. 3:13)
  2. Be an example not only of holy conduct but also in depending on God's grace to get you there.
    Our conscience testifies that we have conducted ourselves in the world, and especially in our relations with you, in the holiness and sincerity that are from God. We have done so not according to worldly wisdom but according to God's grace. (2 Cor. 1:12)
  3. Help people get beyond living for the moment by presenting a big picture perspective.
    But the day of the Lord will come . . . Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives (2 Pet. 3:10-11)
  4. Help people more fully understand God's grace and mercies and disciple them on where that should take them.
    Therefore, I urge you (parakaleo - to call to one's side), brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God -- this is your spiritual act of worship. (Rom. 12:1)

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