Intimacy rightly divides greasy grace versus legalism.
Some teach grace and the Fathers love in terms erasing all consequences for the believer. Others teach harsh consequences for our actions as motivation to do right. Rightly dividing this is important to experience real growth. The key is in facing my issues in intimacy with God.
Around a year ago I was attempting a season of fasting and not doing very well with it. A friend pointed out to me how hard I was being on myself instead of accepting where I was at with it, focusing on what progress I was making and seeing what I could learn about myself from the experience.
Shame and condemnation lead to control (being hard on myself). Romans 7:5 says it is law (control) that stirs up the sinful passions of the flesh. Control takes many forms, two prominent ones are 1) being critical and 2) being a perfectionist.
Understanding that legalism is the biblical word for control issues can open up our understanding. We too often have a narrow definition of legalism, considering it in its “hyper” form only. I had a simplistic view that law was bad and grace was good. What I didn’t fully get was that law was a response to my feelings of inadequacy.
However, simply “having grace” on myself was not a full answer either. I can choose not to beat myself up over a poor diet and lack of exercise; never the less, the consequences of heart disease, type II diabetes and many other things will likely occur. I can give myself a break for getting angry in traffic, however, it is still a behavioral pattern that impedes intimacy. I can say I’ve had a long day and decide it is okay to watch hours of TV, however, a prayer-less life that involves little learning of new things has consequences.
The Father’s love really is the answer. But not some amorphous belief He really, really, really loves me. If it hasn’t touched my shame and control issues, it hasn’t gone deep enough. I had viewed my fast as an “all or nothing” proposition (perfectionism). In this scenario, I was unable to walk in meekness. I was too focused on how I was failing, so there was no room for being in a learning relationship with life.
Intimacy occurs when I can embrace where I’m at and allow God to teach me what I need to learn in order to grow. I’m not beating myself up nor hiding from my pain in “grace.” I’m facing my issues a step at a time in Father God’s love.