top of page
  • Love and Liberty

Be Perfect, Not Rigid

“In our wariness of the dangers of legalism, we have forgotten the perils of antinomianism; we have forgotten that the LAW is a schoolmaster to bring us to Christ (Galatians 3:24) and that "by the LAW is the knowledge of sin" (Romans 3:20). Gone is the preaching of moral responsibility that streamed from men like William Booth, George Fox, John Wesley and Charles Finney that made men weep with conviction; gone is the heartbreak of the Psalmist for the honor of God when he cried "Horror has taken hold of me, because of the wicked that forsake Thy law!" (Psalm 119:53; 119:37).

Many sincere men are saying, "God gave us good laws to keep," and in the next breath saying, "we are actually unable to keep them!" If this is true, then God's laws ARE NOT GOOD! No law is good that asks the impossible of its subjects. If God demands obedience to impossible laws then God is not just, for even men do not require obedience to impossible laws. If God demands such obedience under penalty of DEATH, then God is not only unfair, but monstrous. What kind of Being would pass laws upon his subjects they are unable to keep, then condemn them to death for their failure to obey. This is a blasphemy on God's character” (emphasis in the original). ~ William Pratney ~

The popular gospel today, which is not the gospel, is that Christ’s death for our sins removes our obligation to turn from sin to live righteously. The Bible states that no one is righteous in and of himself - that no one is born righteous and automatically lives righteously. Some professing Christians have taken this to mean that we are born with a wicked nature and we can’t live righteously. Both are lies. We are born neither sinful or righteous, we are born innocent, and through sinning we make ourselves objects of God’s wrath. The fact that we have sinned does not mean that we cannot live righteously, it only means that we have not lived righteously. Though the Bible says that without holiness no man shall see the Lord, many professing Christians have been taught to believe that we can be righteous in our “position” before God while we are unrighteous in our “practice.” This teaching cannot be found in the Word of God, only in the words of men. God sees us as we are. The gospel is not a system that covers us while we continue in sin, it is the truth that Christ has overcome Satan, sin, and death and we can enter his kingdom through repentance and submission to Christ as King.

In a separate message recorded years ago, Mr. Pratney stated that so many people think that the life of holiness is about rules, but it isn’t, he said. It is a life of relaxed submission to Christ. Those were wise words. Love is the fulfillment of the moral law. Not love as the world defines it, not a permissive love, but love in the sense of seeking the highest well-being of another. When a person lives this way, his life is not about the burden of rule-keeping, he does what he should because it is right and good. He obeys the Lord gladly; the Lord’s commandments are not burdensome to him. Man has a way of placing burdens on others by making up his own rules and by claiming adherence to his rules is Christianity. There are many modern day Pharisees among us. No wonder so many people want nothing to do with this false depiction of Christianity. However, the Bible clearly commands us when it comes to certain behaviors, and obedience is not optional. People have the tendency to run to the extreme of legalism or the extreme of licentiousness, and neither is acceptable.

I recently acquired a new vehicle for my wife and traded in the family van in the process. Our van was owned by one of those crazy sticker people (me) who has things to say and wants others to hear them. None of the messages on the van were meant to be humorous, they were serious messages pertaining to politicians, abortion, the military, taxation, marriage, etc. While we were waiting for some documentation to be drafted by the dealership, the salesman asked me where we “go to church” (another example of the misuse of the word church in society). I explained how we are not currently associated with an institutional “church” and talked about the sad state of affairs of every “church” I know about. He said something along the lines of me describing myself as “more rigid”. It's not exactly clear what he meant by this suggestion. Certainly I am inflexible when it comes to the need for holiness, but holiness is not about legalism, which I assume he was wrongly equating with Christian obedience. I told him no, I would not consider myself rigid, that in fact there are areas where I think Christians get it wrong when they try to impose their personal rules on others, but that I am serious about following Christ and not playing “church”. I gave an example to show I do not believe in a rules-based Christianity (which is not Christianity) but I do believe in obedience to Christ. It seemed evident to me he had been listening to the easy-believism preaching that is all too common.

Christianity is a radical way of life (compared to worldly living, and make-believe Christianity), yet many think they can live like the world and claim the benefits of Christianity. Involvement in religious activity, a past experience during a church service, or the mere mental dependence on the fact that Christ died is all that is needed in the minds of many. Taking up the cross and following Christ is optional, so they have been led to believe. Many pastors and churches fail when it comes to teaching the Word of God. This can be seen by the lack of teaching on femininity and modesty, the lack of teaching on masculinity and self-discipline, the lack of teaching on having a Christ-ruled home and standing against the State ruled institutions such as the military, public school system, and criminal justice system that promote principles antithetical to Christianity.

I hate to hear people claim we have to move against a performance based gospel, because this is false teaching. People must move away from a man-made rules based gospel, a dead works based gospel, a self-merit based gospel, none of which are the gospel, but the Bible tells us time and time again that being a Christian is not about what we say, or claim, but what we do.

Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity. Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock: And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell not: for it was founded upon a rock. And every one that heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them not, shall be likened unto a foolish man, which built his house upon the sand: And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell: and great was the fall of it. (bold emphasis added)

Obedience is not legalism. Holiness is not rigidity. Discipleship is not a different level of Christianity. A relaxed submission to Christ entails not worrying about the rules and customs of man-made establishments, but loving God and loving our neighbor. When love rather than selfishness, pride, and self-justification lies behind our actions, we will hate sin for its impact on God and others and we will move against it and speak against it. When we have faith that works by love, we will obey the Lord and we will not tolerate sin. We should never be satisfied with anything less than perfect holiness, for without this holiness, no man shall see God.

And when Abram was ninety years old and nine, the Lord appeared to Abram, and said unto him, I am the Almighty God; walk before me, and be thou perfect.

Let your heart therefore be perfect with the Lord our God, to walk in his statutes, and to keep his commandments, as at this day.

….Asa's heart was perfect with the Lord all his days.

And the Lord said unto Satan, Hast thou considered my servant Job, that there is none like him in the earth, a perfect and an upright man, one that feareth God, and escheweth evil?

Mark the perfect man, and behold the upright: for the end of that man is peace.

Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.

Let us therefore, as many as be perfect, be thus minded: and if in any thing ye be otherwise minded, God shall reveal even this unto you.

We will not be perfect in knowledge, and we can make mistakes, but mistakes are not sin. We can perfectly obey according to the light that we have. The perfection commanded by the Lord has to do with having a heart of complete submission to God. From a perfect heart of submission flows perfect holiness. The fact that we have not done this does not mean that we cannot do this. We dare not mock the Lord in saying he has commanded us to do something that is not in our power to do.

Whosoever abideth in him sinneth not: whosoever sinneth hath not seen him, neither known him. Little children, let no man deceive you: he that doeth righteousness is righteous, even as he is righteous.

Be perfect, not rigid.

bottom of page