A Prayer for Smug Grace Legalists, Like Me
And the Pharisees and the scribes asked him, “Why do your disciples not walk according to the tradition of the elders, but eat with defiled hands?” And he said to them, “Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written, ‘This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’ You leave the commandment of God and hold to the tradition of men.” Mark 7:5-8
Lord Jesus, these are strong words. What could be more painful and humbling than to hear you say, “You talk about me a whole lot, using plenty of spiritual language and Bible quotes. You’re very quick to recognize and correct false teaching. You’re even zealous to apply what you know to others, but your heart is far from me. There’s an unacceptable disconnect between what you say and who you are.”
It would be one thing if such a rebuke came to us because we were acting like the Pharisees and scribes you publically confronted—spiritual leaders who distorted and misapplied Old Testament law; religious teachers who put your people under the yoke of performance-based spirituality; Israel’s elders who replaced your commandments with their traditions; authorities who were more scrupulous about tithing mint, dill and cumin than “the weightier matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness” (Matt. 23:23).
But, Lord, help us to see and grieve, that we who love the gospel and a theology of grace, can be just as disconnected, hypocritical and rebuke-worthy as any legalist we will ever encounter.
Forgive us for being just as smug with our grace theology as we were obnoxious with our legalistic theology.
Forgive us when we call ourselves “recovering Pharisees” or “recovering legalists” when in actuality, we’re not really recovering from much of anything.
Forgive us, Jesus, when we enjoy exposing bad teachers and false gospels more than we love spending time with you in prayer and fellowship.
Forgive us for having a PhD in the indicatives of the gospel yet failing so miserably when it comes to the imperatives of the gospel.
Forgive us when we are quick to tell people what obedience is not, but fail to demonstrate what the obedience of faith and love actually is.
Forgive us when talk more about “getting the gospel” than demonstrating we’ve been “gotten” by the gospel.
Forgive us when we don’t use our freedom to serve one another in love, but rather use it to put our consciences to sleep.
Forgive us when our love for the gospel does not translate into a love for holiness, world evangelism, and caring for widows and orphans.
Forgive us when we love “the gospel” more than we actually love you, Jesus, as impossible or implausible as that may seem.
Forgive us when the word “gospel” is more of a hyphenated word in our vocabulary than a life-transforming power in our lives. Forgive us; forgive me.
Lord Jesus, change us by your grace and for your glory. So very Amen we pray, with convicted and humbled hearts.