Observing the path of spiritual formation in many lives, including my own, it appears that a little legalism goes a long way.
People on a fast track toward following Jesus often manifest a season of tight adherence to rules. They eagerly gather up handfuls of God’s expectations for our lives. They desperately want to leave behind old ways of life that they’re now ashamed of. With route discipline, they tackle their list of improvements with exemplary zeal.
I believe God smiles at the fast progress we make under blue collar legalism. There are plenty of black and white obedience issues in our life that need to be attended to. Like a grade school student who hasn’t formed attentive study habits, or a Jewish nation being given law before grace, rules are a huge asset in early years to get you on the right track.
Knowing that God ultimately wants us to live under faith instead of legal rules, I’m often unsure of how to work with friends engrossed in this phase. Should I embrace them where they’re at, knowing that they are in an odd, yet productive stage of spiritual formation? Should I encourage them with the higher path of formation that comes in the form of faith and freedom? Maybe I should just explain my own journey to illustrate how far strict discipline can and can’t get you?