Free from the bondage of legalism with our Thinking Basket

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Set your heart and family FREE from legalism Are you ready to be set free from the bondage of legalism? Maybe you’re like me -sitting there thinking you don’t have any legalism in your life. I mean, all Christians have to follow some laws and not others. But, I have a secret for you that will set you free from legalism, but first we need to define that term- legalism.

Before I go there, I need to share a little something.

Over the years, I have been reading the Bible and other books to my children and becoming frustrated because I just didn’t see any fruit in their lives. I kept thinking – if they loved me, they would obey me. I mean, that’s what the Bible says – right?  John 14:15 spells it out clearly. Now, you can stop there and think: “Sure, if my kids love Jesus, they will obey him and therefore, they will obey me.” Now, Jesus and God know we are sinners. The Old Testament clearly shows we are all sinful and can’t follow the Ten Commandments and what a beautiful testimony to God’s love. He wrote us a book showing us that, but prophesying about His son, who would (and has) come to cleanse us from our sins. We need to remember that God loves us first, and only he can initiate/fulfill that true love and justification (paraphrase 1 John 4:19). So, what does that have to do with legalism and a thinking basket, right?

Legalism

Well, let’s get back to legalism, but let’s change the name a little. I recently re-learned through re-reading Teach Them Diligently: How to Use the Scripture in Child Training, followed by The Heart of Anger (book and workbook) something about myself and this term “legalism” that I never fully understood. In his books, Lou Priolo explains that there are Biblically Directed and Biblically Derived laws.  

Biblically directed laws are those that God is very specific about: Have no other Gods before God, Do not give false testimony against your neighbor, and you can find the rest.

Biblically derived laws are those rules in your home a child must follow based on something you have read and been convicted by the Holy spirit about. IE: your children are not allowed to watch any television program that you have not pre-screened. This is due to your interpretation of 1 Corinthians 6:19-20. However, another family may say that they aren’t worried about television, but about food – so they eat nothing but organic foods or food they grow. Are either family wrong? If this is something God has placed on their hearts, no. If they take these Biblcially derived laws and tell others they have to follow the same laws/rules – then – YES, they are wrong. Now, that isn’t to say that Christians should not have good, healthy conversations about the Bible and directions you gain from reading it.

But a person should never judge another person or attempt to place them under the same direction they are under. For example, John was never to be given any type of alcohol and his hair was never to be cut. He lived on locusts and honey and wore clothing made of camels hair, but he didn’t walk around telling everyone to do those things, repent and be baptized. No, God had given his parents directions, they knew those directions were for him and his only job was to do what God told him to do for himself and for others. Thinking Basket for Growing Hearts This brings me to our:

Thinking Basket

In The Heart of Anger, Lou Priolo explains how to implement a Thinking Room in your home. It’s  a room for a child to go to to think about sinful behavior, thoughts, actions, etc. There are several things a parent needs to do to help a child in the Thinking Room, but it’s really a place for the child to sit, pray, read and go through some journaling or writing exercises so they can better understand God’s word and his direction for his life. It’s a way for them to really sit and talk with God and giving God a chance to change their hearts. All too often we forget that while we are parents and we are to guide our children, only God can change their hearts. If we could grasp hold of this, really understand that justification comes the moment we submit our lives to Christ (oh, here’s a great video by David Platt about the superstitious prayer that has invaded Christianity) but sanctification takes our entire lifetime, then we can truly grab hold of the fact that being a mom isn’t hard and we are just as much sinners as our children, traveling this journey seeking Jesus every moment we can. Thinking Basket Contents:

This gives the children the tools they need to work through the sin we have identified. It’s become a beautiful time to sit with them and talk about their heart. The moments of anger and frustration from repeated disobedience is leaving our home. a New sense of joy found in sitting together, confessing and repenting is growing new hearts in all of us… If you really want to implement this method of discipling your children and growing your own heart, I highly recommend Teach Them Diligently and The Heart of Anger (book and workbook). So, I want to set you free from the bondage of legalism by giving you the freedom to follow God’s laws in the Bible and the one He gives to you.

Letting go of legalism

And I want to share a conversation I had with my friend Kerry. She and I recently met for a cup of coffee and talked about life and her blog How To Homeschool My Children. She has some great resources there, but she didn’t homeschool all of her children and wasn’t quite sure she should share that. But, I encouraged her to set others free from the legalistic thought process that you have to homeschool and if you do that you have to homeschool all of your children. We are told to disciple our children (Deuteronomy  4-9 is clear about that). However, there is nothing in the Bible that says “Thou shalt homeschool thy children.” But God does direct  parents to homeschool some, all, or none of their children.

Wherever you stand in that spectrum, I want you to remember to always follow God’s direction for your life, not man’s. Look, we’re all on this journey together. Let’s follow the Biblically directed laws with Jesus bearing fruit in our lives and share how God works through us in other ways. But, never let anyone pull you into a legalistic lifestyle with man-made pharisitical laws. That’s dangerous territory in which you please man and not God. If you are a Christian, you have the Holy Spirit and God’s word to help you. Ask for help, grow discernment and know that we all go through phases in this journey. Share love and grace and know that our Heavenly Father sees us and loves us dearly.

Wrapping It Up

Let go of the need to fix or change your children. Grab on to the freedom God gives you by discipling and loving them. Remember, He is the one who initiates the relationship, but that doesn’t free us from our responsibility. We are responsible for what we say, do and think and parents. How our children respond is their responsibility. We can encourage them with love and proper discipleship or we can create barriers through anger and frustration. Which do you choose? OH, take a minute and listen to this great podcast, I know you’ll be encouraged! Yes, you can homeschool all, some, one or none of your children.

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Comments

  1. I think most people who scream “legalism” hardly read the bible. You used the example about two families one who doesn’t worry about what their children watch on television and one that only worries about organic food. The first family apparently has apparently never read the myriad of verses about being careful what you set before you or what you let your thoughts settle on. Usually a family such as this also has lax discernment in many other things (modest dress, language, placing a high value on God rather than self, etc). As I have also experienced, these families also vehemently profess to be Christian but look EXACTLY like the world we are called to separate ourselves from. “Be IN the world, not OF it”. I have had parents lament to me about being so confused as to why their kids “turned from the faith” they were brought up in. The answer that they were never in that faith to begin with, based upon displayed fruit (or lack thereof), never comes across well. Self righteousness abounds in their heart and the first words that come out are ….you guessed it. Legalism!!

    The second family I have never come across where they insist on eating organic foods and telling others they are wrong. There are no verses that deal with that. The other family there are plenty of verses. The problems come in when professing Christians try to hide behind the “well God may be calling you to do that, but not me” Really? So I can pick and choose which verses God meant for me? That sounds a lot like Relativism and it is also a problem that is pervading the church.

    As far as homeschooling, the bible talks about raising up our children in the way they should go. I personally think it’s foolish to send a child to public/private school who you want to raise for Christ and then saturate him in worldliness of said school. I don’t nor have I ever said those families are wrong, but I will quote them something Voddie Bachaum once said “If you send your kids to Caesar for their education don’t be surprised when they come back as Romans.”

    People want to make excuses for rebellious behavior and they will scream legalism at anyone who dares to prick their conscious over it. We are to be as “iron sharpening iron” that shouldn’t be mistaken for “legalism”. Legalism is what the Pharisees practiced, follow every letter of the law without loving their fellow man. Is it “unloving” to point towards scripture when parents ask dumbfounded why their kids are turning away? Why there is no fruit in their life? No. But again, relativism in the church calls it that. To be truly “loving” we must agree and accept whatever trail-mix variety of Christianity they have prescribed for themselves the only problem with that mindset is that it just isn’t correct nor God honoring.

  2. Thank you for sharing this timely truth. We are in the process of reevaluating and reforming our discipleship structure and this was a great reminder of seeking godly direction for our own family through His word, not the opinion of others, nor the conviction of others. Thank you, friend.

    • Lisa, Yes, it’s all about God directing you and your family. While we need others to grow with us through prayer and reading the Bible together – we don’t need to tell others to live just like we do. Seek God. Use His word to do that and to help your children. That’s always the best way.

      I appreciate your sweet comment.

  3. This is a good, balanced, fair post, although I confess the idea of the Thinking Room causes me to recoil. We were intrigued, through the years, how our children absorbed wisdom and truth through much thinking that we didn’t see. We expressed our displeasure with a particular behavior, explained why, and let them go a bit. The added bit of rein allowed them a sense of dignity and control so that they could think through their attitude on their own, without feeling the sense that we wouldn’t accept them back until they accepted our way of thinking. To a certain extent, it is the Thinking Room, but looser.

    We are one of those families mentioned in a comment above that was “lax and undisciplined” about how we raised our children, because what was important to us was that they knew God, sought Him, and understood His truth — by which we did our best to live — but that they did not relate to Him based upon strict obedience to us. We see far too many families, often homeschooling but not always, who place a HIGH priority on complicity and obedience from their children, to the point where the kids say “yes, ma’am” and “no, sir.” This continues as they reach adulthood, and what results, too often, are children who are trained to do what they are told and not ask questions.

    That represents an increasing number of people in our populace, and far too many of them attend churches and do what they’re told, without asking questions.

    It’s a fine line, and you are exploring it — I commend you for your honesty, your humility, and your willingness to go under fire.

    • All great points and when you hear ‘thinking room’ it sounds cold. But if you could see the smiles and laughter that happen as we discuss and celebrate God working on our hearts, it would give you a different picture…

      It’s sad, though – that an initial reaction to an opportunity to sit, pray, read God’s word, meditate on it immediately makes you recoil. When completed in a manner to punish – it most definitely should make anyone recoil. When used as a method to help a child grow in God’s word knowing His love for them gave Him the desire to give us His Bible – as well as His son, then laughter and joy can come from a room with children and parents sitting and identifying behavior in biblical terms. Understanding a sin versus – you did something bad helps us grow accountability to a God we don’t actually see, but we know He is there… and it reminds the children why they (and their parents) need His son so terribly much.

      We need love, grace, mercy and truth.

      I can’t tell you how much I appreciate your comment, Carolyn. I so enjoy your posts and how you break things down…

  4. I appreciate you taking the time to write on a difficult subject. I, too, am a blogger and know that writing certain topics are not always fun!

    I agree with you 100% on the legalistic part, but I feel as though I need to add to that. Just because the Bible does not say, “Thou shalt not…” doesn’t mean it is derived from our own thinking. As long as you are using Scripture as your guide, as you grow in your faith, you can come closer and closer to understanding the heart of God.

    I agree that God may call us all to different things for different reasons. For example, it may not be wrong to eat meat, but God may call you not to do it if it’s a stumbling block to others. Therefore, it would be wrong for you to partake of it….even though it and of itself is not a sin.

    We are certainly led by the Spirit and not by the law, but it’s okay to share how the Spirit has directed our lives. For if we do not have these discussions, others may not learn. They may not be where they should be in their walk with the Lord and thus are not hearing His gentle Spirit’s leading.

    I think it’s okay to say, “this is why I believe Christians to homeschool, and here are the verses that lead me to believe that…”. That’s not judging. That’s being transparent. Now if you were to say, “You’re going to hell for sending your children to public school”, not only would that statement be incorrect, but the person speaking needs to change their heart.

    I often speak on controversial topics because everyone is too scared to. I wish people had spoken about many topics when I was younger. It would have saved me a lot of heartache. I love learning from other Titus 2 women. At the end of the day, it’s my decision to make, but I am not offended when someone says, “I believe you should not have a tv in your home because of this Scripture.” That’s not judging, it’s coming to eachother in love.

    I think many people would share concern with your friend of the dangers of training them at home and sending them into the battlefield alone for 7 hours a day. Now, at the end of the day, she may not agree, but she should be grateful for their concern for her children’s lives.

    I do know there will be many people coming to her strictly from a legalistic point of view, and that’s different. If there is no Scripture to back up their conviction, it should not be discussed. But it also shouldn’t NOT be discussed because it doesn’t say “Thou shalt not…”.

    I think we can look at the Word of God and see many of His characteristics despite not being told of some of them. It all comes back to your heart. But I just don’t want people who homeschool or who don’t watch television to be viewed upon as “legalistic” if they share their convictions.

    If the discussion comes up, I will share my heart on why I believe God has called us to train our children at home, but I would never be condescending to another sister in Christ nor would I be thinking they were a bad person. Because in the same sense, like you mentioned, I have my struggles. I struggle with gluttony, for example. But just because I struggle with sin in my life, doesn’t mean I don’t need to be encouraging others to be edifying.

    Does that make sense? I agree we all have to make our decisions based off of our own convictions, but just because you speak to someone about concern in their life for something they are doing that is not “directly” mentioned as sin, doesn’t mean you’re legalistic. It means you care :)

    • Wow, Lindy!!
      I loved your comment and it has given me a lot to think about!!

    • Lindy,

      Yes, your comment makes perfect sense and it reiterates what I stated (or hoped to state) in my already long post!

      Sharing in love and accepting where one person is on their journey is definitely loving. Telling someone they are going to hell or don’t love Jesus enough if they don’t live this way, eat that, etc is exactly where many people fall into the trap of legalism.

      And yes, we all have struggles. Does that mean we don’t have the right to encourage or help others? Definitely not. Not one person is without sin and I am included in that… When we share our sins, confess and ask for prayer, that opens the door for so much authenticity and it also gives us more opportunity to help others rather than being a judgmental and perfect person.

      I appreciate your comment and truly, it does line up with and add to my post, which I do appreciate. I pray hard over my posts and words and am still being refined in my ability to write and communicate what God has placed on my heart to write and share.

      I value your input and am thankful for it.

  5. Rebecca I have been waiting for this post! Thank you so much for sharing your thinking basket. I need to go back and re-read that part of the Heart of Anger and pull our tools together. I have the Doorpost book and the CTB and VTB but have not been using them like I know I need to. I have had TTD on my shelf for a few years. It’s on my list to read along with Leading Your Family like Jesus over the next few weeks.

    It’s been a long road away from legalism for me and I have been seeing the need to really spend more time in the word with my boys. Spent an hour tonight talking and praying with them about Phil 4:8. It was amazing! They listened and I watched as the Holy Spirit moved them to repentance. Keep sharing the Truth friend. You are blessing me and mine more than I have words to tell :D Love you!

    • LaToya, you bless me with your words. Take your time with your boys and always point to Jesus. They will see us fall short and they need to understand they should live their lives for him.

      We have spent the last week focusing on 1 John and 1 Cor 13 – the two combined are powerful.

      I added a new thought process to our thinking and reading time this week. I’ve had a huge heart leap to celebrate the sin God reveals in me. I realized the beauty in this not long ago and this week when we were sitting and identifying the ‘behaviors’ that were going on in Biblical terms, it hit me – we need to stop sitting with our heads buried in the sand. Yes, we need to feel true remorse for the sin in our lives, but then, when it’s revealed and we can seek forgiveness, we can also celebrate the beauty of that revelation and then seek a full life change powered by the holy spirit.

      Oh, how that has brought more freedom and joy into our home.

      Love you and you – yes, you bless me.

  6. Maybe I’m reading things wrong, but I’m a little wary of the idea that one biblical directive may be for one family and another for another family. That seems an awful like relative truth. The Bible is an absolute truth. There is right and there is wrong. The difference comes with how we interpret things. God may not choose to reveal something through the scriptures to one Christian (or at least not until later) and may reveal it to another (however and whenever and why He chooses to do so), but there is still a right or wrong answer. This is where Romans 14 comes in. We don’t judge or hate another believer because of their lack of wisdom or maturity in the scriptures, we love them and are sympathetic. We do our best to guide them lovingly or be open to their guidance because “iron sharpens iron”.

    • Amber,

      In the book, when Lou Priolo explained the difference between Directed and Derived laws, he shares how one comes directly from the Bible (directed) and the other rules/laws are ones we create based on directions in the Bible (derived). That is why I gave an example about television and food. We need to be careful about what goes into our minds and bodies – through both. But, does that mean that each family is given a specific direction in the Bible not to watch television? No. But, we are told to keep our bodies pure. Some families do not watch television at all, some watch only certain shows and others watch anything and everything. We become legalistic when we cross over and say what everyone must do based on a derived law verses a directed law.

      We have given our children certain rules for keeping their rooms clean based on being good stewards. However, they may not follow those same rules when they leave our home. The same holds true for standards of dress we have now. They are to follow them while they are at home. When they have their own homes, they will decide for themselves.

      So yes, you are absolutely correct. The Bible is an absolute truth. There is sin (wrong) and there is following God’s directions (not living in sin/right). And yes, God does reveal things through scripture to one Christian based on where they are in their growth through meditation, prayer and reading His word.

      And yes, we are not to judge others.

      However, we need to be careful when teaching our children the difference between Biblically directed and derived laws. By teaching a derived law as a command by God, we risk becoming pharisees and move over into legalism….where we may lead them to believe that their salvation is based upon how they dress or what they wear.

      I completely agree with what you are saying and apologize if I caused any confusion or misunderstanding in my post and that this helps clear up your concerns