Legalism is a system of thought where rules, expectations and regulations promise God’s love in return for human effort and obedience. Legalism is an attempt by man to justify God’s Love. Under the cloak of Christianity, legalism offers salvation and God’s Love as a reward for performance. Legalism is a spiritually toxic virus, spread by religion, best treated by God’s unconditional and amazing grace.
If your heart is full of bitterness towards others and self-condemnation, could it
be that you have been going about living the Christian life all wrong? God desperately wants to set His people free from legalism. God loves legalists. He hates legalism.
Could you be a legalist and not even know it? Why do Christians fall prey to performance-based religion? Are you convinced that God is mad at you and the only way you can make him happy is by being a better person? Are you convinced that your obedience and performance has some bearing on your salvation? Are you tired of trying harder because it seems that trying harder is never good enough?
I purposely didn’t include any teaching on GRACE in this blog. That is covered in other teachings on this site. I think it important to first face the fact that WE ALL may be guilty of legalism to one degree or another.
So, If you are brave, and prepared to be honest with yourself, take the Legalist test and see how you do.
You might be a Legalist if:
1) God’s love for you depends on what you do, instead of who you are.
2) Meeting the expectations of others, especially those in your congregation or in positions of authority, are paramount.
3) You believe that if you don’t tithe, your other 90% will be cursed.
4) You try hard to obey God and it irritates you that others think they can get away with avoiding the same level of dedication and commitment that you have.
5) You fall short because you don’t have enough faith, or because you haven’t prayed enough, or because you just need to be a better person.
6) God is predisposed to be angry with you because you are a sinner and He knows that YOU know you can do better.
7) Your sense of spiritual well-being is tied to a Christian leader and their opinion, or membership in your church rather than a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.
8) You tell your children not to do something in church or around other Christian families that you allow in your home.
9) You believe that what people wear, hairstyles, piercings or tattoos, is a clear indication of that person’s spirituality and character.
10) After being around Christians for a while you feel drained because you are weary of putting up a false front.
11) When you happen to miss a service or activity of your church, even if it is a valid excuse, you feel guilty.
12) If your ability to receive a blessing from God, such as healing, depends on how you have been performing.
13) If you see Christ as more of a judge than a Savior.
14) If you believe God’s love for you depends on how much love you have shown Him.
15) If you know God’s law but not God Himself.
16) If you think you MUST take a Sabbath once a week.
So, how did you do? Did you find some of these comments describing you? Legalism has been a danger to the church from the very start. it is addressed in the New Testament repeatedly and the book of Galatians is written, almost entirely, to address this point.
We are all susceptible to legalism and we must ever guard ourselves from falling into this trap of wrong thinking.
God’s love is unconditional. Christ has redeemed us from every curse of the law. We are to live a life of the Spirit. laying down our lives daily and taking up God’s agenda, being an instrument of righteousness and an expression of His image….Just like Jesus. This is the path to freedom from legalistic thinking.
Freedom from legalism will only come from relationship with your Father. The greatest thing Jesus did was restore our ability to come before God without guilt or shame. He changed our identity from sinners, to sons and daughters.
Some believers think that having a sin consciousness will help them avoid sin. If they think about their wrong doing, feel the shame of it, carry the guilt of it, then it will deter them from repeating those things. That is purely Legalistic, Old Covenant thinking. That didn’t even work in the Old Covenant. At best sin consciousness only leads to more sinning!
What you focus on you move towards. What you are conscious of, and what you think about, is the reality you create. No wonder we struggle so much with sin. Our mind is constantly focused on it.
Why don’t we try focusing on righteousness? On Christ’s perfect gift of righteousness that He has imputed to us. When we focus on righteousness, grace comes on the scene and moves us towards right living.
Legalism and a sin consciousness is a result of having a law based, legalistic mind. Romans 3 says that by the law is the knowledge of sin. When our mind is law based we will live sin conscious. The focus will be on our flesh, our ability, and our self. Being “self-focused” is in direct opposition to the love of God.
We can’t overcome sin this way? Grace is the answer! Grace is divine influence. As we focus on Christ we open the door for God to influence us. We place our heart on the great potter’s wheel and He gives it a spin, molding us and shaping us into His image. This is faith. This is how we walk in the Spirit and not fulfill the lusts of the flesh. This is how we make a draw on His ability Instead of struggling to overcome sin in our own strength.
If we focus on relationship with Him, practice spending time with Him. Focus on how we can fill your hearts and minds with the word of God. That He has forgiven all our sins, past present and future. That He has made us perfectly righteous with His own righteousness and no sin can make us unrighteous. That He has brought you completely out of a law based relationship with Him and into a grace based relationship with Him. That His love and acceptance of us is not based on our performance but on Christ perfect performance on our behalf. That we have a new nature, God’s very own nature. That we are sons, not sinners. Our consciousness of Him, and His righteousness in us, will grow to a place that crushes our consciousness of sin and delivers us from legalistic thinking.
Our focus should always be on relationship, not works. If we can learn to make that one adjustment, we will flourish in the Kingdom of God.