A study of legalism #3

26 Dec

legalism (1)Legality is a mechanical and external behavior growing out of reliance on self, because of a desire to gain a reputation, display a skill, or satisfy an urge to personal power.

That is legality. It is religious performance, scrupulous and meticulous in its outward form, but, inwardly, as Jesus described it, “filled with dead men’s bones,” {Matt 23:27}. It is relying on self, personality, background, training, and talent or skill instead of the grace of God through the Spirit of God. And it is operating for and on behalf of one’s own personal glory. 

The thing that is appalling to us is to remember that there is no way to cheat in this matter. God knows our hearts. He sees us as we are and he turns off the power immediately when a legalistic spirit is present, even momentarily, in our life. What we do out of that spirit never produces anything of value in the kingdom of God. We can’t fool him. We may fool others, but we can’t fool him. God acts immediately upon the basis of what he has said he would do, and so legality results always in death.

That is why it needs constant evaluation on our part. You can’t live the Christian life and never take a look at yourself.

If you go on week after week, year after year, never examining yourself, never asking, “What kind of a Christian am I? Where am I before the Lord?” you cannot escape a legalistic spirit. We must always be asking, “What kind of attitudes do I manifest? What kind of disposition do I display to others?” You must ask these questions repeatedly. That is why the Scriptures say, “examine yourselves, whether you be in the faith,” {cf, 2 Cor 13:5}. The life of faith requires this.

Furthermore, it requires an openness to the help of others in this respect. Not only are we to examine ourselves, but we are to let others examine us, because it is amazing how little we can see ourselves. At times we can. We all have moments of truth. You know how they feel. Moments of truth come when you are suddenly aware of what you are. But God doesn’t leave us to depend on these alone. He also gives us the rest of the body of Christ to help us. So pay attention to what others say about you — especially if they say it in love and not in harshness. Listen to their appraisal. They may be seeing something that you are not seeing, and it is important to consider and to face honestly what others make clear to us.

We don’t like that, do we? We all want to deal with God directly. We don’t mind his seeing us. We don’t mind his telling us what is wrong because he does it in secret. But it really gets to us when he chooses to use someone else to do it. As Oswald Chambers says:

“God never allows you to choose the scene of your own martyrdom. If you object to the fingers by which he crushes his grapes, you will never become wine poured out to bless the hearts of others.”

So don’t object to them. Allow others to minister to you and to help you with their insights into your life. That is why we need the body.

Well, then, what is the cure of legality? Suppose you find it in your heart — and we all will. If you can go on week after week and never find any evidences of legality in your life you are utterly blind. There is something wrong with you, because legality is there. It is present. It is always waiting to be manifested at any moment of weakness, and there are plenty of moments of weakness, aren’t there? But what do you do with it when you find it?

The Scriptures suggest a very simple and unfailing remedy: Those who are baptized believers (“in Christ”) …repent and believe — that is all. Repent of it. Change your mind about it. Don’t justify it. Don’t excuse it. Don’t call it something else. Don’t try to cover it up and pretend that it is something acceptable.

You may fool the people around you but you won’t fool God. He knows. So repent of it. Admit it. Say so, openly and freely. And then believe that God has already taken care of it, that death need not follow. Commit it to him and out of death will come resurrection; from death will come life. The moment you acknowledge the death, the resurrection immediately follows — always. God brings to life that which would otherwise be barren and dead. That is the secret of handling legality.

How much grief we would be spared in our lives if we gave people the same liberty we expect for ourselves. We don’t want somebody else to tell us how to dress in order to come to church.

There is no rule in the Bible that says you must wear shoes to church or anything of the sort. I know this is not a problem with us any longer, but there are plenty of places where it is. And I am sure that we have lingering moments of other kinds of legalism. But I am not trying to judge anyone, I simply want to say, “Let’s look at the legalistic attitudes we find within us and judge them in the light of the Word, because legality is death.” Legality is hypocrisy. Legality is phony Christianity. It is a false way to trying to appear right, and, therefore, it is a stench in the nostrils of the God of truth who loves to have people be honest and true as he made them to be. (borrowed)

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Posted by on December 26, 2019 in legalism


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