Keeping Legalism Out of Christianity, part 1

Keeping Legalism Out of Christianity, part 1

Legalism is one of the worst enemies of grace. It tries to steal the joy of salvation. It tries to make us believe that somehow our salvation is depending on something we should do or leave undone. Legalism tries to tell us that if we follow certain set of rules we will be somehow saved.

As human beings we were born sinful; there’s nothing we need to do to stand in need of salvation. There’s nothing we can do to earn salvation, either. But God has already done everything. There’s nothing left for us to do. Except accepting God’s grace and enjoying an intimate relationship with God Almighty.

God went for the jugular when he sent his own Son. He didn’t deal with the problem as something remote and unimportant. In his Son, Jesus, he personally took on the human condition, entered the disordered mess of struggling humanity in order to set it right once and for all. The law code, weakened as it always was by fractured human nature, could never have done that.

 The law always ended up being used as a Band-Aid on sin instead of a deep healing of it. And now what the law code asked for but we couldn’t deliver is accomplished as we, instead of redoubling our own efforts, simply embrace what the Spirit is doing in us. (Romans 8: 3-4, MSG)

In the long run legalism can’t get us doing what we ought to do. No matter how hard we try we just don’t have what it takes to be good and do good. We would like to think so, sure. But if we are honest we also know that there is no way we could do it on our own. The good news is that we don’t have to. God has prepared everything for us. It is up to us receive the gift of salvation and live in the light of salvation.

 Those who think they can do it on their own end up obsessed with measuring their own moral muscle but never get around to exercising it in real life. Those who trust God’s action in them find that God’s Spirit is in them—living and breathing God! Obsession with self in these matters is a dead end; attention to God leads us out into the open, into a spacious, free life. Focusing on the self is the opposite of focusing on God. Anyone completely absorbed in self ignores God, ends up thinking more about self than God. That person ignores who God is and what he is doing. And God isn’t pleased at being ignored. (Romans 8:  5-8, MSG)

Living in grace is about relying on Jesus for everything. The more we are in love with God, the freer life we lead. Then we give all the glory to God and let God be God. We focus on God (not on us) and let him freely dwell in us. We let the Holy Spirit work in us and do actively good things through us.

But if God himself has taken up residence in your life, you can hardly be thinking more of yourself than of him. Anyone, of course, who has not welcomed this invisible but clearly present God, the Spirit of Christ, won’t know what we’re talking about. But for you who welcome him, in whom he dwells—even though you still experience all the limitations of sin—you yourself experience life on God’s terms. It stands to reason, doesn’t it, that if the alive-and-present God who raised Jesus from the dead moves into your life, he’ll do the same thing in you that he did in Jesus, bringing you alive to himself? When God lives and breathes in you (and he does, as surely as he did in Jesus), you are delivered from that dead life. With his Spirit living in you, your body will be as alive as Christ’s! (Romans 8: 9-11, MSG)

Life on God’s terms is a far cry from legalism. We don’t do good things because we ought to do them. We do them as a response to God’s love and grace. If that’s not the case for you bring the matter to God. Let him shower you with his loving grace. Stay in God’s healing presence until the praise starts to flow. God will do the same to you than he did to Jesus: bring you alive to himself! Then it’s not you laboring good works but the Spirit of God working in you and through you.

So don’t you see that we don’t owe this old do-it-yourself life one red cent. There’s nothing in it for us, nothing at all. The best thing to do is give it a decent burial and get on with your new life. God’s Spirit beckons. There are things to do and places to go! (Romans 8: 12-14, MSG)


Gracious God,
We love you and we adore you.
Thank you for the gift of salvation.
Take all the threads of legalism away from us.
Heal us, make us whole in Jesus.
Come and dwell in us.
Change us, renew us, restore us.
In Jesus’ name,

Q4U: Do you struggle with legalism in your life? What has helped you to live in grace?

Be blessed, my fellow pilgrim, as you solely base your life on God’s grace!

Image courtesy of Paule Patterson.

Read “Keeping Legalism Out of Christianity”, part 2.

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