Fulfilled in Jesus

Our pilgrimage with our Beloved in Japan -- Yoko & Ramone on the journey with Jesus!

Friday, July 23, 2010

What's Wrong With Legalism?

July 14, 2010
Cross-posted at FAJ blog

The problem in "legalism" is not that laws are being kept from the wrong motivation. Every legalist & legalistic system says you're supposed to keep the laws "from the heart" or "out of love". The problem in legalism is that it says we cannot be accepted by God or even make Him happy unless we keep certain laws.

The only antidote is God's grace. Until we can see that our acceptance with God and pleasingness to Him is not based on any kind of law-keeping, we won't be free from legalism, nor will we have rest for our souls. Trying to obey laws "from the heart" or "out of love" is simply trying to make yourself a new heart (the new heart is God's job, not ours).


The deep truth underneath it all is that we're afraid of what will happen if we don't obey those laws. Someone says "God's grace" instead of laws, and we know we need to agree with that, so we quickly say, "Yeah, yeah", but we also decide that whatever "grace" means, the end result of it is that we're going to keep those laws (that grace will help us do it, etc.). The final point is still "the law", because of the terrible fear of what happens if you don't keep it.

This misses grace almost entirely, and above all it misses rest for your soul. It uses grace as a means to keeping laws, in contrast to what the Bible said: the law was meant to lead us to faith (in God's grace), and after faith has come we are no longer under the law. We're still afraid of punishment because we looked at perfect love as a means rather than as an ends. As a result the perfect love of God's grace could only do so much in us; it couldn't cast out all our fears and give us rest.

God gave us perfect love by sending His Son to die for our sins and free us from both the law and the fear of punishment. Jesus died for us long before any of us ever sinned or kept a law, long before any of us were even born. No matter whether you end up believing in Him and being saved or not, God thought you were worth the price of His Son's blood. In other words, completely apart from the law, in His Son's death God has loved you, accepted you, and wanted you.

Yes, He's going to clean you up and make you a better person. But that's not why He loved you, and that's not why He wants to be with you forever (think about it: He's already surrounded by sinless angels). He doesn't accept you because of the new heart He gives you. Instead He gives you a new heart because He has already accepted and loved you. You make Him happy not because of what you do but because of who you are. Not only does He love you, but He even likes you so much that He wants to spend eternity with you!

Gently Broken

"Legalism" is not just "emphasizing the law too much". Legalism is emphasizing the law period, in any degree! Legalism is thinking (erroneously) that your status before God is based on your commandment-keeping. Legalism is trying to make Him happy by keeping a commandment. Legalism is simply not knowing how enraptured and head-over-heels in love God is with you. Legalism is not knowing that He accepts you because of who you are instead of what you do.


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