Legalism. I know it too well. Clean up the outside and tell everyone else how to “be clean” as well.
Yep. That was my life, for most of my life. I’m learning. I’m stretching. I’m realizing He is the One who does the cleansing. I have nothing good in me…I can do nothing without Him (John 15:5).
God made you alive with Christ, and He forgave all your sins. He canceled the debt, which listed the rules we failed to follow. ~Colossians 2:13-14
From He Still Moves Stones by Max Lucado (What?! Who else did you expect?)
All the world religions can be placed in one of two camps: legalism or grace. Humankind does it or God does it. Salvation as a wage based on deeds done — or salvation as a gift based on Christ’s death.
A legalist believes the supreme force behind salvation is you. If you look right, speak right, and belong to the right segment of the right group, you will be saved. The brunt of responsibility doesn’t lie within God; it lies within you.
The result? The outside sparkles. The talk is good and the step is true. But look closely. Listen carefully. Something is missing. What is it? Joy. What’s there? Fear. (That you won’t do enough.) Arrogance. ( That you have done enough.) Failure. (That you have made a mistake.) . . .
Spiritual life is not a human endeavor. It is rooted in and orchestrated by the Holy Spirit. Every spiritual achievement is created and energized by God.
As a child I was quite fearful of losing my salvation. We had lots of rules. We were known for our “holy lifestyle.” “Gosh”…”golly-gee”…these were curse words. So just imagine what I would think if I had gone so far as to say, “dang it!” *gasp!* Which I did do…one day…while playing tetherball.
I was certain I had lost Jesus at that point. You see, He would not dwell in a heart that bore such evil.
I felt overwhelming shame and fear. I understood I needed to run home and bow down by my bedside and repent. Get it all out. Every evil. And ask Him to return, to come back into my heart, to abide with me again.
Yep. And that’s exactly what I did.
Also, I was quite vocal about letting everyone know if they were following the rules of Christianity correctly. Yep, I did. You can just imagine how many friends I had. The term “goody-goody” fit perfectly and I heard it all day, every day, for twelve years of schooling.
That’s my background. That was my culture.
I’m SO thankful to be past that bondage. I know Jesus died for me while I was a sinner (Romans 5). I know He understands I am but dust (Psalm 103:14). Does that give me a pass to sin more, so grace may abound? May it never be (Romans 6). But it does help me to know, I can’t make myself holy.
He does the work. It is His Spirit in me that moves me closer and closer to His image. Some day, in heaven, I will be like Him (1John 3:2). WOW.
Until then, death to self, but alive in Christ through faith, by grace which abounds.