Legalism is the disease that paralyses Christians who fall short of living in the reality of the new life.
The theory is wonderful, but the practicalities of daily living can be something else. You want to be the best you can be for God. You want to make a difference where you live, where you work, where you are. You really want to know the presence of the kingdom coming out of your life that makes a difference to the people around you. You want to move into the fullness of what God has called you to.
But so often you feel powerless, impotent, ineffective, weak. Faced with the cycle of failure and uphill struggling, you apply the wrong medicine very, very often: I'll try harder. I'll pray more. I'll go to prayer group. I'll get involved. I'll understand the Bible. I'll get more serious about me and God. I'll do more things.
"What happened to all you joy?" (Gal.4:15). This scripture applies to you when legalism is getting a grip on your life. Your joy disappears. Anyone who adds anything to the pure gospel of Jesus Christ actually takes away from it, and when we try to add our own efforts we end up losing what we had. Eternal life is a gift, and it is an insult to the giver to attempt to pay for it.
You who are trying to be justified by law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace. (Gal.5:4)
Falling from grace is returning to a system of religious observance to keep God happy. It comes into all our lives. It is subtle, and it catches you unawares.
Did you receive the Spirit by observing the law, or by believing what you heard? Are you know so foolish? After beginning with the Spirit, are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort?... Does God give you his Spirit and work miracles among you because you observe the law, or because you believe what you heard?... Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us,... so that by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit. (Gal.3:2, 3, 5, 13, 14).
It was not just the Galatians who fell into this trap. There is probably not a Christian on earth who has not at some time found themselves "now trying to attain your goal by human effort."
Previous posts in this series:
Legalism: The Truth
Further posts to come in this series:
Legalism: The Solution
Magic Formulas: The Truth, The Trap, The Solution
Answers to Everything: The Truth, The Trap, The Solution
Scripture Twisting: The Truth, The Trap, The Solution
Superstition: The Truth, The Trap, The Solution
Elitism: The Truth, The Trap, The Solution
The Need to See: The Truth, The Trap, The Solution
Inventing the Individual: Book Review
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