If you were with me during the parables study, you explored how the Pharisees and other experts in the law were often exposed in Jesus’ parables for a form of legalism. They were following the law exactly, and maybe even putting a stricter interpretation that was intended from the law. The problem with that was they were in this relationship with God only for the reward that would come from strict obedience. There was no love involved in their motivation for obedience. I am going to look at the subject of legalism today because there are wonderful brothers and sisters in Christ that are bound tight by the chains of legalism. Of course, God wants obedience; but He wants obedience out of love not out of an attitude of what we’ll gain in the end. Legalism can make it difficult to bear the fruit God wants in our lives. Legalism can lead to disappointment and a crisis of faith.
Please read Colossians 2:16-23; Paul has some very strong things to say about legalism. First, let me remind you that yesterday that we looked at how we were dead in sin (which was exposed by the law) and raised with Christ through our “faith in the power of God, who raised Him [Christ] from the dead,” Colossians 2:12. We are no longer dead to sin, yet why are we accepting judgment based on human standards and not listening to the one Judge that matters? Paul finishes this section of scripture with a very harsh assessment in verse 23, “Such regulations indeed have an appearance of wisdom, with their self-imposed worship, their false humility and their harsh treatment of the body, but they lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence.” You see, legalism may fix a surface, but it does not get at the root of the problem. Our human desires will not go away just because we are following a rule; we need a change of heart that can only come from the resurrection power in Christ. Psalm 51:10 says, “Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit with within me. Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.”
2 Corinthians 3:6 says, “He has made us competent as ministers of a new covenant – not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.” Our hearts change only through the power of Christ; the Holy Spirit gives us the tools to change our behavior and poor thinking. Obedience to God is not the law; obedience to God is an attitude, a change of heart, a desire to please God. I am sorry I have written so many posts on the subject of obedience in our hearts, but I just feel that God keeps putting it on my plate. This is a faith issue. We need to get away from salvation through the law and realize that salvation is through Christ. The motivation to obey changes when we truly believe that Christ holds the keys to our salvation. Following a strict set of rules does not save you, nor does it make you more holy than the person next to you; Christ’s sanctifying power in your life is what you need to embrace.
Are you trusting and believing that your salvation only comes from Christ, or do you need to follow a set of rules to feel justified?