Legalism...what does that word mean to you? To me, it means having a set of do's and don'ts that are made by humans. Sometimes these rules are based in what we can find in the Bible and sometimes these rules are not found anywhere in the Bible, yet we decided that they would be important to follow. I don't believe that legalism starts out with the desire to be legalistic and binding; I think it starts out with a desire to live pure and holy lives (1 Thessalonians 4:7). The problem is with this way of thinking is that we forget how we are able to live pure lives; we are to be living with the power of Christ in us. The life we live is an extension of what happens when we have the Holy Spirit guiding us and helping us to use God's wisdom. When these rules no longer involve the power of Christ, it becomes legalism and the focus is more on how we live rather than Christ changing our hearts. Yesterday, I wrote about the freedom we have in Christ - absolute, undeserved grace. Let's look at the encouragement Paul gives us about this freedom and how we should react to legalism; please read Colossians 2:16-19.
Do you know the difference between condemnation and conviction? Condemnation is what the world pours on our heads and shames us for doing the wrong thing (or the perceived wrong thing). Conviction is the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives letting us know when we are doing something that doesn't fit in our new lives in Christ. There is no shame, He just lets us know that it is time to change. Another huge difference is the fact that condemnation never gives us the ability to change, in fact I believe that it puts us in bigger chains of shame that makes it even more difficult to change. Conviction from the Holy Spirit gives us the power to change because we know that we are given the strength to do what God wants through Jesus (Philippians 4:13). Paul is letting us know that we do not need to have other people condemn us over whether or not we are following the right rules and making us believe that our salvation comes from how we behave.
The rules that Paul is referring to are part of the Old Testament law. I want to be clear; Paul is not saying that we can and should live however we want, but he is telling us that these rules were put in place to point people to what was to come. He tells us that Christ is the reality. Christ should be the reason we are able to do the things that please God; it isn't about following a set of rules. The grace we receive through Christ trumps all of our failures to comply with the law (which only brings death). It is in Christ that we have life. "...This is a covenant not of written law, but of the Spirit. The old written covenant ends in death; but under the new covenant, the Spirit gives life," 2 Corinthians 3:6. Let's trust and believe in Christ and His sacrifice which sets us free.
Do you believe your freedom is through Christ and not the law?
This post is linked with Thought Provoking Thursday.