Deconstructing Legalism

Note: this post is constantly being edited, but I’m making it public anyway.

Series Introduction:

Jesus’ feelings about legalism are revealed in his dealings with the Pharisees. Jesus railed against the Pharisees. He clearly communicated that their way was not the right way. Why was he so hard on them?  The Pharisees were the essence of what it meant to be devout. Their strict belief in observing the Law caused them to want to not only observe it, but to observe it with such vigor that they would not only forbid themselves from crossing the line, but also to forbid themselves from even approaching the line. Their motivation was their belief that disobedience caused separation from God. Therefore, they committed themselves to not coming close to disobedience. They implemented this belief by creating new restrictions in the hope that such restrictions would insure they did not break the Law. Over time, they began to observe these man-made restrictions as Law. Jesus had a problem with this because they had created a new set of laws that were not from God. They bound on others what God had not bound.

Jesus walked through Galilee teaching a message of freedom from the legalistic worldview of his Pharisaic brothers. Scripture says that he fulfilled the Law with all its requirements. Jesus satisfied the Law by offering himself as the supreme sacrifice – a sacrifice worthy enough to not only cleanse the Jews of their centuries of sin, but also worthy enough to cleanse all people of all cultures through all of time. His sacrifice ripped the veil separating God and man bringing the two together.  Jesus restored humanity’s direct access to God by removing the blood guilt of sin – he made us white as snow. By his sacrifice, we have become God’s children, adopted into his family and made heirs to kingdom which now exists in part and will be fully revealed one day.  Because of all Christ has done, we no longer have to cower in fear of God’s judgment.  We no longer have to hold ourselves to an unachievable standard.  We are free to boldly and with confidence walk into the presence of God as his sons and daughters.  Without fear, we can look directly into his eyes.  With confidence we can point to that man sitting at his right hand – the one with holes in his palms and feet and proclaim that Jesus, the firstborn, has made us spotless for the glory of his father.  And God smiles.

Sadly (and I mean sadly), some in the church have not embraced this message of grace and freedom.  Some have not heard it because it is simply not preached in their churches.  Others refuse to hear it because the message implies that their long held legalistic beliefs are wrong – a realization being too difficult to accept leaving rejection as their only option.  Still others have overtly rejected the message because they simply cannot fathom that salvation could come so easily – as a gift. Lastly, others reject Christ’s freedom because they enjoy control – controlling themselves and others.  They arrogantly see a world where everything is so easily defined and comprehensible.  They love the status quo, their traditions and want to keep their world the same forever.

This series of posts will explore what legalism is and the cultures it creates.  Also, the series will offer a lay interpretation of the psychological affects of a legalistic culture over time.  All of this will be approached from a biblical perspective supported by scripture and personal experience and interpretation.  The goal of this series is not to stir up division, slander brothers or project a sense of personal and intellectual superiority (Lord knows there is far too much of all this already).  Rather, the goal is the opposite of all those things.  I hate division with a passion.  I want for my legalistic brothers to be free from their yoke of slavery to an imaginary law and to experience the joy of life in the kingdom.  And I realize that I have no claim to authority or superiority because my circuitous way out  of legalism was strictly by the direction of God.  Without his leading, I might still be there.  So, this series is intended to rescue and reconcile not rebuke.

Series Topics:

What is the culture of fear that legalism creates?

What does God think about obedience?

What does God want our motivation for obedience to be?

How does God want us to respond to him?

If it is not through the keeping of a set of Laws, what is our response to be?

Where does agreement on doctrine fit into the mix?

What is the difference between life being a journey and life being about the destination?

What is the difference between view the kingdom as a reward to be received later verses the kingdom being something to experience now?

What is  “conventional wisdom” and how did it affected the Pharisees and us?

What is the transformation of the heart through the power of the Spirit?

What is the word of God?

Where is the power of the word of God?

What about the prophesy to make living stones?

What about putting the law on their hearts?

These are some questions I’d like to explore in future posts.  I’ll post these under the “Transformational Living” category.

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