Legalism is not Christianity.
Legalism stresses rules so much that it makes rule-keeping the main thing. It doesn’t work, because it’s a physical answer to a spiritual problem. No matter how many good works you or I line up, God is not impressed. The person who insists that they can earn (or keep) salvation by their efforts undermines the very foundation of Christianity. Charles Spurgeon said, “Morality may keep you out of jail, but it takes the blood of Jesus Christ to keep you out of hell.”
The law demands holiness. Grace inspires holiness.
The story is told of an aspiring artist who was commissioned to do a large sculpture for a famous museum. After laboring over the work for many years, he saw it grow not only in shape but in beauty.
But when it was finished, he discovered that it was much too large to be taken out of any window or door in the building. The cost of tearing down a part of the building to remove it was prohibitive. His masterpiece was forever a captive to the room in which it was created.
That is the fate of all human religion. Nothing a person does to earn God’s favor can leave this earth. Believing it can is a distortion of the truth. Paul warned, “There are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ” (Galatians 1:7).
I share Paul’s unwavering passion and commitment to the clarity of the Gospel of grace. Over my years in the church, I have met people who walked an aisle, prayed a prayer, or asked Jesus into their heart. Meanwhile, they have no idea what the Gospel of grace truly means.
That might be you today. It was me about 20 years ago. As an adult, I realized that I had grown up in the church and placed my faith in Christ, but had no idea what the gospel of grace truly meant. I was still living a legalistic life. I was attempting to be good enough for God based on my own efforts.
TRUTH: You can never do enough good things to get God’s attention.
Remember, they attacked, stoned, and killed Stephen in Acts 6:13. And when they did, they didn’t charge him with worshiping Christ but with speaking “against … the law.” The cross still offends people today for the same underlying reason.
All of us are prone to trust in what we can do for ourselves. We are disoriented and confused when we hear that there is nothing we can do to make ourselves right before God. But that is actually the best news we can possibly receive.
How can you be less legalistic and more gracious today?