Choosing Legalism over Grace

Our church is currently in the midst of a series called “Real Life”. The focus is on daily living, what it looks like to be a Christian.  It’s really a study on the book of Galatians. I bookmarked a couple of verses today from the Message:

Galatians 2:20-21

My ego is no longer central. It is no longer important that I appear righteous before you or have your good opinion, and I am no longer driven to impress God. Christ lives in me. The life you see me living is not “mine,” but it is lived by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I am not going to go back on that.

Is it not clear to you that to go back to that old rule-keeping, peer-pleasing religion would be an abandonment of everything personal and free in my relationship with God? I refuse to do that, to repudiate God’s grace. If a living relationship with God could come by rule-keeping, then Christ died unnecessarily.

The last line struck me.  Having lived the majority of my 45 years as a Christian, I still struggle with that. The world around me reminds me every day that it does not operate under grace. It operates under a belief that if you work hard, good things happen and you get exactly what you deserve.  This is likely why we fall into the trap of legalism.  Our Pastor asked, “Why are we so quick to succumb to legalism and yet so easily give up on grace?’  I ask myself that alot.

I also bookmarked Galatians 3:5

Answer this question: Does the God who lavishly provides you with his own presence, his Holy Spirit, working things in your lives you could never do for yourselves, does he do these things because of your strenuous moral striving or because you trust him to do them in you?

These are questions I need to spend some time pondering.

One comment

  • Dean: Thanks for sharing these verses. I think this tendency to buy into / accept legalism instead of grace is a key sign of how powerful “the worlds” influence over our lives, our thinking, and our beliefs is. I’ve been in Sunday school classes before where adults admit their inability to accept the fact that someone who has committed terrible sins in their life (like murder) can still be forgiven by God if they confess and ask for forgiveness. In these cases, people are still focused on a works-righteousness and are unwilling to accept the miracle of grace.

    I agree we need to be asking ourselves this question about why we “succumb to legalism” instead of accepting grace. Grace is one of the most revolutionary concepts in the gospel, and is at the heart of the gospel. Because almost all of the world around us seems bent on reinforcing a moral code based on works rather than grace, it is definitely a tall order to change this way of thinking.

    It seems to me it starts with humility. When we admit we are fallen, when we recognize and admit we cannot DO enough to “come clean” and be reconciled with God for all our faults, bad choices, and mistakes, then I think we can more clearly see our own need for grace. I need to be reminded regularly of my own need for grace, and I need to seek it regularly too.

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