“Trying to be a perfect Christian is legalism.”
–Guy who spends thousands of hours and dollars trying to take the slice out of his tee shot
There are a lot of Christians worried about legalism. Many have been hurt by legalistic churches and people. I get it.
But much of the reaction against legalism sounds an awful lot like rebellion against God’s Word.
There are many Christians who think that legalism is anytime anyone tells you to do anything that is right. Some have accused me of being legalistic because I actually talk about commands in the New Testament, of which there are many.
When God tells us to do stuff; that isn’t legalism.
Some of the most adamant responses to legalism come from people who are very skilled in their professions and hobbies. Many are people who diligently apply themselves at their craft. They put hours into perfecting their golf swing.
But God forbid you tell them to bring their bodies under subjection when it comes to following God’s Word.
I’m constantly amazed at the people who think spiritual things will just happen. People who think fruit will show up whether you planted or watered anything.
You will reap what you sow. Actions have consequences, which is why the New Testament talks so much about our actions and what we should and shouldn’t be doing.
This makes total sense when it comes to getting a promotion at work, or getting a lower golf score, or whatever else in life. But spiritual things are a giant exception to the rule somehow.
Yes, I know apart from Christ we can do nothing. I’m fully aware. But see, with Christ, you can do all things through Christ who strengthens you. Doing all things sort of requires that we “do” things. Doing things will require some effort on our part. Maybe even some discipline and practice. Maybe a little bit of self-control.
This isn’t legalism, works righteousness, or meriting grace. It’s simply a matter of using what we’ve been given in Christ.
The most legalistic golfers, hunters, knitters, and workers are often the most anti-legalistic people spiritually. They are also frequently the ones who wonder why they have no spiritual fruit. How come nothing is happening spiritually?
The adamancy that people use in defending their laziness is astounding. The justifications used to prove that we don’t have to listen to God are mind-blowing.
I think that the time and energy used to make the Bible say we shouldn’t listen to the Bible, would be better spent by simply listening to what the Bible says.
I am massively worn out by lazy Christians. And completely done with lazy Christians who use the Bible to defend their laziness. I’m not saying every verse in the Bible tells us to achieve by self-effort, but I am saying that there are plenty of verses that talk about diligence, zeal, effort, work, discipline, servanthood, etc.
In arguing against one theological abuse, it is important not to veer into the exact opposite theological abuse. Legalism is bad. Laziness and spiritual apathy are bad. Legalism is not the answer to spiritual apathy and laziness. Nor is spiritual apathy and laziness the answer to legalism.
The answer to both issues is to remember that we will stand before God someday to give an account for every deed done in the body whether it be good or bad. Live as though this were true. That will keep you from both errors quite nicely.
But by the grace of God I am what I am: and his grace which was bestowed upon me was not in vain; but I labored more abundantly than they all: yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me.
–1 Corinthians 15:10