“Look out for the dogs, look out for the evildoers, look out for those who mutilate the flesh. For we are the circumcision, who worship by the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh….” Philippians 3:2-3
“A ‘safe’ life of joy is in knowing Christ…Don’t find safety in legalism.”
Legalism safe? Of course it isn’t, everyone knows that! But, what we know and what we subtly believe and walk out, can often be very different.
I looked up, safe, in the dictionary. The results are making me nervous…
1 : free from harm or risk : unhurt
2 a : secure from threat of danger, harm, or loss
3 : affording safety or security from danger, risk, or difficulty
4 obsolete of mental or moral faculties : healthy, sound
5 a : not threatening danger : harmless b : unlikely to produce controversy or contradiction
6 a : not likely to take risks : cautious
There’s a growing dread in my gut. Yes, I’m busted. If I’m completely honest, I am a practiced legalist. If they gave degrees for legalism, I would have the highest, most experienced degree there is. I know legalism is bad, I know I must fight against it. But, it is a very deceitful sin. It often disguises itself as a good thing. However, that good thing quickly becomes a deadly sin that robs me of all joy.
Subtly I believe that legalism is safe…There is always safety in rules, right? The higher the fences, the easier it is to obey God. There are no risks if I’m controlling my own sanctification. There is no controversy in my soul (or with others) if I’m living a morally perfect life. There is security in knowing that I’ve got it all together and I’m obeying God. And obeying God pleases God, right? And we all know that I want to do everything I can to please God. I mean, if I don’t please Him in every action, then my standing before (not my salvation, I am a Christian after all, I know that has been paid for!) Him is on shaking ground. He may allow me into His presence, but if I’m not perfect, He’ll keep me at a distance…
Ever think that way? That’s how the Pharisees (and most Jews) thought. What did Paul call them? Dogs and evildoers. He warned the Philippians to watch out for people like me. People that put more importance on their own works instead of His final work. I want what requires the least perceived risk. I don’t want to step out on a limb and believe Someone else. I’d rather trust my own ability and merit.
It seems so foolish to believe this way (and it is). But, how often do you and I fall into this trap? Resting in our own perceived ability and merit. When you stop and think, it’s actually quite blasphemous. Legalism is nothing more than looking God in the face and telling Him that His Son’s sacrifice/payment for our sin wasn’t enough. God needs our help, our merit. We’re telling Him that He is not powerful enough to pay for all our sin, He needs our help.
What arrogance. Far from being harmless, far from being safe; I believe legalism is one of the deadliest sins that there is. Not only is it sin, but it is a sin that can affect all sin in my life. The more legalism in my soul, the less sanctification occurs. Killing legalism is (in my opinion) one of the biggest steps towards true, biblical repentance and change. If I stop trying to “be good” and cling to the truths of the gospel, I will change. Whenever I am most enamored with Christ, is when I change the most.