Wednesday, July 27, 2016

The Heart of the Letter- Study on Legalism



I am about to share with you something I believe God has been warning me against and it was so heavy on my heart today as I sat through Bible study to share because I feel I am not the only one possibly going down the same path. Before I continue, let us pray:
Father we ask that as you teach us through your word, we are challenged to see through your eyes, that we may come to know and understand the true heart behind every law you've given us. That we are not just blind followers of the law but diligent seekers of your heart. In Jesus' name, Amen.


In the past couple of weeks, Bible study at church has been on the "symptoms of religiosity", I won't be going into too much details on religiosity itself but I'll be sharing on one of the symptoms we learned about- LEGALISM. In case you are wondering, religiosity is basically a system that focuses on works to fulfill a certain level of righteousness.

 Legalism according to Wikipedia is an excessive adherence to law or formula. In religious context, legalism is knowing the letter (word of God) without knowing the heart behind it. Now let's back up a little bit here. Does God not command us to keep his commandments (John 14:23) and isn't it supposed to be a good thing to be strictly obedient to God's commands? Absolutely correct.
However, for every law that was given my God, there's a heart behind it and it will be completely counterproductive for us to adhere to these laws and miss the whole heart of it. God cares about the condition of our hearts so much because that is the only thing that can save our souls from eternal condemnation. Am I starting to speak too much grammar? Let me try to break it down some more

Let's take a look at the lives of the Pharisees. These people had so much knowledge about the letter (the word of God) that they even challenged Christ at ever opportunity they had. They were SUPER smart people and their intellectual capability had no limitations. Yet, Christ called these people hypocrites and warned His disciples not to be like them ( Matthew 23) because they were very religious people who completely missed the whole point of salvation. I have found myself,often inadvertently, in such situations where I am working so hard on building my "religious fortitude" that I neglect the simple acts of faith. This is one of the many facets of legalism.

I find it very scary to think that as Christians, we would work so hard for the kingdom of heaven only to just swing past it. Do not get me wrong, this is not in any way reducing the importance of the law and Christ made this clear in Matthew 5: 17 - "I have not come to abolish the law but to fulfill it" Rather this is an admonishment to look beneath it to see why God's desire is for us to obey them. Christ spent most of His time in His teachings to make sure that we are not just blind followers of the law but our hearts are truly being transformed through it into His image.

Legalism is when we slice the Bible into different parts to suit our personal style rather than looking at it as a whole that it is. For example, it is very easy to become legalistic by plainly choosing to follow the ten commandments which is why Jesus expresses the heart behind these commands- to love God and love our neighbors. Understanding the heart behind these laws helps us to be fully committed to obeying them because you know that you love towards God is expressed by not worshiping idols,or using his name in vain and you also understand that when you love your neighbor, you don't murder them or steal from them.

Also, in Matthew 5, Christ preaches against legalism by expressing the heart behind the 7th commandment.Legalism tells you that, as long as you do not sleep with someone else's wife, you are free from adultery, but Jesus tells us that just by looking at another woman lustfully has made you an adulterer. Jesus didn't just say this to raise the bar of righteousness to a seemingly ridiculous level but to show us that the condition of our hearts carries a lot of weight in determining the trend of our actions.

Legalism gives us a one sided view of God, it robs us of the true gift of salvation and it can slowly build acts of rebellion towards God within us.My prayer is that we will be a generation of Christians who diligently seek the heart of God and may He reveal to us every area of our lives that has been contaminated by legalistic ideas.

I believe there's more to say and learn regarding this but I made this post for the sake of brevity and I hope I am able to share more with you at a later time :)

1 comment:

  1. Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think any thing as of ourselves; but our sufficiency is of God; Who also hath made us able ministers of the new testament; not of the letter, but of the spirit: for the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life.
    2 Corinthians 3:5-6 KJV
    http://bible.com/1/2co.3.5-6.KJV

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