The Difference Between Legalism and Knowing Him

The judgement of Solomon


When we read the Bible to know what we should do, the Bible becomes our task master.  When we see those not keeping the law as we have learned, we judge them because they don\’t do as they should.  When we see those keeping the law we don\’t keep, we become permissive because we will not judge or add burdens to ourselves.

Jesus Heals a Leper

Knowing Him

When we read the Bible to know Him, we find rest because His yoke is easy and His burden is light.   When we see those who are not doing as we have become, then we\’re not judgmental because we understand that the process of knowing Him is a journey.  We build them up in gentleness and bear their burdens.  When we see those on the same journey, doing more than we have done, we become inquisitive students, because we want to know Him in a new and wonderful way.

Moving Foward

Our Christian heritage is based mostly in legalism.  When you find yourself judging another, step back and judge yourself instead.  Change your ways, take another path.  Find rest for your soul.

Incomplete Recall

Every once and a while you\’ll hear a preacher complaining about the fact the parishioners can\’t remember his sermon.  Somehow, we presume from their commentary on the this subject that if we remembered what they said, then perhaps we wouldn\’t have so many problems.

Never one to let a sleeping dog lie, then I\’ll provide my two cents on the subject.

First, those of us who would fret over whether or not someone remembers what we\’ve taught or preached are in a place of pride.

Seriously.  Just admit it now and get over it.  Dress it up in all of the humble platitudes you care to create, but it\’s still pride.  False humility is still false: it\’s still pride.  If we actually cared for someone\’s well being, then we wouldn\’t mind that people didn\’t remember our sermons.  We\’d simply find another Logos of God to plant in their soul.

So, here\’s the meat:

Recall is not the measurement of impact. Recall is the measurement of memorization.

When we use recall of Biblical precepts and principles as the driving forces of our responses to everyday pressures, then we are close to practicing legalism.

That being said:

Is there anything wrong with learning precepts and principles?

Is there anything wrong with leaning on them when all else fails?

But occasionaly leaning on them is not what I\’m talking about.  I\’m specifically addressing the driving forces of who we are and how we respond.  There are some of us who believe the measurement of spirituality is quantified in the amount of scripture you learn and the skill you demonstrate in applying said scripture to your life.  In my opinion, that\’s just about as close to legalism as you can get.

But is applying scripture to your life wrong?

But if learning and applying the scriptures were all it was about, then the Pharisees would have rocked Jesus\’s boat.  Rather He said,

You search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of Me. But you are not willing to come to Me that you may have life.

You see, it\’s imperative that you know the spirit speaking the Word to you.  Scripture spoken by Satan is not truth:

For He shall give His angels charge over you, to keep you in all your ways.  In their hands they shall bear you up, lest you dash your foot against a stone. (Luke 4:9-13)

So the suggestion he made to Jesus, to just go ahead and throw yourself off the temple and the context of scripture in which he couched it, was not truth, it was a lie.

In the same context, Jesus said:

‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.’”

The problem is that the average preacher will tell you that \”every word\” refers to the Bible.  But that\’s incorrect.  The context is \”every word that proceeds out of\” the mouth of God.  That word \”proceeds,\” is active, present tense.

For if Abraham had only listened to what God said (past tense), then his son would have died.  Consider also that we are to honor our father and mother, but on the other hand, if we don\’t hate them then we can\’t follow after Jesus.  Which is it?  Honor or hate?  If you don\’t understand the word that proceeds out of the mouth of God, you\’ll remain confused.  Living by the spirit and applying the scriptures as He directs, is the key.

The point is that we must learn to live in the spirit.

Therefore, we can observe living the Christian Life in two ways

  1. Memorizing the precepts and principles as best as possible so that we will know what to do when a given pressure of life occurs. 
  2. Being changed (impacted) by the Word of Life so that when pressures arise, we naturally respond in the Spirit without having to recall or think about the corresponding principle or precept.

In other words, in example (1) we do witnessing, while in example (2), we are the witness.

In the first example, we\’re living in legalism, the Old Man attaining to a prescribed standard of behavior. We\’re orphans working to gain an identity and approval.

In the second example, we\’re becoming Christ like, a New Creature, overcoming through the blood of the lamb and the word of our testimony. We\’re Sons/Daughters (we have an identity) working out the Father\’s mission with authority.

So then, obeying for it\’s own sake is not wrong.  It can put us on the right path, but it can stunt us like a Pharisee.   

The point is that there\’s a better way: it\’s called becoming Christ Like, living/walking in the Spirit. 

In any circumstance, we will either respond in the flesh, respond from principle or respond from Spirit.

You want to be in the grouping of the later two, always moving towards the Spirit.

Slaves, Orphans, Sons, Kings and Priests

As a follow on to this post, I would submit for your consideration, the following.

  • A Slave serves from a point of fear, towards the purpose of self preservation.
  • An Orphan serves from a point of loss, towards the purpose of identity
  • A Son serves from the point of identity, towards the purpose of the Father\’s mission
  • A King or a Priest, serves from a point of identity, exercising their authority in humility and service.

 Only the last two describe the Child of God: we are Kings and Priests (Rev. 5:10),  and Sons of God (Gal. 3:26)

Both the slave and the orphan serve for selfish reasons.

Some Reasons Why People are Leaving the Institution called Church

We can\’t categorically suggest that all former institutional church members can be sorted into the buckets I\’ve provided here.  But these are at least two factors to the mass exodus from the institutional organization called \’church.\’

In the video linked below, we observe a congregation who, never owning a copy of the Bible, each receive their own copy.  It\’s made the rounds in various social media forums for several years.

In those forums, someone almost always prefaces the video with a variation of the rhetorical question, \”do you love your Bible this much?\”  The implied answer is \”no,\” and self condemnation of  sin follows.  In this post, I\’m going to put forth two arguments as to why Americans don\’t seem to love their Bibles as much as the precious believers in the video below.

Used as a Tool to Enable Power

In America our view of the Bible is, more often than not, corrupted through the process of it being used for control and condemnation.  This is not a new phenomena: the scriptures have been misused in this way for millennia.  It\’s one of the reasons, outside of the necessity of the printing press, that the Bible remained inaccessible to the common man for so long.  It\’s why King James decreed that ekklésia would be translated \”church\” (a pagan temple) and not congregation or assembly, two words often seen in the Hebrew Bible (OT).

Hence, if you grew up or were indoctrinated in some churches, you could never read or hear the scriptures without a voice of condemnation.  To those people the church represents manipulation and condemnation.  It\’s easy to see then why these people don\’t love, read or revere their Bible.

Principles without Spirit

Most Christians have little or no understanding of walking in the Spirit.  We are taught instead to keep the law as describe by the Pastor – to live by the principles of their interpretation of the Bible.  In this endeavor we are to acquire knowledge of the Bible and it\’s laws.  The more laws you know, the more spiritual you become.  Spirituality is then measured by your ability to act in the correct manner based upon your accurate understanding and implementation of the Bible.

In this framework, the laity is expected to uphold the doctrine of the Pastor and perform within the Church only as the Pastor either dictates or would perform a given function himself.  In this context, the Pastor\’s desire is law, upheld and established by his interpretation and application of the scriptures.

As such, we view the Bible as a list of rules and laws we can\’t keep, as evidenced by repeated failures and corrections.  It begs the question, what\’s the use?

Why the Difference?

The people in the video haven\’t lived through either of those experiences. They\’ve lived only in the Spirit, being taught by God. To come into possession of the written Logos, the Word you\’ve walked with every day, can only be viewed as a blessing; not an opportunity for condemnation nor an iteration of failures.