Loathing Legalism (and praying I’m not one in the process)

Thanks Tom for a good word on legalism and the cross on Sunday.  I also got to listen to Kip Green talk to our students about this at 90@9, and both caused me to pause and consider where I’m still the legalist.  Listen to John Piper’s take here, 

“… legalism means treating biblical standards of conduct as regulations to be kept by our own power in order to earn God’s favor. In other words legalism will be present wherever a person is trying to be ethical in his own strength, that is, without relying on the merciful help of God in Christ. Simply put, moral behavior that is not from faith is legalism. The legalist is always a very moral person. In fact the majority of moral people are legalists because their so-called Judeo-Christian morality inherited from their forefathers does not grow out of a humble, contrite reliance on the merciful enabling of God. On the contrary, for the legalist, morality serves the same function that immorality does for the antinomian, the free-thinker, the progressive, namely, it serves as an expression of self-reliance and self-assertion. The reason some Pharisees tithed and fasted is the same reason some German university students take off their clothes and lie around naked in the park in downtown Munich. The moral legalist is always the elder brother of the immoral prodigal. They are blood brothers in God’s sight because both reject the sovereign mercy of God in Christ as a means to righteousness and use either morality or immorality as a means of expressing their independence and self-sufficiency and self-determination. And it is clear from the NT that both will result in a tragic loss of eternal life. So the first meaning of legalism is the terrible mistake of treating biblical standards of conduct as regulations to be kept by our own power in order to earn God’s favor. It is a danger we must guard against in our own hearts every day. And please know that my old self is just as prone to it as anyone.”

Yeah, me too.  I made a list of where I run in my attempt to gain God’s acceptance … it gets rather ucky and deceptive the more “mature” you get 🙂

* Attempting to serve my wife … boy won’t God smile on me when I choose to put her first?

* Counseling the cross to people … He’ll like me more if I talk about the Gospel to others, right?

* My delight in the cross … I mean I’m getting the main thing, doesn’t that earn me something?

* My study, my preaching, my passion … it’s what I’ve given my life to after all, are you watching?

* Humility … yeah, I told you it gets pretty sick.  Humility that I’m not a legalist that I take pride in which squarely puts me in the category of trying to earn God’s favor through something other than the work of Christ.  So the cross centered humility actually gets exposed as self centered legalism, Ugh!

Tom, Kip, Piper – You exposed more of my “in process” heart to me, thanks and “thanks a lot” 😦

Only in the Cross,

Pastor Mark


3 thoughts on “Loathing Legalism (and praying I’m not one in the process)

  1. Pastor,
    Can’t we become a little too introspective in “tinkering with where we are legalistic?”
    If we are asking the Spirit of God to reveal those areas (and He is faithful to do so) can’t that almost become a prideful thing of going around confessing how legalistic we are?
    “It is God that worketh in us both to will and to do of His good pleasure.”


  2. Sure, it can become a “me” focus in an effort to be “God” focused, and yes, we can be so introspective, subjective that we lose sight of the objective reality of the cross, BUT we must be thoughtful, and be thorough to examine our hearts. Sin is deceptive and we want to flee all forms of “legalism” even when it’s dressed up in spirituality and service. Thanks for thinking on this with me!



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s