Legalism – The Great Destroyer of Grace and Joy

Hey GCT:  This Sunday in Luke 5 we are going to see Jesus confront those who think that righteousness and acceptance before God comes from something besides Jesus Christ.  Many of us in our fomer years have suffered from legalistic tendencies, or we are still demanding from others more than Jesus does.  Or maybe we are enduring or recovering from the spiritual abuse of someone who is reigning down upon us a legalistic sledgehammer.  That legalistic sledgehammer is never one unto life but to death.  Here are ten evidences of legalism.

Ten Evidences of Living in Legalism

1- Believing that you are made righteous by your own works 2- Attempting to be more like Christ through your own works 3- Believing that your own worth or worthlessness rests upon your own works 4- Attempting to attain godliness by a systematic change in more works 5- Obedience that originates from duty of works not delight 6- Attempting to gain assurance of salvation primarily on the basis of works. 7- Lacking love for people in need. 8- Covering up of sin instead of confessing and repenting. 9- Withholding of grace, love, mercy, and justice to those who need it. 10- Working of deeds to be seen by others. Get the idea?  Legalism is depending upon something else besides Jesus Christ, and that is usually personal works, to be acceptable and clean before God which results in withholding His grace, mercy and love. In Luke 5, Jesus calls a low-life-dirt-bag of a sinner to follow Him.  Jesus says, come follow Me and I will take care of the rest.  Just follow Me and I will make you what I want you to be.  There were no lists that Jesus read out to Levi.  Follow me!  The Pharisees did not like that Jesus was calling a low-life sinner or even that He was hanging around this sinner and his friends.  They wanted this to end.  The Pharisees were quick to put an end to any joyful celebration of GRACE.  The Pharisees did not want any grace given to these sinners.  They needed to be wholly separate from them.  Why?  The Pharisees had forgotten about their own sinfulness.  They had forgotten that we all struggle with sin and we all need a Savior.  Instead they thought of themselves as the super spiritual elite dream team.  They had become a club for the self-righteous and they had lost all sympathy, mercy and justice for those who were chained to habitual sin.  The Pharisees were absent of any hope.  They had developed a belief that salvation comes through separation.  I need to separate myself from sinners to receive salvation.  This is the opposite of what Jesus did throughout His ministry.  Jesus went with Levi to his party with all of these low-life-dirt-bags to celebrate Levi’s obedience in conversion by GRACE through FAITH.  Jesus did not hang out with these sinners approving of their lifestyle or their sinning.  However, Jesus did desire to be amongst such people and share the table and food with such people to show His love and care and grace.  He wants each low-life-dirt-bag sinner in this world (me and you) to know that no one is beyond the redemptive reach of God’s love and grace and mercy.  Meanwhile, what did the Pharisees do while Christ dispensed grace?  They sat in judgement in a vacuum of gracelessness sucking out every crumb of grace that may be present in relationships. Have you celebrated lately Jesus redeeming you from being a low-life-dirt-bag of a sinner? Who would you invite to a banquet that you hosted to celebrate such an event? Are you careful not to associate with anyone who might be on the list of people who are low-life-dirt-bag sinners? Are you comfortable to engage with people who don’t look like you, think like you, or talk like you? Luke at Luke 5:27-32 before Sunday and consider Jesus’ presence at the party.  What was He doing?  Was He more joyful and happy than everyone else there? Let’s be quick to dispense grace and not legalism to those who Jesus has called us to pour out grace upon. I look forward to worshiping with you this Sunday, Steve

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