Legalism: Part 1
Are you ready for some good news?
Legalism is like a weird spell. The law draws people in. It tantalizes, allures and captures. The Gospel breaks the spell.
Paul is shocked that the Galatian Christians could lapse back to the law when they had been filled with the Spirit:
“O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? It was before your eyes that Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified. Let me ask you only this: Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith? Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?” (Galatians 3:1–3, ESV)
Part of the allure of the law is the false hope that we can change if we just have more rigorous requirements placed upon us. But it’s a lie. The law has no power to change you.
Here are the three most hopeful words I know: God loves you. He loved you before you ever knew him. He loved you before you ever called on Him, before you’d ever been obedient, while you were still an enemy. He loved you so much that He sent His only Son to die for you. He loves you. You can’t add to His love or take away from His love. There’s nothing you can do to make Him love you more or love you less. It’s a fact.
The second three most hopeful words I know: You can change. The problems that you keep stumbling into, the sins that so easily entangle you, the ways of thinking that have built bondage in your life, and the things that have robbed you of joy do not have to continue in the future. You can change. You can be conformed more and more to the image of Christ.
God loves you. You can change. The order of those two statements is essential. You can change because God loves you. When we get the order of that backwards, which most of us, whether Christian or non-Christian, do to some extent, we begin to think that if we are obedient, God will love us more. At that point, we become bewitched, entranced, and deceived, and we fall into a scheme of hell. The truth of the Gospel is that love produces obedience, but obedience does not produce love. Obedience is fueled by the love of God. Obedience does not earn the love of God.
God loves you. You can change. And that’s the Gospel!
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