«But he replied, ‘All these years I’ve slaved for you and never once refused to do a single thing you told me to. And in all that time you never gave me even one young goat for a feast with my friends’ » (Luke 15:29, NLT).
If legalism is so dangerous, why is it so common? Because it’s attractive! At first sight, legalism seems easier than reasoning and biblical exegesis; it merely consists in performing a series of requisites. Legalism also makes us feel superior, more scrupulous, and devoted than other people. But, most of all, legalism gives us a false sense of assurance. If we read the Bible, pray, and go to church, we think that then God will protect us. At a basic level, legalism entails us trying to control God through our own efforts.
Legalism is transactional; it does not humiliate us with undeserved grace. Legalism is practical; it narrows any situation down to black and white, thus avoiding cognitive dissonance. «Many of us use legalism as a spiritual crutch,» writes Sharon Hodde Miller in Nice, «preferring neat and tidy categories that don’t require us to think, trust, walk in faith, or get any dirt under our nails.» Though God calls us to pray, read the Bible, and obey, these spiritual disciplines are not tools to control results; they are simply ways in which we draw nearer to God, accepting the mystery and complexity that this entails.
To renounce legalism, we must accept our vulnerability and absolute dependence on God. Opening our hearts to God’s grace implies losing the illusion of control. By definition we can’t «qualify» for grace in any way, by any means or through any action. Thus, it’s understanding God’s grace—in other words, understanding God Himself— that demolishes legalism, says Sinclair Ferguson in The Whole Christ. Grace is the only effective antidote. Grace transforms our image of ourselves and the image we have of God. Grace reveals to us that God is not a punitive, short-tempered being who has to be soothed, but rather a loving Father. God’s grace is a relentless force; we can’t tame or manipulate it. However, if we let ourselves get carried away by its flow, we will discover a freedom and beauty beyond our expectations.
Dear Lord, thank You for saving me through Jesus. Today I accept that I totally depend on You and I open my heart to Your grace.
Please show me the beauty of Your love for me. Amen.