Have you ever wondered if what you were doing and believing in was what God wanted you to believe in. I have and it is really important for us to know the difference between obedience and legalism because I was caught up in legalism which is a trap set by the devil himself. I believe it is a prominent trap that many people fall into. It is a dangerous one and we need to know what is the difference between the two.
I have heard people say, 'your just a legalistic Christian because you believe in keeping the law, well law and legal kind of go together don't they? Yet, there is something sinister about legalism that is so subtle that hardly anyone knows they are legalistic when they are. I would like to share this subtle but true facts with you and hope that you will understand the difference.
If you are legalistic, you keep the law to the letter. Right? You stop at every stop sign, you keep within all speed limits you practice keeping all right of ways, you don't murder, you don't steal, you don't steal other men's wives or husbands, you don't do this and you don't do that. Is there anything wrong with this type of beliefs? Not really, but there is something missing. Most legalistic people think that everyone else should be doing just as they are doing and if they don't? Well, they are just not a very good Christian, that's all there is to it. Have you ever known anyone like that? I have and the worst part of all that is that I was one of them. How can that be? It's a horrible pit to fall into and such a subtle one that most people that really want to serve God in the proper way, fall into it.
You have heard of how they trap wild animals in the jungle by digging a deep hole and covering it with branches and leaves and moss, anything to make it look like the ground all around the hole and the animals fall into it because they don't see the hole. During the wars in other lands, that's the way they hide the land mines. You don't see them until it's too late. Well, Satan is the instigator of all cruelty and when he sets his land mines to catch you and me, he does it the very same way. He makes it all look so good until you are in his trap and then I suppose he laughs that satanic laugh knowing he has caught another victim.
OK, now it is time to see the other side, that side is the ugly side, the side we are going to talk about now is the beautiful side of our beliefs.
Romans 6:17,18 "But God be thanked that though you were slaves of sin, yet you obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine to which you were delivered. And having been set free from sin, you became slaves of righteousness."
You obeyed from the heart. That is the difference between legal religion and God's religion. It is all a heart religion, love from deep within us to want to obey because we love Him and no other reason. If your beliefs come from the heart, you are wary of the traps Satan has set by studying God's word and knowing that you are safe in doing that. If your beliefs come from the heart you do all the things that your legalistic friends do but your motive is entirely different and you are not critical anymore of the things they do. You share with them out of your love for God and His word and don't criticize their every move and make them feel like they don't want any part of your religion or even want to be around you anymore.
You obey all the traffic laws, you don't want to murder anyone, or steal from anyone or commit adultery, or anything against the laws of the land or any of God's laws either. You are a happy, contented Christian because you are free in your heart to obey out of your deep love for God. You have let Christ come in and make his home in your heart and are not trying to work your way into heaven by your own strength. God's ways are always the best ways and in this case it is the only way to reach our goal which is heaven.
Remember, the text in Philippians 1:6 "Being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ." Who completes it? Is it you or God?
1 Thessalonians 5;24 "He who calls you is faithful who also will do it." Who will do it? Is it you or God?
The difference between Obedience and Legalism is just one thing, in Obedience you let God work in you to "will and to do of His good pleasure" Philippians 2:13. The only work we have to do is to surrender our lives to God and for some that is the hardest work of all. But is the most rewarding work of all. That's when God can come in and do the saving of our souls for us.
Legalism is when you do all the work to no avail, you can't get rid of the sin in your life and you have a very critical spirit about everyone else who is not measuring up to your standards, in fact hardly anyone measures up to your standards and so you hardly have any friends because no one measures up to you. Have you fallen into this trap set by the devil? I have and I am not proud of it, it is a painful place to be, you drive people from you instead of drawing them to Christ. You find fault with everything, if you don't say it, you think it. The love of God lifted me out of the pit that I had fallen in to and God's love will lift you out of it too. The first three words of 1 Corinthians 13:8 is "Love never fails" I would like to leave you with those three words this morning and hope that you will let God's love lift you up out of the pit you are in and set your feet upon the Solid Rock, Christ Jesus. He is waiting to do this, are you willing to let Him? Grandma Joan