Are Christians today troubled by legalism?
There are two types of legalism prevalent today that are quite similar to the bondage under the law in Paul’s day.
A. There are those who pride themselves in Christian activities such as:
1. Bible reading
Read a chapter every day - (10-20 years) Teach SS
Read Bible thru every year Clean the church
Read Daily Bread — portion Sing in the choir
Regular prayer time
Prayer list 6. Separation
Pray for missionaries Where I go – as a Christian
What I do – as a Christian
3. Church attendance
It is possible to do most of these things as a lost person.
All of these things are good to do – but what is the attitude? Is it a sense of duty – am I exchanging these things for God’s favor? Am I proud of what I do? Does my Christianity consist of doing rather than being? If I were shut up in prison and all activity ceased – where would I be spiritually? Do I really love the Lord? – Is He my life? Is what I do for His glory? Or is it to satisfy the flesh?– Am I living by faith or by works? Galatianism
Just as the legalism of Paul’s day satisfied the flesh, so the self efforts of the struggling Christian today does the same thing
B. The majority of Christians troubled by this kind of legalism are on the other side of the problem. They are troubled over their lack of dedication and accomplishment in the Christian life. The devil says I will bring them under a set of rules – a series of do’s and don’ts – a system at which, knowing their weaknesses, they are bound to fail at trying to do and then I will accuse their consciences and convince them that they are failures. They might as well quit the Christian life for they will never be able to be victorious.
. The problem is we often have the order mixed up – instead of doing as it says in
Gal.5:16, that is, walking in the spirit, so as not to be fulfilling the lust of the flesh, the opposite is true – they are trying to do a lot of works (of the flesh) in order to walk in the Spirit.
Just as Paul said that the law was good – so are these works that the Christian is trying to do. There is nothing wrong with Bible reading, prayer and witnessing in themselves, but when done in one’s own strength in an effort to live a spirit-filled life, they bring us into bondage – for the flesh, as we know, is weak.
What we must learn to do is to walk in the Spirit and we will cease "trying" to do things in an effort to live a life pleasing to God. God hates the flesh. If we don’t succeed in what we feel we should do, we are miserable – if we do succeed, we pat ourselves on the back congratulating ourselves by our achievements and this makes us proud and God hates pride.
Take, for example, something a bit different – trying to lick a bad habit instead of trying to establish a good one. A smoker struggles with a conscience that condemns him – how to have victory – struggles of every kind ensue – finally through patches, gum or sheer will power, the habit is broken, but since the Christian accomplished it in his own strength his condition is worse instead of better.. He is proud of his accomplishment!
Now, how should it be done in the Spirit?
Wuest:– "Be determining every thought, word and deed by the leading of the Spirit through the Word and think every thought and speak every word and do every deed in an attitude of entire dependence upon the Holy Spirit’s empowering energy." "Bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ" II Cor.10:5.
You say this is too hard – not attainable.
But God says:
Phil. 1:21 – "For to me to live is Christ"
Col.2:16 – "And whatsoever ye do in word or deed do all in the name of the Lord Jesus giving thanks to God and the Father by him."
I Cor.2:16 – "But we have the mind of Christ."
I Cor.10:31 – "Whether therefore ye eat or drink or whatever ye do, do all to the glory of God."
Phil.3:15 – "Let as many as be perfect be thus minded."
Col. 3:28 – "that we may present every man perfect in Christ".
Let us be Marys instead of Marthas- Instead of always thinking that the whole purpose for the Christian is to" get busy for God". Let us concentrate on being what He wants us to be. When we are satisfied with loving Him, He may find things for us to do, but there is nothing that says He has to do so. In whatsoever state we are in, we are to be contented. One thing is certain, He does not want us trying to serve Him in the strength of our flesh!