The Season of Legalism
I recently threw away this canvas wall hanging of my husband and I. Right before we moved, I walked down my driveway and confidently chucked it in our large hunter green trash can for the garbage truck to haul off to a landfill never to be seen again.
You probably won't guess why I threw it away unless you're one of the few people who know about my season of legalism.
It is no secret that I adore my husband so why would I throw a lovely picture of us away? Believe it or not, my husband actually agreed that we both got uncomfortable even glancing at this picture hanging on our bedroom wall. It brought back painful memories and represented a season where we were bound by the chains of legalism. I don't even recognize those two people in that picture.
The second that canvas made a resounding "thud" at the bottom of the trashcan, I felt as if I heard a "thud" in my soul. It sounded a lot like a door slamming in the past never to be opened again. It was time to move on, continue healing from the past and start a bright future with God as our guide.
We don't talk about this chapter often. I have written this post many, many times and have not felt ready to publish it...until today!
I want to share our story to help others who are bound by the chains of legalism.
There have been times where I have deleted my words because I was writing them out of a heart of bitterness and not love. A few years ago, when I wrote the first draft of this article, I was so angry and bitter and hurt. I was mainly angry that I let myself be deceived and bitter at the people who helped deceive me.
Today I am not bitter, but heartbroken that so many are still stuck in the chains of legalism that we once were. I want to share my story in hopes that it will encourage you, or someone you love, to get out of legalism and step into the glorious light of Jesus Christ and the FREEDOM that is found in Him.
You can't tell from the fake smiling faces, but we were tired. We wouldn't finally see the light until about a year after that photo was snapped but we were exhausted.
Tired of pretending.
Tired of mindlessly running.
Tired of religiously striving to prove our worth.
Tired of questioning.
Tired of changing for others.
Tired of judging people.
Timothy Keller once said, "Legalism is looking to something besides Jesus Christ in order to be acceptable and clean before God."
When we were knee, or neck-deep rather, in legalism it was all about the outside and the rules. Oh the rules. You had to dress a certain way, only listen to one type of music, never go to certain places and spend most of your time at church functions. If you messed up or didn't follow any of the above rules (and so many others) then you weren't "right with God". Instead of living each day by faith and asking God to give you wisdom on the areas of your life and heart that need work (as the Holy Spirit does when we accept Christ), you were taught to follow a list of man-made rules. It was a spirit of fear and you were constantly worried that God would strike you dead if you messed up in the slightest.
I want to touch on the spirit of fear that atmosphere created. One of my most favorite bible verses can be found in 1 Timothy chapter 1 verse 17:
"For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind."
This verse instantly brings peace to the depths of my soul. Fear is the 'thorn in my flesh' and you know that if you have been a faithful blog follower of mine. Fear is crippling.
The legalistic atmosphere creates the mindset that says, "Okay, if I mess up then God will be mad at me." Or "If I don't follow rules XYZ then I am really not a Christian."
Go to the bible with me for a moment...
Matthew 23:23-28 says, "Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the others undone. Ye blind guides, which strain at a gnat, and swallow a camel. Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye make clean the outside of the cup and of the platter, but within they are full of extortion and excess. Thou blind Pharisee, cleanse first that which is within the cup and platter, that the outside of them may be clean also. Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye are like unto whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men's bones, and of all uncleanness."
That passage is written in red in the bible which are words spoken by Christ.
The man-made rules we had to follow completely took away from the sacrifice Christ made on the cross. He came to save us and the moment we place our faith in Him, we are saved. We can't add or take away anything from His precious gift to us; His blood! On the other hand, do I think that we should live as we please? No!
Galatians 5:13 says, "For, brethren, ye have been called unto liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another."
When we place our faith in Christ, we no longer are slaves to sin. We should desire to live a life free from our sinful ways. Our sins are forgiven when we put our faith in Christ but that doesn't mean that we don't sin daily. Does this mean we have to follow a list of man-made rules? No! I believe that each day we should live and walk by faith and God will guide us. Children of God know when there is sin in their heart that needs to be dealt with. We have God's word to direct us, correct us and protect us. I believe there are things we should and should not do as Christian's but it doesn't have a thing to do with man-made legalistic rules.
It has everything to do with our heart.
That chapter caused deep spiritual wounds that festered and painfully wasted precious time for longer than I want to admit.
That chapter nearly destroyed everything I knew to be true about Christ and His word.
That chapter changed me into someone that I didn't recognize in all the worst ways.
That chapter took three and a half years to heal from.
That chapter took the life right out of my husband and I and made us never want to go back to church.
That chapter taught me a very important lesson; Jesus is who we must follow and not man.
That chapter thankfully closed exactly one week after our daughter was born. Without a doubt, God gave us our 'honeymoon baby' to save us from the chains of legalism. Had Emmeline, our precious preschooler, not been born around that time, we may not have realized that what we were in was religion and not a relationship with Christ. We may not have left as quickly as we did because we couldn't imagine raising our daughter in legalism. We may have allowed the spiritual wounds to grow worse and worse. We may have allowed the chains to completely mangle our arms and legs to the point that we couldn't move forward even if we wanted to.
That chapter closed as they all do.
There is always a new day full of mercies.
We are excited to begin the search for a church family again in our new town. To experience a community of close-knit believers.
All chapters come to an end whether you're sad to see the last period of the last sentence or you are celebrating the ending with an exclamation mark.
If you have found yourself in legalism, I want you to know that I am praying for you. All of the nights you lay awake wondering if you are enough for God, I want you to ask yourself this question.
Do I believe what Jesus did for me on the cross? If you go to Christ and accept Him into your heart; you're enough. You are His. You are safe.
Legalism tells you that you have to tirelessly strive to meet man-made standards. Christ says to follow Him.
It can be scary to leave legalism especially if all you have ever been taught is that God will be mad at you. Be brave and trust Christ over man. We seldom hear from anyone that we used to know in legalism and that speaks volumes in itself.
Doesn't Christ Jesus leave the 99 to find the 1?