June 28, 2022

Confessions of a Legalist

Huddled in an outdated home on a chilly December evening, one of many males in our research group requested why Eve fell so simply prey to Devil whereas Jesus stood sturdy. The dialogue stayed with me — haunted me all the best way residence. We had missed one thing, I believed. One thing that mattered.

It hit me urgently later. Most of us assumed Eve had heard God’s taboo towards the tree. She hadn’t — at the very least, not that we’ve any document. God spoke His commandment to Adam earlier than Eve was created, so we will solely assume she heard it secondhand. And her response to the Serpent when he requested what God had mentioned has a captivating part:

“We might eat of the fruit of the timber within the backyard,” she mentioned, “however God mentioned, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that’s within the midst of the backyard, neither shall you contact it, lest you die.’” (Gen. 3:3)

Neither shall you contact it?

The place did that phrase come from?

In Genesis 2:17, God mentioned, “Of the tree of the information of fine and evil you shall not eat, for within the day that you just eat of it you shall absolutely die.” God mentioned nothing about touching, so the place did Eve’s further prohibition come from? Maybe she had added it; maybe Adam had.

And who might blame them? Certainly, by going the additional mile, they have been simply working to maintain themselves secure.

So why do I’ve this horrible concern that “Neither shall you contact it” is probably the most neglected key to Eve’s vulnerability? Might including to God’s Phrase have such horrible penalties? Might related phrases have an analogous impact in different Christians’ lives — in my life?

Devil’s problem was “Did God truly say?” And the reality was, He hadn’t. When she answered, Eve didn’t stand on God’s instructions. She stood on her personal. In contrast, when Devil tempted Jesus within the wilderness, the Son of God persistently responded with the pure Phrase of God. There aren’t any added bits within the Lord’s phrases — and by no means as soon as did He pull in a practice or further prohibition to assist keep off evil. He knew, much better than I do, the sufficiency of God’s phrases.

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Recently, God has been convicting me about dwelling by conviction. I wish to reside my life in keeping with His methods. David wrote, “And I’ll delight myself in thy commandments, which I’ve liked” (Ps. 119:47, KJV). As I reside within the actuality of salvation and beauty, earnestly needing to attract nearer to my Father in heaven, God’s instructions needs to be not simply my commonplace, however my coronary heart’s delight.

However whilst I attempt to observe God, one temptation frequently canine my means. Born of zeal mingled with ignorance and a pure tendency to self-protect, it urges me to hedge myself in with legal guidelines of my very own making. God is way too huge and too free, so I make life safer and less complicated by constructing on His phrases. God says “Thou shalt not eat,” and I add, “Neither shall ye contact it.” Conviction simply slides into legalism because the traces between God’s instructions and my concepts blur. Legalism feels nice once I start to interact in it, but it surely shortly exhibits its true colours.

Blurred Strains

It’s fascinating that the world defines Christians by a number of outward requirements that aren’t strictly Christian in any respect — Christians, I’ve heard, don’t drink or swear, for instance. Is it fallacious to carry such requirements? No, particularly if we perceive the place they’re rooted in God’s instructions — be stuffed with the Spirit, not with wine; let your speech be edifying and pure. However it’s essential to maintain the traces clear between God’s phrases and human decisions regarding them. God has not forbidden drink or the usage of impolite phrases in each circumstance.

The phrases ring in my coronary heart: “I’ll delight myself in thy commandments.” I can’t enjoyment of God’s Phrase if I’m frequently changing it with my very own. God guards few issues so jealously as He guards His message to us. After delivering it to His individuals, He certain them to maintain it intact and unembellished: “You shall not add to the phrase that I command you, nor take from it” (Deut. 4:2).

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Why does it matter a lot that I maintain the Phrase of God pure in my very own thoughts? It issues as a result of it’s the nature of God to free, however the nature of my flesh to bind. It’s the character of God to inform the reality, however the nature of my flesh to lie. It’s the character of God to steer me in good and rising paths, however the nature of my flesh to wander out of them.

Legalism is harmful as a result of it defaces God in my coronary heart. God reveals Himself by way of His phrases. Once I add to them, I add one thing false to my understanding of who He’s. Once I take away from the Phrase, it’s as if God has offered me with a completed puzzle, however I’m decided to take away items. If I lose the road of separation and look at my very own concepts and requirements as flowing straight from God’s character, I do exactly what Aaron did within the wilderness: I soften down my very own possessions, type them within the picture of one thing I perceive, and proclaim, “That is your God.”

But when I refuse so as to add or take away from the Phrase of God — if I settle for God as He has revealed Himself, on His personal phrases and never on mine — I discover myself in a large, free place. “The place the Spirit of the Lord is, there’s liberty” (1 Cor. 3:17, KJV). I discover myself dwelling within the sheepfold of Christ, who mentioned that His sheep would “go out and in and discover pasture” (John 10:9). To dwell in God’s actuality is to not be imprisoned. It’s to reside with the liberty to maneuver, with entry to inexperienced locations the place we might feed, with protecting gates round us every evening.

Choose Not, Lest You Be Judged

Legalism can be extremely damaging to relationships throughout the Physique of Christ. Each time I arrange my very own legal guidelines as equal to God’s, I turn out to be a horrible decide of others — proud, conceited and unforgiving. In Romans 14:4, Paul rebukes those that decide their brethren by requirements God has not set: “Who’re you to cross judgment on the servant of one other? It’s earlier than his personal grasp that he stands or falls. And he might be upheld, for the Lord is ready to make him stand.”

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Once I reject legalism and embrace the Phrase of God — delighting in God’s actuality — I see myself as an equal with each sinner saved by grace. I’m joyful on the salvation of others, compassionate, wiser than I ever was by myself. Greater than as soon as, I’ve come near shedding good pals as a result of I set myself up as a decide over them. And every time, the Phrase itself has proven me the reality and reconciled the relationships.

True To His Phrase

Once I research to see what God’s phrases imply, I attempt to pay particular consideration to what they say. Equally, I look ahead to what they don’t say. I do that as a result of I’m a legalist, and I do know it; as a result of given free reign, I’ll entangle myself each time. God has been adequate to provide me the Scriptures, which every single day minimize away on the bindings I tie round my very own soul. I can sing with the psalmist that my soul “is escaped as a hen out of the snare of the fowlers: the snare is damaged, and we’re escaped” (Ps. 124:7).

Data of God and His Phrase is freedom. Adam and Eve fell after they traded God’s world for considered one of their very own making. In sharp distinction, Christ rejected any idea of actuality that was not attuned to His Father. When Devil tempted Him, He clung to the phrase of God. As I need to cling to it — pure, unadulterated, and releasing.

What has God mentioned? With my Bible in hand, and my inside legalist in verify, I’m on a lifelong quest to seek out out.

Copyright 2009 Rachel Starr Thomson. All rights reserved.