Legalism concentrates on morality and a version of obedience because legalistic thinking has determined that while Christ did His part, man must certainly do his. In other words, a legalist’s view of a rightful response to Jesus’ sacrifice must be evidenced by suitable behavior.
While we would all agree that one’s identity in Christ as a New Creation would suggest monumental changes of many kinds, it would be wrong to conclude that God demands certain conduct from us to acquire or maintain our spiritual liberation. To suggest such is to reject grace and turn back to the law.
Good is not the status God is looking for in the procuring of the New Covenant. Go ahead and give it a try if you insist – run after every form of decency, right behavior, modesty and honesty until you have exhausted yourself with “Christian efforts” at godly living.
What will you have accomplished when you have nothing else to give? Answer: failure, frustration, anxiety, insecurity, and hopelessness. Okay, once you have caught your breath and soundly repented, now give it another try until once more you have nothing else to give. No matter how moral you think you have now become, a voice of legalism inside you will inevitably cry out, “You can do better… you must do better!”
Here is a suggestion for the legalists: why don’t you do like St. Simon did in the fifth century for which many in the Catholic Church have admired and elevated to the degree of Sainthood. Climb a 50-foot stone pillar, and stand upon a space three feet square.
Sounds pretty impressive doesn’t it? Surely God would take notice of such a great sacrifice. Wait a minute… no, that wouldn’t be enough to soundly defeat the flesh and impress God, so it was decided that instead of eating three modest meals per day up on that spiritual roost, meals must be reduce to a daily ration of three figs instead. Ah, that should do it!
Yet the flesh of performance and sacrifice was still not satisfied within Simon, so he decided to stay up there on that stone pillar, deciding now to make sure that all women kept their distance, reduced his fig consumption to two instead of three, stood in a prayerful position symbolizing the cross, and did so for 37 years… until he died. Surely God was impressed by such devotion and battering of the flesh.
What extremes will legalists go to in order to “do their part”? What are the legalistic demands upon you? Please, brother and sister in Christ – Jesus’ performance (obedience) perfectly satisfied the Father’s demand for humanity. The law was fulfilled in every aspect by Jesus. Because of that, every believer is now fully accepted by the Father, made righteous and holy by the Son, and positioned blameless before Him in love. Life and freedom are to be received as gifts from God.
So, why not live life in joy, peace, and security? As you do, you will be utterly amazed at the numbers of “stone pillared legalists” around you who continue to strive to earn and keep what God has already freely given in Christ.
By the way, the only one who should be elevated above all the rest is Jesus:
“If I be lifted up, I will draw all men unto me.” (John 12:32)