If a married man were to go on a business trip to a different country, and one night after work whilst he was sitting in a pub sipping a drink he was approached by a very attractive woman with “cruel intentions”, what do you think will be this man’s motive for staying true to his wife? The ring on his finger? The piece of paper that he signed on his wedding day? No!! These external things will never keep a person from committing adultery. The strongest motivation for the husband to remain true to his wife would be if he loved her.
It is exactly the same with Christians and holy living. The fact that a Christian ought to love their neighbor simply because the Bible says so, is not enough motivation for them to actually do it. In fact most people perform rather poorly at things they ought to do, and much better at things they want to do.
Did you know that if you told someone they are not allowed to do something, you are actually arousing a desire inside them that wants to do that very thing? This is exactly what the law does. People would not have known what sin was if it were not for the law, because the law says “don’t do this” or “don’t touch that”.
Rom 7:7 What shall we say then? Is the law sin? Certainly not! On the contrary, I would not have known sin except through the law. For I would not have known covetousness unless the law had said, “You shall not covet.”8 But sin, taking opportunity by the commandment, produced in me all manner of evil desire. (NKJV)
One of the predominant doctrines doing the rounds in the church today regarding moral living, is that if a person is not performing very well morally we should probably question if they were really saved in the first place, or if God can use them at all. Well I don’t know about you, but I certainly would not like to be the person standing in front of one of God’s children (who may just be going through a rough time), and point my finger and say “I don’t think they are really saved”. Who are we to judge? Chances are good that such a brother or sister might be sitting under the teaching of a person or ministry that is still preaching holy living and obedience and moral living at the cost of being unconditionally accepted & loved by God, and this might be causing them to struggle with some bad habit or pattern of immorality. The Bible actually tells us to restore such a person with gentleness.
Gal 6:1 Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted. (KJV)
However when someone who says they have been saved, carries on in the same destructive lifestyle patterns for years and years, and simply pops into church when it’s convenient for a religious little Sunday morning “fix”, with their lives void of any passion for God, it might be a good idea to talk to them about if they were really saved in the first place.
But back to the point, a definite indication of legalism is when upholding some moral standard or code is considered to be more important than the person struggling with upholding it. In some circles where people call themselves Christians, you are actually thrown out / removed from their midst if you commit a certain “type” of mistake.
Gal 5:19 Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, 20 idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, 21 envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries. (NKJV)
It is interesting that the Bible says drinking too much beer or wine is up there with murder. Although we don’t condone this kind of behavior, we are consequently not to pass judgment on anybody either, because we do not always understand their circumstances.
Contrary to popular belief, telling people that they DON’T have to obey the laws of Moses anymore actually helps them get more victory over sin, because it takes the external behavior modification mold off them. At salvation God gives us a 100% righteous born again spirit man on the inside that WANTS to live for God, WANTS to love other people and WANTS to do good. You can ask any true believer that if they had the choice to push a button that would allow them to never sin again, they would push that button in an instant. This is proof that the laws of God have now been written on our hearts, and we don’t need the tutor of the external written code (the Law) to direct us anymore.
Heb 8:10 “I will put My laws in their mind and write them on their hearts (this means God gave us the desire to please Him and have fellowship with Him); and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. (NKJV, annotations added)
The Bible calls the Law (which was written on tablets of stone) the “ministry of death”:
2 Cor 3:7 But if the ministry of death, written and engraved on stones… (NKJV)
Telling people that they should live up to its demands means that we are putting death on them.
To conclude, if people think that we are saying they can just go out and live in full blown depravity, licentiousness and immorality, simply running like animals after the desires of their flesh, then they are wrong. God has removed our old sinful nature with its lustful desires.
Rom 6: 6 knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him. (NKJV)
Why should we then live any longer in it? Just as we once followed like slaves after the lusts of our old sinful nature, we should now follow the desires of our new 100% righteous reborn spirit:
Rom 6:19 …Just as you used to offer the parts of your body in slavery to impurity and to ever-increasing wickedness, so now offer them in slavery to righteousness leading to holiness. (NKJV)