why legalism sucks

“Therefore, if you died with Christ from the basic principles of the world, why, as though living in the world, do you subject yourselves to regulations—“Do not touch, do not taste, do not handle,” which all concern things which perish with the using—according to the commandments and doctrines of men? These things indeed have an appearance of wisdom in self-imposed religion, false humility, and neglect of the body, but are of no value against the indulgence of the flesh.”

“Therefore put to death your members which are on the earth: fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. Because of these things the wrath of God is coming upon the sons of disobedience.”

~ Colossians 2:20-23; 3:5-6

this is why legalism sucks, and better yet, is bad for the soul. yes, i said it; bad for the soul! sometimes church folks get so caught up in their lists of dos and don’ts. don’t watch tv, don’t wear pants, don’t wear make-up, don’t do whatever. but paul explains that such things are self-imposed religion, false humility…and are of no value against the indulgence of the flesh. don’t get it twisted, there are certainly things that the bible speaks against clearly and unequivocally–such as fornication and being drunk. but as an example, i recently heard of a pastor who had members of his congregation shut down their facebook pages. come on, yall.

the indulgence of the flesh. that is what it’s really about. that’s what it’s been about since eden became imperfected by the selfishness of man. that is why we fast. that is why we die to our flesh.

the heart of all sin is selfishness, self-indulgence, the indulgence of the flesh. it’s what causes us to fornicate, cheat on spouses, rob people, kill, lie, hate…because of our self-indulgence. this is why mankind became separated from God. because our desire became to first please self, and we no longer looked out for God’s interests and desires FIRST; we looked out for self FIRST. God knew sin had taken root after the Fall, and the God-like humanity that he had purposed for us was now distorted and broken. we now became self-serving and so very unGodlike. so we must fight against the indulgence of the flesh. because it’s impossible to be self-centered and God-centered at the same time. it’s impossible to seek your own interests first and please God.

so instead of obeying a list of rules, paul is saying in colossians 3:5 to simply put to death all things that cause us to be at the center of the universe  (fornication, covetousness, etc.). how could God ever be pleased with us devaluing him, or ignoring him? what reaction would i get at work if in a staff meeting my boss is going down the agenda, and i come in and pass out my own agenda to everyone? and say to my boss, “yyyeah, we’re actually going to do things my way from here on out, so why don’t you just take a back seat?” i’m pretty sure i’d be reprimanded. likewise, the scripture says that “the wrath of God is coming upon the sons of disobedience” because of such self-centeredness. when you are at the center, when your interests are first, you are in disobedience to the Lord’s way. you scratch his agenda and pass out your own. you interrupt and speak over him. you live out YOUR own humanity, and not God’s, which was purposed for us to be God-like…for us to take on his characteristics.

SIDENOTE: but for real, why extra-marital sex too?

fornication (having sex/doing sex stuff without someone outside of a committed, marital relationship) too. i know, i know; we all want and like sex because it’s great. but fornication is lust (taking for your own purpose and pleasure) at its best. getting sex from someone with whom you have no commitment, no covenant, no accountability means you are actually serving yourself and yourself only. you’re not vowed before God, accountable witnesses and the other person that you will meet their needs, give for them, honor them, before receiving from them what is most intimate and personal from that person. even if both adults are consenting, you are both simply withdrawing from the other’s bank without committing to replenish. you are serving yourself. you are at the top of your priorities and not God. why would we ever expect God to be okay with that?

this is why we must press against the indulgence of the flesh: namely, it puts us first and leaves no room for God to be God in our lives, or for us to truly love others, esteeming them higher than ourselves (because love seeks to give, while lust seeks to take). but legalism, as paul says, doesn’t promote fighting against this indulgence, which is the “reasonable service” that he mentions in romans 12. instead, i think relying on this list of dos and don’ts makes us give ourselves a pats on the back for meeting our own standards. personally, i think you are actually working with the indulgence of the flesh when you’re legalistic, because you’re focusing on your own standard for humanity rather than God’s.

don’t get me wrong, i acknowledge there are things that leaders admonish us to do/refrain from doing for the sake of being prudent, or even for the sake of “conscience.” but i hold the viewpoint that churches/ministries/christians should be more interested in believers being filled with the Holy Spirit, rather than obeying a list of rules. then we would have the Teacher that would lead us into all truth, and teach us to be less self-centered, and more Christ-centered.

more about being less self-centered >>

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