Legalism is a lot like pole vaulting. The athlete runs toward the horizontal bar and pushes himself with a pole up and over the bar. If he makes it the bar is raised just a little bit more and he tries a little harder to get over the raised bar. The bar keeps getting raised until the athlete reaches his physical limitations and then the bar comes crashing down around him. That’s what legalism did to me. I reached the end of my self-improvement efforts and happily gave up my self-reliance. Now I totally depend on my Lord Jesus to do the work in me that He desires for me.
Last Saturday I went to a conference for women and to church on Sunday. Both meetings emphasized doing works for the Lord. In the past these messages would have left me feeling like somehow I had let God down by not working enough. But this time as I sat in these services I asked the Lord in my heart am I wrong about the works issues. He gently reminded me that it’s in relationship with Him that the works flow from. Without that understanding the enemy will taunt us that we haven’t done enough. There will always be that nagging doubt that we aren’t working enough. I can’t help but wonder, what would happen in churches if the messages were all about Jesus and every essence of his person? I know for me as I have studied Jesus to come to know Him more fully and to understand His character more clearly, that the works do flow naturally, not contrived by my own fleshly reasoning. I simply want to share this wonderful, awesome God that we have, that loves us so much, with everyone I meet. Witnessing is natural now and it flows from the God of the universe dwelling within me.
I’m not saying that ministers shouldn’t encourage people to do good works, but first make sure a foundation has been built first that we are not saved by works, and we are loved unconditionally by our God and he demonstrated this love for us through Jesus Christ taking our sins upon Him when He was crucified on the cross. In His resurrection we now have life, and in His ascension we have the indwelling of the Holy Spirit to guide us and comfort us.
First we must know we are accepted to God because of what Christ did on that cross, and firmly putting our faith in Jesus Christ, the Son of God. This is what makes us acceptable, not by anything we do or by how well we perform as Christians. Once this is firmly established in our hearts and mind, and then as we grow in the understanding of God, then our works are works of love that flow from a heart that has been changed. My friend, this why we were created, to be loved by our Creator and to love each other.