I write this because I MUST. I have received so much revelation of God’s love and grace that I MUST share it. Be blessed and may you experience divine revelation, as well.
Miriam Webster defines legalism as: “strict, literal, or excessive conformity to the law or to a religious or moral code <the institutionalized legalism that restricts free choice>”
From the age of 6 until the age of 26, I lived an extremely legalistic life. For 20 years, I depended on my efforts to maintain and reach a level of perfection or holiness to keep me “saved.” If I could just be good enough, perfect enough, follow all the rules, I would be God’s favorite, I would earn His favor. I thought that if I followed the “Steps to Salvation” (Acts 2:38) and then followed the list of do’s and don’ts outlined by the religious organization I was part of, then I would be saved. That all changed though and I thank God for His mercy in my life.
Throughout my life, the “Steps to Salvation” were taught to me as such: First, you must repent of your sins, as in, get down on your knees and beg for forgiveness for all the wrong things you have ever done. Second, be baptized to wash away those sins. And thirdly, receive the Holy Ghost by speaking in tongues, which proves that you are saved. Once these three things have been completed, your salvation has become complete. Side note: Repentance is not begging God to forgive you. He already has. Repentance is changing your mind and accepting that your sins have been forgiven. Baptism DOES NOT wash away your sins. We are baptized because of the forgiveness of our sins. Baptism is an act of obedience when we become members of the body of Christ. The infilling of the Holy Spirit, evidenced by speaking in tongues, is not the proof that you are now saved. We receive “dunamis” power when we are filled with the Holy Spirit, which is the dynamic power given to us to be the hands and feet of Jesus on this earth. The act of speaking in tongues is not salvation. The “proof” of salvation is in a person’s heart and only God can see that.
Once the steps to salvation are completed, then come the “standards” of living that you must adhere to if you wish to remain saved and if you wish to participate in any kind of leadership within the church. Things like this: women cannot cut their hair or dye their hair; women cannot wear makeup; women cannot wear pants or shorts or sleeveless shirts or anything deemed immodest by the leaders of the organization, all skirts and dresses must cover the knees; women cannot wear jewelry. Men are not permitted to have facial hair; men are not permitted to wear shorts; men are not permitted to have hair longer than their shirt collar. Public swimming or coed swimming is a big no-no. School dances such as proms are off limits. No TVs are allowed and going to the movies is prohibited. And the list goes on…You must understand the context and audience of each book of the Bible. Books like I and II Corinthians were written to new Christians who were used to participating in pagan customs and goddess worship. Go ahead, read it again. Pray for understanding. Try to read it in a different version or translation. Research the culture of Corinth in those days. You’ll see.
I tried my best to live up to ALL the requirements for living a perfect and holy life, to become righteous and sanctified and justified and all that stuff while trying to keep myself from going to hell. Now listen very carefully to my next words. I had it all wrong.
I can see some of you shaking your heads in disbelief. I can see some of you nodding your heads because you’ve been there. And I can see some of you frowning and becoming offended at what I’m saying because you are still there. I’m not backslidden, quite the opposite. I haven’t fallen away from the truth, I have found the truth! The truth has set me free and can do the same for you!
It’s not about me, it’s not about you. It’s about Jesus. It’s not about what I can do or what you can do, it’s about what Jesus has ALREADY done.
THIS is the truth. Salvation occurs the moment you realize, understand, believe that Jesus Christ came to this earth, shed His blood and died on the cross for YOU. When you repent (change your mind) for the life you’ve been living and decide to hand over the controls of your life to God, you become saved. There is a transformation that happens between you and God in your spirit/heart at that very moment. You become a child of God and you find all the favor you’re ever going to get from God right then and there. He becomes completely pleased with you. You become the righteousness of God through Christ Jesus. There is nothing more that you could do that will earn more favor, make you more righteous or save you more than believing in Jesus Christ and His sacrifice on the cross for you. By grace you are saved through faith in Jesus Christ. PERIOD.
We are not saved by our works. As Christians, we SHOULD do good deeds so that others will see Jesus in us. Our works are not to gain favor with God or salvation, but for others’ benefit. Since Jesus is no longer walking this earth with us, we must be His hands and feet. That is the purpose for DOING things. WORKS DO NOT SAVE YOU OR KEEP YOU SAVED.
News Flash! You won’t go to hell if you don’t do works or follow the law or the rules. And your outward appearance has NOTHING to do with it. God looks at the heart. The Bible says our righteousness is as filthy rags. Basically, it’s gross and disgusting to God when we try to appear holier or more righteous or get more saved or whatever other impure motive we have for doing things. What do you think He thinks about all these man-made rules religion is forcing upon people? He is disgusted by them. Gross misinterpretation of Scripture and manipulation of the Word of God has wreaked havoc in the lives of well-meaning Christians for ages. STUDY THE BIBLE FOR YOURSELF! Don’t just take the word of a person just because he’s a preacher or a leader in your religious organization. YOU have access to the presence and voice of God. He can and will speak to you if you ask Him!
Reading your Bible, praying and fasting do not change God’s opinion of you. It changes YOU. These disciplines are solely for your growth and development as a Christian. Do you get that?
Here’s an example from the Bible. The Galatians, who were Jews, were trying to force the Gentiles who were newly converted Christians into becoming circumcised like them. That is what the law had required before. But we know that the law was no longer the judge once Jesus died and rose from the grave. Jesus changed it all. Grace now rules. The apostle Paul shows up and is like, “What the what?’’ He asks them that if they were going to start following the law again, then why in the world did Jesus have to die on the cross? Mixing the law (rules and regulations) with the grace of Jesus is like slapping God in the face. All your sins, all my sins were taken care of, wiped out, cast away on the day that Jesus died. He bore ALL the sins of the world that day. There is nothing more that needs to be done by you or me but to accept this FREE gift of love, grace, mercy, righteousness, holiness, healing and salvation from our Creator. Read Galatians chapter 5 if you don’t believe me. And also the entire book of Romans and Hebrews. And how about all the words of Jesus Christ. Salvation is not based on one scripture in Acts, it’s based on the life and death of Jesus Christ, the grace of God.
Once you experience this awesome conversion in your heart, your life will change. You won’t need a list of do’s and don’ts. As my pastor recently said, “Your want-to will change.” You will become a new creation in Christ. Everything will be different. You won’t want to be like you were before because of God’s tremendous and everlasting love for you.
The Ten Commandments is our moral code, true. But Jesus came and said there are only two commandments which the rest of the commandments hang on. First, love God with all your heart. Second, love your neighbor as yourself. If we can just get those two “rules” down, then we’re good. Think about that. If you love others, you’re going to treat them like you would yourself. If you love God, that’s going to change what you do in your life. When you understand the terrible things that Jesus went through for YOU, it becomes very personal. Have you ever seen the movie, “The Passion of Christ?” For me, it was so painful to see what Jesus endured because of MY sins. Seeing a depiction of what Jesus went through makes me not want to sin every again. I take it very personally. That’s how it should be. Understanding the sacrifice and love of God will change you.
God loves you so much. He sent His son to die for YOU. If you were the only one on earth, He still would have done it. You are the apple of His eye, His most cherished creation. All He wants is relationship with you. He has made a way. Believe it.
Once you become a new creation in Christ, the doors will be wide open for you. Salvation is just the first of many precious gifts He has for you. A Christ-filled life is an abundant life, bursting with blessings and favor. Joy and peace are yours for the taking. And so much more.
During Vacation Bible School this past summer, we taught the kids a song about God’s love. The words to this song perfectly sum up what I’m trying to say today.
You cannot stop God from loving you.
His love is not based on what you do.
Today God wants to help you understand.
That nothing can snatch you from His hand.
Paul’s prayer and desire for the church in Ephesus is my prayer and desire for each of you,
“For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.” Ephesians 3:14-21, NIV
If you would like to know more about what the Bible says about salvation, grace or legalism, feel free to contact me. Be Blessed!
“How much better to get wisdom than gold! And to get understanding is to be chosen rather than silver.” Proverbs 16:16
Click on this link and listen to this song “Scandal of Grace” http://youtu.be/cka7fYhWj2E