|Good Morning Everyone,|
Our theme for this month: “You have been set free”
Our Bible verse for today: “If you died with Christ to the elements of the world, why do you live as if you still belonged to the world? Why do you submit to regulations: ‘Don’t handle, don’t taste, don’t touch’? … they are human commands and doctrines. Although these have a reputation for wisdom by promoting self-made religion, false humility, and severe treatment of the body, they are not of any value in curbing self-indulgence.” Colossians 2:20-23 (CSB)
Our thought for today: “Jesus has set us free from legalism”
The concept of “legalism” refers to an excessive preoccupation with rules and regulations (most of them manmade) pertaining to the practice of the Christian faith. What happens in legalistic settings is that they take a basic Biblical principle, standard, or command from God, such as one of the Ten Commandments, and then they add lots of detail to it that goes far beyond what the Bible itself actually says.
As a result, they end up with an extensive, detailed, and often rigid system for how they believe the Christian faith should be lived, but it is much more restrictive than what God Himself requires of us in the Bible. This is precisely what the Pharisees did to the Jewish people in the Old Testament, and it is precisely what many fundamentalist churches and denominations do in our day.
But Jesus set us free from legalism. That’s what Paul was reminding the Colossian Christians of in Colossians 2:20-23 (above). Jesus did away with all of the dietary restrictions set forth in the book of Leviticus; He simplified the Ten Commandments, condensing them into “love God and love others”; and He overturned the manmade rules and regulations that the Pharisees had developed.
So, if we don’t have an extensive list of rules, regulations, and restrictions to keep us in line, how does this work in New Testament times? How can we live in a way that pleases God if we don’t have lots of rules to follow? Well, the answer is simple but the process is hard. The answer is that God has placed the Holy Spirit in our hearts to serve as our personal live-in counselor and guide. Moment-by-moment He speaks to us, guides us, and teaches us, and He also convicts us when we’re in the process of doing something outside the will of God. It’s simple. Just listen to the Holy Spirit and do what He tells you.
But it’s hard because that requires spiritual maturity. It requires us to consistently and faithfully place ourselves in a position before God whereby the Holy Spirit has full access to our heart and mind. In that way we become increasingly spiritually sensitive to and aware of the Spirit’s guidance. We do that through prayer, Bible study, worship, service, fellowship, and all the other ways in which we practice the Christian faith.
But that takes time and it requires effort on our parts. And it’s a lifelong process. The growing and maturing never stops. We never “arrive” at spiritual maturity. So, we need help to keep from going off the rails in life. Not only is there a constant danger of defaulting into legalism, but there’s an equal and perhaps greater danger of lapsing into what is sometimes called “cheap grace”. We’ll continue thinking about this tomorrow. It’s true that Jesus has set us free from legalism. Now have to learn how to handle that freedom.
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