Updated: Nov 15, 2021
The other Sunday my pastor was preaching on Romans 14 and what he said opened my eyes to some more legalism in my life which really was encouraging to me to be able to see it. And let me just add that the Spirit was behind it, working where man cannot reach. Like He has done so many times opening my eyes to the truth. Here is the link if you are interested in listening to what he had to say:
I grew up in an ultraconservative denomination where so many areas of life were controlled by those in the ruling seats however they chose to interpret the Scriptures or decided things should be in the name of being "apart from the world". I had so many questions but no answers that satisfied and so I asked God to show me in His Word what is the truth about various subjects. He showed me the truth and it set me free in so many ways as some of you have already read about in former articles. Then there's times when there seems to be a lull and I wonder if there's something wrong in my life or I'm not listening to God like I should be but then something happens or is revealed and I am reassured that God is still working in me. And so it has been lately. Till my eyes were opened to yet another area of legalism...so let me start in the beginning....
When I was growing up we never had a tree with wrapped presents underneath. It was forbidden. Instead in my family there were paper chains and snowflakes, school programs, maybe matching red or green dresses, sending of Christmas cards, and gift exchanges, and sometimes gifts from my parents which was usually clothing articles we needed or small knickknacks perhaps. Maybe a jar with lights and potpourri and a manger scene, I can't quite remember it's been so long...
I was one of those who was a "good" person, who kept all the rules. One who tried to be a good person. Tried to dress right. One who tried to meet all the expectations. One who thought that if only she could do everything right then perhaps she'd finally be loved and accepted. One who couldn't understand why it seemed that for the most part everyone about drove themselves crazy trying to keep the traditions handed down through the years. And in our house it seemed all so meaningless because real love wasn't in the picture.
Finally God got me to the place where I was not as scared to face all the questions that burned within. One of those was about why all the hustle and bustle at Christmastime? It seemed like people could ignore you till Christmas and then they would notice you and give you a gift or card. I had the opportunity to go to the library and borrowed a number of books to try to discover the reason and meaning for so many of the traditions of Christmas since I did not yet have access to the internet and knew nothing about using a computer. It was very eye opening and later I put a page on my website about the bad side of the origin of Christmas which you can find here:
Growing up in a very legalistic culture things were seen as good or bad, black or white, right or wrong. Gray areas were extremely uncomfortable. This mindset can be carried through life if a person does not realize what is going on it has the ability to ruin relationships, congregations and so many other areas of life. Some examples can be dressing a certain way, not allowing certain things, or even just sticking to a certain way of farming.
Because of what I found in my search for the origins of Christmas I threw it out the window as all bad taking no part in anything. Same with basically any holiday. Looking back now it seems like I thought that it would make me a better, wiser person but in reality it was pride and self righteousness.
Let me share some verses:
Him that is weak in the faith receive ye, but not to doubtful disputations.
For one believeth that he may eat all things: another, who is weak, eateth herbs.
Let not him that eateth despise him that eateth not; and let not him which eateth not judge him that eateth: for God hath received him.
Who art thou that judgest another man's servant? to his own master he standeth or falleth. Yea, he shall be holden up: for God is able to make him stand.
One man esteemeth one day above another: another esteemeth every day alike. Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind.
He that regardeth the day, regardeth it unto the Lord; and he that regardeth not the day, to the Lord he doth not regard it. He that eateth, eateth to the Lord, for he giveth God thanks; and he that eateth not, to the Lord he eateth not, and giveth God thanks.
For none of us liveth to himself, and no man dieth to himself.
For whether we live, we live unto the Lord; and whether we die, we die unto the Lord: whether we live therefore, or die, we are the Lord's.
For to this end Christ both died, and rose, and revived, that he might be Lord both of the dead and living.
But why dost thou judge thy brother? or why dost thou set at nought thy brother? for we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ.
For it is written, As I live, saith the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God.
So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God.
Let us not therefore judge one another any more: but judge this rather, that no man put a stumblingblock or an occasion to fall in his brother's way.
I know, and am persuaded by the Lord Jesus, that there is nothing unclean of itself: but to him that esteemeth any thing to be unclean, to him it is unclean.
But if thy brother be grieved with thy meat, now walkest thou not charitably. Destroy not him with thy meat, for whom Christ died.
Let not then your good be evil spoken of:
For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost.
For he that in these things serveth Christ is acceptable to God, and approved of men.
Let us therefore follow after the things which make for peace, and things wherewith one may edify another.
For meat destroy not the work of God. All things indeed are pure; but it is evil for that man who eateth with offence.
It is good neither to eat flesh, nor to drink wine, nor any thing whereby thy brother stumbleth, or is offended, or is made weak.
Hast thou faith? have it to thyself before God. Happy is he that condemneth not himself in that thing which he alloweth.
And he that doubteth is damned if he eat, because he eateth not of faith: for whatsoever is not of faith is sin.
I've never heard much preaching out of this chapter for all the years I've been going to church, from one extreme to the other of the church world, and yet this chapter God has used time and again to give me liberty or to help me give others liberty. (When you live with a legalistic mindset you not only hold things in your life by a strict standard but you hold others to it as well and judge them by it; for example: if someone doesn't dress like you were taught you should, you consider them as wordly and unsaved, when in reality we only see the outside but God alone sees and knows the heart of each individual. Isn't that amazing?)
When my pastor started in on this chapter I thought that this might be boring because I didn't know if any of it applied to me but was refreshingly surprised. He started by talking about how we should be patient and gently teach those who are weak in the faith. I wondered how I would know if someone was weak in the faith. He started listing examples that so often divide congregations and families: TV, Bible versions, eschatology, baptism, music, and among other things was Christmas. He explained how some people think decorating for Christmas is wrong while others see nothing wrong. He kept hitting the point on how we are to always be kind and gentle with those who are weak in the faith and yet continue teaching the truth of what the Bible really says. As he kept giving examples it dawned on me that I am being legalistic by thinking it is wrong to celebrate Christmas. It is not a conviction. Just a belief I formed after reading about the origins of Christmas and once again I realized that I was going from one extreme to the other as I have so often before in so many other things. To realize that was so freeing and once again I thank God for opening my eyes and setting me free from more legalism that had been hidden from my view.
I know some people may not agree with some of these things but can I just share another verse or two?
Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage.
Behold, I Paul say unto you, that if ye be circumcised, Christ shall profit you nothing.
For I testify again to every man that is circumcised, that he is a debtor to do the whole law.
Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law; ye are fallen from grace.
For we through the Spirit wait for the hope of righteousness by faith.
For in Jesus Christ neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision; but faith which worketh by love.
2 Corinthians 3:17-18
Now the Lord is that Spirit: and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.
But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.
Then fourteen years after I went up again to Jerusalem with Barnabas, and took Titus with me also.
And I went up by revelation, and communicated unto them that gospel which I preach among the Gentiles, but privately to them which were of reputation, lest by any means I should run, or had run, in vain.
But neither Titus, who was with me, being a Greek, was compelled to be circumcised:
And that because of false brethren unawares brought in, who came in privily to spy out our liberty which we have in Christ Jesus, that they might bring us into bondage:
To whom we gave place by subjection, no, not for an hour; that the truth of the gospel might continue with you.
But contrariwise, when they saw that the gospel of the uncircumcision was committed unto me, as the gospel of the circumcision was unto Peter;
(For he that wrought effectually in Peter to the apostleship of the circumcision, the same was mighty in me toward the Gentiles:)
And when James, Cephas, and John, who seemed to be pillars, perceived the grace that was given unto me, they gave to me and Barnabas the right hands of fellowship; that we should go unto the heathen, and they unto the circumcision.
Only they would that we should remember the poor; the same which I also was forward to do.
But when Peter was come to Antioch, I withstood him to the face, because he was to be blamed.
For before that certain came from James, he did eat with the Gentiles: but when they were come, he withdrew and separated himself, fearing them which were of the circumcision.
And the other Jews dissembled likewise with him; insomuch that Barnabas also was carried away with their dissimulation.
But when I saw that they walked not uprightly according to the truth of the gospel, I said unto Peter before them all, If thou, being a Jew, livest after the manner of Gentiles, and not as do the Jews, why compellest thou the Gentiles to live as do the Jews?
We who are Jews by nature, and not sinners of the Gentiles,
Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.
For if I build again the things which I destroyed, I make myself a transgressor.
For I through the law am dead to the law, that I might live unto God.
I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.
I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain.
When we ask Jesus to forgive us of our sins, realizing He took our place on the cross where we deserved is die, and believe that He also forgives us when we ask, we are saved, acknowledging Him as Lord of our life. As we grow in the knowledge of who He is, we will find that He loves us and desires our love and trust in return. He asks us to abide in Him for He says when we do so we will bring forth much fruit. He has given us His Word as a guide to live by to help us and comfort us. His Spirit dwells in us to reveal truth to us, to comfort us, guide us, and just be with us through this life. I heard someone say in our Bible study group the other week when the topic was about anger how we need to be comforters first and not so quick to speak as we were talking about the verse about being quick to hear, slow to speak, and slow to wrath. ( The book we are currently going through is Taming The Giants by Cathy Dickinson, which can be found here in video form:
When we are saved we begin a process where He convicts us of things we do that aren't pleasing to Him but He also keeps drawing us closer to him so we get to know Him better. Some of us grew up in religious homes where it was all about traditions. Others of us grew up in homes where we knew nothing and the only God and Jesus we heard of were curse words. In both extremes and in between, abuse can greatly color one's view of life as well. Some struggle with legalism much more than others, some are not even aware that they are legalistic. When a person begins to realize their liberty in Christ it is hard to not swing to the other side where we just enjoy all the things we couldn't before but rather that we also consider those around us.
The Bible doesn't say drinking is wrong but it does say that drunkenness is wrong. If a new believer or someone weak in faith sees a stronger Christian drinking it might be a stumbling block to them because they don't know how much they had and just assume that because this person drinks they may as well and it becomes an addiction and causes them to stumble we are at fault because we are not considerate of our brother or sister. On the other hand if someone once was an alcoholic and then was saved and delivered from it's grasp, should we also not be considerate of him and avoid having alcohol in his presence? This is just one area. One for me is whether I wear skirts or jeans when I visit my parents even though I have yet to see any of the fruit of the Spirit in their lives which would be a sign that they are saved so if you think about it please pray for them that they might be saved and that God would open their eyes that they might see that religion and works won't get them to heaven.
So back to the subject matter... will I get a tree now to put up? I may or I may not. Will I buy Christmas decorations? I may or I may not. Will I buy Santa-oriented things? No, I have no desire to. There is a line the Christian needs to draw. Between God and me I now know that I have the liberty to do these things as long as it is Christ-centered for He is to be Lord of the Christian's life.
There are are some things that people may be convicted to not do and it may be that God sees that we have a tendency to be snared in those things and so He let's us know that He doesn't want us doing it or partaking of it, whatever it may be. He knows us better than we know ourselves. For us it is a conviction, for someone else it is a liberty. Let us dwell in the liberty of the Spirit yet be considerate of our brother lest we be a stumbling block.
1 Peter 2:16
As free, and not using your liberty for a cloke of maliciousness, but as the servants of God.
Some of this I already knew but I think it's just so amazing everytime God sets me free of more legalism and heals me some more. Slowly but surely. It didn't happen overnight and it won't change overnight but I am thankful for a God who is so kind and loving and patient with me. Unconditional love. No condemnation. No criticism or anger. Just gentle reproof when needed. So different from so many relationships and people in authority in the past.
The LORD is gracious, and full of compassion; slow to anger, and of great mercy.
The LORD is good to all: and his tender mercies are over all his works.
Now God has brought me into a church who I would have once considered worldly and unsaved (judging as man judges) and have found them godly men and women who genuinely care for each other and have been such a blessing to me as I continue to grow and heal.
God setteth the solitary in families: he bringeth out those which are bound with chains: but the rebellious dwell in a dry land.
I hope you found this interesting. I hope my ramblings make sense and I just thank you for your interest and appreciate you taking the time to read. Feel free to leave comments or questions, but please keep them respectful because we all appreciate being treated as someone who has worth and value...