Can we all agree that legalism isn’t helpful? Laws for the sake of laws in the church, trying to save people from themselves has a long history of overuse. That said, we are TERRIBLE at restraining our sinful impulses in the modern church. Why is that? What is the healthy way to approach living for Jesus, restraining sin, embracing right actions? The answer is simpler than you think, however, I don’t hear anyone talking about it, or connecting it as the antidote. So this is coming to you by revelation from the Lord, I believe . . .
Self-control is the antidote to legalism, the prophetic opposite, God’s designed way for us to live for Him, restrain sin, and embrace right actions. Self-control is a Fruit of the Spirit! Self-control or self-discipline is one of the primary ways God wired you to fight sin. Here’s the difference – legalism says, “this worked for me, so every person everywhere MUST now do this, or else they’ll be punished.” Legalism then uses Scriptures that are designed by Holy Spirit to train our conscience and discernment with the Holy Spirit as a hammer to demand compliance. Legalism doesn’t work (Col 2:20-23). Self-control, on the other hand, is RELATIONAL. Self-control works in perfect harmony with the PERSON of the Holy Spirit, Who guides you into appropriate and specific guardrails, restraints, goals and directives that motivate rather than mandate right living.
Self-control says, “God has called me to a system of guardrails, goals and directives, let that inspire you to get to know Holy Spirit for yourself and develop your own guardrails, goals and directives!” Legalism says, “I’M restraining myself and doing all of this, so you HAVE to also, and if you don’t you’ll be punished!” One is healthy, relational and motivational and the other is demoralizing and condemning. Now let me be clear, there ARE categories of things that God has specifically asked all Christians everywhere to do or not do in the Bible (ie. the 10 commandments, the sexuality laws, love one another, and SO MANY others). However, we err, if we think EVERYTHING falls in that category. Then, we’re not reliant on Holy Spirit for guidance daily, which is what is REQUIRED of us (John 10:27).
So here’s the antidote . . . ask Holy Spirit for the proper guardrails, restraints, goals and directives to motivate yourself to right living. YOU NEED THESE! Don’t neglect this! Then by example and through love you GET TO motivate others to seek Holy Spirit too. So do it, right now, ask God, “What guardrails, restraints, goals and directives do I need today to motivate right living?”
Also, COME THIS SUNDAY where we’re going to break out these very matters of conscience in fuller detail from Romans 14! This may be the most practical message you ever experience!