God is showing me so many things these days it will be hard to keep this blog short. Did you know that you have a fleshly default? The true you has been made one with Christ! This means HE has made you holy, righteous, acceptable and loving. But our ugly flesh patterns can always rise up especially when we are under pressure. Remember our flesh patterns are unique to us and determined by what we have experienced in life. My flesh will look different than your flesh. We learned to cope and meet our own needs our own way at a very young age. Flesh is independence from God. Like the song says; “I’ll do it my way.”
I’ve mentioned before that my major flesh patterns are withdrawing or using food to numb or celebrate too much. There are some flesh patterns in our life that stand out more than others. I’m forgetting about another flesh pattern that sneaks up on me at times. Trying to control through legalism. If you were raised in a very religious home, legalism could be a major default flesh pattern for you.
So how should we define legalism? The dictionary says, “strict adherence to law or prescription, especially to the letter rather than the spirit.” Galatians tells us that you cannot mess up at all if you choose to live by the law. One mess up and you are out! The Bible says in 2 Corinthians 3:6: “He has made us competent as ministers of a new covenant – not of the letter but of the Spirit for the letter kills but the Spirit gives life.” Legalism is more than believing salvation is through works. It can become a way of thinking about life. Larry Crabb talks about it brilliantly in his book, “The Pressures Off.”. A plus B must always equal C. Legalism is a strict belief…”If I do this, I will get these results that I’m wanting.”
This isn’t a teaching on law and grace today but the Bible is clear in Romans and Galatians that we are now dead to the law and live by grace. So how do I know when my default flesh pattern has swung into action? I get mean. I get self righteous. I get frustrated. I get controlling. I get desperate. I try to make something happen because it SHOULD happen. Many times the things we want are not bad in and of itself. But when I start controlling, I can always know I am not being led by the Spirit. The Spirit is gentle. The Spirit is consistent. The Spirit is always saying, “Trust me.” The Spirit brings life. II Corinthians tells us that the ministry that brought death came with glory, will not the ministry of the Spirit be even more glorious? If the ministry that brought condemnation was glorious, how much more glorious is the ministry that brings righteousness!” God ‘s word is clear that the law was given to lead us to Christ. It was given to show us that we could not attain our own righteousness by performing. This is why we NEEDED a Savior! Jesus came to give us HIS righteousness. So I’m now to live my life by faith and grace.
Anytime I start living by I should, I must or I have to… I will start telling those I live with that you should, you must or you have to… As Paul just stated living that way will bring death and condemnation. So when I start feeling frustrated, empty and tired, it can be a red flag to urge me to ask myself a question. “Am I putting myself or someone I love under the law?” And then I need to ask myself a second question. “How is that working for you?” If we are honest we all know it DOES NOT WORK!
As I said, if you grew up in a religious home many times you can learn to control with religion. Our flesh kicks into gear when we feel out of control. So religious flesh would say, “The bible says_______ so you should__________. You feel in the blank. So is there anything wrong with these verses that give us life giving principles to live by? Paul answers that question in Romans 6, 7 & 8 when he says the law isn’t bad. But it was given to lead us to a better way! The way of grace. The way of freedom. The way of living from your heart. The way of choosing from your true identity. I no longer do to get. I do because of who I am. I can give you grace and share my desires with you without condemnation. I GENTLY remind you and myself that God’s laws are now written on yours and my heart. The real you and the real me WANTS to live by Godly principles. The real you and the real me WANTS to spend time with Jesus. The real you and the real me WANTS to live by grace and give others grace.
I Peter 3 tells us to seek peace and to pursue it. When I am operating under the law I have no peace. When I am putting someone under the law that I love we both have no peace. I want what I want and I want it now. Pulling out the religious card can become automatic if we aren’t careful. This means I have sub consciously jumped off of the tree of life onto the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. You see the law started in the garden. We can live by do’s and don’t and try to control or we can live by grace, love and peace which is Jesus.