Galatians 4 - Post 2 of 2
Obedience minus relationship is just legalism. The more we impose Christian regulations on others as a requirement for salvation, the more we preach a false gospel and turn people away from the only One who can create a change in them.
When we preach a message of obedience before relationship, we are turning God-ordained ways of living into human precepts and teachings. This is what Paul is calling out.
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus preaches a way of living that becomes more of an internal heart issue than an external law issue. Things like, you think murder is bad, you are liable to judgement if you are angry with your brother. And, you think adultery is wrong, you are guilty of adultery if you look at another with lustful intent. (Matthew 5:21-28).
Rules alone – the flesh alone – can never solve a heart issue. In fact, that is what got us into this mess to begin with… Adam & Eve couldn’t obey the ONE law they were given…and sin entered the world.
The false teachers with their religious requirements have the appearance of wisdom, but are of no value when it comes to making us right with God. They may carry an air of authority with smooth talk, charm, persuasive personalities, the appearance of devout spirituality and gifted speech, but when they add something to the work of Jesus for salvation they preach a lie that mocks the sacrifice.
It is easy to be deceived because they aren’t atheist or followers of the many cultural “gods”. They are believers, but in their insistence on observance of laws for salvation, they miss he relationship. They miss the grace. The Pharisees were religious elites, full of who full of Scriptural knowledge. They walked and talked with Jesus, but they missed Jesus. They missed their Savior.
Why then does legalism have such a strong appeal?
Grace is hard for us to accept. It goes against the grain of our culture where we work and strive to achieve success. And we like to have some standard by which we can measure success. We like the checklists to know if we are doing okay. We want parameters to help us understand if we are doing things right. But these things take an elevated role and ultimately mock the work of Jesus. And left unchecked they reek of superiority and sanctimoniousness…creating more sin, rather than washing us clean. It is easy to see the sin and legalism in others, but hard to see it in ourselves.
When we focus on the rules, we lose our focus on Jesus. We need Jesus, not a check list.
The “do/do nots” aren’t what make us right with God, better Christians, or what will invite people to follow Jesus. Rather, they are the outcome of living in closer relationship with the One who created us and who saved us. The true gospel is freedom and an open invitation. We don’t have to be cleaned up and perfect to come to Christ. We come to Christ and He does the work for us. Then with love and gratitude, we desire a deeper relationship and obedience. We want to obey because we love, not obey to hopefully be loveable and loved.
When we have Jesus, why would we want to turn back again to the weak and worthless elementary principles of the world, becoming slaves to them once more? (Galatians 4:9)
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