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Spiritual Legalism

Have you ever heard the phrase "Let God bless you" or "Allow God's love in"?  How about being told you need to "Empty yourself so that God can..." or "Claim a blessing..."?  Sounds focused on God right?  It is suppose to.  The reality is it is actually focused on YOU and YOUR works.  This article will explain why this is nothing more than legalism with a 'spiritual' sound.  It goes to the heart of how we understand our selves and how we understand God himself.  First we need to correctly know God, and correctly understand ourselves in the light of truth.  Then we can see the legalism that is disguised in spiritualism.

God is God, you are not.

If God was contingent on you letting him do something, or for you to first allow him to do something; than you and your will is superior to God. This makes God's will conditional to your will. Thus; this teaches that you are God and God serves you in what you allow him to do.

Job 42:1-6 God helped Job understand this exact issue when he stated "no purpose of yours can be thwarted".  In Daniel 4:34, Nebuchadnezzar even recognized that all things are in control by God and owned by God and not him.  He was a king and still recognized God's supreme sovereignty.  Deuteronomy 10:14 makes clear that e v e r y t h i n g belongs to God.

Also read God's adaptive and fluid Plan?  |  Supernatural Positive Thinking  | Your Feelings Do Not Determine Truth

God needs man's permission first?

Those who cling to some sort of man-focused control will use examples like Jesus not doing works in his own home town due to the home towns disbelief or the fact that not all people will be saved.  But they fail in understanding this:  God sees all absolute maximal opportunities to bring people to salvation; we don't.  God could save all people if he so chose to, and he desires to, but because he is also perfectly loving, he humbles himself and gives people what they infinitely want; which may not him.  He does not stop being supremely sovereign in his will to give people what they infinitely will desire.  He sees all opportunities to save people, and if there is one opportunity in the maximal possibilities where someone will be lead to desire him and be saved (read John 6); He will take it and lead that person to know him and that person will be saved.  Jesus made clear that some of the Pharisees he called out are not going to enter heaven, God already knew in all the maximal possible opportunities, they would not accept him.  Same with the people in his home town, and those in the future who will not be saved. 

In everyone's life time, they are given the absolute perfect amount of opportunities to come to God, and if they will chose none, they will infinitely reject God.  Regardless, God in his perfect kindness, love, and righteousness gives them all perfect maximal opportunities so that when they stand before Him in judgement; he remains the perfect and just judge and they are without excuse.

John 4:48 is another misunderstood verse by those blinded by spiritual legalism.  In this verse, Jesus is actually rebuking those who need to see to believe.  Jesus is not validating some sort of visible tangible work to have faith, but rather he is expressing a weakness in man that some times man doesn't trust in God's words alone.  Adam and Eve exemplified this in their disobedience.  But he preforms works so that some do come to faith despite their weakness. (also read Scripture Alone)

But what proponents of permission fail to understand is God's will is done regardless and some times what we ask for, that actually happens, was going to happen anyway due to already being part of God's plan.  Not because they asked and it happened, but because they asked for what was already going to happen.  They were in line with God and not God lining up with them.

Also read The Self and The Center of Everything  |  Unconditional Election  |  Do You Want To Hear God Speak?


Legalism is based on what you do and your 'works' that makes you right, closer to God, or 'more spiritual'.  If you have to first act or think a certain way to become more 'spiritual' or righteous, that is by definition; legalism, in a religious context.  Legalism is just perpetuated self-righteousness and in some cases a blind self will to be like God- in control.

If you have to first do 'X' and then God can do 'Y'; you are putting yourself in God's throne, knowingly or unknowingly.  If you have to first do 'X' and then you can be closer to God or more 'spiritual'; you are depending on your works and not God.

It is not what you DO that makes you closer to God; it is God who makes you closer to himself.  It is not what you DO that allows for God to act; it is God who acts regardless because he is God.

Instead of the legalism being focused on going to church every week, praying 3 times a week, reading your bible twice a week, and 30 minute daily mediation... this type of legalism makes you feel like you are being spiritual and not traditionally legalistic by focusing on your feelings and thoughts; when reality it is the same thing with a different context.

Also read More Valuable than Money  |  By Christ's Work Alone  |  Fasting

Natural Tendency

It is natural for all people to desire to be like God (Romans 3:10-12).  This is the exact weakness that Satan preyed on and will continue to do for all time until God (not you) puts this to an end (Gen 3:5).  Humanity naturally desires to hold on to some degree of absolute control of their physical and spiritual condition.

Also read God's Glory Alone  |  Born This Way  |  Follow Your Heart?

Blaming Others

When someone is in sin, it is a natural tendency to blame someone else.  This was the first used by Adam and Eve (Gen 3:12-13).  Eve blamed Satan for her sin.  This continues today.  People 'rebuke' Satan for their sin.  They focus on the flesh and fail; but say things like "Satan stole my joy" and are taught to rebuke him.  The heart of the issue is never addressed; the heart of the sinner (Matthew 15:19).  Again this is another form of legalism in the sense that you have to first rebuke Satan, and then God can come back in your life.  At its premise it is still a dependence on what you do in order for God to be God.

Also read The Beauty of Accountability

Legalism is Weakness in Faith

Spiritually Legalistic people are actually weak in faith (Romans 14:1).  This is because they are ignorant or think lowly of the majesty and sovereignty of God. Because they do not have faith in the grandeur of God's supreme sovereignty and put that faith in their thoughts, feelings, and efforts.  It is a mindset that is focused on things of this world to achieve spiritual benefits (Colossians 2:20-23).  Jesus is greater than our efforts (John 1:17).  To say someone is not worshiping God right when they don't "let" God or "allow" God to work or they aren't trying to do something right be make themselves more close to God is passing a wrongful judgement on them (Romans 14:10).  We contend for the faith, not of worldly efforts of thoughts and feelings (Jude 3).  "The Carnal man" is someone that has their minds set on worldly efforts for spiritual gain (Romans 8:5). Sometimes teachers don't understand this because they are still blinded by their spiritual legalisms (1 Cor 2:14).

Also read The Holy Spirit or Emotionalism?

Seek and Work for God in Faith

We are called to do good works in faith and services for God for his Glory.  But our works are good because we first have faith in Jesus Christ and are done in faith; not because of anything we actually do is good in its own merit (Romans 5:1; Galatians 3:24).  God calls people who are already saved to be doers of what God wants and not just hearers (James 1:22).  Because we seek first the kingdom of God and HIS righteousness (Matthew 6:33), he gives us the desires of our hearts (Psalm 37:4)... which are things that are in HIS will in the first place.  We are commanded to love God with all our body, soul, and mind and our neighbors as our self (Luke 10:27).  Notice God's expectations for us it is not focused on our selves; it is primarily focused on him first then others, in light of what HE has done; not us.

Also read How To Fight Your Sin  |  Faith Without Works is Dead  |  If Your Not Fighting Sin, Your Living It.

A True Relationship with God

Growing in faith and closeness with God has everything to do with our complete focus on him and what he has done for us.  When we focus on him, his Holiness and Glory, we then better know our selves which lines up our will with his.  We then seek his will and ask for his will to be done over our own.  We desire what he desires and he receives the due glory in us and through us.  This is what frees us from all kinds of legalism, self-righteousness, and works based thinking.  True relationship and spirituality.

Luke 9:23 - "Then he said to them all: "Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me"

Also read What is 'Doctrine' and does it matter?  |  How Old Are You, Spiritually?

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