What is legalism? It’s trying to spiritually perfect yourself through man-made rules, traditions, or special revelations.
One of the tragedies of legalism is that it gives the appearance of spiritual maturity, when in reality, it leads the believer back into a second childhood in the Christian life.
Let me explain: Before we get saved, we were children of bondage – bound by sin and elements of the world. After we experience salvation, we became children of God and are set free from sin. But when we try to perfect ourselves (or our salvation) through legalism, instead going deeper, we actually go backwards, into bondage again. But now it is a religious bondage.
You want to know why some churches can never grow? It’s because when some poor sinner accidentally happens to show up to their church, instead of pointing them towards the Cross of Jesus Christ and Christian liberty, they point the poor soul to some GOOFY RULES that won’t help or save the sinner anyway!
A man wrote me a letter a while back. He said he was, quote, “hungering for deeper meat”, unquote, and that he now found a another belief system that would lead him to that deeper place. (BTW, is “hungering” even a real word?). At any rate, he found what he was looking for and is now under the heavy wooden yoke of religious bondage. Church is a drudgery for him. There’s no joy left, and his family doesn’t like all the new rules and dress codes they have to abide by. Instead of going deeper, they have entered a second childhood. They have all turned into cookie-cutter Christians. This novice believer became beguiled from the simplicity of the gosel and went off the deep end.
This was the very reason Paul wrote the book of Galatians. He said, “YOU FOOLS! You have left the simplicity of Christ and thought you could perfect yourselves by some other means. You have been BEWITCHED. Are you SO FOOLISH?” (Galatians 1:6; 3:1,3). The Galatians believers had become fascinated by the arguments of some false teachers and Paul compared it to falling under a spell.
Church legalists will try to convince you that something is MISSING in your Christian life. Not only that, they will try to convince you that THEY are the ones who can fill in the missing pieces. They are the self-appointed ones. Ignore those people. They will lead you back into a second childhood.... of bondage.
You did run well; who did hinder you….? Galatians 5:7