The Legalism That Held Back My Freedom

The Bible is clear. Everyone who has put their faith in Christ is set free. One of my favorite verses, Galatians 5:1, says “for freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.” I’ve drilled this verse into my mind. I’ve studied the theology behind it. I became so obsessed with this Biblical idea of “freedom” that Christ has brought us. But yet despite all my knowledge and time that I’ve devoted to this idea, I’d yet to believe it and live it out. I was still bound to my own righteousness.

I was trying to live this life pleasing to God, rather than living in the freedom He has given me because He is ALREADY pleased.

One of my biggest faults is that I get discouraged far too quickly. So one can imagine that when it comes to eternal things, such as holiness and righteousness, that I get discouraged pretty often. I know through God’s Word that I can get nowhere near where I am supposed to be. Yet, I still tried and sometimes continue to try. It is built in me to want to be good enough. I want my own righteousness to reach the point where God is pleased with me. Every time I would sin I would feel shame. I would get angry at myself because I wasn’t living how I was supposed to.

My own legalism was holding me back from what God wants for me: His freedom.

Now, I am in NO WAY saying that freedom in Christ gives us a right to sin however we wish. Romans 6 is clear with this. Just because we are free doesn’t mean sin doesn’t still have its attraction and pull. It certainly does. Christ died to wash sin away and break us from its grasp, not suddenly make that sin okay to indulge in. (“Therefore, my friends, I want you to know that through Jesus the forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you.” Acts 13:38) My mind had shifted its focus from understanding that I am free to being ashamed every time I slipped up.

 My freedom became something to be worked for, not something that was already freely given.

My own legalism had taken ahold of me for so long. I would catch myself caught up in sin thinking to myself “why can’t I just stop this? I have no will power. How can God be pleased with me?” It wasn’t until I was completely broken. Completely torn apart and humbled that I realized that what I was living wasn’t freedom at all. Instead, it was legalism. It was me wanting to satisfy myself with what I have done. I wanted to work towards holiness. I was so afraid that if I didn’t become holy on my own then God would be displeased with me. But Christ didn’t set me free so I could somehow work my way up to Him by making myself righteous.

He had called me free and instilled His righteousness in me. It was HIM who made the way, not myself.

No amount of following the right rules or doing the right things could make me any holier or righteous than I already was. He called me righteous, and I didn’t have to work for that. Romans 6: 22 says: “but now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life.” I didn’t understand this. I knew it. I even “believed” it. But I never before had I stopped to realize that freedom from my sin didn’t come as a product of my works and my righteousness, but rather from Christ. He broke my chains, not myself. He is my righteousness, not my own. He is my holiness, not my own.

I can’t tell you that this isn’t something I still struggle with, because it is. I struggle with it every day. But I stand in assurance that I have been set free. Set free from sin. Set free from shame. Set free from guilt. Set free from any kind of legalism that may enter my mind. Even though I still have these sin dwelling inside of me for now, I look forward to the glory and the sanctification that God holds for me. He is greater than even my own mind and heart telling me I’m not good enough, because He has set me free from that. I don’t have to work for His approval. Nor do I have to work for righteousness and holiness. He’s given it to me through His Son.

I’m not bound to legalism. I’m bound to freedom. I’m bound to the cross.

“Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death.”

Romans 8:1-2

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