The difference between obedience and legalism is massive.
Legalism is defined as "excessive conformity to a religious code".
Obedience is defined as "submissive to the restraint or command of authority".
When we look at these 2 definitions in light of our Heavenly Father, the gulf between the 2 is wide.
Legalism is following a code, a creed, a tradition of man that God never called us to follow. Legalism is "doing church" ( i.e. making it all look good on Sunday all the while living to serve self Monday - Saturday)instead of hanging on every word that God has given us as a guide for our lives.
Has God truly given us a guide? Yes! Without a doubt. It's called the Bible..His Holy and inspired Word.
Are we to learn and live by all of it, or only by part of it?
Romans 15:4 says, "For whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction, that through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope."
2 Timothy 3:14-17 says, "You, however, continue in the things you have learned and become convinced of, knowing from whom you have learned them, and that from childhood you have known the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness;
so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work."
Think about this for a minute...when the letter to Timothy was written by Paul, it was written one Jewish man to another. These were men who KNEW the Old Testament. These were men who had referred to the Old Testament as Scripture for most of their lives.
What were the "sacred writings" Paul references?
What gave Timothy the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith in Christ Jesus?
According the the above verse from Romans, why were the Scriptures of the Old Testament written?
Think about it logically for a minute...if you ever have an opportunity to share the truth that Yeshua is the promised Messiah of Israel with a Jewish person who knows the Old Testament, don't you think the above verse would be an encouragement to them?
How in the WORLD could you hope to share Christ with a Jew who knows the Old Testament and for ONE MINUTE toss it aside?!
Throughout the Old Testament, the picture of Christ is painted. Over and over again the stories of the Old Testament are replete with signs pointing to the Redeemer of Israel.
Even aside from all of that, though...there are truths throughout the Old Testament that the Gentile believer must hold to.
Am I saying that we are bound to the law? Not for a minute.
Do I believe that as a Christian, there are truths and precepts from the Old Testament that God wants me to know and live by? ABSOLUTELY!
Does it make one legalistic to want to walk in obedience to God?
Not at all! Not for a minute!
Wanna be a Jonah? Not me!
Does it make one more "grace oriented" if they just live their life however they please, unwilling to submit to the command of the authority of God?
No! It makes one disobedient! Period!
Paul addresses that in Romans 6:1-2 when he says, "What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase? May it never be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it?"
Grace is not a license to FREE LOAD!
I remember when I was a new believer, and had just bowed my knee totally to God. I had truly decided to walk in obedience to Him...having come to the end of my free-loading, grace-loading, lip-smacking life.
God's call of obedience on my life was big. It looked something like this:
Give up your 6 figure income.
Say goodbye to your fancy new dream car.
Stay home and learn to be a wife and get into My Word.
Deal with family members who will malign you and won't understand your decisions.
Lose some friends who will think you've lost it because you won't cuss and party anymore.
Stop shopping in boutiques and learn to love WalMart clothes, because that's all you'll be able to afford.
Go from being the giver to learning to receive.
Get off your high-horse and learn to walk in humility.
Commit to love your husband, even though this will be the hardest part of your walk of obedience, until I ( the LORD ) deal with him.
Oh...and, submit to your husband, even though you don't want to, don't think you should have to, and don't think he's worthy of it.
Really..the list goes on and on.
Well, right about the time that God was teaching me to live a life of obedience to Him, Shane and I went and visited at a church of one of my relatives. FROM THE PULPIT, the pastor said, "Obedience does not bring God's blessing."
WAIT A MINUTE! STOP THE PRESSES! THIS IS NEWS TO ME!!!!
What HOCUS POCUS!!
Show me ONE PLACE..just ONE, that the Bible says that.
YOU CANNOT FIND IT! It is not there!
Now, do we obey in order to be blessed? I don't think that's God model or desire for us. I believe that the heart desire needs to be a reverence for God, and a love for Him.
However, the character of God is that He does bless obedience.
Some in my life do not understand the choices that I make in order to obey God's call on my life. That's ok. It's really not about anyone but me and my Lord, and my husband.
I can assure you that when I stand before the throne, and God holds me accountable for the choices I made here on earth, those people won't be saying, "Hey God! That time that she buckled and did it MY way instead of Yours...why don't You talk to me about it instead of her, because it's really my fault."
Recently, I was at a ministry event, and I was to be the one picking up people from the airport. At one point, I realized that I was scheduled to pick up a man, and that it would just be the 2 of us.
Well, Shane and I have an agreement that we don't spend time alone with people of the opposite sex. It's a boundary that God has made CLEAR in our lives, and it's not one that we cross for anybody, because to do so would be to disobey our Lord.
So, I had to ask the person in charge if someone else could go with me, or if someone else could pick this man up. It wasn't an easy thing to ask..because I didn't know if they'd "get it" or not. I still don't know if they "got it", but what I do know is that they were gracious to respect my request, and it all worked out fine.
And..interestingly enough, that man has become quite special to Shane and I..and now his wife too, and when the opportunity arose to discuss a similar situation with him, I was so HAPPY to know that this is a boundary that they have in their marriage too!
So...some will "get it", some will not, some will think you're crazy when you choose to obey God in light of looking foolish or legalistic.
Will that determine how you respond, or will your love for the LORD, and your desire to obey Him determine your decisions?
Look at an example of someone who did it his way...maybe what God was asking of him just didn't make sense to him...or maybe his friends all thought he was being legalistic...
Then Samuel said to Saul, "The LORD sent me to anoint you as king over His people, over Israel; now therefore, listen to the words of the LORD.
"Thus says the LORD of hosts, 'I will punish Amalek for what he did to Israel, how he set himself against him on the way while he was coming up from Egypt. 'Now go and strike Amalek and utterly destroy all that he has, and do not spare him; but put to death both man and woman, child and infant, ox and sheep, camel and donkey.'"
Then Saul summoned the people and numbered them in Telaim, 200,000 foot soldiers and 10,000 men of Judah.
Saul came to the city of Amalek and set an ambush in the valley.
Saul said to the Kenites, "Go, depart, go down from among the Amalekites, so that I do not destroy you with them; for you showed kindness to all the sons of Israel when they came up from Egypt." So the Kenites departed from among the Amalekites.
So Saul defeated the Amalekites, from Havilah as you go to Shur, which is east of Egypt.
He captured Agag the king of the Amalekites alive, and utterly destroyed all the people with the edge of the sword.
But Saul and the people spared Agag and the best of the sheep, the oxen, the fatlings, the lambs, and all that was good, and were not willing to destroy them utterly; but everything despised and worthless, that they utterly destroyed.
Samuel Rebukes Saul Then the word of the LORD came to Samuel, saying,
"I regret that I have made Saul king, for he has turned back from following Me and has not carried out My commands " And Samuel was distressed and cried out to the LORD all night.
Samuel rose early in the morning to meet Saul; and it was told Samuel, saying, "Saul came to Carmel, and behold, he set up a monument for himself, then turned and proceeded on down to Gilgal."
Samuel came to Saul, and Saul said to him, "Blessed are you of the LORD! I have carried out the command of the LORD."
But Samuel said, "What then is this bleating of the sheep in my ears, and the lowing of the oxen which I hear?"
Saul said, "They have brought them from the Amalekites, for the people spared the best of the sheep and oxen, to sacrifice to the LORD your God; but the rest we have utterly destroyed."
Then Samuel said to Saul, "Wait, and let me tell you what the LORD said to me last night." And he said to him, "Speak!"
Samuel said, "Is it not true, though you were little in your own eyes, you were made the head of the tribes of Israel? And the LORD anointed you king over Israel,
and the LORD sent you on a mission, and said, 'Go and utterly destroy the sinners, the Amalekites, and fight against them until they are exterminated.'
"Why then did you not obey the voice of the LORD, but rushed upon the spoil and did what was evil in the sight of the LORD?"
Then Saul said to Samuel, "I did obey the voice of the LORD, and went on the mission on which the LORD sent me, and have brought back Agag the king of Amalek, and have utterly destroyed the Amalekites.
"But the people took some of the spoil, sheep and oxen, the choicest of the things devoted to destruction, to sacrifice to the LORD your God at Gilgal."
Samuel said, "Has the LORD as much delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, And to heed than the fat of rams. "For rebellion is as the sin of divination, And insubordination is as iniquity and idolatry. Because you have rejected the word of the LORD, He has also rejected you from being king."
Hmmm...interesting, isn't it?
Partial obedience turned out to be total disobedience for King Saul, didn't it?
Learning to walk in obedience to God has been the most freeing thing He has taught me. I mean, how arrogant of me to think for a minute that I know better than God does, anyway!
If He holds all in His hands, and if He loves me beyond my imagination, why WOULDN'T I want to obey Him?
I remember when I learned that the word "submit" in the Greek means to place one's self under one's rightful authority"...it changed my understanding of what it meant to submit to my husband.
God has order. And in His kingdom, my husband is my rightful authority, as Christ is his.
It just works. Christ over Shane, Shane over me.
The key though, is that I am the one doing the submitting..I'm not being beaten over the head to submit. Big difference. I'm being loved, and cherished, and sacrificed for....all by my husband as Christ for His church.
Why would I NOT want to place myself under a man who treats me like that?
Yes, there were YEARS when our marriage didn't look like that...but STILL God called me to submit to Shane..and you know what happened as a result? God was glorified and God used my choices to walk in obedience by submitting to Shane, to draw Shane to Himself.
It was tough...but OH MY GOODNESS it was SOOO worth it!
Today I am married to the man of my dreams, who is as in love with the LORD as I am. My cherished friend, my gift from God, my covering, my head, my HUBBA-HUBBA! :)
Obeying my husband and obeying my LORD are not legalism. They are acts that give me freedom and joy and blessing.
Obeying the LORD will give you freedom too. God doesn't want you to live in bondage to yourself, or to your flesh.
Surrender it to Him, and trust Him as He leads you in a walk of obedience to Him.
If you belong to Him, your life is not your own...so get out of the way and let God reign supreme through you!
Obedience has been very good to me. :)