The spirit of legalism might be one of the most damaging demons. While it’s true that many other demons can destroy lives, this spirit can fool someone into thinking they have a relationship with God when they really don’t. How frightening!
Legalism is when a person tries to earn their way to heaven instead of believing that the finished work of Jesus at the cross is enough to cover their sins. If we could somehow buy our way into heaven with our good works then Jesus would never have had to come. Did Jesus die in vain? Absolutely not!
Be very cautious when a Christian or anyone tries to give you a long list of rules you must obey in order to be saved. The only requirement for salvation is to believe in Jesus’s sacrifice on the cross.
“O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you that you should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed among you as crucified? This only I want to learn from you: Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? Are you so foolish? Having begun in the Spirit, are you now being made perfect by the flesh? Have you suffered so many things in vain—if indeed it was in vain? Therefore He who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you, does He do it by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?“
– Galatians 3:1-5
In the letter Paul sent to the church at Galatia, he expressed his concerns about the legalism that was going on there. It doesn’t make sense to get saved by the Holy Spirit and then somehow think the flesh will make you more righteous. Let’s explore some things about legalism.
All scriptures are taken from NKJV unless otherwise marked.
Symptoms Of The Spirit Of Legalism
Legalism steals honor from the finished work at the cross. As I previously stated, when someone operates in legalism they make it seem like the bloodshed at the cross wasn’t enough to buy us back from hell. The only thing that gets us into heaven is the blood of Jesus, not our own personal works. When someone tries to say that we have to do certain things or else we won’t get to heaven, that’s false teaching. Yes, we should grow in the spiritual realm after salvation, but we ultimately cannot get into heaven’s gates without the work at the cross.
Legalism is demonic. This spirit is so dangerous because it can deceive people into thinking they’re saved with they really aren’t. For example, how many of us know people who go to church regularly but have no spiritual maturity or insight? It’s astonishing to me the number of people that profess to be a Christian but cannot tell the differences between a truth and a lie.
The enemy is a liar and works by deceiving people. He leads the world into believing God isn’t real, that He’s a liar and unfaithful, and that people are their own god. There are so many lies in today’s world that are running the show, but a true believer in Christ can use discernment.
The truth is it doesn’t matter how often someone goes to church, how much they donate, or how righteous they seem. What’s important is their personal walk with God. While it’s true that we can see the effects of their time with God, we usually cannot see what they do behind closed doors with God. That’s why legalism fails. It’s all about the actions that people can see and judge.
You can do good with evil motives. God looks at and sees the heart of an individual.
“But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look at his appearance or at his physical stature, because I have refused him. For the Lord does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.“
– 1 Samuel 16:7
Legalism seeks to replace the Holy Spirit. The Lord tells us to acknowledge Him in all our ways so He can direct our path. (Proverbs 3:5-6) Therefore, God wants to guide us through His Spirit. However, when people are led away by the spirit of legalism they make their own path. They think they know what’s right and what makes sense, but God doesn’t work in ways that we think He should.
We cannot put an eternal God into a box. We must rely on Him and His Spirit to teach us and show us how we should live. In other words, legalism turns us into our own god and seeks to steal the spotlight away from God.
The Curse Of Legalism
“For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse; for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who does not continue in all things which are written in the book of the law, to do them.” But that no one is justified by the law in the sight of God is evident, for “the just shall live by faith.” Yet the law is not of faith, but “the man who does them shall live by them.”
– Galatians 3:10-12
Unfortunately, the Law of God only brings a curse. Those who try to become justified by the Law doom themselves to a curse. There is no salvation found in the Law. The Law is important in the sense that it gives us great examples and warnings. However, salvation only comes from Christ and Christ alone.
“Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us (for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree”), that the blessing of Abraham might come upon the Gentiles in Christ Jesus, that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.“
– Galatians 3:13-14
Afterward, our spiritual growth comes only from the spiritual realm. It comes from spending time with God in the Spirit through prayer, praise, thanksgiving, and worship. The Law will always be necessary for our walk with God, but it’s important to not put it above personal time with the Lord.
The born again believers must walk in faith, not rules and regulations. Faith without works is dead, but works do not create faith. Faith comes as a gift from God:
“For I say, through the grace given to me, to everyone who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly, as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith.”
– Romans 12:3
It’s important to observe the lives of those in the Law, but we cannot base our means of salvation by works. Salvation comes from the blood of Christ that bought us back from the devil at the cross. From our faith in God and personal time with Him in prayer comes growth. We overcome sin by having a strong relationship with God, not through our own will power.
All men are weak and it’s through those weaknesses that God can glorify Himself with our transformation. The Law must be combined with the Spirit of truth. Then, we’ll see significant growth!
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