Sunday, June 29, 2014

The Second Greatest Post-Legalism Danger & How to Avoid It

"Now the Lord is that Spirit: 
and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty."
2 Corinthians 3:17

Post #3 in the Legalism Series.

I have hit a brick wall of writer's block,

that is, on any other subject than this one.
I have wanted to write about other things for several days,
but the Lord keeps bringing me back to this burden on my heart.

First, let me say that I am surprised by the number of you, precious readers,

who have responded and shared with me.
My heart goes out to every one of you...whether you have or have not responded,
because I feel your pain, and I care.
I had no idea there were so many out there who have suffered or are now suffering 
from the bondage of manrule and a legalistic spirit.

The Lord woke me early this morning, giving fresh inspiration, as I sought Him in earnest prayer,

so I proceed with at least more post on the subject.
We'll see where He leads after this.

So, the pendulum swings...side to side...
from the extreme of complete lawlessness, where anything and everything goes,
and nothing, no matter how ungodly or unholy, is considered sin,
to the extreme of living life in a stranglehold straight jacket of legalism,
where everything, even the Biblically-permissable things are labeled "sin" and life is a miserable drudgery.
Temptation lurks on both sides of the narrow way.
We walk a tight rope of balance,
where the slightest misstep can send us spiraling in either direction.

My previous post 
defined the greatest danger to the newly-delivered-from-a-fanatical-legalistic-stronghold-soul as being the temptation to run full speed, headlong in the opposite direction of complete and utter compromise of Biblical doctrine.

I write these things, not from ever having read or been told about them,
but from personal, firsthand experience.
Having lived and breathed and walked still walking this journey, I know where God has brought us from,
I know where satan has tried to divert our steps,
and I am aware of, at least some, of his tactics.
As the Apostle Paul said in 2 Corinthians 2:11, 
"Lest satan should get an advantage of us: for we are not ignorant of his devices."
So, if I can help someone else who comes behind me, by all means, and by God's grace,
I surely want to do that.

I believe the second greatest post-legalism danger is, without a doubt,
the temptation to fall prey to a different form of legalism.
Same horse, different color.
If you are accustomed to walking fettered,
you are extremely vulnerable to being entrapped again.
If you were once enslaved by a cruel taskmaster,
you are likely to give your freedom away once more.
Because it is hard to grasp the concept that you should be free...
that you should actually enjoy your salvation...
and that it is okay to laugh, and smile, and be happy.
Because it is just easier for someone else to tell you what to do.
And it feels good to be liked...and accepted...and a part of something.
It is hard to walk alone.
To be on the outside.
To feel the sting of ex-communication and rebuke.
To buck against the religious elite and feel their scorn.
To hear of the mean-spirited things they say and not fall prey to believing them.
To defy man, and mind God.

So, the devil will have an alternate waiting for you.
You can count on that.
He will make it appear attractive, and of course,
he will cause it to look like the real deal.
You will be tempted by his bait, because you feel so lost, unattached, 
and unsure of yourself on this unfamiliar path.

You might even take the bait and get partially reeled in,
until one day, you wake up and feel that old, sickening, all-too-familiar whip come across your back,
and you kick yourself for falling for one of the oldest tricks in satan's book.
You will stand there asking yourself how you could have been so stupid...
how you didn't even see it coming...
and thinking how sly and crafty and cunning...and EVIL satan is to have set the trap in the first place.
Suddenly, the realization sinks in that the vacuum is gaining strength and momentum,
and if you don't do something quick, 
you are going to find yourself right back where God just delivered you from....
entrapped, enslaved, bound up, tormented, hopeless, and unable to escape from the multiple loops
this new "spider" has wound around you.

But, this time around, you are wiser.
You are more discerning.
You are stronger.
You are more aware...more cautious...less trusting of people...and more dependent on God.
You have more courage.
Because you have seen what God can do.
You have not only witnessed the miracle, you have lived it.
You have inhaled that first breath of freedom and felt the chains fall off your feet.
You have walked the sweet path where there is human hierarchy....
between you and Jesus.
Just sweet, precious, unimpaired communion and peace.

So, when you recognize the whip,
when you first notice that old, familiar tightening of bondage...and dreaded tightening in your chest,
you drop that hook out of your mouth like a hot potato,
and you swim and unencumbered....still bewildered at your own susceptibility.

If God has delivered you and set you free, don't get drawn in again, my friend.
How terribly sad that would be!
How cruel your enemy to have the audacity to try the same tactic twice!
But, trust me on this one, he will try.
He will offer you the bait, and it is up to you to turn him down.

"Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free,
and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage."

Galatians 5:1

Even though it looks different than the other yoke,
even though it operates under a different name brand,
even though the people involved wear an entirely different label,
even though it feels safe.
Turn, and run with all your might at the raising of the first red flag.
You do not want to live that way.
You deserve better than that, because Jesus gave everything He had to buy your freedom.
How it would break His heart to see you willingly walk back into bondage,
after He has gone to such lengths to set you free!

For you to allow yourself to become entangled with yet another yoke of bondage would resemble the children of Israel's longing to return to the horrors of Egypt,

after God had so miraculously made a way of escape and entirely delivered them.

So, what do those red flags look like?
What should you look for?
Of what should you be aware?

Watch for these types of tell-tale signs and legalistic situations that are similar to these
hypothetical, some not-so-hypothetical, scenarios. 

1.  You are terrified to make a move without running it past Bro. So-and-So first.
Surely, if he doesn't approve, that must mean God isn't pleased either, right?

2.  You are afraid Sis. So-and-So will find out you wore pink last week.
Because if she finds out, she will tell the hierarchy, 
they won't be pleased,
and you will be sick to your stomach for days as you dread 
and try to prepare yourself for the scathing rebuke you know is coming your way.

3.  You force yourself to go to church Sunday morning, 
even though you have a temperature of 102, and your body aches...
because if you don't show up and plow against it, 
Bro. So-and-So will think you are too weak to handle your ministry.

4.  You preach a stronger-than-necessary, harsher-than-Jesus-would-ever-preach message Sunday night 
that ends up wounding 98% of your congregation, leaving them without a shred of hope,
just because Bro. So-and-So is there, and he loves that judgmental, hateful-toned, Pharisee-like preaching.
After all, it seems paramount to please Bro. So-and-So...never mind how it affects everyone else
or what our dear Lord thinks of the situation.

5.  You are terrified to step foot into your sister's church, 
because the upper crust will think you "compromised" by attending services in a place 
that doesn't have their label on a sign over the door.

6.  You refrain from going to a revival meeting across town, 
because it might get back to the powers that be, and they will frown on you because you attended services where the singing was accompanied by musical instruments.

7.  You turn down an opportunity to go hear a minister whose preaching has blessed you numerous times
because if you do, someone might see you there and call Bro. So-and-So and tell him you 
listened to a minister preach who was wearing a neck-tie.

8.  You feel praise bubbling from deep inside and you yearn with all your heart to raise your hands and worship God out loud, 
but you dare not show any outward sign of praise, 
because Bro. So-and-So is sitting across from you, 
glaring at you over his mid-nose-positioned glasses,
and he shows utter disdain at the slightest sign of "emotionalism".
And, you better keep quiet, because you just can't cope with all of that shocked head-turning
and disapproving looks from every other eyeball in the room.

9.  You don't dare ask your grandma to pray for you, 
because it might be found out that you have confidence in someone outside your "group".

10.  You develop an ulcer and hurt for two weeks before Bro. So-and-So rolls into town, 
because you've learned from past experience that he will find a reason to rake you over the coals 
and leave you in tears for weeks after his visit.

11.  Your knees knock together repeatedly during testimony service,
because you want to give God the deserved glory for healing your mother and sparing her life,
but you know Sis. So-and-So will have a fit because she found out your Mom went to the hospital,
and she doesn't think you should give God the glory when and if medical science is involved.
 Can you imagine????

12.  You nervously chew your fingernails to the quick while driving to the pharmacy to pick up a prescription for your little boy,
because you know if word gets back to the ministerial hierarchy that you gave your child medicine,
you will be in peril of a good talking to, or even ex-communication.

13.  You spend two hours frantically searching your closet for something to wear to church that adheres
to the personal convictions of Sis. So-and-So, because, by all means, 
Sis. So-and-So's personal convictions should never be disobeyed or rebelled against.

14.  You are petrified to call Bro. So-and-So for prayer for your sick sister,
because you know he doesn't approve of her lifestyle,
and you don't really feel like hearing his gloating, utterly-void-of-compassion voice telling you once again 
that her sickness is nothing but the wrath of God that has fallen on her.

15.  Your preacher stands in the pulpit harshly and roaringly 
commanding you to wear your hair in a certain hairstyle, "just like the Bible tells you to do", 
when, in reality, wearing your hair that way gives you a pounding, debilitating headache,
and, furthermore, upon diligent search, the Bible does not tell you to wear it that way at all.

I know some of these sound absurd to the general public,

but, believe me, however absurd, they are not as unusual as you might think.
Though there are many more I could mention....I feel this is sufficient to convey the ugliness of legalism,
without being any more specific.
It is not my intention to wound or offend anyone,
and I feel this is definitely enough details.
You get the picture.

If you are being asked to do something that God, through His Holy Word or through personal revelation, does not require you to do,
but is being dictated to you by the "rules" of a particular denomination,
you should probably turn and run.

If you have to go around hiding what you do, 
not because you feel the slightest condemnation by God,
but because if "they" find out, you will be condemned,
it is in your best interest to get out of dodge.

If you are being held under bondage to certain aspects of Old Testament law 
that were already fulfilled when Jesus came,
you need to break free while you can.

If you are being asked to wear or not wear something based solely upon the opinions of a manmade religious hierarchy and told that your salvation depends upon your adherence to their convictions,
you need to say "thanks, but no thanks" to their bondage,
seek God earnestly for His perfect will concerning what you wear, 
break free before you get drawn in any further, and move on.

Once the Good Shepherd has set us free and brought us to greener pastures, it is up to us, by His grace,
to continue to follow Him alone, 
and never be drawn into the confines of bondage again.

(To read Post #1 in this series, entitled "The Binding Stronghold of Legalism", click here.
To read Post #2 in this series, entitled "The Greatest Post-Legalism Danger", click here.)


  1. Wow, what a scary list! Thank you for sharing a more closer look at legalism! It is so sad that people can get caught up in this... I have family who are involved with brother-so and so and it breaks the heart. May this post encourage others to find real peace in Christ!

    1. It is a scary list indeed...and sad to say, some of that is not hypothetical. Some of it is still raw wounds that are still trying to heal and scab over. I so appreciate your support and kind words, JES. God bless you, my friend. :)

    2. Thank you for sharing this on the Art of Home-Making Mondays Cheryl. I hope you are having a peaceful week :)

  2. Wow! While we've never worshiped anywhere that legalistic, there's definitely nodded my head on a couple of those points. We are part of a home fellowship now, but we do go to a monthly congregational singing when we can - at a congregation where we used to worship and where much of my husband's family still does. The last time we were there, my youngest daughter closed her eyes and raised her hand while we were singing, I began to cringe before I thought, "what am I doing??!! I should be thrilled that my daughter worships with her whole heart." We are so glad to have been "freed" from congregations that bind things that God does not!

    1. Bless your heart...and your daughter's, too. I can totally relate to how that feels as a mother to see your child long to worship God in FREEDOM, and not be able to because of disapproving Pharisees. I am proud of your daughter for raising her hand and giving vent to the worship of her heart. I loved your last sentence...yes, praise God forevermore for deliverance and freedom. I don't think anyone can really understand this unless they have been through it. Thank you so much for stopping by and for commenting today! Many blessings to you and your family.

  3. Amen, sister! The "whip" is a great word for it! I marvel at people that know scripture fairly well and yet don't grasp that the whole point of our Savior was to do for us what we couldn't do by following rules!!!

    I've had that debate with many people about the hair too. I try not to argue anymore, otherwise I'm just another legalist. Funny how Paul urging them to be set apart from the world as Christians gets so taken out of context… Do they really think that Paul didn't know about Samson, Samuel, Absolom, and the Nazarite vow that he too took for a time? Sheesh… Forgive my venting, great post.

    1. Oh, my! I know exactly what you mean...oh, boy, you don't want to get me started. LOL!! Brother, do you know that I am JUST now beginning to understand and grasp the concept that Jesus DID for me what I could never do??? After being saved for over 30 years, I am only beginning to comprehend that God loves me, and I don't have to jump through hoops and climb mountains to earn that love. Sometimes, I wonder if I will ever really see things though His lens, but I am trying. God help me...legalism has left its mark and aftermath. Feel free to vent anytime...I so understand where you are coming from and so appreciate your visit today. God bless you, brother.

  4. My husband and I moved to a small mountain town 2 years ago. And, we are incredibly blessed to have found a small church with the warmest body of believers. We are surrounded with loving people who know how to extend grace. That is a blessing we never take for granted. Sometimes Christians just get in the way of Jesus. May we not burden others with words and attitudes that Jesus would never have.

    My second thought is in response to your statement: "it is okay to laugh, and smile, and be happy." You know, I don't think we picture Jesus doing that enough. Picture the Lover of our Souls laughing, smiling, happy, enjoying a joke maybe! The Bible tells us that God delights in us. And I happen to think that that includes a heartwarming chuckle over His beloved children once in a while.

    If we are to put on Jesus, I think it includes a smile or two!!


    1. It sounds like you have a wonderful, warm, loving church to attend. That is such a dear blessing, and I can tell you enjoy it very much. Yes, I believe Jesus loves to see us smile. I was thinking of that the other day, when He sent an extra-special blessing to my family and me...I told Zachary that I believe He does things just to see a smile brought to our face sometimes. Smiling is one of the sweetest ways to show the light of Jesus' love! So happy you stopped by today and so grateful for your comments and insight. Lots of love to you.

  5. Whew! I don't want to play that game. ~smile~

    1. Me,neither, sister! Glad to see you stopped by today...God bless you. ;)

  6. Wow...I totally agree with you. I have been there, and got the T-shirt.
    Thank you for being so bold...

    1. Bless your dear heart! I am so sorry for what you have been through, and I trust God will comfort your heart and hold you close. Much love and many blessings to you.

  7. These examples are heart-breaking, indeed. But so much of the legalism in the church body is so much more subtle. And that, too, is so damaging to our spirit, to our freedom, and most importantly, to the actual gospel of grace. It's taken me 40 years to start letting some of those things go. Freedom can be scary, too, but so, so glad God is gentle with us in the process and pours out the grace over and over again. Thank you for your boldness in sharing your heart and clearly touching so many people who have been so pained in the name of "church" ... may I be one to stand along with you to announce freedom! It reminds me on of one of my very favorite poems: "The small man Builds cages for everyone He knows. While the sage, Who has to duck his head When the moon is low, Keeps dropping keys all night long For the Beautiful Rowdy Prisoners. ~hafiz

    1. You are so right, dear friend. So much of it is much more subtle and under-handed than these examples. I am right there with has taken me so many, many years to let go. BTW, I LOVE your poem. Thank you so very much for stopping by and leaving sweet encouragement behind. So thankful to hear from those of like-mind and kindred spirit. So many of us have been left bruised and broken in the wake of legalism, but as you said, it is wonderful to be able to stand side by side and announce freedom in Christ!! God bless you. :)

  8. Through the years, God has opened our eyes to His truth found in His word. There is a time to ask leaders for help in decisions, but the final decision must be from your own heart as the Holy Spirit leads. Thank you for sharing your lovely post with us here at “Tell Me a Story.” At:

    1. So true, Hazel! I thank God for every bit of Godly counsel I have been given through the years. Just so thankful to be serving Jesus and living for Him and trusting Him through life. He is SO good!! Lots of love to you, dear friend. :)

  9. Legalism is, indeed, a very sly tempter and a very harsh task-master.

    It is astounding to me how Christians, having read Jesus' words of grace and His denunciation of legalistic rules, are so very prone to turning right around and making a new set of legalistic rules, using the very words Christ spoke in denouncing legalism.

    It is truly amazing and revolting...yet we (yes me too) are so very prone to fall into this trap...

    Thank you for shining the light of God's truth on this important area!

    1. Yes, you are so is astounding, because it is so totally opposite of His ways and His teaching. SO true! I am so grateful for your encouraging visit today. God bless you.