Colossians 2:20-23  Therefore, if you died with Christ from the basic principles of the world, why, as though living in the world, do you subject yourselves to regulations- “Do not touch, do not taste, do not handle,” which all concern things which perish with the using-according to the commandments and doctrines of men?  These things indeed have an appearance of wisdom in self-imposed religion, false humility, and neglect of the body, but are of no value against the indulgence of the flesh.

What is legalism?  You hear this a lot in the world of evangelicalism.  I would assert most people use this term when trying to defend their sin.  Am I a legalist if I call sin, “sin”?  I think scripture is quite clear in most cases what constitutes sin.  Sin is ANY violation of God’s moral law.  That doesn’t sell too well today and most people really don’t like being called on their sin.

We are currently in the Lenten season and I see a lot of people that want to self-impose religion and false humilities but live in blatant sin.  I’m not sure they realize they are in sin because they’ve wrapped themselves in a religious blanket; they are deceived by the deceitfulness of sin.  However this blanket is damning unless they turn from this sin in repentance and faith in Christ.

Jesus was clear; no set of “rule following” will get you into the kingdom.

Then Jesus looking at him, loved him, and said to him, “One thing you lack:  Go your way, sell whatever you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven: and come, take up the cross, and follow Me.”  But he was sad at this word and went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions. Mark 10:21-22 

He requires all of you, your entire devotion of heart, soul and mind.  Not just conforming to a ritual or a doctrine of man.  This is man’s response to feeling better about himself.  Doesn’t it seem easier if we could just do this or do that and then be okay with God?  If I say this prayer, or bow my face to the ground twice a day facing east then it’s all going to be okay?

Weren’t the Pharisees the most religious and righteous of the day?  What did the Lord mean when He said He desired mercy and not sacrifice?  Then He told them that He came to call sinners not the righteous. (Matthew 9:13)  How much more offensive could He have been to their neat little religious system?

Conforming our lives to God’s Word and following His commands is not legalism.  It’s love.  John 14:15 “If you love Me, you will keep My commands.”

Keeping a ritual in an attempt to make you right with God is legalism.  Jesus clearly shows us this truth.

Luke 18:9-14 Also He spoke this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, an despised others: “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector.  The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other men-extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector.  I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I possess.’  And the tax collector, standing afar off, would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me a sinner!’  I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”

This is every bit as clear and in your face as it appears and raises questions for us all.  Are you made righteous by your deeds?  Or are you made righteous when you recognize your poverty and your need for Christ as Lord of your life and the only One that saves?  Do you trust in yourself?  Know today that won’t save you.  No religious system will save you.

Isaiah 29:13 Therefore the LORD said: “Inasmuch as these people draw near with their mouths and honor Me with their lips, but have removed their hearts far from Me, and their fear toward Me is taught by the commandment of men.

Let’s not be legalists.  Let’s be servants of the Most High God; the God that wants your heart, not your lip-service.