Legalism vs. grace. The age old tug of war with our flesh. I can’t begin to tell you the many stained knees and worn out shoes from this old war in my own life. We seem pre-programmed in our sinful flesh for legalism. In our struggle towards honouring Christ with our bodies, never more is our sin nature more evident.
We make lists, and plans, and we hurry to fulfil them. We check off our progress in our minds; “this was a good day” or, “Oh, I am such a failure! I didn’t do that!” We weigh our daily success against a list, and if our list has more X’s than checks the legalism team brings out their star player, a huge guy named Shame, and we end up in the mud again.
But this is what we must remind ourselves daily, if not hourly, or minute by minute; the Lord has cut that rope with His blood. He came to untie the chains of darkness and legalism, and He gave us life and freedom in Him. When we choose a legalistic lifestyle, we invite the old team to come back and join us for a rematch, we invite the humiliation that Shame brings, and we invite the inevitable mud pie and stains that he gladly covers us with.
If Christ has brought us freedom from legalism, why do we continue to pull the rope? Galatians 5:1 says, “For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.” And later in vs. 23-24 it reminds us, “Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit…But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.” (vs. 16)
How do we walk away from the rope and hold on tight to the Spirit? We stay close to Him, we seek Him in prayer, Word, reflection, and we take every thought captive for Christ. We allow the truth of His grace to unwind the ropes from our clutched fists, and walk away in freedom from the constant opportunity to play tug of war. The next time we find ourselves at the end of a rope, with mud on our faces, we can be sure Shame is close by laughing. We must not entertain him for a minute! Let us bring him to the foot of the cross and remind him that he was beaten there. We can then get up, grab Christ’s hand and walk away in truth and freedom once again.