BEWARE OF THE LEGALISM & CONTROL MONSTERS!
(Subtitled: Understanding the important differences between Law and Grace)
(By: Norman Rasmussen)
What I'm about to share with you is one of the most important spiritual insights you can ever grasp. If you never fully understand this incredible truth, chances are excellent you will never experience all the joy and peace that is available to you from God:
Legalism will destroy your love for God, and peace with God! When your love and peace for God dies, so will your joy and hope die. Christianity and life will become hell for you, and you may not even know why.
Legalism has many different tentacles. Legalism often comes in the slick, slimy form of "religion." Religion is often based on being coerced to obey rules to try to please religious leadership, as well as to try to please God. Religion is based on one's personal performance to one degree or another. Religion is actually Satan's counterfeit to the real thing. What is 'the real thing?' It is a love relationship with God. In this love relationship with God, we do not have to do a thing to try to be worthy enough to receive the fullness of God's unconditional love for us. Our worthiness is found in our identity with Christ. Because salvation is truly a free gift, so is God's unconditional love for us a free gift. When we give our lives to Jesus Christ as an expression of our love and appreciation for dying on the cross and taking the punishment for all our sins: Past, present and future sins, with that comes God's unconditional acceptance -- God's unconditional love. I can't be "good enough" to receive it, nor can I be "too unworthy; too undeserving" to be disqualified from receiving it. Yet when I identify with Jesus Christ ... it automatically is given to me FREELY!
Legalism - religion - is about keeping rules. It is full of "Don'ts!" and "Cant's! and "Must does!" Legalism puts a yoke of bondage on a person that causes them to begin subconsciously hating God to different degrees, yet consciously refusing to believe it. Many have never wanted to become a Christian because they've seen what religion did to a friend or a loved one. Some have even left Christianity because the list of "do's" and "don'ts" became a heavy bondage that feeds rebellion in a person - not a genuine desire to please God because we GET to ... not because we HAVE to.
Legalism - religion - can be likened to be being in a marriage and constantly be told you MUST do this or that to PROVE your love for your spouse. Relationship that God desires for us to have with our spouse is based on the premise: Because I love my spouse so much, I can't help but WANT to please him/her in every way I can. Not because I HAVE to, or am SUPPOSED to ... but because I just WANT to.
There is something in every one of us that wants others to accept us and love us unconditionally. Guess what? In Christ, God does! Sound too good to be true? Yes - it is hard for our logical thinking to receive this incredible fact, but I'm telling you the honest-to-God truth. In Christ, God instantly and forever loves us so unconditionally, that He died on the cross for us to PROVE His love for us ... if it's PROOF we feel we need.
There is another evil that slips into Christianity that one must be very careful in not becoming a victim to. Is is the "CONTROL" Monster. It manifests itself by hiding under the disguise of: Obedience to spiritual leadership or ELSE! Obeying your spiritual leadership in the local church setting is very biblical and wise, but perversion can slip in subtly without you knowing it is creeping in. Getting permission first from one's leadership to do just about anything and everything is the usual expression of this evil. There is nothing wrong with seeking counsel from one's leadership in the local church fellowship, but when leadership subtly or overtly demands it be done before one can make a decision on their own and act on it ... that becomes what God refers to as witchcraft in the Old Testament. Witchcraft is the means of controlling others however you can get away with it. "Slick" witchcraft is trying to get people to believe they MUST consult and obey leadership's every decision, or else God will be displeased with you. A rebel (sometimes a wounded rebel who has been a victim of manipulation and control from a former church) refuses to consult spiritual leadership for wise counsel, and desires to make every decision on their own. A wise child of God appreciates wise counsel when it's called for, but spiritual leadership must give out that counsel when it's asked for in a spirit of love -- not a spirit of control. A spirit of control will always lead you to the door of Satan's office. A spirit of love will lead you to the office of Jesus Christ.
Now then, let's look at legalism from a Biblical perspective. When you read the writings of the Apostle Paul in the New Testament, you'll come to see it was legalism that he had to battle with more than anything else. The Book of Galatians is a classic example, for starters.
For the sake of making the point: as born again Christians, we would perhaps be wise to take our bibles and mark out the words: OLD TESTAMENT and NEW TESTAMENT. After Old Testament and New Testament have been marked out, we can write: OLD COVENANT above Old Testament, and NEW COVENANT above New Testament. (See: Hebrews 8:6-13; 9:1).
To comprehend the importance of where we're going with this, we must understand some definitions of Old Covenant and New Covenant. For the sake of this teaching, Old Covenant means essentially this: God accepts me as long as I keep ALL of His commandments. New Covenant means essentially this: God accepts me unconditionally because of my trust in Jesus Christ. (See: Romans 13:10; Galatians 3:10; 4:21-31; 5:1-6).
From the very beginning of the resurrection of Jesus Christ, Satan's number one warfare strategy was to blur the lines of the "playing field" ... blur the lines of the football field; especially the 50 yard line. The spiritual football field we're talking about is blurring the lines between the Old Covenant and New Covenant. The weapon Satan most effectively uses to accomplish this "blurring" is what is called LEGALISM.
Allow me to repeat: The definition of New Covenant is essentially this: God ACCEPTS me because of the total and complete sacrifice of Jesus Christ. Putting it another way: God loves me UNCONDITIONALLY because of the total and complete sacrifice of Jesus Christ. God continues to love you unconditionally know matter what sins you may have committed, or will commit in the future. Sin no longer stands, or can stand in the way of God's unconditional love and acceptance of you. Christ's sacrifice was TRULY that complete, hard as it may be at first to believe! (See: Hebrews 10:10-14; 2 Cor. 5:21; John 3:16). [Keep something in mind however. Though God loves born again Christians unconditionally, He does not love their sin. Old and New Covenant never changed the way God views sin in a person's life. As much as God hated sin in the Old Covenant, He hates it equally as much under the New Covenant. Saying it plainly: God loves the sinner, but hates the sin any of us commit. That's important, never to forget].
Jesus Christ became the scapegoat (or sponge) for EVERY PERSON ever to be born - or will be born - on this planet. (If you get born in the space shuttle, you're STILL included). Saying it more graphically -- Jesus Christ became God the Father's garbage dump -- the cosmic toilet if you will, to flush away all of God's anger and wrath toward you and I, and focus it like a laser beam on The Son of God, Jesus Christ. (See: John 3:36; Romans 4:15; 5:9; Ephesians 2:1-10; 1 Thes. 1; 10; 2:16; 5:9).
What qualified Jesus Christ to be the one and ONLY accepted target of God the Father's wrath? Because Jesus Christ never sinned ONCE all the while He lived on this earth. Because Jesus was totally innocent of ANY wrongdoing in the sight of God the Father ... that made Jesus the ONLY sacrifice acceptable to God the Father to PAY for our "release" from spiritual bondage - spiritual blindness.
Having to "earn" one's way to be "right" with God the Father to get to heaven and stay there is considered spiritual bondage by Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ chose to make the way to heaven FREE OF CHARGE -- being made right with God the Father . . . by "TRUSTING" rather than having to work for it (which God the Father decreed was impossible with man anyway). (See: Romans 5:15-16; Ephesians 2:8).
Jesus Christ went to spiritual prison . . . so you could stay out of spiritual prison (hell) for eternity. What better friend is there to have, than one who will literally die in your place, so you don't have to? Which is wiser: trying to "be good enough" to get to heaven, or walk in "free of charge" because someone else paid your fee, and a very costly fee at that?
Every potential reason you might come up with regarding your past, your present situation, or ever will come up with in the future . . . for God the Father to not forgive you . . . any and all your reasons was heaped upon Jesus Christ as He hung dying on the cross. Total forgiveness from God the Father is instantly available to anyone [which most definitely includes YOU], if you'll simply ask Him to. (See: 1 John 1:9). But to receive this incredible, liberating truth and making it work to our benefit ... we must also be willing to forgive others. (See: Matt. 6:12-15; Mark 11: 25-26; Ephesians 4:32).
All, dear reader, ALL of God the Father's anger and wrath was heaped upon Jesus Christ for your past, present, and future wrongdoing (sin) in the sight of God . . . forever . . . as a born again Christian. This is some of the BEST incredibly Good News of the Gospel!
The incredibly bad news of the Gospel is that God's wrath remains on every person who rejects the one and only perfect sacrifice God the Father provided for humanity to remove His wrath. (See: John 3:36; Ephesians 2:1-10; Romans 5:8-11). The end result will be that each person will spend eternity in hell for rejecting this one and ONLY sacrifice God the Father HIMSELF provided for humanity to instantaneously, unconditionally, have removed God's wrath from you and I . . . for all time and eternity.
Saying it another way to help some fully understand -- wrath demands punishment. Because God is the Judge and He sets the spiritual laws and enforces them . . . each of us are destined for hell once we have rejected the only ACCEPTABLE sacrifice God HIMSELF provided humanity to totally remove His wrath off each of us. When God's wrath has been removed ... NO ETERNAL PUNISHMENT!
AFTER we become born again Christians, God will withhold His favor (or maximized blessings if you will) from us for wise reasons that are only good for us. Don't confuse wrath with God's CHASTISEMENT or DISCIPLINE (Read Hebrews 12:4-13 for understanding of this important matter. God does NOT want people confused with WRATH and CHASTISEMENT. There is a huge difference).
It's in YOUR power to have God's wrath removed off you.
This is important to know: It's not up to God to remove His wrath off us. He already provided the means for it to be removed: the death of Jesus Christ, and His resurrection, is that MEANS. It's up to each of US to unconditionally accept and act upon THE FREE WAY to get it instantaneously, forever, unconditionally removed. It's called getting saved. Saved from WHAT? Saved from the eternal punishment of God's wrath upon you and I, because of our sins.
So far ... incredibly great news, right? But now Satan's' strategies get a bit more sophisticated as he goes about redirecting our focus from these truths, and attempts to get our focus on something else. It's his strategy of "blurring the lines of truth." MONEY is one of the best means he has to accomplish his goal. He begins to alter our comprehension of truth, if we're not careful in financial areas: "Yeah -well, you must NOW give 10% of your income (gross amount, of course, not NET) to STAY saved."
"You must NOW become a member 'in good standing' of the church to STAY 'good and saved.'
"You must NOW be filled with the Holy Spirit, manifesting certain 'evidences' to 'prove' your salvation, or to 'stay good and saved.'
"You must now never sin AGAIN to stay saved, otherwise you will lose your salvation.'
"You have sinned one too many times now that you are saved. Grace has run out for YOU. There is no more forgiveness left for YOU! Just for everybody ELSE!
"You must first earn the "right" to get saved. It can only be "earned" by "atoning" for your wrongdoing: you have to FIRST be "good enough", don't you think? I mean, afterall, it's only LOGICAL.
"You must PROVE the right to stay saved ... stay born again ... stay "spirit filled." I mean - afterall ... you must PROVE your obedience to God. You've GOT to attend church every Sunday! (And Wednesday night and every other time the church is having something going on!
"You've GOT to pray EVERY day! You've GOT to read your Bible (KJV translation at that!) at LEAST one hour EVERYDAY!
"YOU'VE GOT TO! YOU'VE GOT TO!!!"
These are some of the more common lies Satan bombards Christians with to rob them of the JOY and PEACE God has given us (See Romans 14:17). It's easy to become victims of Satan's tactics and be robbed of this joy and peace if we're not careful.
Satan is simmering with rage at this very moment for exposing his tactics, and least someone misinterprets what is attempted to be communicated here in 'Exposing The LEGALISM Monster' ... attending "church" regularly, readying one's bible regularly, praying regularly, giving faithfully to help support your pastor and free him or her of having to be bogged down in the secular work force to pay bills . . . these are precious, profitable disciplines in one's Christian walk. The point that needs to be made is that we DON'T HAVE to "do" these things to get saved, or stay saved. Neither will we lose our Salvation if we DON'T do these things. Salvation is attained and secured by TRUSTING and trusting ALONE. (Galatians 3:1-5). Our spiritual growth -- our spiritual progress -- is nurtured by what we do once we have become born again, and our eternal rewards will be based MUCH on what we DO once we begin "doing good deeds."
Yet "doing good deeds" NEVER will get us saved, or KEEP us saved. Don't let the devil rob you of this vital truth. "Good deeds" are done for God as an act of our appreciation for ALL that He first did for us. (Romans 2:6; 3:20). Your righteousness -- your holiness -- will not get you saved either. The only righteousness that will save you is the righteousness of Christ Jesus, which we get for free as we become His disciple. If this sounds foreign to you, I encourage you to read this writing for understanding -- it is so important to understand: The Breastplate Of Righteousness.
Driving the point home . . . (and again I use money, because the world evolves around it, unfortunately), I don't HAVE to give money to get saved, or STAY saved. I CAN'T give money to get saved, and I CAN'T give money to STAY saved. (Tell a group of hardened prisoners they must give 10% of their wages to get saved or stay saved, and they'll all start LAUGHING at you and walk off).
I don't give money because I HAVE to, or someone says I'm SUPPOSED TO. I give money because I WANT to. I give money because I GET to. (2 Cor. 8:12). I give money because it is incredibly WISE to invest money into the work of the Lord where I KNOW those I give it to are using it WISELY.
[A special note at this juncture: If you do NOT understand 2 Corinthians chapters 8 and 9, I would strongly encourage you to seek God for understanding of what He is communicating to the reader. The eternal law of sowing and reaping TRANSCENDS Old Covenant - New Covenant ways of serving God. No matter where we find ourselves throughout all eternity... if we sow GOOD, we will reap good. If we sow BAD, we will reap bad. NOTHING can or ever will change this fact.
People riding solely on God's grace who "assume" that every saved, born again Christian will get the SAME rewards in heaven will be painfully disillusioned at the Judgment seat of Christ, when He rewards Christians for what they DID after they became born again. (See: 1 Cor. 3:8-15). Simply: the more love you give to others, the more love you are going to get back from others. The more kindness you give to others, the more kindness you will get back from others. The more money you give to others ... the quicker you will go broke, right?! That's not what scripture assures us, but we have also come to realize that scripture also says: He who oppresses the poor to make much for himself, or who give to the rich, will only come to poverty (Proverbs 22:16). Hence WHERE we give, and to whom we give has much bearing on our receiving back.
Here's an ouch! Paying credit card companies interest every month sure seems like giving to the 'rich' to me. We keep giving, but get nothing back but stress and worry when the bills come due! I'll move on . . .
The Old Testament book of Proverbs is the book of "Wisdom." One portion of scripture found in Proverbs 3:9-10 balances out the Old Covenant and New Covenant perfectly: Honor [notice the choice of words here: HONOR. Honor does not DEMAND. God simply loves to be HONORED. We truly can honor Him when we give to His work financially] the Lord with your possessions, and with the firstfruits of all your increase; so your barns will be filled with plenty, and your vats will overflow with new wine.
Old Covenant law was designed to drive us to the mind set: 'I HAVE to obey God's commandments or else I don't get blessed.' New Covenant love (See: Romans 8:2-3), was designed to drive us to this mind set: 'I GET to obey God's commandments that are clearly laid out for us AFTER Jesus Christ went to the cross. (Even though we are to obey EVERY command Jesus gave BEFORE He went to the cross, as it is to be applied to New Covenant grace). If one does not understand WHY the vital importance of placing the START of the New Covenant time period AFTER the cross . . . confusion will constantly be the end result in how we are to conduct ourselves within the confines of Christianity. Satan is the author of confusion, for his own purposes, of course.
GET TO and HAVE TO is the difference between LOVE and REBELLION. GET TO and HAVE TO is the difference between serving God with Joy, or serving Him with a huge ball and chain around our neck all the way to heaven.
For the sake of communicating this vitally important - liberating truth . . . Old Covenant meant DO! New Covenant means BE! Old Covenant meant WORK. New Covenant means Jesus Christ Has Finished THE WORK (on the cross). (John 19:30). Old Covenant meant LAW (of keeping ordinances to be pleasing to God). New Covenant means GRACE (can't do a THING to be pleasing to God other than trusting for it BY and THROUGH Jesus Christ, which The Holy Spirit enables us to do).
Spiritual LEGALISM will have me thinking, if I'm NOT CAREFUL, I have to join the "right church" to receive maximized acceptance and blessing from God. New Covenant liberating LOVE and GRACE means I am ALREADY a member of good standing of the one and only true church, THE BODY OF CHRIST, (the "called-out ones"), and no matter where I am, that's WHERE the "church" IS . . . at least one member in good standing, any way. (See: Ephesians 5:30; 1 Cor. 12:27). (Satan has been so effective in his redefining of the word "church" that many of us don't realize that the four walls that house the "church" where we meet are only THAT ... just four square walls. Four square walls with a ceiling can't get saved or lose it's soul to hell. Only PEOPLE can!).
Satan is the "The Legalism Monster". He injects his spiritual pride in his victims. The end result of pride is DECEPTION. Big time BLINDNESS to liberating truth. Here are some of the expressions of his blindness:
"My 'denomination' or 'Pastor' or 'teacher' has the CORRECT truth." New Covenant LOVE releases the revelation that God will give NO HUMAN BEING 100% REVELATION OF THE TRUTH OF GOD'S WORD, HIS HOLY SCRIPTURES . . . before His return to earth once again. Why? Because God knows that Satan would have us giving ALL of our devotion to that person alone, and we would be seeking spiritual answers and direction from that person and that person alone . . . not trusting the Holy Spirit to reveal the truth from God's Word to each of us individually, without relying solely on another mere human being to reveal it to us.
Receiving teaching from a human being is necessary and wise. Trusting the Holy Spirit to reveal what is truth and what is not from God's Word is even wiser. God gives us teachers to help understand and grow in our walk with Him. But it's the Holy Spirit we listen to from those teachers ... not the teacher. When that teacher says something that we can't confidently say to ourselves that we agree with what the Holy Spirit is showing us about that truth from His Word.... (Or OTHERWISE) . . . we're ALWAYS to trust the Holy Spirit. [Tip: Whatever you don't understand or are struggling believing, consider placing it on the 'doctrine shelf' inside your head. Take the 'supposed revelation of truth' off the 'doctrine shelf' from time to time and examine it. The Holy Spirit will confirm or deny what God the Father wants you to know concerning it]. You and I and others are always to place secondary importance on what we believe about revelation of God's Word when we disagree. The Holy Spirit KNOWS all truth. He's the only one designated by God the Father to be the ultimate revelator of God's truth, His Word. Satan wants you to desperately believe differently!
Now . . . having just said the above, I am NEVER to think, assume, or believe that I, MYSELF, am hearing from the Holy Spirit better than someone else. To begin believing that means Satan has his claws of spiritual pride sunk deep into my brain. Though the Holy Spirit may give me revelation of the truth of God's Word in one area or another, there will be other areas from the Word of God where I will be blinded, or partly blinded. I must realize this and utilize my 'imaginary doctrine shelf' frequently ... otherwise Satan will have me starting a cult of my own.
Old Covenant Jewish practices mixed with New Covenant grace robs us of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Ghost, because it gives the devil opened doors to harass us.
Old Covenant Jewish practices mixed with New Covenant grace robs us of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Ghost, which is exactly Satan's intention. [This by no means implies that the 10 Commandments are no longer to be kept. Obeying the 10 commandments do not save us, but they SURE bring God's blessings to us when we keep them, and God expects New Covenant believers to still obey them! Here is an excellent, short and concise writing on this matter: The 10 Commandments].
Here are some key "trigger words" to help understand the difference between Old Covenant Legalism and New Covenant Grace:
Giving ... serving ... these are best executed when we simply come to the conclusion that we don't have to. It's a privilege to GET TO.
With that mind-set: I don't HAVE to get saved to get to heaven (although REALLY I do) ... I GET TO!
GET TO mind-set fosters an atmosphere of love, peace and joy. GET TO fosters greater appreciation for God and what is pleasing to Him, and a greater hatred for sin and the works of the devil.
HAVE TO thinking fosters an atmosphere of fear, discouragement, hopelessness, faithlessness and spiritual rebellion ... which is what the devil is constantly trying to coerce us into. HAVE TO Salvation will wear one totally out, because it is a slave driver. GET TO Salvation will not wear one out, but rather ... motivate believers to want to get victory over sinful areas of their lives, and to give more of their time, talent and treasure to the work of the Lord ... because it's not something they HAVE to do ... it's a privilege for them to GET TO.
New Covenant truths reveal God's unconditional love toward sinners like nothing else before it did.
Remember -- God didn't HAVE to shed His blood on the Cross for you and I. He wanted to!
Summarizing ... The Old Covenant was replaced by the New Covenant simply because of God's goodness. Yet God never changed His mind about how much He hates sin from the Old Covenant to the New Covenant. The Old Covenant could not be a complete or final way of atoning for man's sins, because no animal was perfect enough for God's wrath to be appeased, nor was their any Priest holy enough to administer blood sacrifices. The New Covenant was the complete and final way of covering man's sins because there never has, nor ever will be, innocent blood more pure than the blood of God shed for the sins of mankind on the Cross of Calvary. Jesus was the perfect high Priest to administer that blood sacrifice, because though He was tempted to sin in every way, He never sinned once. And it was only necessary to do it ONCE!
The New Covenant was in the mind of God from the very foundation of the world, if not before. It will remain in the mind of mankind, angels and God for all eternity ... without end.
If you would like to read how God delivered Norm Rasmussen, the founder of Precious Testimonies, from DOUBT that the Holy Bible can be trusted, you can click on the following link: The Incredible Bible Miracle
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Remember: All that we do in this life comes back to our God-given purpose which is to serve and glorify God. The money and assets we accumulate, the fame and power we've attained or seek to attain - all of the things of this nature will one day pass away, but those lives of others we impact for Jesus Christ will last for eternity, and we will be rewarded for the part we helped play by impacting those lives ... for eternity. (Matthew 6:19-20 is our assurance)