I’ve heard it said that we are all legalists at heart. Are you a legalist? You might be surprised at the subtle ways we fall into it.
Also read about:
- Hezekiah’s amazing prayer and how we can pray the same way.
- One way to start preparing for 2017 and get your time with God off to a good start.
Isaiah 37 & 38
Are you a legalist?
If I Do “A” …
The Galatians, who had received the Gospel of salvation by grace, had been infiltrated by Judaizers, men who wanted to impose their own legalistic requirements on them. It’s as if someone came into your church or mine and began to hold his own Bible study telling people they are not really saved unless they’ve been baptized, or unless they become vegetarians, get circumcised, take communion every week, worship on a certain day, or some other list of requirements. It may sound foolish, but if you don’t know the truth and have it firmly fixed in your mind, you will fall for anything!
Legalism is much easier to fall into than we might think, but sometimes it shows up in very subtle ways. Many people who sit in church every week, when asked if they are sure they’ll get to heaven will say “yes,” but when asked why, will say “because I’m a pretty good person.”
What is that? It’s salvation by works. It’s legalism! They may have received the gospel on an intellectual level, but in their hearts believe they must add something to it, and certainly must do something to keep themselves saved.
How else does it show up?
“I homeschool my kids, take them to church, raise them right so, while they may make a few foolish choices, they will turn out right.” Or …
“We tithe and give to other good causes, how could God have allowed my husband to lose his job.” Or …
“I live a healthy lifestyle, how could I have cancer.” Or …
“I’ve prayed and prayed, I don’t understand why my wife is still unsubmissive or my husband is still harsh, or my children are still rebellious or _____________.” You fill in the blank.
If I do “A,” God somehow owes me “B.”
The truth is we could do nothing to save ourselves and we can do nothing to keep ourselves saved! And the corresponding truth is that if all God ever did, was save us from an eternity separated from Him, it should be enough. He doesn’t owe us anything!
Please don’t misunderstand me. We should be doing those things: going to church every Sunday, raising our children in the discipline and the admonition of the Lord, praying for the people in our lives, and giving generously and joyfully. We should be doing other things to help ourselves grow like: daily Bible reading, going to Bible studies, memorizing and meditating on the Word.
But we should do those things out of love and gratitude for all He has done in our lives. We should do them because we desire to please Him. We should not do them with an entitlement attitude.
God does bless His children! In fact, He does “exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think” (Eph. 3.20). He blesses obedience, but He doesn’t promise us a problem free life. Jesus Himself said:
“These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world” (Jn. 16.33).
God calls us to a life of faithful obedience and trust in Him. He wants a relationship with each of us personally. And the more we get to know Him, the more we can and will trust Him when faced with the challenges of life.
But we need to remember, our responsibility is to be faithful. Then we must trust Him for the results and hold our expectations in an open hand.
Today’s Other Readings:
That All the Kingdoms of the Earth May Know
In yesterday’s reading, an emissary from the King of Assyria had set up camp outside the city trying to intimidate the Israelites into surrendering without a battle. When threatened, Hezekiah turned to God, not on the basis of what he deserved, but on the basis of who God is:
“O LORD of hosts, God of Israel, the One who dwells between the cherubim, You are God, You alone, of all the kingdoms of the earth. You have made heaven and earth. Incline Your ear, O LORD, and hear; open Your eyes, O LORD, and see …” (vv. 37.16-17).
“Now therefore, O LORD our God, save us from his hand, that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that You are the LORD, You alone” (v. 37.20).
This needs to be, not just the prayer of our lips, but the underlying desire of our hearts, as well, that God would receive glory through His work in our lives.
And sometimes that means walking through a trial instead of escaping from it. While it’s fine to pray and ask God to deliver us from tests and trials and difficulties, we must hold those requests in an open hand. Just as Jesus did, “… nevertheless, not my will, but Yours, be done, O Lord.”
But in this case, as He often does in our lives, God worked in an incredible, supernatural way, destroying the invaders without a battle!
David ends his prayer against his enemies and the enemies of God and cries out for God’s mercy in his life.
But You, O GOD the Lord,
Deal with me for Your name’s sake;
Because Your mercy is good, deliver me (v. 21).
Like Hezekiah, David prayed on the basis of God’s character, not his own.
Not Fit for a Fool
“As snow in summer and rain in harvest, so honor is not fitting for a fool.”
When a fool is elevated to a place of honor it can be just as destructive as rain at the wrong time in the growing cycle.
Getting ready for 2017
As this year is winding down I’m going to be encouraging you regularly to think about a plan for getting to know Him better through His Word in the coming year. You know the saying, “Fail to plan; plan to fail.”
I believe we should read through the Bible on a regular basis (not legalistically or pride fully), but because:
All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work. (2 Tim. 3.16-17).
The holidays are just around the corner and the new year will be on us before we know it. There were so many times that I thought, this coming year I’m going to read through the Bible, but I didn’t really have a plan.
Ten or eleven years ago, I decided to get more serious and purposeful about it. I bought a daily Bible which helped me stay on track. Then I set aside some time every morning to read and think about what I had read.
People sometimes ask me what daily Bible I use. I like The MacArthur Daily Bible and have stuck with it for consistency in the reading plan. But any good daily Bible is fine.
And what about Bible versions? I recommend a translation, as opposed to a paraphrase, for your regular reading. There are many good ones. I like the New American Standard and the New King James (The MacArthur Daily Bible is NKJ, but his Study Bible is available in several translations). I’m also coming to enjoy the English Standard Version. The New Living Translation is good and so are the New International and New Century Versions. I’m sure there are others, but those are the ones I’m most familiar with.
And I hope you will sign up for my daily email. It can serve as a gentle reminder to stay on track. I try to make comments that are relevant to the daily struggles and questions that I hear in my counseling and discipleship ministries.
Start today so you can begin the habit and it will be a regular part of your day come January. I’ll, also, be giving away free daily Bibles and other resources throughout the rest of the year. Sign up so you don’t miss your chance to win.
You can also follow me on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, or Google+. Just click on the social media icons. But nothing replaces having the daily devotion pop up in your inbox each day. It, usually (once in a while life gets in the way), goes out at 3 a.m. MST, so it’s there for early risers no matter what time zone you’re in. As an incentive, I’ll be giving away one daily Bible to someone who signs up between now and October 31st and another one to someone who leaves a comment based on that day’s reading between now and then.
So will you join me? Let’s get ready and grow in our relationship with Him together. I hope as you do, you’ll share your insights with all of us in the comments section of each post.
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