September 23 “Legalists at heart”

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We’re all basically legalists at heart and if we don’t have an understanding of the gospel firmly fixed in our minds, we can easily fall into it.

Today’s Readings:
Isaiah 37 & 38
Psalm 109.14-20
Proverbs 26.1
Galatians 1.1-24

Isaiah 37 & 38:

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).

prayer, worshipThen he asked that God would move on their behalf but for His own glory:

“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!

Psalm 109.14-20:

David’s prayer

David ends his prayer against his enemies and the enemies of God.

Clown, fool, jesterProverbs 26.1:

Not fit for a fool

“As snow in summer and rain in harvest, so honor is not fitting for a fool.” s

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.

Galatians 1.1-24:

Legalists at heart

The Galatians who had received the Gospel of salvation by grace through faith 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!

We’re all basically legalists at heart. But it shows up in very subtle ways. Many people who sit in church every week, when asked if they’re sure they’ll get to heaven we say “yes,” but when asked why, will say “because I’m a pretty good person.”

What is that? Works! It’s legalism! I may have received the gospel on an intellectual level, but in my heart I think I must add something to it, and certainly must do something to keep myself saved.

How else does it show up?

The temptation, when something isn’t going well in our lives is to think, “I can’t believe God is allowing this to happen to me, I go to church every Sunday,” or “I have been raising my kids right,” or “I go to Bible studies” or …

can God really use meWe tend to think:

I homeschool my kids 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 I could do nothing to save myself and I can do nothing to keep myself saved! And the corresponding truth is that if all God ever did, was save me from an eternity separated from Him, it should be enough. He doesn’t owe me 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 be doing those things out of love or gratitude for all He has done in our lives and because we know Him and desire to please Him with out lives, but then we must trust Him with the results.

And God does bless His children! 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.

One of the ways we do that is by faithfully reading His Word. It’s where we learn to recognize His voice and to know Him. While we can never fully understand all that God is, we can come to know much about His character. That He is love, not that He does loving things, but that is His very essence, He is love. That He is good. That He is holy and faithful and merciful and all-powerful. He is!

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), because:

16 All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, 17 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. Or I made one and I fell short, but the good new, the gospel truth, is that God didn’t love me any less.

But about seven or eight years ago, I decided to get more serious and purposeful about it. I bought a daily Bible that helped me to stay on track and I set aside some time every morning to read and think about what I had read.

And every year since, I read and find myself asking, “Was that in there last year?” “I don’t remember reading that”, or “I don’t remember understanding it that way.” God never disappoints as we grow to know Him more and better.

Someone who’s been following this blog and reading her Bible for several years now, told me the other day that sometimes things go over her head, but she has kept reading and every time she reads she takes away more and more. That’s faithfulness and God is blessing her in many ways.

BibleWhat will you do to make Bible reading an ongoing habit in the coming year?

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.

computer, laptopSign up

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 as the holidays approach. 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 floating social media icons. But nothing replaces having the daily devotion pop up in your inbox each morning (usually at 6 am Mountain Time).

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.

And, as I heard Cynthia Heald say once, if you don’t, what are you going to do when you get to heaven and Obadiah says, “So, how did you like my book?” 😉



Featured resources on Kindle or in books:

The MacArthur Daily Bible: Read the Bible in One Year, with Notes from John MacArthur

The MacArthur Daily Bible takes a portion of the Old Testament, New Testament, Psalms, and Proverbs for each day of the year, with daily comments that guide and inform you as you read through the Bible in a year. John MacArthur’s insight maximizes the benefit of each day’s reading. If a commitment to daily Bible reading never worked for you before, this is the answer. With John at your side, there’ll be no such thing as a tough portion of Scripture.

Note: Amazon has lots of used and like new Daily Bibles starting at under $3.00 and it’s available from them on Kindle, but no new copies directly from them. You can get it new in paperback directly from Grace to You for $16.00.

Holy Bible – ESV MacArthur Study Bible

For years, the spiritual lives of men and women all over the world have been strengthened with the help of The MacArthur Study Bible. Dr. MacArthur’s study notes are featured below the full-length Bible text, and are based on his verse-by-verse approach to the Bible and nearly forty years of careful study. His goal is to let the Bible speak for itself—nothing more, nothing less.

The Gospel for Real Life: Turn to the Liberating Power of the Cross…Every Day (Now Includes Study Guide)

The gospel provides for our eternal salvation, but how does it benefit us day to day? Find out from Navigator author Jerry Bridges how the gospel transforms you daily into Christlikeness. Learn more about the character of God and the character of Jesus as you explore this book.


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3 thoughts on “September 23 “Legalists at heart”

  1. Pingback: September 25 "It's all grace!" | Soul Survival

  2. Fabulous post Donna. I’ve found myself tempted to say “I can’t believe God is allowing this to happen to me”… it’s a dangerous trap to fall into. When we start thinking God owes us, that’s a slippery slope.

    Thanks for sharing related scriptures too – so many truths to cling to.

    Thanks for sharing and linking up to the #SHINEbloghop.

    Wishing you a lovely weekend.

    • Jennifer,
      Thanks again for your #SHINEbloghop. And thanks for reading and commenting. It’s a constant battle in our hearts, isn’t it!
      Blessings, my sister,