Stop Confusing Obedience with Legalism

Stop Confusing Obedience with Legalism - KP Yohannan - Gospel for Asia

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Today we all stand at the crossroads on the question of personal holiness. Each of us must make the choice about which way we are going to go. This isn’t a choice only preachers or Christian leaders must make, although I pray that it will start there. No, every believing man, woman, boy and girl must decide personally.

“Will I surrender to the spirit of our age, or resist and join the company of overcomers?” is the question to ask.

Do we want to continue to live in defeat, failure and unrighteousness? Or will we decide to follow the path of excellence that leads to quality of life, inward purity and separation unto God?

You now may be saying, “That sounds like legalism to me.” I assure you it is not. We must stop confusing obedience to God with legalism. We must stop confusing holiness with legalism.

There is a very real danger of legalism—but that’s not what the Bible is talking about here. Jesus hated legalism and rebuked legalists in some of the strongest language He ever used. But He also taught obedience, holiness, purity and separation.

Let’s define legalism in biblical terms. Legalism is obeying the teachings of men as the Pharisees did, adding human rules and standards of behavior onto what God has given. Obedience to the Word of God is different altogether. It comes out of a true commitment and genuine love for the Lord. It is not based on external things and following the interpretations of men.

This is the reason why the Lord Jesus Christ frequently told His audience that to follow Him meant they would have to walk with Him as He walked. He said, “No man can serve two masters” (Matthew 6:24). To live for Jesus and follow Him, you must give up your own desires and wishes for your life. That’s what we need today so desperately.

There are two sure ways to avoid legalism.

First, we must stop comparing our lives with others. This can happen anywhere, even in the best churches and organizations, and it is a terrible sin. Instead, we must bring our lives before the light of His Word. We must yearn to become like Jesus. We must take our eyes off ourselves—and others—and gaze at Him. He alone becomes our standard.

Second, I urge you not to be satisfied with fulfilling externals that may be prescribed by your denomination, fellowship, organization or any other traditions of men. Again, you must pursue knowing the Lord Jesus Christ. Learning all about Jesus and His teachings and theology is not what I am talking about. You must spend time with the Lord Himself and learn to know Him personally in your spirit. Fall in love with Him, and get to know Him intimately. You’ll find as you do this that you can obey all that He commands without any danger of falling into legalism.

Excerpt from Chapter 12 of The Road to Reality (ISBN 9781595891136) © 2012 by KP Yohannan, the president and founder of Gospel for Asia.

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