The Joy Killers

No one is to act as your judge in regard to food or drink or in respect to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath day.

–Colossians 2:16

I want to begin this week by asking you a few questions:

  1. Can you be a spiritual Christian and put a quarter in a slot machine in Las Vegas?
  2. Can you be a spiritual Christian and go to an R-rated movie?
  3. Can you be a spiritual Christian and occasionally have a glass of wine with your dinner?

You can probably tell from these questions what we’re going to be studying this week: legalism in the church. Nothing will strangle out the joy of your relationship with God or kill the spirit of a church any more than legalism.

That’s what was happening in the church at Colossae. Remember, there were some Jewish Christians who were trying to put the church under the Old Testament rituals and regulations. They were saying, “Faith in Christ is important, but it’s not quite enough. You also need to keep the Old Testament law to be approved by God.” Last week, in Colossians 2:13–15, we discovered what God has done for us, not by our efforts but through His grace alone. By God’s grace, you and I are spiritually alive, forgiven, debt-free, and victorious. How could we ever add to what Christ has already done for us? In Colossians 2:16–17, Paul applied that truth to the problem of legalism.

But first, let’s define what we mean by legalism. Legalism is man’s attempt to earn God’s approval by obeying either man-made rules or God’s rules that no longer apply to us.

We see legalism in two aspects of Christianity. Sometimes we see legalism in relationship to justification–that is, salvation. The legalist says, “Faith in Christ is important, but you need something additional to get into heaven.” It might be circumcision, baptism, keeping the Ten Commandments, or going to the priest. Legalism says you need faith in Christ plus something else in order to be saved.

But we also see legalism in relationship to sanctification–that is, how we live the Christian life. The legalist says, “It’s not enough to obey what the Bible says; you also need to follow some other set of standards to be a truly spiritual person.” That is legalism. This week, we’re going to see what God’s Word has to say about the cause and the cure for legalism in our lives and in the church.

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Today’s devotion is adapted from “The Joy Killers” by Dr. Robert Jeffress, 2012.

Scripture quotations taken from the (NASB®) New American Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1960, 1971, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission. All rights reserved. www.lockman.org.

 

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