Posts Tagged ‘false religion’


Hi Friends, here is an excerpt from my teaching at Resonate Church. Enjoy!

Legalism binds us to the burden of rules (written or unwritten) that were never meant for us to bear. God started out in the garden of Eden with one rule. Do not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

We read it in Genesis 2:16-17 and he gives the command to Adam before the creation of Eve.

16 And the Lord God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; 17 but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die.”

Then Satan came in the form of a serpent and notice the details of his conversation says in chapter 3: 1-2:

Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?”

Satan is a great lawyer. He picks apart God’s words for Eve’s analysis when Eve was not even there when it was spoken from the mouth of God.

The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.’ “

See, Satan has two tactics he tries to use to get us away from God: they seem like opposites and he loves them both: legalism and licentiousness. He says to Eve, did God say you can’t eat any of the trees? He said this to Eve presumably because she was not there when God gave the command. She is hearing this command second hand, presumably from Adam.

Look carefully at what she quotes as God’s command. Is there any difference between God’s original command and her version of the command? Yes, one tiny, but important difference. She adds something. She adds the part about touching the fruit. God never said they could not touch it. We don’t know if Adam added this part because he didn’t want her to even go near the tree or if fear just caused her to add it in herself. Regardless, what happens when we start adding to the requirements of God is that we are beginning to move further from his heart. We begin to question his heart toward us and distrust him. When Satan noticed she had slightly misquoted God, he was able to lodge his lies deeper into her heart that God didn’t have her best interests in mind and she obviously fell into sin.

See, false religion is like a teeter totter. Satan lures us away from relationship with God in order to stand on this teeter totter. He subtly gets us to think outside relationship and focus on words, laws, and commands. We become excellent lawyers, but poor lovers. On one side of the teeter totter is legalism. It is all the man made rules that we are trying to obey apart from relationship. On the other side is licentiousness– license to do whatever the heck we want. See, as long as Satan can keep us on that teeter totter, back and forth between what I know I “should” do and the freedom I crave, he has us trapped. It is like a game between that little angel and demon on our shoulders. Neither the angel or the demon is God, neither one is inviting us into relationship. Both are just shouting at us trying to get us to do what they want. God is altogether different in his approach toward us. On this teeter totter, it is only a matter of time before we fall into an abyss of walking away from relationship with God altogether.

So, because of the sin that was now in the world, God gave laws to Moses. These laws were created to help us manage or reign in our sin nature. All of these laws were created out of the general intention of drawing us to God not away from him.

But the Jews began to back away from relationship and get on that teeter totter of false religion. They maintained a religious form of the outward actions to appease the legalistic side of the teeter totter, but their hearts were far from God. They lacked the substance of God’s heart for them. We have to have both form and substance. Legalism is the form without the substance.

So, as the Jewish people grew in their legalistic skill, making themselves look holier than others, they came up with a huge code of laws called the Talmud, which added to the biblical rules and muddied the waters between what was acceptable and unacceptable in the sight of God. Jesus condemned their actions and gave two genius commands to fulfill the heart of all God’s commandments.

1. Love The Lord with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength.
2. Love your neighbor as yourself.

You will find that each of the Ten Commandments and all the additional commands in the Old Testament had to do with loving God first and loving others next.

Lets look at Colossians 2:14-23

He forgave us all our sins, 14 having canceled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; he has taken it away, nailing it to the cross. 15 And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.

16 Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day. 17 These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ. 18 Do not let anyone who delights in false humility and the worship of angels disqualify you. Such a person also goes into great detail about what they have seen; they are puffed up with idle notions by their unspiritual mind. 19 They have lost connection with the head, from whom the whole body, supported and held together by its ligaments and sinews, grows as God causes it to grow.

20 Since you died with Christ to the elemental spiritual forces of this world, why, as though you still belonged to the world, do you submit to its rules: 21 “Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!”? 22 These rules, which have to do with things that are all destined to perish with use, are based on merely human commands and teachings. 23 Such regulations indeed have an appearance of wisdom, with their self-imposed worship, their false humility and their harsh treatment of the body, but they lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence.

Legalism transcends cultural traditions but it looks different in each….

In Paul’s day it looked like this:
– Why does he eat meat sacrificed to idols? You can barely tell the difference between him and a pagan!
– I fast once a week and I hardly ever see her fast. Do you think her faith is genuine?
– Even though I am a Gentile, I attend all the Jewish new moon festivals and I observe the Sabbath, how does he call himself a Christian when he does none of that?

Legalism in an evangelical church today may look like this:
– OMG, he does not bring his bible to church. Instead he uses his phone. How can we be sure he is not texting?
– That lady is getting a little carried away in worship, she is probably succumbing to emotionalism and her faith must not be genuine, she is just drawing attention to herself.
– I suspect he didn’t even do his quiet time today.

Legalism in a charismatic church might look more like this:
– What is wrong with that lady? She never raises her hands during worship, she must be hiding sin in her life.
– That family took their kids trick or treating. Don’t they know that Halloween is a pagan holiday?
– I heard from God in a vision this week. I must be way more spiritual than my pastor who never seems to have any experiences like that.

Characteristics of False Religion:

– Appearance of wisdom
– Self-imposed worship
False humility
– Harsh treatment of the body
– Lacking any value in restraining sensual indulgence

So, how do we break free of legalism?

We focus on our dependence on Jesus and that we can not do anything apart from his empowerment. Legalism sets our sights on what we can do in our own strength and ignores the position of the heart. We cannot remain bound by legalism if we throw ourselves into authentic relationship with God. We must make a conscious choice to avoid binding others to our own personal convictions, but allow God to be God in their lives. In our relationships with others, God is not paying us to be anyone’s Holy Spirit. Rather, we are called to love one another, side by side on the journey of life. Let’s get off that teeter totter and begin walking with God.