How to be a legalist || 7 easy steps
The Pharisees that were stalking Jesus were watching with a critical eye. They kept questioning about Jesus’ relationship with outcasts. Jesus didn't fit their system of earning God's approval through actions. In Luke 6, the Pharisees accused Jesus and his disciples of breaking God’s rules about the Sabbath, but it was really just their made-up rules he wasn’t following.
And Jesus said to them, ‘I ask you, is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do harm, to save life or to destroy it?’” Luke 6:9
What if there was a rule-book on how to become a legalist. How to take a tool for intimacy with Jesus--fasting, prayer, Bible study and other disciplines--and turn it into a weapon! How to take the fork--useful for bringing sustenance, satisfaction, and nourishment--and turn it into a weapon that stabs, injures, and kills.
Follow all of these rules in order to kill grace and use religion to wound all of those around you.
What would the rule book look like? What rules would make up the book of rules about rules?
Number one: make rules outside the Bible that are equal to the Bible.
The Scribes and Pharisees in Luke 5 and 6 added their own rules. As mentioned in Connection, for every one law that God gave for our good, the Pharisees added five additional rules so that they wouldn’t even get close to breaking the original Law. Religious people make rules outside of the Bible, then enforce those rules that are outside of the Bible, and then paint them in a corner where they have to start disagreeing or rewriting parts of the Bible.
Number two: push yourself to try and keep your rules.
“I’m gonna get up at this time, I’m gonna read this many verses. I’m gonna give this—” You make a punch list, and you work really hard, really devout, really serious to really be a Varsity-committed believer. And it’s not bad to be zealous, provided you’re zealous for the right things, like love, and grace, and mercy.
Number three: castigate yourself when you don’t keep your rules.
Beat yourself up, punish yourself, put yourself in the position of God. Make your own rules, be your own judge, and then atone for your own sin. Your identity is wrapped up in your performance rather than Jesus’ performance.
Number four: become proud when you do keep the rules.
“I did it. I got up early, I served hard. I gave a lot. I was committed. I was devoted. I did it! I’m a good person, better than others.”
Number five: appoint yourself as judge over people.
“Oh, you didn’t do the thing that I do, you don’t do it as well as I do. You should do it like I do. I judge you, I follow you around. I criticize you. I do to you what the Pharisees did to Jesus.”
Number six: get angry with people who break your rules or have different rules.
The Pharisees in Luke 6 were outraged and furious when Jesus showed compassion toward the man with the withered hand. Their anger continues to grow throughout Jesus' public ministry, culminating in their plot of crucifixion. “How dare you break my rules?” If you’re a boss who leads like this, you’ll destroy an employee. If you’re a community group leader, a deacon or a pastor or a spiritual leader who leads like this, you will destroy people by either them becoming devastated, broken religious people or proud, self-righteous, violent Pharisees.
Number seven: you just beat the losers.
“You didn’t obey my rules. You didn’t listen to me. You do it the way I do it. You don’t do it as well as I do it. Yeah, I know it’s not in the Bible but through intimidation, coercion, force, threatening, me and my friends, we’re gonna swarm on you. We’re gonna criticize you. We’re gonna say things about you. We’re gonna pressure you, verbally, emotionally, spiritually, sometimes even physically,” as they did with the murder of Jesus. “We’re going to beat you, we’re going to punish you. We’re not gonna draw you in with love. We’re gonna coerce you through fear, intimidation, and force ‘cause we don’t care about the heart. We just want you to paint by numbers. We want to decide the numbers, and we just want you to shut up and paint.”
Jesus ends dead religion
What Jesus is doing is not a patch for the old. It's different from, incompatible with, and opposed to self-righteous legalism. Child of God, anytime that we say that one needs GRACE + __________ we've just gutted grace. We've just poured out the amazing, intoxicating wine of the unfailing love of God onto the ground (see Luke 5:33-39). Yes, Jesus brings transformation. Yes, growth in grace is a must. Consider, however, is there anything I'm trying to add on to the gospel?
Why is Jesus being so strong in Luke 5 and 6?
The Pharisees aren't listening, asking the same question over and over again. Why such a response from Jesus? Why? Dead religion hurts people. Legalism kills grace. It causes pain, guilt, shame and exclusion. Jesus is furious because of the fruit of legalism. Children of Light, we must allow the grace of God in the cross of Jesus Christ dig up the old roots of dead religion--thinking that we can earn God's love--and place the seed of His covenantal, loyal love.
The gospel changes everything!
These are adapted from a list on legalism by Pastor Mark Driscoll from Mars Hill Church in Seattle, Washington. The list has shown up in multiple medias--sermons, blogs on the Resurgence, and trainings at Acts 29 Boot Camps. The material also appeared in Ed Stetzer's blog. theGATHERING Community is currently trekking through the book of Luke in our small groups.