I grew up in a very small Baptist church. I was raised on strict rules resulting from strict interpretations of scripture. For example, my grandparents (mom’s side) felt it was a sin to even dance. I remember getting scolded if I put music on and was dancing around the house. As a result, my mother carried that over into the raising of us as well. My dad, on the other hand, was a fantastic dancer! It was a division of beliefs and I was stuck in the middle. I had a wonderful childhood, so please don’t misconstrue these statements as horrible memories; but I lived under the roof of two parents with differing views. My mom is a Christian who was raised in church and saved by the grace of God at a young age. My dad wasn’t a Christian and had a worldly outlook on life. My Dad is a fantastic guy, but he was not bound by church doctrine, the Bible, or following Christ. My upbringing was always a battle of God’s Word versus the world’s word.
Throughout my adolescence and early adulthood, I was a mix of my mom and dad, as many of us are, and that mix seemed to balance me out just right. I had a lot of friends growing up and got along with just about everyone. I remained active in church and church camp throughout my teen years. I remained steadfast to my faith while dipping my toes into the world to make me your typical teenager.
Eventually after college, I found myself pregnant with my oldest. I was single and pregnant. I guess you could say I dipped my toes into the world a little too much. However, I promised the Lord to raise my son in His Word. A little over a year later, I married my husband. Between the porn addictions, alcohol and marriage struggles, I started the quest to become the “perfect Christian.” I just knew deep down in my heart that if I could be the perfect Christian, I would find a solution to all our problems – financial, marital, emotional, and all the other categories. I was sure that our struggles were pointed directly at me. During this time, I joined two online forums – MOMYS (Moms Of Many Young Siblings) and CMOMB (Christian Moms Of Many Blessings). I met some wonderful people in these forums. I also realized that I wasn’t nearly as “Holy” as I thought I was, nor as these ladies seemed to be. I didn’t wear skirts all the time. I didn’t head cover. I hadn’t even heard of the Pearl family yet, let alone follow their marriage advice. I had a lot to learn. That was when I decided that my husband and I should continue to be quiverful, even even though my husband and I rarely had sexual intimacy at the time(see porn issues:)). I interpreted Scripture as the Lord telling me I needed to have at least 5 arrows in my quiver. So, I set out to have 5 children. I began wearing long skirts more often until it became a mainstay. Shortly after, I began to head cover, well more like wear head bands. 🙂
As I continued to read these forums and recommended books, I started to figure out the root of many of our marriage problems – ME. I believed this idea that if I made changes, God would bless my marriage. And to a point, God did bless my marriage. However, I wasn’t receiving his full blessing. As much time as I was spending studying the forums and other people, I was neglecting the one thing that mattered. I put aside the one thing that carried the most importance in my life and my marriage – God’s Holy Word!
Legalism doesn’t start with judgment. Legalism begins with true desire to please God. God does in fact command us to walk in purity and God expects holiness from all who claim His name. But that’s easier said than done. Legalism makes holiness seem easier to do by replacing a living relationship with a list of rules.
The more I set out on this quest for holiness, the more time I spent checking items off my holiness list.
I didn’t set out to be bound by the chains of legalism. No, it is much more tricky than that. However, the Word does warn us about tricks the enemy will use to veer us off our path with Christ. Legalism sets out to convince us that these rules and guidelines achieve holiness are actually from God – written by Him, inspired by Him, breathed by Him, Commanded by Him!
The more I studied what others were doing, the less I studied what God wanted me to do and wanted to do in my life. Legalism was actually putting a wall up between the truth of God and my heart! The relationship with my Savior was replaced with a list of rules I needed to pursue in order to please God.
[Tweet theme=”basic-border”]Legalism is NOT Jesus centered. It is work focused. #Legalism #LeavingLegalism[/Tweet]
Legalism proposed the idea that salvation is made perfect or complete by the flesh. Paul opposed it, calling it a hindrance to obeying the truth. Read Galatians 5:7
Here is a bit about Paul and his legalistic past:
I am verily a man which am a Jew, born in Tarsus, a city in Cilicia, yet brought up in this city at the feet of Gamaliel, and taught according to the perfect manner of the law of the fathers, and was zealous toward God, as ye all are this day. And I persecuted this way unto the death, binding and delivering into prisons both men and women. (Acts 22:3-4)
My manner of life from my youth, which was at the first among mine own nation at Jerusalem, know all the Jews; which knew me from the beginning, if they would testify, that after the most straitest sect of our religion I lived a Pharisee. I verily thought with myself, that I ought to do many things contrary to the name of Jesus of Nazareth. Which thing I also did in Jerusalem: and many of the saints did I shut up in prison, having received authority from the chief priests; and when they were put to death, I gave my voice against them. And I punished them oft in every synagogue, and compelled them to blaspheme; and being exceedingly mad against them, I persecuted them even unto strange cities. (Acts 26, portions)
If any other man thinketh that he hath whereof he might trust in the flesh, I more: Circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, an Hebrew of the Hebrews; as touching the law, a Pharisee; Concerning zeal, persecuting the church; touching the righteousness which is in the law, blameless. (Philippians 3:4-6)
For ye have heard of my conversation in time past in the Jews’ religion, how that beyond measure I persecuted the church of God, and wasted it: And profited in the Jews’ religion above many my equals in mine own nation, being more exceedingly zealous of the traditions of my fathers. (Galatians 1:13-14)
Then he ends the story by sharing about a life altering change with the Lord!
But by the grace of God I am what I am. (1 Corinthians 15:10)
But when it pleased God, who separated me from my mother’s womb, and called me by his grace, To reveal his Son in me, that I might preach him among the heathen; (Galatians 1:16)
After his conversion, Paul let down his barriers and lived the life many of an Ambassador of Christ. He went to the gentiles, the “unclean,” the less comely and honorable. He started calling himself by his Gentile name. A name which means small and humble.
He became all things to all men while reaching people on both sides of the aisle. He didn’t forget his roots and tried to reach the legalists just as much as the liberal gentiles.
And unto the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might gain the Jews; to them that are under the law, as under the law, that I might gain them that are under the law; To them that are without law, as without law, (being not without law to God, but under the law to Christ,) that I might gain them that are without law. To the weak became I as weak, that I might gain the weak: I am made all things to all men, that I might by all means save some. (1 Corinthians 9:20-22)
This entire text was written to the church of Galatia – a church that was full of legalistic mindsets.
One of the biggest joys of leaving the bondage of legalism is being able to see Christ in newer and bigger ways. I had to learn that walking away from legalism was not about having a get out of hell free card that gave me a license to do whatever it is that I wanted. We are required to obey the Word of the Lord and to follow Him. However, we are saved by FAITH through GRACE and not of works. Works are a fruit that grows from salvation. Works do not earn us a place of more holiness and they definitely don’t earn us a free trip to heaven. Leaving legalism behind is about truly embracing Christ and His word. It is about embracing Him and Him alone. It is about a true and sincere desire for intimacy with the Lord. None of that comes through our own goodness, works, rules and standards. It comes through grace and grace alone.
I had a desire to fix our marriage. I had a desire for people to see me and proclaim, “Oh! She’s a Christian because she’s wearing a skirt or head covering.” I had a desire to please God through my works.
[Tweet theme=”basic-border”]That was the old me. I have new desires now. I have a burning desire to passionately embrace the Lord.[/Tweet]
I have a fire burning in my soul to take up the cross and yell loudly, “Yes Lord! Where you lead, I will follow.” I have a desire to break every chain of bondage. I have a desire to know the Lord and be known by my fruits. I have a desire to have a relationship with my Savior.
Idols come in all forms. Even legalism.
PS. Small disclosure. I do not think that modesty is wrong. I am still very much modesty focused and will ALWAYS speak out on the importance of treating our body as a temple, protecting our bodies, and not showing off all our goods to the public. I also still love wearing skirts, but I also know I am just as saved in capri pants as I am in my skirts. I also am not condemning anyone who believes the Lord has said they should wear a head cover or skirt. That is your journey. I am just sharing mine. I was doing all that for the wrong reasons. 🙂