Recovering from Legalism

August 13, 2014 — Leave a comment


Good Wednesday Everyone:

In this Enote I will tell you something about tonight’s UPLIFT message on legalism as well as mention a very important piece of CCA information in the P.S. of this note.

For several years Dr. Robert Spinney was a history professor at a Christian University in the Chicago area. One year, as his classes were reading through the biography of John Winthrop and the attempt of the early Puritans to create a Christian commonwealth in the Massachusetts Bay Colony by applying Scripture to every aspect of life, he could tell that his students were less than impressed.

He quizzed them on their dislike of the Puritans and finally one student spoke up and said, “Well, you know, the Puritans were . . er, . . . they were legalistic.”

Spinney looked at the other students and said, “Do you all agree with that? How many of the rest of you think that the Puritans were legalistic?” Almost every hand went up.

So Spinney went to the whiteboard and wrote down the word legalistic. Then he asked his class, “Would someone define that word for me, please.”

Finally he baited them. “Just give me an idea; just get us started. What does that word mean; what does legalism mean?” No one said a word.

Spinney continued, “How many people have ever used the word legalism before?” All the hands went up.

He again asked, “Do you guys think the Puritans were legalistic?”

Again all the hands went up. “Can you tell me what it means?” No definitions were offered.

Finally one of his brightest students said with much hesitation, “Well, they were just like, er, so concerned with obeying God all the time.” As he spoke, you could tell this student realized that this wasn’t a very good definition.

Spinney then asked, “Isn’t it good to obey God? What’s wrong with obedience?” Silence. Nobody said anything.

Finally after a long period of silence, that particularly good student said, “I think you’ve convinced us that we really don’t know what legalism means.”

I suspect that this situation is not unusual. Legalism and legalistic are words that Christians use with reckless abandon though we may have ten different definitions, none of which may be accurate.

“Legalism” at its simplest is the wrong use of laws, rules, convictions or preferences. It becomes a problem because our relationship with God and with one another gets polluted, often with disastrous consequences.

In tonight’s UPLIFT service, we continue with our O2BFREE: Recovering from Legalism series with a message simply titled “Breaking Free from Legalism.”

In tonight’s message, I will define what legalism really is, the kind of environment in which it thrives and the radical changes needed to pursue freedom. Hint: breaking free begins by embracing a radical new way of viewing God, ourselves, our preferences, others, and the cross.

We have full line-up of stellar Wednesday night options for you. Hope to see you tonight.

Blessings, Ronnie

P. S. Things are extra lively around the church building today as CCA kicks off their school year with a record August enrollment of 425 children. Would you join me in praying over their ministry today?  I’m honored to meet with and pray over their faculty and administrators this morning at 7:30.

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