Thursday, November 08, 2018


I don’t like the word legalism, because it implies that laws are a problem. They are not.

The reality is that human society cannot function without laws, so there is nothing wrong with laws in themselves.

God was quite happy to give laws to his people, because he understood that they are useful for restraining the worst effects of evil.

Jesus gave plenty of commands/laws.

  • Love one another
  • Forgive those who forgive you.
  • Turn the other cheek.
  • Give away your possessions
  • Go and proclaim the good news.
Jesus wants us to know how to follow him, so he told people what he required of them.

The problem is not with laws and commands. They are as good as the person giving them.

A problem occurs when humans use laws and commands to prove they are righteous, so they deserve God’s blessing. That is what the Pharisees did. They used the law, or more correctly, a big list of rules that they selected and derived from the law, to prove that they were righteous and therefore deserved Gods blessings.

Some call this legalism, but it is better to call it Phariseeism, or human religious effort. The Pharisees believed that God would bless Israel if enough people proved their righteousness by obeying their rules. Their religion was

Do ► Receive
Most religions operate on this approach.

God operates the opposite way. His rescue of the Israelites was

Receive ► Do

The gospel of Jesus is

Receive ► Do

God gives us what we don’t deserve, and we respond with love and obey his commands.

Under a “Do ► Receive” approach, the requirements of laws and rules become an impossible burden, just like the rules of the Pharisees.

Under a “Receive ► Do”, laws and commands are a pathway to transformation. God graciously gives us the Holy Spirit, even though we do not deserve this gift. As we receive him into our lives, listen to his voice, and allow him to soften our hearts, we find that we are beginning to do what the Sermon on the Mount requires.

The Sermon on the Mounts is not a set of commands that we must obey to please Jesus. That would be impossible. They are a description of the life that emerges in the body of Christ as the Holy Spirit transforms our hearts and inspires us to love one another.

Do ► Receive becomes an impossible burden.

Receive ► Do is the pathway to life.

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