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Fire and Brimstone Do you know a legalist? You probably do, they’re all over the place. If you’re a Christian already you might even be a legalist and not know it. Listed below are some warning signs of a legalist: If you know all of the ten commandments by heart you might be a legalist. If you think that every courtroom and every classroom should have a copy of the ten commandments on the wall you might be a legalist. (Have I made you mad yet?) If you think you go to hell for breaking one of the ten commandments you might be a legalist. If you think that I’m a heretic by now, guess what, you might be a legalist. If you think we need to go back to "the good old days’ and only listen to fire and brimstone sermons, sorry, you might be a legalist. If you think Jesus walked around serious and stern and sour all the time, you might be a legalist. If you think a Pharisee is a cool guy, you might indeed be a legalist. If it makes you feel bigger by thinking you can keep all of the commandments, you’re definitely a legalist. In case you still haven’t figured out what a legalist is, it’s a person that thinks we have to follow every rule and law to the letter and the slightest infraction means a trip to hell. They’re all over the place, they surround us, they beat us over the head with bibles every time they get a chance. Legalists are the people that believe that unless we call Jesus by his Hebrew name it doesn’t count. You’ve seen stereotypical legalists on TV, the stern sour old preacher that never smiles, just scowls and blasts out condemnations to everyone around him. The smug looking old woman that proudly struts around proclaiming that she never dances, listened to rock music or never had a beer. You know them, they’re the ones that tell you you’re going to hell every five minutes. Yes, you know them. Its clear what Jesus thought of legalists, He tells us several times. Oh yes, they were in the bible too, they were the Pharisees, the priests. Of them He said: (Luke 11:46) And he said, A curse is on you, teachers of the law! for while other men are crushed under the weight of the rules you make for them, you yourselves do not put so much as one finger to them. (Matthew 23:13) But a curse is on you, scribes and Pharisees, false ones! because you are shutting the kingdom of heaven against men: for you do not go in yourselves, and those who are going in, you keep back. (Matthew 23:14) Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you devour widows' houses, and pray at length as a pretense. Therefore you shall receive the greater condemnation. (Matthew 23:23) Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you pay tithes of mint and dill and cummin, and you have left undone the weightier matters of the Law, judgment, mercy, and faith. You ought to have done these and not to leave the other undone. (Matthew 23:25) Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you cleanse the outside of the cup and of the dish, but inside they are full of extortion and excess. (Matthew 23:26) You blind Pharisee, first make clean the inside of the cup and of the plate, so that the outside may become equally clean. (Matthew 23:27) Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which indeed appear beautiful outside, but inside they are full of dead men's bones, and of all uncleanness. (Luke 18:11) The Pharisee, taking up his position, said to himself these words: God, I give you praise because I am not like other men, who take more than their right, who are evil-doers, who are untrue to their wives, or even like this tax-farmer. I could go on, but I think its clear by now. Jesus was not a legalist. Does this mean we disregard rules? Does it mean that Jesus preached against rules and laws? Not in the least. Not for a second did he preach against laws and rules. He taught that there are things higher than rules and laws. He taught compassion, He taught forgiveness, He taught grace, He taught love. He knew that we’re weak and that we will stumble. He knew that we won’t keep the commandments. What? You think that you DO keep them? Hmmm, lets see. Do you have any money on you? Do you have a picture of your family on your desk, in your wallet or purse? A picture on the wall? Do you watch TV? Read newspapers? Magazines? Ever watched a movie? Ever read a billboard? Well guess what, you broke commandment number two and you haven’t even made it to the other eight yet. You don’t believe me huh? Read it for yourself: (Exodus 20:4) You shall not make to yourselves any graven image, or any likeness of anything that is in the heavens above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. If you have a picture or a coin or paper money, you got yourself an image. If you’re looking for ways to deny this you might indeed be a legalist. Have you ever casually said "God willing" or something like it? You dropped the ball again: (Exodus 20:7) You are not to make use of the name of the Lord your God for an evil purpose; whoever takes the Lord's name on his lips for an evil purpose will be judged a sinner by the Lord Have you went fishing on a nice Saturday? Have you done any work or play on Saturday? Not Sunday, mind you, but Saturday? Whoops, you blew it. (Exodus 20:8) Keep in memory the Sabbath and let it be a holy day. (Exodus 20:9) On six days do all your work: (Exodus 20:10) But the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God; on that day you are to do no work, you or your son or your daughter, your man-servant or your woman-servant, your cattle or the man from a strange country who is living among you: But it was Saturday not Sunday! Sorry, rules are rules, the Sabbath was and is on Saturday. Ah, next comes murder, you’ve never killed anyone right? Have you ever hated anyone: (1 John 3:15) Anyone who has hate for his brother is a taker of life, and you may be certain that no taker of life has eternal life in him. Need I go on? I could, you know, a legalist could do this all day, some could even deny their own weakness and guilt. If you still think you can get to heaven by keeping laws, assuming you could, think again: (Galatians 3:11) Now that no man gets righteousness by the law in the eyes of God, is clear; because, The upright will be living by faith. So, if we can’t get to heaven by being good then how? Its simple, its simplicity is what causes some people to stumble and its simplicity is what gives satan his choke hold. Don’t take my word for it, (I wouldn’t want you to anyway), read it for yourself: (John 3:15) so that whosoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life. (John 3:16) For God so loved the world that He gave His only-begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. (John 3:18) He who believes on Him is not condemned, but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only-begotten Son of God. (John 3:36) He who believes on the Son has everlasting life, and he who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides upon him. (John 5:24) Truly, truly, I say to you, He who hears My Word and believes on Him who sent Me has everlasting life and shall not come into condemnation, but has passed from death to life. (John 6:35) And Jesus said to them, I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes on Me shall never thirst. (John 6:40) And this is the will of Him who sent Me, that everyone who sees the Son and believes on Him should have everlasting life. And I will raise him up at the last day. (John 6:47) Truly, truly, I say to you, He who believes on Me has everlasting life. I could include more verses but it should be plain by now. Believe that Jesus is who He says He is and that He will do what He says He will do. Some legalists will try to counter this with James 2:19: (James 2:19) You believe that there is one God, you do well; even the demons believe and tremble. But read it carefully. Believe there is one God. This isn’t the same as believing that He will show us grace and love and will forgive us of our sins. That’s the difference between us and satan. To just believe that God is real isn’t what He wants, He wants us to believe that He has saved us and that He loves us. Simple, yes, too simple? Yes, for legalists. Too simple to be true? No.
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