How Are Your New Years Resolutions?
Well, it’s the first week of April. We’re 3 months into the new year. Can I ask you how you’re doing with those “New Year Resolutions”? Have they already hit the skids? Perhaps you’re at a place in your life where you’re beginning to think that it’s impossible for you to ever change! What you’ve confirmed is the weakness of your flesh. The Apostle Paul, in his letter to the Church of Colosse, points out that human “regulations”— like “New Year Resolutions”— are powerless to change your fallen flesh: “If you died with the Messiah to the elemental forces of this world, why do you live as if you still belonged to the world? Why do you submit to regulations: ‘Don’t handle, don’t taste, don’t touch?’ All these regulations… are commands and doctrines of men. Although these have a reputation of wisdom by promoting ascetic practices, humility, and severe treatment of the body, they are not of any value in curbing self-indulgence” Colossians 2:20-23.
That’s a sample of the world’s system for “behavior modification.” In our flesh, we wanna prove we can discipline ourselves toward a “better behavior.” That gives us bragging rights by which to judge all the other wicked sinners! That’s “legalism.” Legalism is our attempt to reach holiness through our self-effort; or, “regulations” as Paul calls them here! Let me be clear— Paul is NOT referring to God’s law! You’re not a legalist for keeping His law! Sexual promiscuity, lying, stealing & murder are ALWAYS sins! It’s all the other stuff we ADD to God’s law that makes us a legalist!
Legalism Can Sneak Up On You
I used to be a legalist— I wouldn’t play cards; or, go to the movie theatre! I wouldn’t think of going to church unless I was wearing a suit! I would never consider being part of a church where there were drums & guitars; or, anything other than a King James version of the Bible used in the pulpit! You may find that bizarre; but, be careful! Legalism is rather chameleon in nature— your “list” might be different; but, you’re “extra-biblical” rules to perform by & force on others is just as legalistic! If you’re “in Christ” you’ve “…died to the elemental forces of this world,” Paul says, “Why do you live as if you still belonged to the world?” Jesus Christ is the great liberator! He set us FREE from “performance-driven faith”! If you’re “in Christ” remove the masks! Stop pretending you’re a super saint! Quit trying so hard to make yourself acceptable to the Father! He’s already accepted you “in Christ” if you’re trusting in Jesus, rather than your own legalistic efforts!
If your faith is in Christ’s atoning work on the cross, you’ve been “declared righteous.” That is your forever standing before God! There is NOTHING you can do that will ever make you more acceptable to God; and, there is NOTHING you’ve done that makes you less acceptable to Him! Jesus bore ALL YOUR SIN— past, present & future; and, His righteousness was placed in your account when you trusted His work by faith! Then, God’s Holy Spirit moved in; and, told your spirit that He’s ready to go to work in you! But, it will be HIS WORK! He doesn’t need you to get in the way & put on that “HOLIER than thou mask” by keeping a bunch of man-made, human-inspired rules! It’s in your “weakness” that He is strong! God rejects all human effort! Our salvation is by grace alone through faith alone in Christ Jesus alone! Nothing we do is “boast-worthy.” As the Apostle Paul said: “I will never boast about anything except the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ “ Gal 6:14