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22: Legalism Robs You of Happiness

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Read Micah 6:1-8. Do you ever think you need to do something in order to earn God’s love? It’s a trap many people fall into, and Salvationists – as part of an activist church – need to be especially wary of it.

When God accused his people of taking him for granted and of never being satisfied, their response was to say, “what shall we do”? They came up with some pretty over-the-top ideas! The list gets weirder and weirder! Shall we make burnt offerings to God? Perhaps that will satisfy him? Maybe it shouldn’t be just any old sacrifice? Perhaps we should sacrifice yearling calves? Maybe that will make God happy? Perhaps it’s about the quantity of sacrifice, not the quality? Maybe we should offer thousands of rams and ten thousand rivers of olive oil? Perhaps that will make God love us again? Better still, perhaps we better join the pagan religions around us and sacrifice our firstborn children? Maybe then God will stop being angry?

If only the children of Israel had realised that God could not love them any more than he did, even as he charged them for their unfaithfulness. Knowing there is nothing you can do to make love God love you more is one of the most freeing lessons you can learn.

Trusting in what you can do for God is called legalism. It leads to following a list of orders and regulations in order to prove yourself worthy to God. And it’s a trap. It leads to judgmentalism and being critical of others.

When you realise life is about what Jesus has done for you, then you can show the grace he has shown you to others around you. You can relax and you can find happiness.


Think about the following:

•          When are you most tempted to rely on your performance for God, rather than on the pardon God has shown you through Jesus’ sacrifice?