Tag Archives: sin

Are you bound by Legalism, and a Sin Consciousness?

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  Legalism is a system of thought where rules, expectations and regulations promise God’s love in return for human effort and obedience. Legalism is an attempt by man to justify God’s Love. Under the cloak of Christianity, legalism offers salvation and God’s Love as a reward for performance. Legalism is a spiritually toxic virus, spread by religion, best treated by God’s unconditional and amazing grace.

If your heart is full of bitterness towards others and self-condemnation, could it
 be that you have been going about living the Christian life all wrong?  God desperately wants to set His people free from legalism. God loves legalists. He hates legalism.

   Could you be a legalist and not even know it? Why do Christians fall prey to performance-based religion? Are you convinced that God is mad at you and the only way you can make him happy is by being a better person? Are you convinced that your obedience and performance has some bearing on your salvation? Are you tired of trying harder because it seems that trying harder is never good enough?

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I purposely didn’t include any teaching on GRACE in this blog. That is covered in other teachings on this site. I think it important to first face the fact that WE ALL may be guilty of legalism to one degree or another.

So, If you are brave, and prepared to be honest with yourself, take the Legalist test and see how you do.

You might be a Legalist if:

1) God’s love for you depends on what you do, instead of who you are.

2) Meeting the expectations of others, especially those in your congregation or in positions of authority, are paramount.

3) You believe that if you don’t tithe, your other 90% will be cursed.

4) You try hard to obey God and it irritates you that others think they can get away with avoiding the same level of dedication and commitment that you have.

5) You fall short because you don’t have enough faith, or because you haven’t prayed enough, or because you just need to be a better person.

6) God is predisposed to be angry with you because you are a sinner and He knows that YOU know you can do better.

7) Your sense of spiritual well-being is tied to a Christian leader and their opinion, or membership in your church rather than a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

8) You tell your children not to do something in church or around other Christian families that you allow in your home.

9) You believe that what people wear, hairstyles, piercings or tattoos, is a clear indication of that person’s spirituality and character.

10) After being around Christians for a while you feel drained because you are weary of putting up a false front.

11) When you happen to miss a service or activity of your church, even if it is a valid excuse, you feel guilty.

12) If your ability to receive a blessing from God, such as healing, depends on how you have been performing.

13) If you see Christ as more of a judge than a Savior.

14) If you believe God’s love for you depends on how much love you have shown Him.

15) If you know God’s law but not God Himself.

16) If you think you MUST take a Sabbath once a week.

          So, how did you do? Did you find some of these comments describing you? Legalism has been a danger to the church from the very start. it is addressed in the New Testament repeatedly and the book of Galatians is written, almost entirely, to address this point.

          We are all susceptible to legalism and we must ever guard ourselves from falling into this trap of wrong thinking.

          God’s love is unconditional. Christ has redeemed us from every curse of the law. We are to live a life of the Spirit. laying down our lives daily and taking up God’s agenda, being an instrument of righteousness and an expression of His image….Just like Jesus. This is the path to freedom from legalistic thinking.

Freedom from legalism will only come from relationship with your Father. The greatest thing Jesus did was restore our ability to come before God without guilt or shame. He changed our identity from sinners, to sons and daughters.

          Some believers think that having a sin consciousness will help them avoid sin. If they think about their wrong doing, feel the shame of it, carry the guilt of it, then it will deter them from repeating those things. That is purely Legalistic, Old Covenant thinking. That didn’t even work in the Old Covenant. At best sin consciousness only leads to more sinning!

         What you focus on you move towards. What you are conscious of, and what you think about, is the reality you create. No wonder we struggle so much with sin. Our mind is constantly focused on it.

         Why don’t we try focusing on righteousness? On Christ’s perfect gift of righteousness that He has imputed to us. When we focus on righteousness, grace comes on the scene and moves us towards right living.

         Legalism and a sin consciousness is a result of having a law based, legalistic mind. Romans 3 says that by the law is the knowledge of sin. When our mind is law based we will live sin conscious. The focus will be on our flesh, our ability, and our self. Being “self-focused” is in direct opposition to the love of God.

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         We can’t overcome sin this way? Grace is the answer! Grace is divine influence. As we focus on Christ we open the door for God to influence us. We place our heart on the great potter’s wheel and He gives it a spin, molding us and shaping us into His image. This is faith. This is how we walk in the Spirit and not fulfill the lusts of the flesh. This is how we make a draw on His ability Instead of struggling to overcome sin in our own strength.

         If we focus on relationship with Him, practice spending time with Him. Focus on how we can fill your hearts and minds with the word of God. That He has forgiven all our sins, past present and future. That He has made us perfectly righteous with His own righteousness and no sin can make us unrighteous. That He has brought you completely out of a law based relationship with Him and into a grace based relationship with Him. That His love and acceptance of us is not based on our performance but on Christ perfect performance on our behalf. That we have a new nature, God’s very own nature. That we are sons, not sinners. Our consciousness of Him, and His righteousness in us, will grow to a place that crushes our consciousness of sin and delivers us from legalistic thinking.

Our focus should always be on relationship, not works. If we can learn to make that one adjustment, we will flourish in the Kingdom of God.

 

The Righteousness of God – pt.2

The Mystery of the Two Natures

          When making reference to the “nature” of something, it refers to its inherent fundamental qualities. In the case of mankind, his nature is the hereditary physical and spiritual characteristics that drive his thoughts and actions and influences the direction of his life.

          God’s original design was for man to have the nature and image of God.

Genesis 1:27 So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.

          When Adam sinned, his nature changed, and the image of God in man was lost. Now fallen man had the nature and image of the devil. The nature and image of God is love, the nature, and image of the devil is carnal, prideful, and selfish. They are polar opposites.

          Man went from being love (God’s image) to needing love (selfish, self-centered). He lost his dominion and authority and he lost his created purpose which was to manifest/reflect the image of God. He was cut off from the Holy Spirit and lost the peace that kept him in perfect unity with the Father. His intimacy with the God was compromised and now his fellowship with his creator was only available from a distance, it was almost non-existent. He stepped out of the kingdom of light and into the kingdom of darkness. He chose the “kingdom of me” over the Kingdom of God and it produced a separation in relationship.

          This wasn’t just a sad day for Adam, but for all mankind, for every human being born on this earth is born into sin and death because of Adam’s sin.

Romans 5:12 Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men because all sinned.

          We are born with a fallen, carnal nature by no fault of our own. God knew this, so He sent Jesus to pay the price that no man could pay. He redeemed man from sin and death and restored the possibility of the nature and image of God back to mankind. For man to enjoy this restoration of the nature and image of God he must be born of Adam, (natural birth) and born of the Spirit.(born again)

John 3:5-7 Jesus answered, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. 6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. 7 Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’

          We are, by default, born of the first Adam, born with a fallen, corrupt, and carnal nature. When we are born again, we suddenly have a new nature on the scene that is diametrically opposed to the old carnal nature, Now we have the chore of stewarding these two opposite natures. This is the biggest challenge that faces us in our Christian walk because we were never created to live with two natures. We were created to have the nature and image of God.

          We find in scripture a description of the two natures and the results of yielding to each.

Romans 8:5-8 For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. 6 For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. 7 Because the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be. 8 So then, those who are in the flesh cannot please God.

          We see here that yielding to one nature produces death, and yielding to the other produces life and peace. At first glance, we see the obvious choice, life and peace. It seems so simple, yet the obvious choice is not the easy choice.

Galatians 5:16-18 I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. 17 For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.

          There is a tug of war inside of us, a great battle going on between our two natures. Each nature operates according to very different spiritual laws. Because of this opposition within us, we find ourselves not doing the things that we know to be right. The apostle Paul saw this struggle in his own life and ministry and writes about it in his letter to the Roman church.

Romans 7:15-17 For what I am doing, I do not understand. For what I will to do, that I do not practice; but what I hate, that I do. 16 If, then, I do what I will not to do, I agree with the law that it is good. 17 But now, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me. 18 For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells; for to will is present with me, but how to perform what is good I do not find. 19 For the good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practice. 20 Now if I do what I will not to do, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me. 21 I find then a law, that evil is present with me, the one who wills to do good. 22 For I delight in the law of God according to the inward man. 23 But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members.

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          Notice Paul’s perspective here. He identifies himself with the new man, the born again man. He views the fallen man as a completely different person, to the point that when he sees sin rearing its ugly head in his life, he says; “it is no longer I that sins.” He sees it as a different person committing the act of sin. Paul refuses to identify with the fallen nature, instead, he chooses to embrace his new identity which is the righteousness of God.

          Paul’s response to the new nature dictates his response to the old nature. Most folks have that backwards. They allow the old carnal man, (that should be dead) to dictate how they respond to God’s amazing gift of righteousness. Paul understood that the man he used to be, is not the man he now is. Look at Romans 6 again in the Message;

Romans 6:2  If we’ve left the country where sin is sovereign, how can we still live in our old house there? Or didn’t you realize we packed up and left there for good?

          The place we used to be, is not the place we belong. Pack up and leave that old house for good! Sin will always call us back to live in the place we were redeemed from, but when we know who we are NOW, we can’t be seduced by who we WERE. We need to let who we are get bigger in our heart than who we were. When we settle that in our life, transformation and fulfillment will follow.

          If you sin, how do you respond to it? Do you look at the act like it wasn’t even you who did it? Do you say to yourself, and to God, “that wasn’t me, that is not who I am. I thank you Lord for opening my eyes, I am the righteousness of God in Christ, and I thank you Lord that you see me as holy in your sight. I thank you for fathering me and showing me who I am in you, for producing the fruit of holiness in my life so that I don’t stumble”? This is what “confession of sin” should look like according to the New Testament. To confess means to say the same thing about it that God says. Say what God says about you and it will change your desires, your behavior, your thought processes, and eventually, YOUR IMAGE.

          I think most of us respond to sin with being disappointed in ourselves, crying out to God for forgiveness, weeping and wailing and filled with regret that we missed it again. We become ashamed, disgusted with ourselves, condemning ourselves, and judging ourselves unworthy, unrighteous, and unqualified. We open the door to condemnation and turn inward instead of running toward God. We respond from the place of the dead man, identifying ourselves with the sin and therefore giving it power over our lives to bring us into slavery. This response to sin opens the door for the Devil’s tricks and torments. It reactivates the law of sin and death being activated in your life.

          It’s all about perspective. Seeing ourselves from the position of sin prevents us from realizing who we are created to be. It sends a message that we are not righteous and Christ’s sacrifice was not enough. It is an affront to the work of the cross and a denial of your position in Christ as a child of the living God and a citizen of His Kingdom.

          The Jews at Rome had this same problem. Look what Paul says about it:

Romans 10:2-4 For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge. 3 For they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and seeking to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted to the righteousness of God. 4 For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.

          Righteousness must be submitted to. It has nothing to do with our performance, it has everything to do with what we believe, and who we believe. This is the righteousness of faith. Righteousness has already been established by Jesus Christ, there is nothing we can do to make it more or less.

          If we respond from a place of guilt and condemnation it says that we don’t believe, or don’t understand, that the cross was enough to make us right before the Father. We say in our heart that Christ has to come from heaven and be sacrificed again and be raised from the dead again because the last time he did was not quite enough.(Romans 10:6-7) This is the response of the fallen nature, the one we must put to death.

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          The response of the new nature is one of faith and life, declaring the great work that Christ has done in you. It responds as a righteous son, a worthy heir with head held high in gratitude for the completed work of the cross. It responds by running to the Father and taking the seat beside Him which was prepared for you before you were born. It responds with the truth that “I am the righteousness of God in Christ Jesus!” This response produces the fruit of holiness without us trying to be holy.

Romans 6:22 But now having been set free from sin, and having become slaves of God, you have your fruit to holiness, and the end, everlasting life.

For the next lesson in this series, CLICK HERE> The Righteousness Of God pt.3