The Unbalance of Legalism – Gospel for Asia

In his book He Still Moves Stones, Max Lucado states, “Legalism: Turns my opinion into your burden. . . . Turns my opinion into your boundary. . . . Turns my opinion into your obligation.” There needs to be a balance in the way we handle our own life of discipline and how we respond to others. In Romans 14 we find the instruction about giving freedom and grace to others—living by the law of love, not of discipline. When we become judgmental and critical toward the people around us, we make their lives hard and difficult. Romans 14:13 says, “Therefore let us not judge one another anymore, but rather resolve this, not to put a stumbling block or a cause to fall in our brother’s way.” It is good to have a disciplined life and make personal demands on ourselves. But at the same time, we must show grace and mercy toward others who may not be like us or who disagree with us, and bear with one another in love and humility.

In Romans 7, Paul talks about the incredible struggle in his own life to find victory and peace through “rigid discipline.” These demands only made him more miserable and wretched as he kept striving to be perfect. The truth of the matter is this: Although we must do our part, we also must realize that if our part is all there is, then everything begins with us and ends with us. And the Scripture says, “Nothing good dwells in me” (Romans 7:18, NASB).

Toward the end of Romans 7, we hear Paul bursting out with joy and celebration because he realized there is true freedom and victory—not in rigid discipline, but in yielding all that he was to Christ who came to set him free. Romans 7:24–25 says, “O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? I thank God—through Jesus Christ our Lord!”

My encouragement to you is this: Be disciplined, absolutely. You must be. Yet don’t let that become your master and your god. Don’t become militant about organizing your every minute. Don’t try so hard to save time that you forget to live. Don’t become so scheduled that you demand from yourself and everybody else a perfectly structured life. There is no joy, no freedom, in that kind of living. Ask God to order your time. If you are in the middle of a scheduled prayer time and someone knocks on the door, don’t automatically ignore the knock. Ask God. Maybe He has sent this person to pray for you or maybe this person needs your comfort. Don’t be undisciplined, but at the same time rest in the assurance that “the steps of a good man are ordered by the LORD” (Psalm 37:23).

This entry was written by K.P Yohannan, the president and founder of Gospel for Asia, with the intention of encouraging and edifying the Body of Christ. To learn more about Gospel for Asia or to receive additional free resources, visit Gospel for Asia’s website.
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