What You'll Discover in this Episode:

172: Are You A Legalistic Christian

Today's episode continues the discussion about making Biblical Judgment calls. In other words, how do you recognize the good fruit versus bad fruit in a person's life without making rash judgments? We are called to make evaluations all of the time. What are biblical warnings about unbiblical suspicious and paranoid thinking?


acbc, biblical counseling, calvary chapel, ccu, counseling, iabc, jeff christianson

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176: The Holy Spirit’s Guidance

176: The Holy Spirit’s Guidance
  • I got 60 points, but I also missed one of the questions – eek. A lot of these questions I thought “My husband should be answering these questions about myself.” He has critiqued me many a times for my actions and judgments. This has definitely been helpful to show me where I am lacking the grace of God for OTHERS. I know without a shadow of a doubt that my salvation is by God’s grace through faith, yet I do not relay that grace to others very well. It also has me questioning, do I really know and do what pleases God? Do I really live by His righteousness or my own thought up self-righteousness? A very convicting test.

  • Really interesting.
    1.) In our culture legalism is so often portrayed as strict adherence to God’s word. How did it get so twisted? As you say that’s not legalism… That’s exactly what we should aspire to.
    2.) But legalism is never portrayed as pushing man made rules on others which is exactly what we are doing !!!
    3.) Really helpful discussion because of the people we will see who are labouring under these false man made standards. Praise God we can point them back to a relationship with Jesus who enables them by his grace to live by the word which is the ultimate standard. It’s a heart issue!

    • It was a really interesting podcast for discussion for sure. What encouraged me was that Jeff said “Legalism is Not emphasis on obedience to God’s Word.” which really gave me a great bit of relief. However, where am I making up rules that are not God’s Word and judging people by them? I realized through this podcast that I lack grace and mercy towards others and that I really want to change that.

  • What a helpful test this is with which to begin counseling someone. Just a glance over these questions first and foremost helps US to know ourselves better, and then to know where someone’s biblical foundation is before we even have a conversation.

    What always makes the Gospel stand out in bright and wonderful contrast against the Law (which is wonderful) is that Mercy triumphs over judgment! The cross of Jesus triumphs over sin!

    I really appreciated the analogy of the police officer and the paramedic. Both are necessary. As a counselor however, we are not to meet with people to see which one “committed a crime,” but by the leading of Holy Spirit to bring rescue and help to wounded people.

    I would love to be able to access this list of questions.

    Excellent podcast, I imagine I will listen to it again.

  • I grew up in a non-christian home until shortly after I put my faith in Christ at age 15. Then my sister and then my parents and brother. We were raised very strict with man-made rules, and then The baptist church we went to after was very legalistic as well. I married a former Catholic and we also attended several legalistic churches. It has taken several years and the work of the Holy Spirit and the Word of God to bring us to a knowledge it and desire to change. We haven’t “arrived”, the Holy Spirit isn’t finished with us yet, but because we are teachable God is transforming us “from glory to glory”. It’s so marvelous to have the freedom to trust the Holy Spirit instead of man.

    • This sad chain of events is so common in the life of so many of us. We don’t experience and taste the goodness and mercy of God early on as children. Instead, we are distanced with fear and man-made rules that make us see God as more of an enemy than a loving Father. Thank you for sharing your journey with us. It certainly provides hope that no matter how long it may take, the Lord IS calling us to Himself with His cords of love!

  • I grew up in a Pentecostal church until the age of 20. This podcast brought back so many memories of all the do’s and do not’s that I lived with. I have discussed this with my parents before and they had grown up the same way and truly believed they were doing the right thing. It really warped my sense of who God was and had me constantly living in fear, to the point that I walked away for awhile. My thought was that I could never please God so I might as well enjoy the world. I am so thankful that my parents changed churches and convinced me to come and try their new church. It was so refreshing to not hear a list of do’s and don’ts and to be hearing the word taught chapter by chapter, verse by verse. It was Biblical teaching that changed my outlook on life and on who God is, and I felt freedom in Christ for the very first time. The comment that legalism is death is so true.

    • Isn’t that a sobering thought that legalism and these false standards push people away from God. And a marvellous truth that the word of God sets us free and motivates us to live by His standards in a way that man’s rules never ever can.

  • Very relevant discussion as legalism is still very much prevalent in Christianity. Some are man made rules even using scripture to enforce bondage on Gods people and creating a new standard for salvation. Jesus has paid with his life so that we can be free yet some denominations stIll seek to bring Gods people under another form of enslavement. Galatians 5:1 is very applicable to resist these forms of legalism that seeks to add other requirements to salvation. I know of the not wearing pants for ladies, no jewelry and the wearing of hats for women . What does the role of culture , audience and context play in many of these scriptures that are being used in this legalistic agenda? If you do not know the truth and your position in Christ you will feel condemned when you do not follow some of these practices. The spirit of the Pharisees still lives on today.

    I am still very much for churches having rules for conduct and standards of behavior that keeps us being a light to the lost world. Matthew 5:16 encourages us to let our light shine before men and the church needs a biblical balance so that we are not legalistic on one extreme or too liberal on the other extreme.

    • I do agree that there should be a standard for God’s people, and that may not be explicitly listed out in the Bible, but certain standards could be helpful. I think a big part of what I learned from this podcast is that there needs to be grace and mercy towards others and that I shouldn’t judge people wrongly based on my own rules and convictions. I know my church definitely doesn’t want to be legalistic, but we also struggle with a few things that we agree could be brought to a standard, it’s just trying to figure out what is going to be most helpful and considerate.

  • Growing up I went to a Pentecostal church and I seen many rules, I could not wear pants, that was one of them, which was very odd to me as a child, I went to church every Sunday with my babysitter whom was like a Grandma to me, her and her husband both loved me like their own and really did introduce me to church/ My parents were Catholic and so as a child I was really confused with religion in general, because I seen so many different things take place, none of them were bad by any means, I just did not understand. As I got older and eventually found my way to Christ, I found that their was no rule to following God, except giving up your old life and being transformed by God. Renewed by HIM! Yes, we have the commandments, and which all men should follow, but it shouldn’t be as a means of salvation, we follow them with thankfulness of which Jesus has already done for us.

    • Yes this! I am right there with you. The old way I was taught was me trying to reach a certain standard, rather than focusing on my relationship with Christ and letting Him transform me.

    • You wrote, “Yes, we have the commandments, and which all men should follow, but it shouldn’t be as a means of salvation, we follow them with thankfulness of which Jesus has already done for us.” Yes and amen Serena! I love that we are not obeying the Lord FOR salvation but from a place OF salvation!

  • Throughout Jesus’ ministry, we are shown how much he opposed the pride of the Pharisees as they stuck to the letter of the law. The judgment and oppression of others that they preformed was never the intention of the law. And this is what Jesus called them out for. The hardest pill to swallow is that today, Jesus would likely say the same things he said to the Pharisees to some of us. “Hypocrites” or “You brood of Vipers” have definitely been descriptions and titles I have deserved before. I know I have been guilty of legalism, and sticking to the letter of the law rather than the true intention behind it. But, that the Lord that we have grace and scripture to learn from.

    • I am one whom also have been guilty of Legalism instead of sticking to the letter of the law. Thankful for the conviction of The Holy Spirit to put me in check and in line with The Word.

      • Is the spirit of the law you meant to say?Just trying to understand the difference between the letter of the law and the spirit of the law from your comment.

        • They stuck to the letter of the law (i.e. legalism). If they had been sticking to the spirit of the law, they would be living in recognition that the law was there/is to show us where and how we fall short of God’s perfection. But, rather they chose to perform the tasks expecting salvation to be found there; and judgmentally holding all others to that standard. This concept is what Paul speaks about in Galatians 2:15-2.

  • When we are given the responsibility of speaking into someone’s life from a leadership or counseling position, it is critical that we guard ourselves from legalism. Jesus’ harshest words suring his ministry on earth were for the Pharisees whose legalism blinded them from the heart of the gospel, and actually made them enemies of the very Savior sent to them. If we are in the business of caring for souls and ministering the gospel, it is imperative that we rely on Christ alone, and His word, fully relying on His work as our justification. I have come across my own tendency towards legalism in parenting moments where I felt out of control- I believe it often comes from a place of wanting to control what isn’t ours. I have had to humble myself before God (and my kids), and turn from authoritarianism in those moments, and submit to the gospel of grace, both for my own forgiveness and to offer the truth of the gospel of grace to my children for the glory of God. The last thing any of us wants is to breed legalism in our homes or ministries in the name of Christianity. Thanks for the helpful questions, Pastor Jeff. I believe they will be a help in the future!

    • Well said, Erin. I have been in the same place as a mother and Sunday School teacher. Praise God He gives us grace and in turn we can show grace as well. It is our relationship with God that causes us to humble ourselves, submit, ask, receive and give forgiveness.

    • Amen Erin. The work and word of Jesus for salvation. But isn’t interesting how we then revert back to legalism for sanctification. When sanctification is also about the work and word of Jesus!

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