What You'll Discover in this Episode:

173: Legalism Leads To Misery

In this episode, I make comments on the topic of legalism and the booklet, Letting Go of Legalism" by Dr. Lou Priolo.

Lou writes, "The most common form of legalism among evangelicals today is elevating man-made rules above the directives and principles that God has laid out in His Word. It results in judging others (accusing either in one’s heart or with one’s mouth) of sinning when those man made rules are not followed. In this booklet you will gain a clearer understanding of how legalism infects us as believers, and how to recognize both doctrinal and applied legalism in one’s own life. Upon seeing it, we then can begin letting go of legalism in its various forms, truly love others, and press on in the grace and righteousness of Christ."



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

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  • I think I have definitely been facing the facts and consequences of my own legalism this week. I made a pretty bad move and then later realized “Wow, that was all pride and self-righteousness and not the ‘loving kind thing’ that I thought I was accomplishing.” I told God (and then was scared I said this) that I need to be brought low. This episode also made me think of my sibling who is going through a hard time with their own Spiritual walk, and I think they are feeling the effects of their own legalism. How much do I not understand about the grace of God?

  • This is a very thought provoking discussion on legalism and helped me to look at it in a way I had not considered before.
    And how it 1.) goes beyond trying to live by the law which is in itself problematic, but worse still it sets up a bunch of man made rules as the standard which is exactly what the pharisees did.
    2.) Yes it fails to address heart issues. The very thing that the Lord is interested in. Paul Tripp’s book looks at this a lot! The tragedy of tidying up the externals and not the heart, which is also what secular counselling does. Looks at fruit but not roots.
    3.) Very interesting fear of failure and perfectionism as legalism. That was a light bulb moment!

    • Oh Ann, I totally agree with the failure and perfectionism issue. I had watched about 15 minutes of one Biblical Counselor talk about perfectionism and I just cried my face off. I seriously deal with that desire of perfectionism “give me the how to so I can do it right the first time” mentality. I hate failing and having to face my consequences. But I have to remember James 4, “But He gives us More Grace.”

      • Amen. It’s a game changer when you get a new perspective. I was able to share with a counselee last Friday and she totally understand! Really helped her. Praise God. And yes he will give you more grace!

  • I have been enjoying these podcasts on legalism. I can see pictures of my life, whether it was me being legalistic or others around me who were. Legalism is a joy stealer. For so long I felt unloved by God because I couldn’t live up to the standards set before me. It is only God’s Word that should direct our lives. Unlike legalism, God’s ways bring peace and joy.

    • Love it Angela. I agree and how much it directs our attention away from the fact that we are found righteous IN Christ. His perfection not ours!

  • Such an interesting observation and connection that legalism is sin, and sin causes misery; therefore legalism contributes or causes misery. This day and age, I see that legalism has been such a permeating issue throughout the church. I remember seeing such a judgmental attitude from church members towards a stranger with tattoos walking into my childhood church, or a young single mother.

    As I have grown, I have had to reshape my heart and attitude. We don’t know the state of this person’s heart. We don’t know what the have been through to get here. I loved what Pastor Jeff said “They have become blinded to their own arrogance…” and “They have lost sight of the fact that there own standard of judgment has become higher that the Bible’s because they have lost sight of their own sinfulness.” This perfectly sums it up.

    • I have seen the same types of things. It’s sad to see the pride of an individual cause someone to walk away from the church. It reminds me of Jesus at the well with the Samaritan woman. By the standards of that day it would be wrong for Him to have interaction with this woman. But because of His great love He saw her as a person who needed His love and a new life in Him. He had compassion, and that is something I always want others around me to feel, but I know there are times I fail.

  • Wow, what an in-depth conversation regarding Phariseeism and Legalism. This podcast reminded me that pride is the driver of both and that it is a sin that I need to be ever careful that I am not walking in.

    It is so true that legalism brings misery. To the person themselves and to others! I loved your commentary on how Jesus is bold and outspoken, and he was especially so against the hypocrisy of the Pharisees. It makes me want to go and study that portion of Matthew and allow the Holy Spirit to shine the light on any areas in my life where I may be walking and legalism and not even be aware of it.

    Thank you for these amazing podcasts Pastor Jeff.

    • It truly does bring misery and I am glad Jeff brought that up. It puts a heavy yoke on us and others that we were not meant to bear. I have experience firsthand this weekend the miserable effects of my legalism and I never want to do that again. I want to put it off and put on meekness, humility, and submission. . . It’s hard.

  • The more I listen to this subject of legalism I see my own guilt and blindness that made me judge others based on my standard and not the Word of God. Legalism has done more harm to the body of Christ and fueled division, contention, pride and bondage not forgetting misery. Legalism has impacted negatively our witness for Jesus to the unsaved world. When we consider the many byproducts of Legalism shared by Pastor Jeff it’s time for it’s eviction from the body of Christ. Im certainly grateful to have listened to this podcast and bring myself under inspection . I can’t think or be the same after hearing this.

    • Dear Jocelyn, I certainly agree with you! While it sometimes seems that our faith systems are overrun with this devilish attitude, it’s also amazing to think that it is as old as time. I agree with Pastor Jeff that it’s sad how many people are silent about it when they could help restore that person from a place of pride to humility.

    • I agree Jocelyn. I’m also guilty of it too. I was struck by something I read by paul tripp. If we fail to evaluate things Biblically we will fail to respond Biblically! So obvious and yet so profound. So I guess if we judge by our man made standard. We haven’t a hope of responding Biblically.

  • BCA is definitely an excellent institution of biblical training. I have learned so many life transforming truths. Pastor Jeff is doing an amazing work presenting these podcasts and discussing topics rarely spoken about in churches , legalism being one of such topics.

  • Thank you again for this podcast talking about legalism. The more I have been thinking about it, the more I have been personally considering the damage that legalism does not only to external relationships with neighbors and friends, those with her children and spouses, most importantly to the personal relationship of a believer with Jesus. Legalism is a misunderstanding and a perversion of the gospel at its core. It is such a serious issue, and I appreciate your engagement with it.

    • Dear Erin, What a truthful statement that legalism is a misunderstanding and a perversion of the gospel at its core. So true! Legalisms stands in the way of love and grace!

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