Spiritual Cardiology 401: How Legalism Destroys the Christian's Heart

Saturday, July 28, 2012

An all too-often illustration experienced in the ministry is single adults who hear God's promise to fulfill their lives with a powerfully, godly spouse one day. But in the face of sexual temptation they begin to doubt.

Legalism then tells them to obey God's commands regarding sexual purity. But because they have begun to doubt God's promises in the past, as well as His ability or faithfulness to make good on those promises in the future, they go ahead and give in to temptation and have sex before marriage. And one thing they all tell me is this: it only produces guilt. Why?

When the promises and faithfulness of God are not operating strongly in the ventricles of the spiritual heart, thoughts about obeying God only lead to disobedience. These two things - promise and hope - are the two ventricles of the spiritual heart which God originally designed and intended for human beings. The heartworms of legalism are a parasite that God did 
 intend for us to bear.

In the other ventricle legalism operates in this way. It lies to us telling us that God's promise to love us unconditionally is not for us. We've sinned too much. Our sin is too big. Or our sin is too often.

By telling us these lies, the ventricle then pumps out non-promise-oxygenated blood to our bodies in the form of self-resolution, recommitment, rededication, etc. We put our own strength into our own efforts to try to do better next time. We act as if we believe that our relationship with God is based on our success...rather than God's success in Christ on the cross.

To illustrate with something we're all familiar with, imagine the last time you sinned in that specific way that you seem to always struggle with. It seems to be lust for most men. You fall to lust and watch pornography, perhaps following it up with some form of self-pleasure.

Guilt overwhelms you when it's all over. Your guilt-ridden thoughts pump into your heart, but the ventricles of promise and hope aren't operating at full capacity. Therefore, you can't hear God speaking...just your sin.

Legalism lies to you and tells you your problem is WAY too big to conquer. All you can hope to do is just continue trying to fight it and win every now and then. You recommit yourself to read the Bible more, pray more, attend church and Bible studies more often, give more money, evangelize more, etc. And you try...but fail at these things more often than you'd like. So more guilt-ridden blood enters the heart and the cycle continues.

About the Author: Rob is a entrepreneur in Statesboro, GA, where he envisions and pursues missional-shaped business for the kingdom. He and his wife Sherri have been married for 18 years and together have three sons and a daughter. Rob believes the mission of the gospel is summed up in four simple phrases: know God, obey Jesus, make disciples, and plant churches. This is the pursuit of his life, as well as the point of his blog.

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