Monday, October 30, 2006

Discipline and Legalism

There has been a common mantra that is heard any time a regimen designed to produce maturity is mentioned - "That's too legalistic!" There has been an inability, to a large degree, within the church, to distinguish between legalism and discipline.
Due to our fear of being legalistic, or trapped in a legalistic system, we shun any kind of regimen, thus hindering ourselves in our growth toward spiritual maturity. So we continue in our undisciplined lifestyles, wondering why we seem to be making so little progress.
A simple word study reveals that the word "legalism" is derived from "legal" which is from the Latin word for law. The word "discipline" is from the Latin word meaning "to learn." It's noteworthy that the word "disciple," is from the same Latin word as "discipline."
With this in mind, legalism has to do with keeping a law, usually enforced by man. This originates from the outside. On the other hand, discipline is a learning process that originates from within the individual. Legalism is a man-made code demanding conformity. Spiritual discipline is a learning process where one is being transformed more and more into the likeness of Jesus, thus making him/her a disciple.
In much of the church today, there is neither legalism nor discipline. The result has been a vacuum into which has rushed the ungodly mentality of Judges 21:25 - everyone doing what is right in his own eyes. This is postmodernism run amuck.

This is not a bad point Carmen! I find that legalism usually is enforced by those who happen to be good that that particular thing. For instance those who have no struggle with alcohol begin to tell others that drinking alcohol at all is wrong. Forgetting that of course the Lord drank wine (not grape juice).

Paul talks about this in detail in Romans where there are those that say sin because grace will abound all the more. Then there are those who in Colossians who judged others because of food or drink, when they're permissable.

I don't see a lot of legalism except when, like I said, someone happens to not struggle with something; then all the sudden nobody else should do it either.

Legalism usually starts with good intentions. When someone sees a sin like in the garden of eden (do not eat of the fruit of this tree). So what does Eve do? She creates a rule to prevent one from ever being tempted to eat of the tree, which is to never 'touch of the tree' either.

The legalist says, "If they don't break my law, then they'll never break Your law God."

There are still some churches that practice legalism widely but you're right, most churches lack the discipline to be legalistic in the first place.

Either way legalism works for the the legalist in that they feel superior, exercise control, and are essentially rejecting God's way/plan.

Doesn't sound tempting but like I said it usually starts with good intentions and sin creeps in like in Eve's case.
Great comment! What you have pointed out illustrates the fleshly desire to play God. Even those who walk in a godly displined life too often make their own personal discipline into a law that should be followed by everyone.
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