Legalism versus Spiritual Discipline

Before we go any further on discussing what older women are to teach younger women, we must first establish two issues within our minds.

  1. What exactly is legalism?
  2. What exactly is spiritual discipline?

When we sort these two things out in our mind then we begin to understand what the Lord Jesus Christ meant when He said, “If you love Me, keep My commandments!” John 14:15.

Let’s go to number one. What exactly is legalism? A lot of people in this day and age seem to think that legalism is doing just about anything! If they don’t want to do it, then they decide to cry foul and these are some of the things you might hear either in words or the reaction someone might have toward you.

“You are being legalistic because you told me I HAVE to do something that I don’t want to do!”

“I see you are still living according to the rules of the Bible. This convicts my heart and I don’t want my heart to be convicted of sin. I’m quite happy living the way that I want to live.”

“You live way up there and the rest of us live way down here. We just don’t think this is right because we can’t reach the same level you do.”

I’m sure there are many more comments or reactions that could be placed in here but we will stop right there for now. So what is legalism? Legalism is a ‘list of draconian rules’ or ‘living the letter of the law” that you feel will make God happy with you. If you have a set list of do’s and don’ts that make you feel ‘more spiritual’ then anyone else and the heart attitude does not have to change then you are legalistic. Legalism is self-centred and desires to do things to gain merit with God. Legalism is a heart issue.

On the other hand, spiritual discipline can look quite similar to legalism but not match up with legalism in any way, shape or form! How can that be? How can something be similar but not match up at all? you might wonder. The motivation for spiritual discipline is so completely different that although it might look like legalism, it definitely is NOT legalism!

Spiritual discipline is also a heart issue but the motivation is that you LOVE God and you are willing to please Him no matter what it takes or what others say about you! Spiritual discipline is a relationship with God and NOT a list of do’s and don’ts.

Legalism says, “I have to do these things today otherwise God will be angry at me.”

Spiritual discipline says, “I love God so much that I don’t want to do anything that displeases Him. I want to change and become more like the Lord Jesus Christ!”

Legalism will have the same attitude of desire toward sin. The inner heart will still be in rebellion towards God although the outer life LOOKS like they are serving God. The difference will be when someone, who has true spiritual discipline, will humbly accept rebuke and exhortation. They will desire to change and hate even the smallest sin within their life. The legalistic person will show anger towards those who try to rebuke and exhort them because they feel there is nothing wrong in their life! These are the differences between a legalistic person and someone with spiritual discipline.

Now, when we go over the things that older women should be teaching younger women, let’s keep these two issues firmly in our mind so we know exactly where we stand! Remember, Jesus says, “If you love Me, keep My commandments!” Let’s show forth love and spiritual discipline (in our lives) by keeping the Lord’s commandments because we know it pleases Him. Let’s earnestly “cast off the works of darkness and put on the armour of light.” Romans 13:12. Do these things while it is day and there is still time to serve the Lord!

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One response to “Legalism versus Spiritual Discipline

  1. I love how you explained the difference between legalism and spiritual discipline. I often find my self trying to explain this to others, particularly when I am in discussions on how God’s Grace is not a license to lie, manipulate others, etc. I get accused of trying to follow the law when I just want to do what pleases God and model the Love that Jesus modeled to everyone which would translate in how we treat others, which does match up with the commandments. I am glad I found your site while researching older women teaching younger women in the bible. I couldn’t remember the scripture for this topic. Blessings

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