C.J. Mahaney defines legalism in the Cross Centered Life as, “Legalism is seeking to achieve forgiveness from God and acceptance by God through obedience to God.
When I was a boy, I would pretend to be a knight. As a knight, the battles I fought in were intense. This knight always achieved the goal (Though, I think I pretended to die sometimes – I got to be somewhat realistic!). You know how many dragons I slayed?
While I may have slayed many dragons when I was younger, this dragon I can’t seem to win. My rusty old sword is not quick enough to beat the temptations and traps set before me by him. This legalistic dragon has me right where he wants me. I’m a washed up old knight.
The problem is, I know what the problem is. I want to claim credit for my justification. Even if it is just a little credit. If I’m honest, I would say something extremely heretical, such as, “Christ died for 99% of my sins and I need to do something to earn the 1%.” I must take some credit. Why can’t it be like when I was a hero slaying dragons? Why can’t I be the hero? Even me desiring this is a trap set by my very own dragon, whom I can’t seem to slay.
To top it off, it consumes my brain. I think about my sins way more than Christ’s accomplishment. It’s a trap I tell you, a dirty trap. And yet, I know it is a trap and I do nothing about it. I fall for it nearly every time.
I know there is victory in Christ, but I choose to wallow in the guilt of my sins that have been paid for completely by Jesus. But this truth is too good to be true. I need to claim some credit. *Sigh* I’m just a washed up old knight who is not able to slay this dragon.
With the King Dragon (Legalism) pinning me down, there are more dragons getting hold of me too. More sins in my life. Swarms of them are on their way, too. So, what am I to do? How can I beat them? Why I am constantly defeated? As the Apostle Paul says, “Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?” (Romans 7:24).
Who will deliver me from these dragons?
Jesus has already Won
While I keep going back to the dragon and knight analogy, Jesus has beaten the ultimate dragon (Satan) and all of his little minions (Legalism, Lust, Pride, Anger, etc). He has declared me righteous (Romans 5:1). I may be weighed down, my righteousness is not my own but Christ’s. He is my victor. I can rest knowing Christ has already won.
While I want this monster killed (Legalism), it isn’t me who will be doing the killing (at least not by myself). And I can’t take any credit. It is God who does the work in me (Philippians 2:13).
I may be a washed up knight. My sword may be rusty. My hope is through the power of Jesus. By focusing on the truth of justification and the work Jesus accomplished, I will one day be able to penetrate my sword into the dragon’s heart. I want this dragon to feel agony and death. And one day, I want victory. True victory will only come through Jesus and it will be Him who works through me to see, feel, and love this truth.
I’ll need to clean off my sword and be ready for battle (Which is fought through the power of Christ, not my slaying abilities). Please be praying for me as the battle wages on…