Justification vs. Legalism

In a sermon on justification, CJ Mahaney helps us understand legalism when he states, “Simply put, legalism is substituting your works for His (Christ’s) finished work.”

CJ also poses some questions that really help expose the heart of legalism.

Questions to help you identify legalism in your own heart.

1)    Am I more aware of and affected by my past sins than I am the finished work of Christ?

2)    Do I live thinking and believing and feeling God is disappointed with me rather than delighting over me?

3)    Do I have an undue concern about what others think?

4)    Do I lack joy?

5)   Do I consistently experience condemnation?

6)   Am I more aware of areas I need to grow than I am of the cross of Christ?

These questions leave many of us standing guilty of legalism, but we need to know how to rightly process the indictment.

The remedy to legalism is the cross.  Robert Murray McCheyne says, “Take 10 looks at Christ for every one look at yourself.”

Jerry Bridges seeks to explain how God sees us in our sin, and how understanding justification rightly frees us up to grow deeper in Christ.

When we pray to God for blessing, He does not examine our performance to see if we are worthy. Rather, He looks to see if we are trusting in the merit of His Son as our only hope for securing His blessing. Disciplines of Grace, 19

We need to hear the gospel every day of our Christian lives….It is only the joy of hearing the gospel and being reminded that our sins are forgiven in Christ that will keep the demands of discipleship from becoming drudgery. Disciplines of Grace, 21.

Few things cut the nerve of desire and effort to change like a sense of guilt.  On the contrary, freedom from guilt through realization of forgiveness in Christ usually strengthens a person’s desire to lead a more disciplined life. Disciplines of Grace, 23.

The next two posts will hopefully help us address the pains of guilt in a faith-filled way.


About Sean Cordell

Rescued from my sin by Jesus, husband to Dana for almost 11 years, daddy to Elijah (7), Jadon (5), and Mercy (1), Pastor of Treasuring Christ Church a church plant in downtown Raleigh, NC View all posts by Sean Cordell

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