I've heard a term thrown around quite easily lately. In fact, I was having a conversation with some Christian women and the term came up a bunch then, too The problem is that it was used wrong.
I've noticed that when someone wants to talk about separation from the world and striving to live a holy life, then some will claim "Legalism!" It is a very strong word. But what does it really mean? It means that you are not trusting in Christ alone to save you. It means that you are adding works to your faith so that you may have a home in heaven. The dictionary says that legalism is defined as "the doctrine that salvation is gained through good works."
So, am I a Legalist? Oh my, No! I truly believe God's Word when it says, "By grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works," (Ephesians 3:8) I also love the verse in Romans 5:1, "Therefore being justified by faith..." Faith!! I do not believe that I have to add anything to my faith to gain heaven.
So, then, why do I do the things I do? Why do I say the things I say? Why do I listen to the things that I listen to? Why do I raise my kiddos the way I do? Why do I wear the things I wear? It's quite simple. I'm not trying to earn my way to Heaven, I do them because of love and obedience. I don't have to do any of those things to gain heaven. I do, however, want to please my heavenly Father.
When I disappoint Him, the Holy Spirit convicts and burdens my heart. That's not a good feeling, that's for sure! So, when I read in His Word the instructions for my life, I have a desire to do them and to follow them. I've read of His many promises that I will have when I am obedient to His Word. And those promises are things I want in my life! Proverbs says, "Blessed are they that keep my ways," Blessed is something that I want to be!
But, don't I have the "freedom" in Christ to do the things I want to do? (Another term that is thrown around a lot lately) Yes, I have that freedom to make my own choices. But are they always the best choices? Not always. That's why God has given me clear instructions in His Word of the choices that He wants me to make. And He wants to direct every area of my life from the things I watch to the way I dress.
So, the next time you hear that word "Legalism" thrown around, think about it's meaning and don't be someone who misuses that word. Someone that is striving to please the Lord is not a Legalist. I'm so thankful that we are saved by God's grace. If we had to add our works to our salvation, I would never be good enough. And I wouldn't have the peace of where I would spend eternity. God is so good to us! I'm thankful that His Word gives us all the answers that I need to live a pleasing life for Him!