It does not occur to many that life is a person. There are folks who with a sigh and a smile of relief exclaim, ‘I don’t think those things matter anymore!’ They never did! At least not since the cross, the ripping of the temple curtain and Pentecost. Today we have the privilege of living in life itself and avoiding futility. Many of us make false starts and spend time in cul-de-sacs because our knowledge of God and who we are in Him is obscured. Yet if we persist in a Jesus life He will mentor us in the nature of God, the wisdom of life and a knowledge of ourselves. Legalism is a prison from which we have already been delivered. Jesus came to deliver us from obsessive behavior so that we can be our real selves.
‘The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me, because the LORD has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners’ Isa 61.1 NIV.
Legalism is a prison. It is bad because it has us looking for righteousness and life in the wrong place: Ourselves. It denies God because it can portray Him as obsessed with the trivial. In some cultures it portrays Him as severe and vindictive. Legalism diverts us from imagination and vision because in seeking to please a god of triviality we are contained in the small. Engage in legalism for too long and it will shrink your mind.
The law was made to lead us to Christ. It was made for the Jews and it was made to expire. It had a use by date that finished at the cross. Now a completely new departure was put in place - a new and living way who is a person. This is the person of Jesus living by His Spirit in you. Now our existence is contained not in something that kills but in a person who is life.
Legalism is not only deficient because it ties us to the trivial and denudes people of personhood. Culturally it fosters poor leadership, an obsession with personel who are ‘safe’ rather than bright and a preference for the unintelligent and mindless on account of the need to not rock the boat and preserve the status quo.
In some institutions it is common to see vision sapped from administration by a succession of mediocrities and a parade of the dull. These simple souls, pleasant enough in themselves, get to live in the illusion that they have executive ability because they have been thrust into a position of authority. But it is only an illusion. They are less able than their peers, limited in mental capacity without intellectual ability. They cripple the effectiveness of the organization and their subordinates expend an inordinate effort making them look good.
But this is not the worst effect of being rooted in the law and a law culture. Living in the law, which is to live in an abstraction suffocates life. Paul asserted that the letter kills because it does. He declared Christ as our life because He infinite, eternal uninhibited life!
Generically, living in law is living in the knowledge of good and evil. This is the Adamic separation from God mistakenly chosen by our first Father. This is the lot of the non-believer, the rebel, the humanist and the adherent of any religion that is not Christ. But it is also the religion of Believers who live in religion; who live in Adam and Moses; who live in the old covenant rather than the new. The law suffocates life and promotes a culture of death - often in the name of God and always on behalf of religion. Law suffocates spirit and life and denies the life of God even while promoting it.
Some live in death as a form of life. Robed by the thief and the Father of lies they live in a revised gospel, hatched not in the Kingdom but in the government of hell.
Law, the old covenant, the life in Adam and the knowledge of good and evil leave us separated from God and His life and outside the new creation advance of unlimited eternal life that is the inheritance of all. Christ our life is the inheritance of all but only the possession of those who have embraced their new covenant life in Jesus. Paul expressed this in Galatians 2.20,21.
‘I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me. “I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness comes through the Law, then Christ died needlessly.”