What Exactly is Legalism? It’s More Complicated Than You Think

Legalism. Pretty much everyone agrees that it’s bad.  And in a world where Christians seem to disagree over basically everything, that’s saying something.

Even so, if you asked the average Christian to define legalism, the answers may not come so quickly. What exactly counts as legalism?  How do we know it when we see it?  The confusion is exacerbated by the fact that the term can be used in different ways.  People can use the same word but infuse it with very different meanings.

In hopes of dissipating a little of the fogginess, here’s a breakdown of different ways to understand legalism.

Legalism and Salvation

Let’s begin with the most …

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The Great Race

“He who honors me, I will honor” (1 Samuel 2:30).

That was the verse that was handed to Scottish runner Eric Liddell moments before he ran the 400 meters in the 1924 Olympics.  It was not the event that he had trained for. He was a sprinter and was favored in the 100 meters. But the heats for the 100 were on a Sunday, and he would not run.

Although hailed as a hero now (and made famous by the movie Chariots of Fire), Liddell’s refusal to run on Sunday made him the object of severe ridicule and scorn by both the British people and the British press. The …

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A Lament

Remember my affliction and my wanderings,
    the wormwood and the gall!

My soul continually remembers it
    and is bowed down within me.
But this I call to mind,
    and therefore I have hope:

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
    his mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning;
    great is your faithfulness.

“The Lord is my portion,” says my soul,
    “therefore I will hope in him.”
The Lord is good to those who wait for him,
    to the soul who seeks him.
It is good that one should wait quietly
    for the salvation of the Lord.

For the Lord will not

    cast off forever,

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Why Do (Modern) Christians Rarely Talk about Rewards in Heaven?

When is the last time you heard a sermon that suggested that a motive for our obedience should be the rewards we receive in heaven?  I imagine for most of us it has been a long time, maybe even never. Whenever a sermon (or book) provides a motive for obedience, it is almost always thankfulness for what Christ has done.  And certainly that is a wonderful and foundational motivation.  But is it the only motivation?

Recently I’ve been working on a commentary on the book of Hebrews and was struck by the role rewards have played in the lives of God’s people. We are reminded that Moses was motivated by …

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How a “You do You” Culture Has Made Us Vulnerable to the Coronavirus

“You do you.”

Perhaps there’s no phrase that captures our current cultural moment better. Back in 2015, Colson Whitehead of the New York Times Magazine, lamented this phrase, arguing that it “perfectly captures our narcissistic culture.”

Indeed, it is hard to disagree. “You do you” embodies our culture’s commitment to personal fulfillment, self-actualization, and the dismissal of any truth claims outside of the self. It means we get to create our own realities, our own right and wrong, and, perhaps most importantly, our own meaning.

And if we are the creators of our own little worlds, then we are also our own little gods. And no one gets to …

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