Grapes on the Vine, God's Abundant Provision for His People

A daily devotion for February 18th

Legalism: Depending on the Flesh

So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.

Galatians 5:16-18

One form of legalism is to make proper demands, but with no awareness of the proper power it takes to fulfill them. This becomes a very subtle form of legalism because it is always based on a proper demand which is in Scripture. But even in that area it is wrong to make a demand upon someone who doesn't understand the power by which it is to be met.

Do you see how subtle this can be? The actual behavior can be exactly the same in the case of a legalist or of one behaving as an authentic Christian. They both may be real Christians and their behavior may be exactly the same, but one is legalistic and the other is not. It is what is going on inside that matters. It is a matter of inner reliance. What are you depending on to meet this demand? Are you counting on your ability, your own adequacy, your talent, your personality? Is that what you are depending on in order to accomplish what is expected of you? If you are depending on anything other than the activity of God at work in you, you are a legalist!

The most widespread form of legalism in the Christian church is the flesh — trying to do something before God which will be acceptable to him. The flesh is the old life, the natural life inherited from Adam, with its apparent resources of personality, of ancestry, of commitment, and of dedication. You can do all kinds of religious things in the flesh. The flesh can preach a sermon. The flesh can sing in the choir. The flesh can act as an usher. The flesh can lead people to Christ. The flesh be very zealous in its witnessing and amass a terribly impressive list of people won to Christ. The flesh can do these things, but it is absolutely nauseating in the eyes of God. It is merely religious activity. There is nothing wrong with what is being done, but what is terribly wrong is the power being relied upon to do it.

It is paramount that we understand that. Because other Christians around you approve of what you are doing is no sign at all that what you are doing is acceptable to God. What you are doing must be done out of a reliance on the power he provides, or else it is nauseating religious hypocrisy in his sight, and it will ultimately prove to be that in the eyes of others as well.

How often have I, Lord, fallen into the trap of trying to do the right thing in complete reliance on myself? Thank you for the power you provide through simple faith to do what's right.

Life Application

How can you practice depending upon the power of God within you, and not on your own abilities, to live out your daily life as a Christian?

This Daily Devotion was Inspired by one of Ray's Messages


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