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

A daily devotion for February 13th

Legality or License?

But now that you know God — or rather are known by God — how is it that you are turning back to those weak and miserable forces? Do you wish to be enslaved by them all over again? You are observing special days and months and seasons and years!

Galatians 4:9-10

Paul asks, Why are you going back under Law now that you have been brought out into the liberty that is Christ Jesus? The Word of God makes it very plain that a Christian is to be controlled by grace and not by Law. There are many misunderstandings about the application of grace to a Christian life. One that is prevalent today is that grace really means no control at all. Their idea is that you can do anything you want in grace. If you are under grace you do not have any rules or any regulations; you just do as you please, and nothing can stop you. Since you will be forgiven, you may feel free to live it up all your life. This is a very common misunderstanding of grace, and it is one that is far from the truth.

In a Christian life there are two extremes: Legality and license — and the devil does not really care which one he pushes you into. If he can get you into either one, your life is ruined as far as usefulness for God is concerned. But grace represents the middle path that goes right down between the two. License is lawlessness; it is anarchy; it is saying I'm free to do anything I want, there are no limits to my indulgence. If I want to do something that the Bible says is wrong, well, I'm not under the Law but under grace, and I can go ahead and do it. This is license and it is wrong. At the other extreme, there is legality. Our trouble is that to escape license, sometimes we rebound into legality. We feel the condemnation of conscience that comes with living a wild, free, untrammeled life, and we react with legality. We impose on ourselves laws, rigid rules, long lists of don'ts which prevent us from doing anything but eat, sleep, and read the Bible.

There are many who wrongly think that the standards of grace are much lower than the standards of legalism. True Christians, someone says, never smoke, or dance, or go to the movies, or gamble, or drink. And since you sometimes see those who say they are living by grace do these things, it proves the standards of grace are lower than those of the Law. Actually, the reverse is true. According to God's Word, these outward acts are much less serious sin, if they are sin at all, than the inward, vicious sins of the spirit that legalists almost invariably permit in their own lives. Legal standards always are concerned with outward acts. As long as you can keep the outward aspect of your life adjusted to a particular rule or standard, you can consider yourself spiritual. But grace goes beyond the outward act into the heart, and it says the heart must be right as well. The standards of grace are concerned with those inward attitudes that create the outward act. Legalism can never rise to that level. It is only concerned with a few outward things visible to others, but the heart may be rank and evil with slander, malice, bitterness, gossip, and all the other works of the flesh.

Father, thank you for the riches of grace I have in Christ Jesus. I pray that my heart may be awakened to the riches of grace, and that I may be stimulated to do the very things that are pleasing to you.

Life Application

How can I order my life so that my outward behavior is based on reliance on Jesus Christ's grace?

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

Doing What Comes Unnaturally

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