And it is impossible to please God without faith. Anyone who wants to come to him must believe that God exists and that he rewards those who sincerely seek him. -Hebrews 11:6 (NLT)
Perhaps one of the greatest tools at Satan’s disposal is legalism within the community of believers. It seems like, when legalism abounds, the Gospel message gets completely stifled. I started to think about this again, because I casually researched a group of Christians (name not necessary) and was surprised to discover a very legalistic community just beneath the surface of a peace-loving veneer. One Web site (of theirs) offered some insight into “dos” and “don’ts” and went so far as to tell you when it was appropriate to leave– if you had been lucky enough to be invited to someone’s home for Sunday dinner. They seem to live lives of seclusion from the public in general and I have never witnessed them engaged in any evangelistic outreach (although perhaps they do and I have just never seen it). At any rate, reading about them caused me to reflect on legalism and think about the things I have been tormented with in the past (of a legalistic origin) that completely contradict the Gospel of grace.
Far too often, Christians will ostracize other believers over [what can be] a petty issue of doctrine that has little to do with following Christ. It could be what Bible translation they use, what denomination they affiliate with, whether or not they “speak in tongues,” have ever been divorced, etc. The list goes on and on, but I think you get the point. The Gospel message (one of grace) can be stifled amidst the human cries to “defend the faith against the wiles of the devil.” Are there times when we should be on guard against the workings of Satan? yes! How about every moment of every day until our Lord’s return! But let’s not use our zeal to “defend the faith” as a tool for the devil. Let’s check our motives to see if they are born in love and with the goal or edifying our brothers and sisters. Let’s transmit the Gospel message to all we encounter and not simply deliver a list of regulations and requirements for salvation. Remember, the Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath (Mark 2:27).
God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it. -Ephesians 2:8-9 (NLT)