Be neither the victims of legalism nor weaklings with ill-discipline. Become a mature person in Christ with good habits and live in freedom and victory.In the past, the Church stresses on holiness and having good testimonies and behavior and put much stress on discipline. They come out with many guidelines, such as keeping quit time, fasting, tithing, serving etc, to help believers mature. But very soon, guidelines become rules and adherence to such rules become criteria for leadership. It soon develops into legalism and much control and abuse by the Church Leadership.
Under the present time of a shift in emphasis on grace(saved by grace and not of work) and the finished work of Christ, there is a slow drift towards lawlessness and the abuse of grace as a license for sin (Condemned by Paul in Roman 6:1. So there is a call for the babes in Christ to grow up as stressed by Paul in Hebrew 5-6. That calls for discipline (Heb 12:6).
We therefore must clearly see the difference between Legalism and Discipline so as not the let discipline falls into legalism.
Legalism is about making a set of rules and its adherence as criteria for acceptance. It is about following the letter of the Laws rather than the spirit of the Laws. Following the rules is the utmost objective and importance. It starts with a person as a zero who try to become someone as worthy. It result into two groups of those who can and those who fail. Those who can feel proud and condemn on those who cannot. It leads to minimum standard.
Discipline, on the other hand, is about become better by following a set of practices. It is about development of skills and character that one already possess. It begins from I am OK and developing into better person. Because the desire is there, it follows the spirit of the laws rather than just the letters. Failures are part of the process. We just learn from it and try to overcome them to reach greater heights. We don't feel forced or condemned. In fact, we savor the feeling of strength and victories as we reach the greater height. Here is mind-map that shows the key differences:
So, are you under the bondage of legalism or just under the training pains of discipline? Reflect on the objectives of the rules and you may find your answers. Start with a New Creation in Christ (2 Cor 5:17) and embark on the journey of greater discovery through picking up the good disciplines that develop into good habits and keep you in maturity and victory in Christ.
Lim Liat (C) 7 Feb 2012.