Summary: This sermon will reflect my deliverance from a legalistic upbringing.
I call your attention to the last words of the text. It reads, "For the letter killeth, but the Spirit giveth life."
I am not an angry preacher. I heard many of them as a boy growing up in the church. They usually spew their venom out on the congregation as they tell about how some board or congregation has treated them unfairly.
Psychologists call this ventilating.
I have not come here tonight to ventilate, but I have come to share an incredible story of how the grace of God in my life has triumphed over legalism.
But for you to understand how marvelous is the grace to which I will refer, you must come with me down Legality Lane.
Listen to my heartbeat. Feel my pain and despair. Sit where I sat.
I will attempt tonight to define legalism. Secondly, I will describe how it played such a devastating role in my formative years. Then, thirdly, I will share with you the Scriptures which the Holy Spirit used in my deliverance.
I. DEFINITION OF LEGALISM
Michael Brown in his book, "Go And Sin No More" tells the story about two farmers who had a talk about Christianity.
One of the farmers was a Christian and he was asked by the other one, "Well, what does it mean to be a Christian?"
The man replied, "I don’t drink, smoke or run around with women."
The other farmer then said, "Well, my mule must be a Christian because my mule doesn’t drink, smoke, or run around with women."
That’s how it makes Christianity sound to many a sinner.
The Encyclopedia of Jewish Religion says, "Legalism is the preference of legal norms and rules above moral and spiritual values."
Pastor Richard Dresselhaus says, "It is the persuasion that acceptance with God is predicated on man’s ability to keep the laws of God, so that salvation is earned, deserved, and merited.
II. THE ON RAMPS
I was born in June of 1936 in a beautiful city known for its lakes. Sentimentally, I call it "The Fairest Lady of the Lakes."
Mama said that I was barely alive at birth. I really believe that the Holy Spirit was brooding over that little sick baby, because God had a plan for me to be a pastor one day.
But in those early years I was nothing more than just a little mischievous boy.
I sensed the call to preach very early in my life and at times I would tell the church people about my dream of one day pastoring.
One man roughly answered me, "Boy, if you can’t preach around here, what makes you think you’re going to preach somewhere else?"
"Lord, Please let Brother___________ know up in heaven that I pastored 43 years on this earth."
Most of the evangelists which I heard in our local church were what I call "Deadline Preachers." The general theme was "God is going to getcha!" Pay me now or pay me later!
In those days many invitations were given, accompanied with the words, "Get right with God tonight or you could be killed going home."
Let me hasten to say that God can mercifully plead through his servant to give a special word like that. But this was the norm. Almost all the time.
I heard more about the mark of the beast than I did the seal of the Spirit.
I listened to more sermons about the Great Tribulation than I did the Marriage Supper.
There was a great focus on what the Anti-Christ would do to the neglect of what Jesus Christ had done.
Sad to say, but my concept of God was being formed. Like Israel in Exodus 32, who crafted the golden calf, I was crafting a god for myself based on what I was hearing.
Romans 11:22 states,"Behold,therefore the goodness and
severity of God."
I heard a lot on how severe God could be. Very little on how good and merciful God essentially is.
I thought, "There’s no way I can please a God like that." To me, God was a Hard Man reaping where He had not strawed.
I had found a rigid, uptight, inflexible way of life....colorless and unbending. I had entered Legality Lane and was now a prisoner to legalism.
Like the Prodigal Son, I was praying, "Make me a hired servant." I needed to work. It is obvious at this point that I didn’t understand God’s amazing grace.
III. THE EXIT RAMPS
My release from this prisonhouse of despair wasn’t a sudden, dramatic happening. Rather, I believed that "The entrance of Thy words giveth light."
Psalm 103:13,14 reads, "Like as a father pitieth his children, so the Lord pitieth them that fear him. For He knoweth our frame; He remembereth that we are dust."
The lights are coming on. O.K. God, you are like an earthly father. I can relate to that. I know how I felt when our son was sick, troubled or terrorized with fear. And just think, God, your love is far beyond that of an earthly father. You really feel for me.