How to Know If You Are Still A Legalist.
But first . . . a couple notes.
A legalist is not only someone who thinks that works are required for salvation. That brand of legalism is pretty easy to refute.
Often legalists believe completely in grace for initial salvation, but then after initial salvation, revert to a lifestyle of continually trying to earn God's favor and love. I call this performance-based Christian living.
It's one of the saddest phenomena in Christianity, because it results in one of two things:
1. If I think I'm performing pretty well today (usually compared to that carnal wretch over there -- "Can't he get it right, like ME?!!") , it leads to pride.
2. If I think I'm not performing too well today (usually compared to the appearance of that holy-looking guy over there -- "I'm just a jerk. I'll never be righteous!"), it leads to despair and self-condemnation.
O.K., here's the Legalist Test, two questions:
This requires honesty. You don't have to share your answers with anyone, so open up that ol' heart and be honest.
Question 1: Am I better than any other Christian?
If your answer is "Yes, of course I'm better than so-and-so", you don't understand Grace. You may think you do, but you are still infected with legalism. There are only two aspects of "better than", the "flesh", and His righteousness. The "flesh" has no good in it. Paul said, "there is nothing good in me, that is, in my flesh", so we are no better than anyone else in that respect. His righteousness is total and perfect, so we are no better than any other believer in that respect.
You may whimper, "But I must be better than so-and-so. I mean, look at him!" But you are wrong. Remember the Scripture, "What do you have, O man, that you did not receive?" Anything in us that is good is all of Grace. The old saying, "There but for the Grace of God go I" is a time-honored and true cliche.
Question 2: Am I worse than any other Christian?
If your answer is "O yes! I'm worse than him, and her, and him, and her. . .you don't understand Grace. You are still infected with legalism. The only thing worse than your pathetic self-abasement is your pride for putting yourself down as a worm. Same story as above: The "flesh" has no good in it, so we are no worse than anyone else in that respect. His righteousness is total and perfect, so we are no worse than any other believer in that respect.
(By the way, He gave us His righteousness, so it is our righteousness now, too.)
Didja pass the test? Don't feel bad if you didn't. Few do, because the radical nature of Grace is not taught enough. Performance-based Christianity is taught all the time ("Ten-n-n-n HUT! Are you measuring up, you crummy sheep? I can't hear you! Let's go! Let's go! Perform!"). Pity. And the Shepherd says, "Come to Me . . . again . . . gaze on Me . . . commune with Me . . . and you will be transformed . . . I love you."