If we teach you that you HAVE to add something to your faith or you’re not saved, then, yep…we’re legalistic.
If we teach that you’re not going to heaven unless you are baptized, then we’re legalistic. If we teach that you’re not saved unless you come to church, then we’re legalistic. If we teach that you have to read your Bible or you go to hell, then we’re legalistic.
Legalism—strictly speaking—is adding something to your salvation.
A few months ago we concluded our Wednesday night series where we picked apart our Teens of Faith mantra: “Love God, love others, and do right.” We looked for several weeks at each aspect of that saying, STARTING with the first and most important: LOVE GOD.
Legalism is about forcing you into compliance by threatening you with hell.
Love is about obeying God because you understand…He first loved you. We love him because he first loved us.
I feel the need to remind you once again that everything we preach—as hard as it may be sometimes—is NOT legalism. If I preach that drinking is a sin or that every one of you should be reading your Bible…those are not rules you HAVE to follow or else you lose your salvation or something crazy like that. Those are just Bible truths that a Christian who loves God will say, “God, I love you too much to disobey you. I know you want my best, so if drinking is wrong, I won’t drink. If your Word is good for me, I love you, and I’ll try to hear from you by reading your Word.”
Churches that add to the Gospel are legalistic (baptism, sacraments, going on missions, penance, rosaries, giving money…). Churches that preach Bible truths with “loving God” at the center are doing exactly what Jesus did.
So…love God. Love others. Do right.