(Great Stuff here; Martha Pearce excerpted on sharperiron.com)
What Legalism Does
There are many problems with legalism. Consider the following list:
1. Legalism takes our attention off Jesus Christ by focusing on our own efforts rather than what He has done for us.
2. Legalism takes away the believer’s freedom by substituting conformity for control by the Spirit.
3. Legalism attempts to put God in the position of being a debtor. It thinks God owes us something when we do good.
4. Legalism results in regression in the Christian life.
5. Legalism is performance-oriented. It focuses more on what one does than on who one is.
6. Legalism brings about harshness and conflict in one’s relationships. The reason for this is because legalism creates an elitist attitude in which conformity is demanded and failure is not tolerated.
7. Legalism will rob a Christian of joy, for he will never know the “rest” that faith brings. A legalist is so intent on doing that he does not know how to enjoy God’s acceptance.
8. Legalists are very zealous. This is why legalism brings results, but the results are counterfeits.
9. Legalism is selective in the matters it chooses and promotes. It will take parts of God’s Law but ignore the rest. It is never consistent. An interesting aspect is not what legalism forbids but what it overlooks.
10. Legalism will affect everything if unchecked. Given time it will control everything—individual churches, schools, and denominations.
11. Legalism attacks grace. Legalists will accuse those who preach grace of being antinomian (lawless). But this cannot be true because what grace really does is strip away any pretense of spiritual achievement. Grace promotes obedience to God because of His blessings to us. Grace is a license to serve, not a license to sin.
12. Legalism is inflexible and condemnatory. It refuses to see many, if any, gray areas in the Christian life. Legalists have rules for almost every area of life and have a negative judgmental attitude toward those who do not comply with their standards. This can result in a very tense environment.
13. Legalism promotes pride and self-righteousness. Of course the legalist denies this, but it is true nevertheless.
14. Legalism opts for a lower standard than God’s. The kind of legalism that emphasizes many man-made rules becomes satisfied with what is really an inferior standard. Consider the following vivid contrast between man-made rules and God’s high and holy law. Man-made rules: don’t wear jewelry or makeup or denim clothing, burn your secular music because it has demons in it, don’t practice any birth control, insist that men’s hair must be above their ears. God’s Law: love God and love others.