How can I follow God’s principles without appearing legalistic?

Hello P,

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Some feel that if one follows God’s Law he will be legalistic. But Jesus‘ life is a proof of the opposite. Jesus said, “I have kept my Father’s commandments, and abide in his love” (John 15:10). Keeping God’s commandments is a proof of our love to God “If ye love me, keep my commandments” (John 14:15).

But love should be the only motive for obedience. Obedience that springs from compulsion, or from fear is not the right form of obedience. This kind of obedience leads one to be a legalistic. The Pharisees obeyed the Law externally not because of love to God. Thus their faith was legalistic. Love to God makes keeping the first four commandments (which concern God-Exodus 20) a pleasure, and love towards our neighbor makes keeping the last six (which concern our neighbor-Exodus 20) a joy. Love fulfills the law of God (Romans 13:8-10) by making law keeping a delight (Psalms 40:8).

Law and grace work in perfect harmony. The law points out sin, and grace saves from sin. The law is the will of God, and grace is the power to do the will of God. Christians do not obey the law in order to be saved but because they are saved. A legalistic person depends on his own works for righteousness instead of accepting the righteousness of Christ by faith.

The works of obedience are the real test of love. This is why they are so necessary in the experience of a true believer “Faith without works is dead” (James 2:20). Jesus said, “Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven” (Matthew 7:21).

To know Christ is to love Him, and to love Him is to obey Him. John assured us, “And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent” (John 17:3). Knowing, loving and obeying are all tied closely together and are absolutely connected in the life of God’s faithful people.

John summed it up in these words: “For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous” (1 John 5:3). But it is Jesus who does the works of obedience in us “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works” (Ephesians 2:10). For we can’t do any good works without Him (John 15:5).

In His service,

BibleAsk Team

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