OK, so this is a post that makes me a little nervous. Almost no one wants to be called "legalistic." It is a dirty and painful word in Christianity. I was not really sure if I should do this one first or do "judge" first. This one is a bit simpler, though. So I will start here, I think.
Legalism to me means 2 things.
1. To take on the law of the Old Testament or any other works to attempt to achieve or keep salvation from hell and eternal life - this was bought only by the precious blood of Christ Jesus and can only be received in faith. (Gal 2:16)
2. To go beyond the abundant principles clearly laid out in God's Word when one is either zealously maintaining their own good works or provoking another Christian unto good works in their own walk or run with the Lord (Heb 10:24, Tts 3:8, 2 Tim 3:17, 1 Pet 2:12) AND THEN passing those extras off as if they were the Word of God.
"Women shalt not wear pants" - that's totally not in the Bible.
"If you ever have a sip of alcohol, you must not be a Christian" - nope.
"A good Christian mother would homeschool her children." - can't find the verse on that one either
"Christian's don't dance", "All music with drums is from Satan"
However however however (and this is the part that might get me in trouble)
I do NOT think that it is legalism to say that obeying the many many commandments and principles that ARE in Scripture, especially the words of Christ and the ones laid specifically out for Christians in the New Testament, is to do things that please God. And that when we do disobey, when we choose with our actions, our words, and our lives, to let sin and our old man have even for a moment the place that God deserves that God is not pleased with us. God does not reward or ignore this. He does not look at us as we might someone another person, thinking, "Perhaps they didn't really mean it. Maybe they are just tired today, or confused, frustrated. They did the wrong thing, but maybe they did it for the right reasons." Indeed no. God Almighty is the one and only knower of every part of our being. We cannot hide from Him. He is just and he is good and he does not have the psychological hang ups that make us want to make excuses for each other (when we want excuses for ourselves or we don't really want to have to go through with holding the other person accountable).
He is so good, in fact, that He does not desire for us to stay the sinners we come to him as. More than that, it isn't just that He wants us to grow up, he actually participates in the process. In this way, our Saviour becomes the very best Father. In His love for us, He chastens us. (Heb 12:6-10) In case you didn't know, chastening means inflicting suffering for the purpose of moral improvement. Ouch. Much like how he would not sit idly by while the entirety of the world went into eternity with only one destination - hell; He also does not sit idly by as his own children act in ways that are against Him. His ways are perfect. His ways are life. But he is truly a gentleman. Just as He does not force eternal life on those who choose not to believe, so too will he not force a lovingly accountable relationship on a Christian either. You never have to take the chastening and change. That is always your own choice. But don't fool yourself.
We should be making our bodies a living sacrifice. There are a plenty of shoulds and should nots for Christians in God's Word. And I believe, NO, I KNOW that the consequences faltering on them are NOT the loss of Salvation. That is paid, it is done. That work is finished. We belong to Him and nobody steals from Him. The consequences of faltering without change on the real true things (refer to number 2 if you forget what some not real things are) are real consequences though. We do not lose the gift of salvation, but we may lose intimacy with God. We certainly will to some degree for as long as we stay in our sins. Perhaps as long as we live, if we chose. We also might be ashamed or embarrased. Paul told Timothy, "Them that sin rebuke before all, that others also may fear." 1 Tim 5:20. Some Christians fall so far into heresy and sinfulness that their brethren must separate from them.
"But now I have written unto you not to keep company, if any man that is called a brother be a
fornicator, or covetous, or an idolater, or a railer, or a drunkard, or an
extortioner; with such an one no not to eat." 1 Cor 5:11
((FYI - there will be a whole other blog post about 'separate' at some point - fun fun fun, right?))
When we open our spiritual eyes, through the Fear of God, we can see His chastening even in the seemingly natural consequences of our sin. Our lies find us out. Our unkind words mean that we lose an close frienship. A moment of selfishness becomes a missed opportunity. A door is closed. Trust is broken.
Additionally, living a life of without a true Fear of God, never knowing the one who sees us outside and in and will not let us get away with any of it - His Love and His Holiness towards us are too great - to live that life not ever having that Fear is to not know God. And however can we really deeply truly love One that we refuse to know?