The Difference Between Legalism & Living By The Spirit of Christ

When I write many of my blogs, I mention sin and the need for repentance.  As of lately, in fact -starting soon after my post in regards to the “Enduring Through Trials” and “Taking Heed Not to Judge Others In Times of Testing”, the Lord has been impressing upon me to teach the difference between the law and living by the spirit of Christ.  I began to receive several verses given in regards to the law and living by the Spirit of Christ.


Perhaps you are a new believer who has called on Jesus Christ and welcomed Him into your heart and you know that you are feeling the conviction to repent but you can’t seem to put to death the sins of the flesh.  Or, perhaps you grew up knowing Christ, but never truly understood the meanings of the Word where it teaches the difference between faith in Christ and putting to death the sins verses trying to keep the law (i.e. don’t do this, don’t do that) and before you know it, you have set yourself for failure even though you are a believer in Jesus.


I have talked to many who believe they are going to hell and not truly redeemed or they aren’t sure where they stand.  In fact, even after I have explained in great detail via several emails they still seem tied to legalities of do’s and don’ts or the ‘coulda, woulda, shoulda’ thoughts which also is a symptom of legalism -that is, thinking there is some sort of law they need to keep. When you begin to repent it is very easy to get caught up in this.  While I have previously spoke of true faith in Jesus, and forgiven sin, some still may say “I know, but…” 


While everyone’s circumstances are between themselves and the Lord, I am here to tell you there is hope for you if you feel this way.


Many people may attend church but sometimes the mind has a tendency to wander and, unless we put into practice what we took away from the sermon and continue to allow God to speak to us in His Word by means of spending time in it and doing study, just like anything else, we do not retain it and we often find that, what we did gain, we lost due to several years of backsliding and our sins only increased more and more.


To put this into perspective, I’d like to share a short story of my own experience.


Growing up, I attended Sunday School and though I went to church, when I moved out on my own when I was 20, I made new friends and got away from God.  It wasn’t that I didn’t want a relationship with Him, it’s just that when your young your interests tend to be more in line with having fun and being concerned with the matters of the world.   We give into the seducing spirits as a young adult and we fall away from the teachings we grew up knowing from the church and our parents who tried ever so dearly to teach us right from wrong and the proper way of living.  Just about everyone has done this, whether they care to admit to it or not.  As with the first step in tackling any problem, you have to admit it exists first before you can take the proper steps to correct it.


One of the things we often try to do as a new believers, or when we don’t know any better at first, is try to defeat our sins on our own by not doing what we may know to be wrong, without allowing the Lord to fully live within us.  This mode of thinking, unfortunately, sets us up for failure before we have truly come to understand what we must learn and believe -that the answer is in Jesus Christ, believing HIM and not in our own will-power.  With faith comes true trust in Jesus and with that trust is enabling the Lord to heal us from that which plagues us by spending more time with Him in that we come to live by the spirit, not by our own will.  By trying to do keep from doing what we know to be wrong on our own, without allowing Christ to intervene, we are bound to repeat the sin of which we are trying to escape from.  Then the cycle repeats and before you know it, you feel discouraged.


I will be frank with all of you.  Because I have been single for most of my life, aside from dating a few times (which looking back I hardly considered those to be true relationships -I really believe I was meant to be single), I had a really bad problem with pornography for a long time.  When I was living in the world (meaning, being about concerns that were worldly) I figured that, well since I wasn’t being careless with anyone’s heart and not shacking up or sleeping around, I wasn’t hurting anyone.  This particular sin is one that can run really deep because it has the potential to be seen as harmless by so many.  What you don’t realize is you are still committing the sins of;

  1. Lust
  2. Adultery
  3. Idolatry


(If I left one out feel free to add it in the comments below and I will add it through an edit)


I’ll tell you this; You certainly are not filling your spirit with anything good and pure.  You still may be living what seems to be a normal life for the most part, but what you don’t see is that you are doing harm to yourself in the spirit and you are not living in the ways that are of God and this does not please our Lord who gave His life for us.  Sexual sin, outside of marriage, is one of the worst sins to contend with and this is because of the power it wields over people due to the feelings it produces. 


What happens to many is you get into this pattern that when you need a quick fix, like a drug, you just do the sin and think you can escape easily.  No, you can’t.  At least, not on your own.  You may think you can, as I tried to do at first by simply not doing it, but when the urge returns, unless you are strong in your walk with the Lord and led by the Holy Spirit, you will find yourself falling into the temptation once again.  I know, because it happened to me and the experience was very frustrating because you then feel not only the guilt by taking part in the sin, but the defeated attitude lingers for several days.  So you pick yourself up, keep moving forward.  I can’t tell you how many times I cried out for the Lord to help me -to heal me. 


I mention this particular sin because it is one that plagues many, mostly men, but women too, and it is one of the most difficult ones to overcome but in faith it can be done.  I have also known others close to me who have had this struggle and they ask me what they should do.  Some are married and they know they have a problem.  It is a very personal subject but one that must be addressed and at this stage in the game nobody should cast the first stone. 


So, you are probably wondering by now, what did I do wrong?  Well, I didn’t understand that I was already healed and I was not obligated to give into what my flesh wanted.  I didn’t understand at first that, by the more time I spent with the Lord, the more time I spent time in His Word and teachings, that as I wrote His Word on my heart, He was establishing His presence in me.  I kept on in my prayer calling on Him for help, but I slipped-up a few times and felt horrible.  I recall a time, after I sinned when I first started out in my walk, I was greatly upset and confessing my sin and begging for Him to set me free.  The Lord told me that when I was tempted in any way that I should pray.  He told me to study Mark 5.  When I began to read about the woman who touched His robe, the Lord told me, “You are healed.”  From then on, I believed I was healed and the temptations subsided and eventually stopped.   The sin was put to death.  The chains were broken.  When this happens, I can’t even begin to tell you the weight that is lifted off your shoulders.  


I share this because, in all of this,  had someone told me what I just explained to you, it would have helped me a great deal with my understanding.  I also got tired of reading about cut and dry, ho-hum suggestions all over the web that did absolutely nothing to help me. 


When I began this blog, I did so because there are so many people out there who have been fooled or misled by incomplete examples and teachings. The best one I saw once was, “Well you should just stop!”  Excuse me, but how does that answer explain to someone who is completely lost?  It doesn’t.  So, my disclaimer for any of my posts is just this -I will explain that which needs to be understood in a manner to help others no matter how taboo it may seem.  Yes, this is a Christian blog, and I do my best to keep it clean but these are real problems that real individuals with feelings are struggling with. 


In the times we are living, my job is to bridge any gap in understanding using my own explanations the best I know how in what helped Me in my walk with the Lord. If I have to address talking about something hands on then I will -the gloves are off with the gentle preaching and playing footsies -there is no time for that anymore.  Telling it like it is.  That is the problem with many pastors anymore -they don’t want to go all the way in talking about the sins that need to be addressed that many have very real struggles with and so I write about here what I feel is needed.  That’s not judgment -it is the reality on where things are and to help someone you have to sometimes meet them at their level to explain and might I add that I do not mind sharing something at the risk of humiliation to myself in order to help someone else.


But, back to the topic at hand


So, my friend, I implore you that if you are struggling with this sin or any others you have had a hard time kicking, take heart, because it can be done; you can be healed.  Actually, scratch that -don’t think you ‘CAN’ be.  Know you ARE healed and believe it. Believe our Lord can heal ANY sin you are struggling with if you understand it is done by believing Him -not just believing IN Him.  In Him all things are possible, but just as believing for anything else, you must have faith for Him to heal you and seek Him when tempted instead of giving into the temptation. 


If you have established the faith in Jesus Christ to set you free from this sin, you will have the faith to heal you from others AND you will have the faith to get you through the trials during your wilderness experience when you are tempted so as to relieve the stress you are dealing with but you can’t put faith in your actions alone.  It is through partnering with God through your faith in Jesus that will establish you and you need to be willing to give it all to Him when you confess in prayer.


When we understand the true value of knowing our Lord by understanding our sins were put to death when Jesus gave His life on the cross by shedding His blood and believe they are truly forgiven, we come to understand that, because He overcame the world, so can we too, overcome the ‘world’ as His spirit lives within us, who have called on Him to establish Himself within our hearts.  When we call on the Lord and spend more and more time with Him, then He establishes in our hearts and we are led by the spirit of Christ.  Our old selves die, the sin is nailed to the cross and put to death.  Thus, the old system of law is fulfilled automatically because we no longer have that desire to sin when Jesus lives in us, for He is then leading us.


In my struggle, what helped me greatly in my understanding was studying much scripture where Jesus healed others.  Just like what I explained a bit ago as it pertained to Mark 5 (verse below).  He healed those with leprosy, He healed the blind, He healed the paralyzed, He declared a girl was only asleep when her own family claimed she was dead.  He healed a demon possessed boy.  Thus why do we not often believe Him to heal us?


Jesus tells us in many verses that anything is possible if a person believes and that you only need to have faith.  I can attest from my own experiences that it is true belief in and of Christ that sets you free. 


Before I close this out I also need to mention another thing; If you have a problem with alcohol or a substance, tackle that first by the same method!  If it is a problem, believe God will move, because He will.  The reason for this is, these substances allow spirits to establish themselves in you and when they do, they can cause the healing to be prolonged or delayed altogether because then you are fighting multiple battles on the same front.  When you come to repentance it is often best to get rid of anything extra that may be enabling one bad spirit upon another to manifest.  Remember too, that, alcohol lowers inhibition and it is not called a spirit for no reason.  The effects linger because a spirit is on you.  To put it into context, if it is a problem, it too is a sin of the flesh which must be given up and repented from.


Because I have been witness to helping folks understand how to separate from legalism behind the scenes, to help them understand how they are saved by the blood of Christ, in addition to living by His spirit, I found it best to use the New Living Translation for this particular blog entry as it may be an easier translation for some to understand.  I do however, encourage you the reader to study all of the verses in Colossians, Galatians, Hebrews, John, Philippians, and Romans as they are important to be studied in accordance with what I have shared here.  Below are the core verses I feel are the most helpful if you are just starting out in your walk with Jesus.  These are a crash course if you will.  It is up to each of us to study the Word as much as we can so as to have better understanding in our faith in Christ Jesus our Lord.


Verses as they pertain to what I wrote above;


Colossians 1: 13, 19-22 (NLT)

13 For he has rescued us from the kingdom of darkness and transferred us into the Kingdom of his dear Son, 14 who purchased our freedom and forgave our sins. 

19 For God in all his fullness was pleased to live in Christ, 20 and through him God reconciled everything to himself.  He made peace with everything in heaven and on earth by means of Christ’s blood on the cross.

21 This includes you who were once far away from God. You were his enemies, separated from him by your evil thoughts and actions. 22 Yet now he has reconciled you to himself through the death of Christ in his physical body. As a result, he has brought you into his own presence, and you are holy and blameless as you stand before him without a single fault.


Colossians 2: 11, 13-15 (NLT)

11 When you came to Christ, you were “circumcised,” but not by a physical procedure. Christ performed a spiritual circumcision—the cutting away of your sinful nature.

13 You were dead because of your sins and because your sinful nature was not yet cut away. Then God made you alive with Christ, for he forgave all our sins. 14 He canceled the record of the charges against us and took it away by nailing it to the cross. 15 In this way, he disarmed the spiritual rulers and authorities. He shamed them publicly by his victory over them on the cross.


Galatians 2: 16, 18-21 (NLT)

16 Yet we know that a person is made right with God by faith in Jesus Christ, not by obeying the law. And we have believed in Christ Jesus, so that we might be made right with God because of our faith in Christ, not because we have obeyed the law. For no one will ever be made right with God by obeying the law.”

18 Rather, I am a sinner if I rebuild the old system of law I already tore down. 19 For when I tried to keep the law, it condemned me. So I died to the law—I stopped trying to meet all its requirements—so that I might live for God. 20 My old self has been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So I live in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. 21 I do not treat the grace of God as meaningless. For if keeping the law could make us right with God, then there was no need for Christ to die.


Galatians 3:2-6, 22 (NKJV)

 This only I want to learn from you: Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? Are you so foolish? Having begun in the Spirit, are you now being made perfect by the flesh? Have you suffered so many things in vain—if indeed it was in vain?

Therefore He who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you, does He do it by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? — just as Abraham “believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.”

22 But the Scripture has confined all under sin, that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe.

24 Therefore the law was our tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith. 25 But after faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor.


Galatians 5: 4, 13, 16-26 (NLT)

For if you are trying to make yourselves right with God by keeping the law, you have been cut off from Christ! You have fallen away from God’s grace.

13 For you have been called to live in freedom, my brothers and sisters. But don’t use your freedom to satisfy your sinful nature. Instead, use your freedom to serve one another in love. 

16 So I say, let the Holy Spirit guide your lives. Then you won’t be doing what your sinful nature craves. 17 The sinful nature wants to do evil, which is just the opposite of what the Spirit wants. And the Spirit gives us desires that are the opposite of what the sinful nature desires. These two forces are constantly fighting each other, so you are not free to carry out your good intentions. 18 But when you are directed by the Spirit, you are not under obligation to the law of Moses.

19 When you follow the desires of your sinful nature, the results are very clear: sexual immorality, impurity, lustful pleasures, 20 idolatry, sorcery, hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, dissension, division, 21 envy, drunkenness, wild parties, and other sins like these. Let me tell you again, as I have before, that anyone living that sort of life will not inherit the Kingdom of God.

22 But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!

24 Those who belong to Christ Jesus have nailed the passions and desires of their sinful nature to his cross and crucified them there. 25 Since we are living by the Spirit, let us follow the Spirit’s leading in every part of our lives. 26 Let us not become conceited, or provoke one another, or be jealous of one another.


1 Corinthians 10:13 (NLT)

13 The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand. When you are tempted, he will show you a way out so that you can endure.


1 John 3:9 (NLT)

9 Those who have been born into God’s family do not make a practice of sinning, because God’s life is in them. So they can’t keep on sinning, because they are children of God.


1 John 1: 5-10 (NLT)

This is the message we heard from Jesus and now declare to you: God is light, and there is no darkness in him at all. So we are lying if we say we have fellowship with God but go on living in spiritual darkness; we are not practicing the truth. But if we are living in the light, as God is in the light, then we have fellowship with each other, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, cleanses us from all sin.

If we claim we have no sin, we are only fooling ourselves and not living in the truth. But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness. 10 If we claim we have not sinned, we are calling God a liar and showing that his word has no place in our hearts.


Mark 9:23 (NLT)

23 “What do you mean, ‘If I can’?” Jesus asked. “Anything is possible if a person believes.”


Matthew 26:41 (KJV)

Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.


John 5:25, 28-29, 34, 38-40, 41-42, 44 (NKJV)

25 Most assuredly, I say to you, the hour is coming, and now is, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God; and those who hear will live.

28 Do not marvel at this; for the hour is coming in which all who are in the graves will hear His voice 29 and come forth—those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation.

34 Yet I do not receive testimony from man, but I say these things that you may be saved.

38 But you do not have His word abiding in you, because whom He sent, Him you do not believe. 39 You search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of Me. 40 But you are not willing to come to Me that you may have life.

41 “I do not receive honor from men. 42 But I know you, that you do not have the love of God in you.

44 How can you believe, who receive honor from one another, and do not seek the honor that comes from the only God?


John 8:3-9 (NLT)

As he was speaking, the teachers of religious law and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in the act of adultery. They put her in front of the crowd.

“Teacher,” they said to Jesus, “this woman was caught in the act of adultery. The law of Moses says to stone her. What do you say?”

They were trying to trap him into saying something they could use against him, but Jesus stooped down and wrote in the dust with his finger. They kept demanding an answer, so he stood up again and said, “All right, but let the one who has never sinned throw the first stone!” Then he stooped down again and wrote in the dust.

When the accusers heard this, they slipped away one by one, beginning with the oldest, until only Jesus was left in the middle of the crowd with the woman.


Hebrews 2: 14-15, 17-18 (NLT)

14 Because God’s children are human beings—made of flesh and blood—the Son also became flesh and blood. For only as a human being could he die, and only by dying could he break the power of the devil, who had the power of death. 15 Only in this way could he set free all who have lived their lives as slaves to the fear of dying.

17 Therefore, it was necessary for him to be made in every respect like us, his brothers and sisters, so that he could be our merciful and faithful High Priest before God. Then he could offer a sacrifice that would take away the sins of the people. 18 Since he himself has gone through suffering and testing, he is able to help us when we are being tested.


Hebrews 6: 4-6, 10-12 (NLT)

For it is impossible to bring back to repentance those who were once enlightened—those who have experienced the good things of heaven and shared in the Holy Spirit, who have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the power of the age to come— and who then turn away from God. It is impossible to bring such people back to repentance; by rejecting the Son of God, they themselves are nailing him to the cross once again and holding him up to public shame.


Hebrews 8: 10-12 (NLT)

10 But this is the new covenant I will make
    with the people of Israel on that day, says the Lord:
I will put my laws in their minds,
    and I will write them on their hearts.
I will be their God,
    and they will be my people.
11 And they will not need to teach their neighbors,
    nor will they need to teach their relatives,
    saying, ‘You should know the Lord.’
For everyone, from the least to the greatest,
    will know me already.
12 And I will forgive their wickedness,
    and I will never again remember their sins.”


Hebrews 9:14-15, 28 (NLT)

14 Just think how much more the blood of Christ will purify our consciences from sinful deeds so that we can worship the living God. For by the power of the eternal Spirit, Christ offered himself to God as a perfect sacrifice for our sins. 15 That is why he is the one who mediates a new covenant between God and people, so that all who are called can receive the eternal inheritance God has promised them. For Christ died to set them free from the penalty of the sins they had committed under that first covenant.

28 so also Christ was offered once for all time as a sacrifice to take away the sins of many people. He will come again, not to deal with our sins, but to bring salvation to all who are eagerly waiting for him.


John 7:7, 37-38 (NKJV)

The world cannot hate you, but it hates Me because I testify of it that its works are evil.

37 On the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. 38 He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.”


John 9: 3-5 (NKJV)

Jesus answered, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but that the works of God should be revealed in him. I must work the works of Him who sent Me while it is day; the night is coming when no one can work. As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”


John 9: 35-41 (NLT) Jesus teaches on Spiritual Blindness (see also Luke 5:31-32)

35 When Jesus heard what had happened, he found the man and asked, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?”

36 The man answered, “Who is he, sir? I want to believe in him.”

37 “You have seen him,” Jesus said, “and he is speaking to you!”

38 “Yes, Lord, I believe!” the man said. And he worshiped Jesus.

39 Then Jesus told him,I entered this world to render judgment—to give sight to the blind and to show those who think they see that they are blind.”

40 Some Pharisees who were standing nearby heard him and asked, “Are you saying we’re blind?”

41 If you were blind, you wouldn’t be guilty,” Jesus replied. “But you remain guilty because you claim you can see.


John 12: 23-27 (NKJV) -Dying to Sin as I wrote about above

23 But Jesus answered them, saying, “The hour has come that the Son of Man should be glorified. 24 Most assuredly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it produces much grain. 25 He who loves his life will lose it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. 26 If anyone serves Me, let him follow Me; and where I am, there My servant will be also. If anyone serves Me, him My Father will honor.

27 “Now My soul is troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father, save Me from this hour’? But for this purpose I came to this hour. (That He may be glorified as Jesus was the sacrifice for our sins so that we may live -see also Rom. 5:8 below)


Luke 5:31-32 (NLT)

31 Jesus answered them, “Healthy people don’t need a doctor—sick people do. 32 I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners and need to repent.”


Philippians 2: 13 (NLT)

13 For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him. 


Philippians 3: 7-9 (NLT)

I once thought these things were valuable, but now I consider them worthless because of what Christ has done. Yes, everything else is worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage, so that I could gain Christ and become one with him. I no longer count on my own righteousness through obeying the law; rather, I become righteous through faith in Christ.  For God’s way of making us right with himself depends on faith. 

14 I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.


Romans 5: 3-5, 8-9 (NLT)

We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love. 


But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners. And since we have been made right in God’s sight by the blood of Christ, he will certainly save us from God’s condemnation.


Romans 8: 2-14 (NLT)

And because you belong to him, the power of the life-giving Spirit has freed you from the power of sin that leads to death. The law of Moses was unable to save us because of the weakness of our sinful nature. So God did what the law could not do. He sent his own Son in a body like the bodies we sinners have. And in that body God declared an end to sin’s control over us by giving his Son as a sacrifice for our sins. He did this so that the just requirement of the law would be fully satisfied for us, who no longer follow our sinful nature but instead follow the Spirit.

Those who are dominated by the sinful nature think about sinful things, but those who are controlled by the Holy Spirit think about things that please the Spirit. So letting your sinful nature control your mind leads to death. But letting the Spirit control your mind leads to life and peace. For the sinful nature is always hostile to God. It never did obey God’s laws, and it never will. That’s why those who are still under the control of their sinful nature can never please God.

But you are not controlled by your sinful nature. You are controlled by the Spirit if you have the Spirit of God living in you. (And remember that those who do not have the Spirit of Christ living in them do not belong to him at all.) 10 And Christ lives within you, so even though your body will die because of sin, the Spirit gives you life because you have been made right with God. 11 The Spirit of God, who raised Jesus from the dead, lives in you. And just as God raised Christ Jesus from the dead, he will give life to your mortal bodies by this same Spirit living within you.

12 Therefore, dear brothers and sisters, you have no obligation to do what your sinful nature urges you to do. 13 For if you live by its dictates, you will die. But if through the power of the Spirit you put to death the deeds of your sinful nature, you will live. 14 For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God.

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