Hope, Healing & Freedom Podcast : Ep 30
I’m Lee Whitman and in today’s podcast we are going to talk about the difference between a Law Mindset and a Grace Mindset
But if you choose to live in bondage under the legalistic rule of religion, you live under the law’s curse. For it is clearly written: “Utterly cursed is everyone who fails to practice every detail and requirement that is written in this law”!Galatians 3:10 TPT
Fred was a 58 year old salesman, married with two grown children, when the company he worked for for the past 20 years was bought out by another company. Through no fault of his own, Fred lost his job when the new owners downsized. Fred was up to his eyeballs in debt, and because he could not find a job, he lost his house and cars. He also lost his wife. Fred ended up living on the street.
Fred was a smart guy so he hooked up with some veteran street people and quickly learned the rules of the street. He learned how to panhandle and the best practices for asking people for money, he learned how to find food in dumpsters, what shelters were safe and which ones were not. He became quite good at street living.
One day Fred was getting food from a dumpster behind a nice restaurant when the owner of the restaurant saw what he was doing. Instead of being angry, the owner of the restaurant invited Fred to come into the restaurant and have a good hot meal. In fact the owner told Fred to come back every day and he could have whatever he wanted. The food was amazing and it was free! But after two or three days, Fred went to the owner and told him he could no longer accept his free food and he was going to go back out on the street. When the restaurant owner asked why he would not keep eating the free hot food, Fred told him that it was not right for him to get free food. “To live on the street, I have to take care of myself. I have to go back out where I can earn my way like the rest of my friends.”
It seems crazy that anyone would give up good free food to return to the streets where he had to work for and earn his food, doesn’t it? There are many people who are living their Christian in this same way. They feel like they have to earn what they receive from God. This story, however, illustrates the difference between those who are living their Christian life under the law, and those who are living under grace.
By “the Law” we are not talking about living under the Old Covenant with all of it’s sacrifices for sin and regulations about foods and festivals. Most Christians would readily agree that we are no longer living under the Old Covenant, with all of it’s rules and regulations. Yet many people are living their Christian life under the law today and don’t even realize it.
Law based living is a mindset where you feel you have to perform in order to get God’s approval or favor. You must do something in order to get or receive from God. This mindset causes you to feel like God has a never ending list of requirements for you to achieve. It is the opposite of a relationship with a loving Heavenly Father based on the Grace of God.
Michael Brown defines legalism as externally imposed religion, specifically rules without relationship, standards without a Savior, and laws without love.
This mindset is not new. It began in the Garden of Eden. The serpent came to Adam and Eve and tricked them into doing something in order to become like God. This one lie set into motion a system of living that is still in effect today. And it is still putting believers in bondage to law-based living.
The lie is found in Genesis, chapter 3
For God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.Genesis 3:5 NASB
The temptation was based on a lie: He told them You must do something to become like God.. You must do in order to be.
Why was that temptation based on a lie? They were already created to be like God.
Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness;…Genesis 1:26
God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.Genesis 1:27 NASB
From the very beginning Man was created in the image of God. He was already like God.
For many people today, this law based mindset becomes a list of things they have to do in order to feel acceptable to God. You know people like this or you may be struggling with this yourself.
You feel like you have never done enough. You have these constant thoughts of “I should have, I ought to, I have to.
In just a few minutes we are going to walk through a list of ways you can determine if you are living under a law-based mindset.
Let’s back up a step further and look at the law and why it was given in the first place.
What was the purpose of the Law?
In the Old Covenant the law was given to give mankind a way to be right with God. By keeping the law, man could have his sins forgiven and be in right standing with God.
Isn’t it amazing that God has been providing a way for mankind to be forgiven and come into right relationship with Him from the very beginning of the world.
Notice what happened with the law right from the time it was given. It started out with ten “rules” to live by. When Adam and Eve listened to the serpent and sinned, a power was released on the earth. The power caused men to want to do more and more. This power took over in the Garden of Eden and got ahold of men and they took the simple “rules for living” and turned them into an entire religious system. There are now 613 commandments in the Jewish tradition.
God didn’t require more and more from man. This demonic power at work in the world caused man to develop more and more regulations for man to fulfill in order to be right with God.
God used this growing list of man made regulations to show man his need for a savior.
So the Law was given to show man his need for a savior. But for those who are still trying to live their new life in Christ by the Law, they are actually putting themselves back into slavery.
But now that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God, how is it that you turn back again to the weak and worthless elemental things, to which you desire to be enslaved all over again?Galatians 4:9 NASB
The Law produces the same condition for us today as it did when it was given. Perform the law 100% perfectly or you 100% fail.
How do I know if I am living from a Law Mentality or a Grace Mentality?Let’s look at twelve characteristics of a Law Mindset verses a Grace Mindset.
1. Law says do. Grace says done.
This law-based mindset is focused on doing. Remember back in the Garden of Eden, the original temptation was that Adam and Eve had to do something in order to become like God. The Grace Mindset says that everything necessary for us to be in right relationship with God has already been done by Jesus and is available to us. The focus is on what Jesus has already done and not on what you do.
2. Law emphasizes what man does. Grace emphasizes what God does.
Laws focus is on man’s behavior and how well he performs. The better he is able to perform, the more righteous and holy he becomes.
Grace focuses on God and what He has done and is doing. This mindset creeps into our church life by making people believe that the more things they are involved in, the more righteous and holy they become.
There is a false mantra that many people in ministry live by, “I’m going to burn out for Jesus!” When you study Jesus life, He was never in a hurry. He was never stressed out about getting things done. And He certainly never taught that his followers to burn out for the Kingdom. In fact the Bible says in Romans 14:17 that the Kingdom of God is “righteous, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit.” That is the opposite of burning out!
3. Law lives life out of the flesh (self-life). Grace lives out of the Spirit (Christ’s life in you).
The “flesh” is all of our human abilities. It includes our mind, will, and emotions. It includes our human talents, human abilities, human intelligence, etc. Law promotes living out of those things. Grace lives life out of Christ living His life in and through you by the Holy Spirit. Philippians 4:13 – “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”
4. Law draws on man’s resources. Grace draws on God’s resources.
This Law mindset would have you look to your own resources and abilities to solve a problem or to meet a need. Grace draws on God’s unlimited and miraculous resources.
I know of a lady who literally gave the last $5 she had into the church offering in obedience to God. On a human level it was not a very smart thing to do. She did not even have money to put gas in her car or to buy herself food. She sat down on a bench in the church parking lot and began praying. A man she had never seen at church before walked up to her and said God told me to give you this and he turned and walked away. He handed her an envelope with $5000 in it. Grace draws on God’s unlimited and miraculous resources and by the way, the way God does things does not always make sense in the natural world.
5. Law deals with external regulations, rules and standards. Grace deals with inner heart attitudes.
Law says here is a list of rules and regulations that you must live by. If you want to know what is expected of you in a certain situation, live by the list of rules and regulations. To be honest, most of us like a list of rules to live by. “Give me the rules, and I can do what is required of me.”
Grace on the other hand is all about relationship with Father God. Grace changes your “have to into a want to” by dealing with your inner heart attitudes. To know what to do in a given situation, you ask Father God what He would have you do. Grace is living life out of the Spirit, not living by rules and regulations.
6. Law: The primary focus is ought to’s, should’s, have to’s, and musts.
How many of you have lived your Christian life this way? Grace’s primary focus is on want to’s. Law gives you another list of things you ought to, should, have to, and must do whether you want to or not in order to be right with God. Grace changes the heart attitude to say, “I want to do what my Father God asks me to do.”
7. Law creates bondage, duty, and obligation. Grace creates freedom.
This was me for many years when it came to the spiritual disciplines of the Christian life. What do I mean by spiritual disciplines? Things like spending consistent daily time in bible reading and prayer, spending time in worship outside of church, discipleship, sharing my faith, serving at church. Things like that. For most of my life they were a duty or an obligation. They were things you had to do in order to be a good Christian.
Teaching 5th grade boys at Belmont Church.
When the realization came that I don’t have to do those things in order forGod to be pleased with me, that he was delighted in me just because I am His son, then doing those things changed from a duty to a desire. I want to spend time talking with my Father God. I love spending time in God’s Word to hear what He is going to speak to me through the scripture. I get to share this amazing relationship I have with God with others. I don’t have to, I get to!
8. Law lives life from the outside in. Grace lives from the inside out.
I will let Jesus teach on this one from Matthew 5:21-22 from the Passion Translation. “You’re familiar with the commandment that the older generation was taught, ‘Do not murder or you will be judged. 22 But I’m telling you, if you hold anger in your heart toward a fellow believer, you are subject to judgment.
He does the same kind of teaching with committing adultery in Matthew 5:
Your ancestors have been taught, ‘Never commit adultery.’ However, I say to you, if you look with lust in your eyes at the body of a woman who is not your wife, you’ve already committed adultery in your heart.Matthew 5:27-28
When people live their life by the law they are most concerned with the outward behavior. What is important is that you do or don’t do certain things. Jesus is teaching that the condition of your heart is most important.
…For God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.1 Samuel 16:7
Yes, it is important not to outwardly sin. But if you are harboring un-dealt-with anger in your heart toward another, even if you don’t allow that anger to come out, you have sinned already.
Jesus was pointing to two very important lessons. First, the life He is calling us to is more than just about what you do or don’t do. Second, Jesus took the standard of the day and raised it making it more difficult. Why? To point out that they needed a savior. Today we have that savior and can live by His life living in and through us.
For many years I tithed on my income out of fear that if I didn’t I would get a flat tire on the way home, or that my kids would get sick. To be very honest, part of my motive for giving was that people in the church would see what a good Christian I was. I was living from the outside in. Now Cindi and I give because we want to honor God for all of His blessings and to see the Kingdom of God advance in this world.
9. Law declares “Do…..in order to be.” Grace declares “Done”.
You are a child of God by your birth in Christ, your identity is secure. Now go do what your Father says. Not to prove something or to earn something, but because of who you already are.
10. Law produces defeat, guilt and condemnation. Grace produces victory, security, acceptance.
Let’s say that you feel like God asked you to start a Bible Study in your home. That sounds like something God would do, doesn’t it. So you begin to do all of the necessary thing to make this a good Bible Study. You send out the invitations, you study the material that you are going to teach, you get your house ready with some yummy snacks and coffee for your guest. You’ve done what you needed to do for this to be a great Bible Study. Let’s say that the first week you have 25 people attend. Fantastic, right! Then by week three you are down to 15, and then week six you are down to 6 people. On a human level we would call this a failure. Living under the Law, we would feel defeat, guilt and condemnation. But go back to what God asked you to do. He asked you to start a Bible Study. You did what He asked you to do. I believe in God’s eyes He is saying, “Way to go!” Great Job! You were obedient to do what God asked you to do. The results are not up to you. The results are up to God.
11. Law the operating principle is to try harder, work, effort. Grace the operating principle is receive, trust, abide, and rest.
For the Law, since it has only a shadow of the good things to come and not the very form of things, can never, by the same sacrifices which they offer continually year by year, make perfect those who draw near.Hebrews 10:1 NASB
Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.Matthew 11:28
12. Law produces an obligation to a religious system that is lacking in power, intimacy, joy, or fulfillment. Grace produces an intimate relationship with Father God that is loving, secure, and life giving.