If you think you can work your way to salvation there is no need for the fruit of the Spirit (Gal 5:22-26). When I was younger I really believed that if I got it all right that I was in the right camp and therefore, God would save me. On the flip side I believe that there were hundreds of things that if I got wrong would send me straight to hell…that God’s grace wasn’t able even to deal with a simple misunderstanding.
It really had a lot more to do with my performance than with God’s grace.
As I went down that trail for some time what I saw over and over in myself and those who were a bit further down that trail than I was was that the fruit of the Spirit (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control) were not only lacking…they were absent.
When you hinge salvation on your own ability and performance, the attitude and disposition of the heart go neglected. They go neglected because we are filled with pride rather than humility. We focus on the outward acts rather than the inward man because in doing so we “win” the day. To look inward would only result in defeat…so we avoid that self-examination at all costs.
The heart full of pride will struggle to produce the fruit of the Spirit. The fruit of the Spirit is best produced in a heart that is contrite and dependent on God in all things.
If you look around and you notice your peers lack the fruit of the Spirit, you might ask yourself why that is the case. You might take a good look at your life and ask why the very qualities the Holy Spirit produces in the lives of the followers of Jesus are lacking. It might just be that you aren’t following Jesus but you are following your own pride instead.
Look at your mentors…do they have the fruit of the Spirit or are they lacking? Are they angry, hate-filled, arrogant? Or are they filled with love, joy, peace, patience, etc…
The legalist will always struggle in the fruit of the Spirit department and that should raise alarm! At least it did for me (still working on it and even moreso still relying on God for it!). I hope this helps someone else out there who was raised in the extreme conservative side of things but just can’t quite put your finger on what isn’t adding up!
So what are you referring to when you say “legalism”? If by that you are meaning “obedience,” then Jesus was a legalist. See Matthew 7. The writer of Hebrews was a legalist. And many other examples. A person that yell “legalism” is merely one that is saying, “I’d rather do it my way and if you are going to follow every note and tittle you’re a legalist.
Legalism is not about if we should obey God. Legalism is about what we believe about the effect of our obedience. The legalist will make up rules and bind them on people and say the effect of obeying their rules is your salvation. Grace is nowhere to be found for mistakes in understanding. Hope that helps.