Legalism vs Holiness

About LEGALISM – Andrew Strom

During our “TV” discussion someone posted a very interesting poem. I can’t tell if it is somewhat “tongue in cheek” but it certainly opens up the discussion of what is ‘Legalism’ and what is ‘Holiness’. Below is a portion of this poem, followed by my own comments:

by Bill Harper

The Holiness preacher, a Godly man, was seen riding his circuit with Bible in hand. He rode in sunshine and he rode in rain, he rode when he felt good, and he rode in pain…

Often he fasted, God’s will to achieve, striving for perfection, lest the Spirit he’d grieve. Often his congregation numbered just a few. He preached without compromise and he helped them pray through…

He preached against demon rum and the dance. He spoke against painted up women and games of chance. The Holiness preacher, a Godly man, kept up with the times, God’s kingdom to expand…

Few people attended in fancy clothes. They didn’t come to look at others, down their nose. As he entered into this modern age he preached against radio as though in a rage.

Avoid the theater also he’d say. Avoid worldliness, walk the strait narrow way. When moving pictures made their debut he preached against this devil’s invention so new.

Movies corrupted our morals said he, the things they portrayed weren’t fit for Christians to see. During the depression he bought a tent, in which to hold meetings, telling men to repent…

ANDREW AGAIN: The poem about “The Holiness Preacher” above is certainly well-done. But can I just say this, my friends – The old-time “Holiness” movement that concerned itself with “dancing” and “bobbed hair” and ‘no makeup for women’, etc, is NOT where I am coming from with this TV thing.

A lot of those concerns were about “outward” things – and easily descended into legalism. I truly believe that TV is gaining access to the “heart” of man – and that is my main concern. It slowly and gradually fills people’s minds and lives with complete junk.

To be frank with you, I don’t care about “bobbed hair” and I have been known to dance enthusiastically with my wife at weddings, etc. – and also to take her out to the Cinema on occasion. Does that make me “unholy”? Is that what we think “holiness” is about? Is it all about these ‘outward’ things?

I have to confess to you – when I first read the poem about the “Holiness preacher” the only thing that sprang to my mind was that it was not real Holiness – but rather “Legalism” that this man represented. And yes – this became a huge problem in the old Holiness circles. You had to have your hair the “right” way and your dress the “right” way and never attend movies or dances and on and on.

The only real Holiness I am interested in preaching is Holiness of the HEART. If our focus is on mere “outward” things then all we will get from our preaching is a bunch of ‘Legalists’ who do and say all the “right” things – but their hearts are proud and self-righteous.

I greatly fear that many “holiness” circles today have the same legalistic tendencies. It is all about the “right” music styles and head coverings and long dresses – and the ‘Heart’ is forgotten in the rush to get all these “outward” things right. This is no Holiness at all. God is after a pure heart. He wants the INSIDE of the cup to be cleaned – rather than all this focus on the ‘outside’.

We need to apply this Scripture – “To the pure all things are pure.” This is a place of tremendous freedom – but only if we truly have a pure heart.

Can we please learn the difference between Holiness and Legalism, my friends, so this generation does not repeat many of the same errors as our ‘Holiness’ forefathers?

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God bless you all!

Andrew Strom.

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