The Christian life can also be prey to extremes, one extreme I would like to focus on here specifically in this writing is more on the spectrum toward legalism. God's commands are good, wonderful and necessary for our life and well being but if we are not careful we can fall into the extreme of being so hard on our selves as believers and other Christians we give very little room for breathing room in the form of grace to grow and progress! When we err on the extreme over over focus on "do's" and divorce it from the true way to gain victory over sins and struggles, we drain the joy, excitement and thrill right out of being in a relationship with God. This is like a man who may do all the good things he does for his wife because he "ought to" versus "I adore my love, my bride, my dear that I would go out of my way to please because I delight in her and never want to hurt her." Or vice versa, a woman who feels as though her relationship with her husband is more just some wife duty as opposed to her heart being enamored by his love for her.
We cannot thrive in our human relationships as a to do list and if we treat God as anything less then a personal being who longs to fellowship with us and be close to us, we do not truly thrive in the Christian life under such mindset either.
-Legalism seems to come in two forms, one: People who buy into the faulty erroneous thought, "I can be good enough for God to save me and go to heaven," two: "I must be the perfect little do gooder Christian otherwise God will not be happy with me, he will not bless my life and will withold good things from me and not answer my prayers." Sometimes yes, we limit God's blessings through our disobedience and rebelling, but none the less I have even seen God be incredibly gracious when I was even being stupid or stubborn. Our view of how God sees us will affect how we interact with Him. God wants us to be holy and walk uprightly, however, we must assess how we are going about this. Do we see God as just up there watching us to make sure we just behave? Or is his desire for us to walk in holiness, wisdom and righteousness more then just Him wanting us to just "be the good little believers we should and he is boss so I better behave." Such a mindset will often even slowly creep into born again believers lives because old habits die hard. We often feel this pressure from others but we cannot filter God throw what others do since he is flawless and good, perfect and righteous, more so then even the greatest human friend or parent!
We do not have to be perfect or never have our struggles for God to be good to us, we should not take his grace for granted and harm ourselves by sinning, if at all we can avoid stumbling because God may not bless us as much in those times as he wanted to. Never the less because we cannot earn his blessings by even our own obedience, but rather because he is good and delights in us, he wants us to learn to walk as often in obedience as we are called to and if we do sin, repent and recieve all he wants to bestow on us. Like any good parent wouldn't ground a kid just to smear it in their face, but a caring parent would correct a mindset that would keep the child from truly prospering as an individual, and that can include discipline. Yet parents that are ideal ones really do not take much pleasure in just spanking their kids or grounding them. Even if our human parents were not perfect, most of us had decent ones that actually wanted us to succeed in life more then anything else!
The Galatians got into some stinking thinking, and they had been saved purely by grace through faith in Christ yet then reverted to trying to keep laws and commands in Jewish law. They stopped letting faith fuel their good works, but instead they chose to get sucked into "do's and "do nots." There Christian lives became less then a real satisfying relationship with the living God and more of a tradition, and law, and checklist of religious formalities and stringent regulations. When Christian churches in our time fall prey to this, they become dry and more lifeless then ever, more of social clubs instead of a family of faith. Ever been to a church where the teaching was good and people were friendly enough but you sensed something a little stagnant?
Well, often these churches are full of Christians that are genuinely saved yet it is easy for any of us as we progress in our walk with Christ to let the fire grow a little cooler over time. We see this take place in Revelations 2 when Jesus address the church in Ephesus. This in a sense was also happening in the Galatia church:
Galatians 3:1-14 You foolish Galatians!
Who has bewitched you? Before your very eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed as crucified. I would like to learn just one thing from you: Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by believing what you heard? Are you so foolish? After beginning by means of the Spirit, are you now trying to finish by means of the flesh? Have you experienced so much in vain—if it really was in vain? So again I ask, does God give you his Spirit and work miracles among you by the works of the law, or by your believing what you heard? So also Abraham “believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.” Understand, then, that those who have faith are children of Abraham. Scripture foresaw that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, and announced the gospel in advance to Abraham: “All nations will be blessed through you.” So those who rely on faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith. For all who rely on the works of the law are under a curse, as it is written: “Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law.” Clearly no one who relies on the law is justified before God, because “the righteous will live by faith.” The law is not based on faith; on the contrary, it says, “The person who does these things will live by them.” Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: “Cursed is everyone who is hung on a pole.” He redeemed us in order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus, so that by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit.