Christian Book Reviews, Author Interviews, Excerpts

Author Urges Christians: Get Liberated From Legalism

  • 2004 10 Feb
Author Urges Christians: Get Liberated From Legalism

A Christian counselor says many believers miss out on the abundant life promised by Christ because of legalistic attitudes.

Paul Travis says for years he was a spiritual performer who felt driven to work hard for God. But in his book, "Breaking the Bondage of Legalism: When Trying Harder Isn't Enough" (Harvest House Publishers, 2003), he tells how he eventually found hope and liberation through the truth of God's Word.

Travis says coming to realize who he truly was in Christ helped him break out of the trap of legalistic thinking . He says past concepts of legalism mostly involved rules about what not to do, preventing believers from doing this or that negative thing. It was a negative system, but, he says, "there's nothing about legalism that's positive."

But today, the author and counselor says legalism often takes a form that does not so much emphasize what not to do as put pressure on the believer about what he or she should be doing. "Today it's you do this, and you do that, and you have to do this – and it's a performance, mostly. And we find that you cannot ever earn anything from God by performing. Nothing we get from God is earned," he says.

Nevertheless, Travis says, far too many Christians are trying to live up to a set of man-made rules and regulations instead of being led by the Holy Spirit. He says this kind of legalism can produce shame, guilt, pride, and a controlling spirit. And worse yet, he points out, it can cause the fruits of the Spirit – love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, and temperance – to wither in the life of the believer.

But by rooting out legalism, Travis assures Christians that they can discover a new spiritual harvest.

"Many of these wonderful characteristics which are the fruit of the spirit are evidenced in our church and personal lives as we are freed from the bondage of this legalism," he says. "And what freedom in this area means simply is [being] free and at liberty to be the person that God wants us to be, and free to let the Lord do His work in and through us to the blessing of many, many people."

Travis is with Freedom in Christ Ministries. He co-wrote "Breaking the Bondage of Legalism" with Christian author Rich Miller and author and psychologist Neil T. Anderson ("The Bondage Breaker"), founder of Freedom in Christ Ministries.