I have been a preacher for 23 years and full-time in the ministry for almost 20 years. One thing that blows my mind is that there’s no longer a balance. The preachers and churches today seem either in the left field of legalism or in the right field of liberalism. So what is the difference in the two?
Simply put, liberalism is when we walk away from sound doctrine, which is according to God’s word, not man’s opinion. Legalism is when your own standards and personal convictions take precedence over God’s Word in your life and in the way you direct and judge others.
Today we have too many so-called “Christians” that seem to either be in right field or left field. They either base their conduct and decisions on their own personal feelings and convictions, or on laws and traditions that are not Scripture-based. Just because our churches conduct services differently, or sing different songs, does not mean that either of us are liberals or legalists. Just because I wear something different in the pulpit, or during my free time, than you does not mean I am a liberal or a legalist. Liberalism and legalism are both the result of not consulting God’s Word in our daily walk and our decision-making.
In my personal opinion, if there is one thing that is killing our churches and our young people today it is a spirit of legalism. Are we supposed to have a standard in the church and for the Christian? Absolutely. But that standard should not be based on one man’s convictions, opinions, or even his gut feeling or what his heart is saying. After all, the Bible did say in Jeremiah 17:9 “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” The standards we seek should be derived from time in prayer and in God’s Word. At the end of the day it’s the young Christian and our young people who are suffering from this immature nonsense. If you wonder why 75% of the young people raised in a Baptist church never return after they leave home, I believe it’s because there’s no balance or spirit of forgiveness anymore in so many of our churches. I am not an advocate for compromising on the Scriptures, but may God help us as preachers, and as Christians, to quit attacking our own.