Hanging by a Thread: Rivers of Faith, Part 17 — Faith Tumbler – Legalism vs. Indulging in Sin

by | Apr 30, 2018 | Doubt, Faith, Legalism, Rivers of Faith, Sin

At Point Pelee, Ontario, we discovered a strange site near an abandoned cemetery: a broken dead tree branch, devoid of life, was hanging between two trees. At one end, a vine had intertwined itself around the dead branch and the trunk of one of the trees that supported it, giving the appearance that of still being part of the living tree. But in truth, it wasn’t. It was dead, truly dead, hanging by a thread! Or should I say, hanging by a vine?

It’s then that I realized that if we are not leading a victorious life through the authority Jesus gave us, we are not “remaining in the vine”. We may appear alive, but the sap that gives us victory is not coursing through our veins. We have somehow been detached from the source of real living!

“No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.” (John 15:4 NIV)

Jesus came on our planet so that we could be truly free. To remain in that freedom we have to “stand firm”!

“It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.” (Gal 5:1 NIV)

There are two kinds of “yokes of slavery”:

1. Legalism: Trying to earn heaven on our own. In essence, this is saying, “Jesus’ sacrifice isn’t enough for my sin!” Consider this text: “You who are trying to be justified by law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace.” (Gal 5:4 NIV)

2. Indulging the sinful nature: “You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature.” (Gal 5:13 NIV)

True faith strives for higher standards than our society. Faith believes in the salvation given to us through Jesus the Christ, who willingly died on the cross so that we could be free. Faith stands firm in the face of temptation, believing in God’s promises:

“When you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.” (1 Cor 10:13 NIV)

“By faith we eagerly await through the Spirit the righteousness for which we hope… The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.” (Gal 5:5-6 NIV

This is only possible if we truly believe in the freedom Jesus has given us: “So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” (John 8:36 NIV)

We can’t expect to hear God if we don’t truly believe in His freedom. Doubt is our worst enemy. It hinders us from seeing who God truly is.

“But how can I get to heaven if I don’t do my part?”

“How can I shake the nasty addiction that keeps on haunting me?”

It’s really quite simple: Jesus paid the price for our total, complete freedom!

Are we aware that we have an enemy whose goals are far from being constructive? “The thief (the evil one) comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” (John 10:10 NIV)

How can we declare that we are experiencing “real living” if we stumble over the unsatisfying yoke of legalism? Don’t we believe that Jesus’ death was enough? That He adequately paid the price? If we continue to persist in relying on our own works to obtain salvation, we are, in all reality, rejecting the gift Jesus died to purchase for us! We are saved solely through the merits of Christ! “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God-not by works, so that no one can boast.” (Eph 2:8-9 NIV)

How can we declare we are free if we are stumbling over haunting addictions that seem more real to us than Jesus Himself? “You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness.” (Rom 6:18 NIV)

Remember, the evil one is the one who hints that we can’t make it to heaven without doing our part, thus turning Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross into a mockery. The devil suggests to us that we are worthless and that our pet sins are here to stay. And the worst part of this is that we believe his insinuations and agree with him, leaving the doors wide open for the evil one to keep on haunting us!

The question we need to ask ourselves is: Who do we believe? The evil one or the Christ? This has been the core question from the beginning!

“You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desire. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies. Yet because I tell the truth, you do not believe me!” (John 8:44-45 NIV)

We can’t expect deliverance if we give more credence to our enemy than in our deliverer! The miraculous cannot occur without 100% faith in the miracle worker: Jesus Himself!

The evil one will be hard to shake off, for he will use anything within his means to deceive us: our emotions, our doubts, even our loved ones.

Do we know what quenches the projectiles hurtled towards us from our enemy?

“Take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.” (Eph 6:16 NIV)


Are we giving credence to God? Or to our enemy?

Our actions will tell who we put our faith in!

Are we grafted in the vine or are we lifelessly hanging between trees?

P. S. It’s interesting that legalism and indulging in sin both have their root in doubting the One who delivers.

Rob Chaffart

(To access the entire “Rivers of Faith” devotional series, please click here.)


Hanging by a Thread: Rivers of Faith, Part 17 — Faith Tumbler – Legalism vs. Indulging in Sin