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Danger of Legalism
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In an interview with Preaching Magazine, preacher, professor, and author Haddon Robinson warns against the danger of legalism:
When an abstract concept says, for example, "You shall honor your father and mother," it's clear that's what you're supposed to do. But then I apply it to my aging parents. When my father came to live with us, he lost touch with reality, and we had to put him in the nursing home. I hated to do it, because he didn't like to be there. But when my wife's mother came to the end of her life, we kept her in our home, and my wife took care of her.
It is very easy to come to the conclusion that if you are going to honor your parents, then you must keep them in your home when they get old. But there was a different situation--our kids were grown when Bonnie's mother was ill. In both cases I was trying to honor my parents.

Love Me, Keep My Commandments
Legalism is when the application of a principle is given all the force of the principle itself.1
"If you love Me, keep My commandments" (John 14:15).
Sometimes Christians get so intent on keeping the very letter of the law, that they forget why the law was put into place to begin with. It all boils down to a very simple concept in the form of a question: Who is your God?
When we're sold out to Jesus Christ, and to His kingdom, we begin to understand that when God is the focus of our lives (and has been given true priority,) that the legalistic approach to His precepts begins to fade. If staying in synch with our Creator isn't birthed in "sold-out" love for Him, a re-examination of WHY we do what we do is always in order.

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By Michael Temple. Copyright © 2013 by GraceNotes. All rights reserved. Use of this material is subject to usage guidelines. Scripture taken from the NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION ®.

1 Expository Preaching in a Narrative World: An Interview with Haddon Robinson, Michael Duduit, editor, Preaching Magazine, (July/August 2001).

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