There is a movement that spends the majority of it’s effort in warning those who ascribe to its belief system of the dangers of worldliness. Nearly every sermon will include a plug for prohibition of alcohol, hair length and/or earrings on men, abstinence from the theater, the evils of TV, how modern Christian music is from the pit of hell… essentially how our society is degenerating and the ever pressing need to refrain from the popular. This mindset is not only unbiblical, oppressive, and it is anti-Christian as it actually promotes worldliness. You may have guessed the movement by now – it’s known in the Christian community as “Fundamentalism”. The mindset that is the foundation of this movement is LEGALISM.
Legalism uses fear to keep it’s people “in line” (see a good article depicting that here), and produces nothing but undesirable results. There is either a form of self-loathing, and the unshakable feeling of failure and worthlessness from one’s inability to keep all the rules (or undergoing ridicule for merely questioning the validity of the rules), or there is arrogance as one feels they have done a great job at keep the rules. Each box checked in their spiritual life is confirmation that they are living a life that God is pleased with while those around them are failing to be “godly”. These successful legalist see others as worldly while they remain “unspotted from the world”. What they don’t see, is that they are the epitome of what is worldly and 100% opposed to Jesus. That’s what legalism does, it enable us to turn one of the most beautiful things in the world, GRACE, and slather it in the fecal matter of our own pride so we can rub other’s noses in it.
Jesus tells us a story of people like this:
He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous and looked down on everyone else: “Two men went up to the temple complex to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee took his stand and was praying like this: ‘God, I thank You that I’m not like other people —greedy, unrighteous, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give a tenth of everything I get.’
“But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even raise his eyes to heaven but kept striking his chest and saying, ‘God, turn Your wrath from me—a sinner!’ I tell you, this one went down to his house justified rather than the other; because everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.” ~ Luke 18:9-14