Unaware believers are often duped, and movements for Christ are often stifled, because of a diabolical imposition of spiritual-sounding activities that replace Jesus and His commands.
Legalism often springs from Satanâ€™s temptation to make believers over-react to pagan forms. Ironically, such legalism can also become a subtle form of idolatry. Most legalism is a disguised form of idolatry that misplaces faith. For example, some Christians shun playing cards because of their use for compulsive gambling, and those convictions merit our respect. However, others shun cards because they fear the cards have power to cause harm or are associated with demonic influences. This resembles the fear that pagan tribes have when they avoid a certain corner of a house or a tree, associating demonic power with it. There is ample evidence that demons enjoy such attention, and will attach themselves in some invisible way to the object of menâ€™s idolatrous concern. Paul revealed that anything can become an idol in Heaven’s sight when men attach a spiritual power to it in their hearts. However, apart from that heart attitude, an idol is, as Paul said, â€œnothingâ€ (1Â Cor. 10:19-20). Since idolatry is a matter of the heart, and it is not our job to remove idols from menâ€™s heart, believers pray in Jesusâ€™ name and let the Holy Spirit do the house cleaning.
Satan and his gang crave attention of any kind, even if it is only a rebuke against them. For example, to exorcise a room every time one enters it, rebuking demons in Jesusâ€™ Name, shows no trust in His power to keep the demons away. According to Godâ€™s Word, our Lord and His followers never did that sort of thing; they dealt with bad spirits only when these manifested themselves through the lips or actions of another human. They never sought them out nor assumed they were hanging around in rooms that they happened to enter. Addressing such rebukes into empty air assumes that demons are all-present or all-knowing, which are attributes only of the Almighty. Lucifer and his ilk crave that kind of recognition, which is due only to God (Isa. 14:12-14).
A rapidly-growing movement, in which hundreds or thousands come to Jesus, attracts the Old Dragonâ€™s attention and he always counterattacks. It also attracts the attention of well-meaning but misguided Christians who may want to help. These will paralyze the movement if you let them insert their legalistic traditions. Jesus warned that wolves would come, and Paul warned that some wolves would come from among believers (Acts 20). These can cause more grief than do those who come from the world. Christian wolves invariably justify their â€œsheep stealingâ€ by imposing some legalistic requirement on believers. There you have Satanâ€™s same old fingerprint ? disguised idolatry.
If you do not grasp legalismâ€™s connection to idolatry, then consider what legalism does. Whenever legalistic believers insist on doing this or that, or not doing that or this, in order to be a â€œtrueâ€ Christian or to have a â€œrealâ€ church, are they not implying that salvation comes by works? Are they not replacing Christâ€™s atoning work, as the only way of salvation, with other ways to be saved? Or to keep one saved? Is this not a devious form of idolatry that replaces the Son of God with a work of man as the Way? Legalists, if they are believers, say that Christ is the only way, but they contradict their own words by their actions. Legalistic â€œwolvesâ€ abound, as Jesus and Paul warned they would, and they make their assertions in order to â€œsteal sheep,â€ luring believers away from other churches into their own.
If you have never met these wolves, you will meet them, if you start multiplying vital churches in homes or cell groups that win people to Jesus. This invariably attracts wolves, and quickly, even in remote corners of the globe. Wolves have a nose for fresh meat, especially where shepherds are new and inexperienced; as Jesus said, they travel over land and sea to make a proselyte.