The danger of legalism rears its ugly head any time we begin to emphasize our work over God’s. This, I believe, is the default mode of the human heart. As Jeremiah writes, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it? (Jeremiah 17:9)”.
We can, and will pervert anything, including our own salvation. And yet when we read through the Bible we are constantly reminded that God is the great Actor in history, and that God is the great Actor in our lives.
I was especially reminded of this while reading through the book of Jeremiah. God has judged His children for their unfaithfulness to Him. Yet, even in His judgment, He promises to save. Take note of God’s action:
36 “Now therefore thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, concerning this city of which you say, ‘It is given into the hand of the king of Babylon by sword, by famine, and by pestilence’: 37 Behold, I will gather them from all the countries to which I drove them in my anger and my wrath and in great indignation. I will bring them back to this place, and I will make them dwell in safety. 38 And they shall be my people, and I will be their God. 39 I will give them one heart and one way, that they may fear me forever, for their own good and the good of their children after them. 40 I will make with them an everlasting covenant, that I will not turn away from doing good to them. And I will put the fear of me in their hearts, that they may not turn from me. 41 I will rejoice in doing them good, and I will plant them in this land in faithfulness, with all my heart and all my soul. (Jeremiah 32:36-41 -ESV -emphasis mine)
The emphasis of God’s work over ours should lead us into worship. It should remind us of our dependence. And it should make us love Jesus even more.