Here’s a helpful insight from Jesus+Nothing=Everything:
Legalism happens when what we need to do, not what Jesus has already done, becomes the end game.
Our performancism leads to pride when we succeed and to despair when we fail. But ultimately it leads to slavery either way, because it becomes all about us and what we must do to establish our own identity instead of resting in Jesus and what he accomplished to estblish it for us. In all its forms, this wrong focus is anti-gospel and therefore enslaving.
It is typically displayed in someone who’s trying to keep his or her preferred list of religious rules. At root, what this person tries to accomplish is really no different from what the secular person attempts by deliberately breaking those same rules. Both see what they do as the means to obtain what they’re so desperately hungering for deep within. Both look to self to satisfy what only God can satisfy. For both, it all depends on them, not on Christ. As A.W. Pink once wrote, ‘The great mistake made by peopls is hoping to discover in themselves that which is to be found in Christ alone.'”
Lord, save me from all forms of legalism.