Joyce Meyer - Freedom From Legalism
Tonight, I want to approach the subject of Freedom From Legalism because I really believe when the Bible talks about freedom, a lot of times that's what it's talking about in the New Testament. You see, under the old covenant, people lived under laws, and rules, and regulations. It started with Ten Commandments, and those then had about 2.200 sub-commandments. And if you leave man alone, I mean, he can take one regulation and turn it into a nightmare that steals everybody's freedom. And when you steal people's freedom, it steals their joy. Now, I want you to hear that. One of the first symptoms of a legalistic person is they don't have any joy. And I can tell you the devil hates our joy. The joy of the Lord is our strength, and he just does not want us to enjoy anything that Jesus died to give us.
I quote John 10:10 pretty often, it's a scripture that's important to us at the ministry, and it's important to me personally. "The thief comes only to steal, kill, and destroy. But I came that you might have and enjoy your life," I love that, "Have and enjoy your life, and have it in abundance, to the full, until it overflows". Jesus doesn't just want you to have joy, he wants you to enjoy your life. Ordinary, everyday, plain, old blah, simple life. We don't need the power of the Holy Spirit in our lives to get all excited when we're going on vacation. But if it's just Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, then sometimes we need a lot of the Holy Ghost to keep us joyful on some of those days. Because, to be honest, anybody can get tired of doing anything.
Sometimes, we look at other peoples' lives and think, "Well, I'd be more excited if I had your life". Well, let me tell you, that person goes through the same thing that you go through. So, I believe that we can learn to enjoy every single aspect of our lives. I know that we can because I've come a long way in that myself. And I believe that every healthy adult needs to have a healthy child on the inside of them. God didn't send Jesus to die for us just so we could all work ourselves to death all the time, but he wants us to have a balanced life where we enjoy everything, even our work. Enjoy every single day and everything that you do. It's kind of a little game that I play now, it's like my how to beat the devil game.
And I don't care if I've got the plainest, most normal, most nothingest day: one of the things I make my mind up to in the morning is I am going to enjoy this day. I am going to enjoy God, I'm going to enjoy his presence, I'm going to enjoy everything that I do. And if for no other reason, do it just to make the devil mad because he can't stand it if we have any enjoyment. Amen? How many of you could use enjoying your life a whole lot more? Okay, well, now let me tell you something. It's not just going to happen if your circumstances all get better.
I know we think, "Well, if I just had this, and I just had that, and if, and if, and if, and if. And when, and when, and when". But what about now? The Bible says in Romans 5, "So let us be full of joy now". Right now is when we need to be full of joy. Today is the day that the Lord has made. I will rejoice and be glad. And you know, Jesus didn't die so we could all have our own little brand of religion, no matter what title you put on it. He died so we can have an intimate relationship with God through Christ.
So, I ask you tonight, do you want a religion, or do you want a relationship? And I would imagine that there are people that came tonight that maybe you've never been to anything like this. Maybe somebody brought you as a guest, or maybe you've watched some of the TV program, and you just thought you'd come out. And all you have is really just a bunch of dry, dead religion. You're going through the motions, rules, and regulations. You do everything that you do out of obligation because you're afraid that God will get mad at you if you don't do it. And I can tell you right now, when you're born again, God gives you a new want to. You I don't read the Bible because I have to, I read the Bible because I want to.
I remember one morning, years ago, when I went to do my obligatory reading, and the Lord spoke to my heart and said, "You know, stop acting like you're doing me a favor when you read the word. I don't need you to read it, I already know it. You're the one that needs to read it". See, we do it for ourselves. I don't get, like, a checkMark on my God calendar because I read a couple of chapters in the Bible every morning and say a few prayers. I pray because God has given us the privilege of going to the master of the universe, who can do anything, and I get to talk to him about my puny little problems, and believe that he wants to get involved and help me. Why would I say, "Well, I have to pray now"? The law gives you a bunch of "have-to's". Jesus gives you a new "want-to".
I believe that tonight could possibly be a real turnaround night for some people. How many of you still experience a lot of guilt and condemnation in your life? See, that's at least half the people in here, maybe more. Let's see, if that's you, I want to see your hand nice and high so I can see what I'm dealing with. You still experience a lot of guilt and condemnation. Okay, well, guilt about killed me, I'll tell you. I mean, I just was guilty, guilty, guilty, guilty. But a lot of it was attached to legalism, legalism. So, now I'm going to talk about legalism. Personally, as a teacher of the Bible, I think that legalism is a difficult subject to teach on because if I teach you that you're free from the law, I also have to teach you that God has called us to live a holy life.
So, to try to teach people to be holy and not be legalistic, sometimes you've got to find a really fine place to cut that. And the only thing that I know to tell you is that the balance is always found in learning how to follow the guidance of the Holy Spirit who lives on the inside of you. I cannot give you enough rules and regulations, nor can I take enough rules and regulations away from you to help you live a balanced life if you won't learn how to be led by the Holy Spirit. And religion, without really having a relationship with Jesus...
And when I say religion, I'm not talking about your religion, my religion, Catholic, protestant, Baptist, Methodist. I'm not talking about all that, I'm not talking about that. I'm talking about a religious mindset that says, "I have to keep all these rules and regulations for God to be happy with me. And if I'm good enough, then God will be happy with me. And if I'm good enough, then God will love me. But when I'm not good, then God doesn't love me. And so, if I'm good, then I feel good about myself. And if I'm bad, then I feel bad about myself". That is not the system that God operates on. That's the Old Testament. And there's a lot of New Testament, new covenant believers that still live under the law. How many of you know what I'm talking about when I talk about living under the law, amen? We have to understand what legalism is. You can make a law, or I can make a law out of absolutely anything. And the moment we make a law out of it, we suck the life out of it because the law kills. Only the spirit gives life.
Now, that doesn't mean that we don't have discipline. That doesn't mean that we don't have self-control. But legalism is another thing. Ten commands, twenty-two hundred sub-laws. Every time they broke one under the old covenant, they had to sacrifice something to make up for it. I'll tell you the truth, when I even read the Old Testament, it just wears me out. I can't imagine trying to live like that. And sin was never removed, it was only covered up by these animal sacrifices. You see, in order for sin to be taken care of, blood has to be shed because the life is in the blood. And so, animals were sacrificed, and that blood covered sin. But we've got such a much better deal because we've got a sacrifice made once and for all that never has to be made again by the sinless Son of God, who shed his blood. And our sin is no longer covered up, it is removed, and he doesn't even remember it anymore.
Ginger: I think a great conversation for us to have is to realize how easy it is for any of us to get discouraged, right, to feel like things aren't going the way that we want it to, and we just need a little bit of encouragement. And you've talked about God winks: the way that God can show us special little things if we're looking for them. So, I think it's a great talk to have to not only tell people that God is there, but if they'll look for it, they'll find that encouragement that they need. So, tell us what you mean by God winks. Well, I say sometimes, you know, "It was like a little wink from God". You know how it is if you really love somebody and maybe they can't come all the way across the room and give you a big kiss and a hug, but they just wink at you. You know, it's just like a little special like, "Oh, they see me".
Ginger: Like a little bit of love.
Joyce: "They notice me. They know I'm here. They care about me". And I think that we get that from God if we learn how to see it. And something that was really life-changing for me. And I know, sometimes, as Christians, we throw that word around a lot, "It was life-changing". But this really was a very big thing for me. In 1 John 4, in the Amplified Bible, it says, "We are to be conscious and aware of the love that God has for us". And it only says it that way and in that translation, but it was like, I learned how to watch for God's love. I learned how to watch for things that he did for me that otherwise I might have just chalked up to coincidence, or you know, not even paid any attention to it at all. I mean, how many times are you in the right place, at just the right time, and meet just the right person that can open just the right door for you. And it's an answer to your prayer that if you're not careful, you'll just miss it. I think a lot of times we pray for things and we forget we even prayed about it, and then God answers that prayer in some simple little way or through somebody. And you know, like even, "Oh, God, I'm so discouraged. I feel like," you know, "I just I need to be encouraged," and you know, then later, somebody says something encouraging to you and you forget that you even prayed about it. But I think that it can really increase the intimacy of your relationship with God if you learn how to watch for those things and not think, "Well, that was a lucky coincidence," or, "Aren't you lucky". You know, I'm not trying to be super spiritual here and say there's a problem with the word "Luck," but I think that when things turn out good for me, it's not just luck, it's God caring about me, and blessing me.
Ginger: So, what are some examples of God winks that you have seen, that you can share with us.
Joyce: Okay, well, I'll share one from a long, long time ago, and I'll share one from recently. Forty-two, forty-three years ago, when I was still just teaching home Bible study, 25 people every Tuesday night, wasn't in full-time ministry yet, had a big dream, a big vision. Wanted to go all over the world and teach the word. And you know, all the things that I'm doing now, but they were just a dream. And as far as I knew, I was halfway crazy. I mean, there was nothing to make me think that, that would happen. But God needed to build and develop a relationship with me, a strong relationship, with me before I could even begin to really help other people. So because I'd been mistreated in my childhood, I really honestly, didn't even know what love was. I mean, it was more just a word until I had a lot of teaching and understanding. And you know, watch Dave, and what love was for him, and how he loved me unconditionally through things, and watching God. And so, I had I quit my job to "Prepare" for this ministry dream that I had, and we were a little bit short every month of having enough money to pay our bills. So, it was like one of the first really, really huge steps of faith that we took. And it was like $40 we needed every month. So, it had to come from somewhere miraculously. And I started back then keeping journals, or little prayer notebooks, or things like that. And I still have a little spiral notebook where I wrote in it, "Dear God, I'm asking you to provide these things for me". And on that list was: I needed a new skillet. I asked for 12 new washcloths. I mean, we were dependent on God for everything, that wasn't just paying one of our monthly bills. And so, I still remember a day when my doorbell rang, and it was a lady I didn't know. And she said, "I hope you don't think that I'm stark raving mad," but she said, "I really felt like that God kept impressing me to bring you 12 new washcloths". And I just went berserk. The lady probably thought I was absolutely nuts, because I knew, that I knew, that I knew, that it was God. And that did so much for my relationship with God because I knew that he heard me, and that he saw me, and that he cared about even my wash rags. And then, recently, I just had something happen where, there's a certain medication that I've had to take for like twenty-five years, and suddenly they just stopped making it.
Ginger: Which is disconcerting.
Joyce: "There's a shortage of one of these ingredients and we're no longer going to be making this medication". I didn't get a 3-month warning. I had...Blah, blah, blah. So, I had to find something else to replace it. Well, you know, just about all medications come with some kind of side effects. And so, I thought, "Oh, no". You know, I don't want to go through that again. But at the same time, apart from that, I had not been feeling very well, and I'd been praying that God would help me. I just felt like I really needed more energy. Well, at first, I was just like really disappointed and then I thought, "You know what? Instead of believing this is gonna be a disaster, I'm just gonna believe that God can give me something that will even help more," that will work better. And sure enough, that's exactly what happened. And I mean, I prayed about it. I did some studying. And actually, when I went to the doctor I said, "This is what I would like to try". And I've had a 20-year relationship with this doctor. So, if-you know, "If you don't have a problem with it, this is what I would like to try. I've prayed about it, and thought about it". And she said, "No, I'm okay with that. You can try that". And it just, I feel so much better. There's just so many things that it's helped, side effects I was having from the other medicine, I'm not having now that have made things so much better. And then, the new medication, I don't seem to be having any side effects. And so, what looked like an, "Oh, no"! Turned out to be a blessing from God like him say, see, he cares. The thing that's so cool about this kind of stuff is that God cares about every single thing that concerns you, everything. And if we can learn to see those things, I think we need to make a bigger deal out of the little things...
Ginger: I totally agree. You're right.
Joyce: Than what we do. I do a message called, "Living Amazed". And I wanna stay amazed at what God does in my life. I recall one time, saying to the Lord, "Why don't you do the things, in my life, that you used to do when I first started walking with you"? Like, I would have some of the most, I mean, to me, like, I'd have a question and I could open my Bible, and there would be the very thing that, you know, I needed. It just seemed like everything was so exciting, you know, in those early days. And I had just kind of got into a lot of the humdrum, you know? Go through the motions.
Ginger: Can't we do that so easily?
Joyce: Yeah. And I said, "Why don't you do the things that you used to do when I first started walking with you"? He said, "I do. You've just gotten used to 'em".
Ginger: Ouch, yeah.
Joyce: Boy! Wow, "You've just gotten used to 'em". You know? Remember when you were so excited about everything you read in the Bible? It was just like, "Oh, my gosh," you know? You mean, "I can just through learning how to think right, I can have more peace". Or you know, "Wow. My words are that important? I don't have to be negative," you know? "That's my choice". So, many things like that. But then we get used to those things, and I don't ever wanna do that. I wanna stay amazed that every little thing and every big thing that God does for me. And I like to keep what I call "Books of remembrance". Where I write down things like that, that God does for me. And then on days when I'm a little bit... You know? It's fun to go back and look at, "Oh, yeah. I remember that. I remember those wash rags", you know? I mean, can you believe that?
Ginger: That's so specific.
Joyce: Yeah, I mean, and everything is not that specific. But we need to realize that God works through people, and so, even if a person does something for you that still, I mean, that doesn't mean that it's not God working through them.
Ginger: I had one of those recently where I just felt really strongly that I was supposed to tell something to a friend that made no sense in my mind at all. And they were looking for a job, and I just thought, "I wonder if so-and-so, if they've talked to them". Which did not connect to any jobs, didn't make any sense, and I shared it with them. And like the woman knocking at your door with the wash rags, she probably felt a little odd.
Joyce: Oh, well, it was very bold of her to do that.
Ginger: Yes, exactly. So, I just felt like, "I know this doesn't make sense, but anyway, here it is. I'm just going to throw it out there". And it was a connection to a connection that led to a job. So, that was a huge God wink for me, as much as it was for her. Because it reminded me that God is hearing my prayers, and speaking to me, and I'm hearing him, and using me. You know, how much we all need reminded...
Ginger: Of that. So, that was wonderful. And another one, like you said, with just the little things that really matter. I love snow, and we don't get a lot of it here in Missouri, but we get a little bit.
Joyce: We get enough.
Ginger: I don't think we do, but that's all right. We'll leave that for another conversation. But I was walking in the morning, and not having a great morning, and just kind of grumbling and complaining, and "Praying" if you wanna call it that, but it was more venting to God. And this perfect little snowflake just landed right on me. And it was just one of those things, that without a doubt, that's what God knew would point me back to him and remind me, "This is a little wink that I'm here. I'm listening. It's gonna be okay". 'cause it was something that I love. So, those are very encouraging.
Joyce: And you know, I'm thankful, to be childlike enough to be able to believe things like that are from God instead of being the skeptic. "Well, I mean, that could of happened anyway".
Ginger: That is so true.
Joyce: I think so many people miss a lot of just downright fun with God because they're so mature that they can't, you know, they can't believe the little, "Well, that wasn't God. I mean, that was just coincidence or that could have happened anyway". And well, it didn't happen anyway, you know? I'd never had anybody before ever knock on my door and wanna give me wash rags. And it is amazing how many times something will happen that seems negative, but actually, if you believe that it can work out good, it can turn out to be an answer to a prayer, you know, that you've been praying for a long time, you know? Sometimes, you know, like a person might be praying for a different job or a different career, but they're not bold enough to step out and actually leave where they're at and go somewhere else. Well, you know, what happens if they get laid off? You know? Well, they might think that's the most terrible thing in the world, but it could be God pushing them out of the nest, so to speak, to force them to have to do what they really wanna do, but don't have the courage to do. And so, I would just really like people to take what we've shared here today and start looking for the little winks from God in their own life. And let's make more out of those little things than what we normally would, I mean, anything that God does is not a little thing, that's something we don't need to celebrate.
Ginger: That's so true. And it's very encouraging in all of our lives.