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Do you know anyone who seems to constantly want to do things 'by the book'? There can be absolutely no variation for these individuals - they can never see anything beyond the book. Legalism is the tendency to keep to the letter of the law - it lacks the spirit behind it, though. There is little wavering from the laundry list of rules because there is great determination to do everything "by the book". What we often observe in these cases is a lack of true "spirit" behind the obedience - it is a sense of obligation, not desire - doing things by rote rather than out of a sense of true connection to the one who wrote the rules. It is truly a helpless state of living life to just do things "by the book" without the animation of the Spirit within.

Legalism is helpless in bringing this about; it only gets in the way. Among those who belong to Christ, everything connected with getting our own way and mindlessly responding to what everyone else calls necessities is killed off for good—crucified. Since this is the kind of life we have chosen, the life of the Spirit, let us make sure that we do not just hold it as an idea in our heads or a sentiment in our hearts, but work out its implications in every detail of our lives. That means we will not compare ourselves with each other as if one of us were better and another worse. We have far more interesting things to do with our lives. Each of us is an original.(Galatians 5:23-26)

There is much to be said about "desire". Desire is a motivating factor - without it, every response we make in the "right" direction is nothing more than doing things "by the book". When we come to Christ, there is an exchange of nature. We get a new nature - one animated by the Spirit of God within. This very "indwelling" of the Spirit is what brings the animation that "drives" us toward "right" choices - what we refer to as obedience. The old nature has been "nailed" to the cross with Christ - the new nature is "incorporated" into our day-to-day choices by "grace". Grace operates in a realm way beyond "book learning" or "sentimental" reasoning. It operates in the spirit of man - giving us a sense of purpose in our obedient responses. It is more than just 'doing things by the book' because there is a connection to the purpose behind the obedient steps.

"Each of us is an original." As some know, I spent some time in the military. In those first months of Basic Training, the main thing we came to realize was the need to "conform" to the rules and regulations being taught. Whether it was in the steps taken to dismantle and reassemble a weapon, or the rigid detail of marching in line with fellow soldiers, there was a drive to "conform" to the plan of our superior's command. What we chafed so much against actually had a purpose - this conformity was a good thing, but we were not free to question the 'reason' behind the desire for this conformity. What I came to realize was that when we were a tight group of well-prepared soldiers we had each other's backs, could respond quicker to the needs of others in the group, and recognized easily when something was just not right.

Christian life is a little like military life. Although God asks for us to conform to the truth of his Word, there is a need for us to "come in line" with the requested steps we are to take. In the military, we learned to do it, or else we did a whole lot more push ups than any human should have to endure! In God's kingdom, we learn to do it because it produces the best effect in our lives - it helps us respond quickly and to see the needs of those around us. We don't obey the commands of God because we have to keep all the rules - we do it because we have come to realize that by keeping the rules, we enjoy the best of all God has for us! In the military, they worked to keep one from standing out above the others. We each wore the same uniform, marched in formation, called the same cadence, ate the same food, and dug the same trench. In God's kingdom, we wear a new nature, but it still allows us to be uniquely who we are - all our talents and personality shining through for God's glory. In fact, we "march" together in this walk, but we do it with a certain assurance of the outcome of our journey! We are each an "original" - we don't conform to a set of rules so we look like cookie-cutter images of each other. We "conform" so we might be "transformed" into the reflection of all Christ is! We become a reflection of his grace, mercy, and love.

In being transformed, we are actually becoming a reflection for others to experience the Lord in the unique manner in which only we can reflect him to others. As an "original", God "meshes" our unique personalities with his work of grace - in turn, we become the reflection of the purpose and possibilities of God's transforming power! So, although the "book" is very important, the "Spirit" is what animates us to reflect the book's Author! Let's live animated, shall we? Just sayin!

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