Posted by: Harry Sasnowitz | August 27, 2015

Moving from performance-based religion to grace-based living

There are many people who are leaving the institutional church to plug into non-traditional faith communities for various reasons. Many move in this direction as a means to help them “detox” from some very legal & performance based environments that they have been affiliated with in the past.

Legalism is something that our adamic nature naturally defaults to…. even APART from a legalistic church environment! But being involved in a legal environment will certainly be a very strong catalyst for personal legal infection.

As one who has experienced his own bouts with legalism, I can tell you by experience that simply removing oneself from a toxic environment isn’t going to be enough to experience the life of grace and freedom that Christ desires each of us to experience on a daily basis. We must “un-learn” much of what we have learned before the reality of grace and our true identity in Christ begins to take root… where it isn’t only a “head thing” but something our hearts become established in, to the point where the Holy Spirit is able to take these truths and use them to transform our mentality and mindsets, and ultimately our way of living.

Legalism isn’t only associated with thinking one must “obey the Mosaic Law” as a Christian in order to “be blessed by God” or to “please God.” It is ANY mentality, mindset, life philosophy, theology, paradigm or methodology which drives us to perform to “please God” or ‘appease God,” for the purpose of Him “not being upset with us” or so “He will bless us” compared to “not blessing us” if we don’t perform to “His standard,” however we have come to define that standard.

I’m somewhat amused (only because I’ve walked the same road) when I come across folks who left organized religion to gather in homes, or through meetup groups, or other non-traditional venues, who think that just because they left an environment they deemed to be toxic, they are now experiencing “freedom in Christ.” We may have left performance based religion, but the honest question we all must ask ourselves is, “Has religion left us!”

We can be Christians who claim to be living free in Christ, even being outside of an environment we once deemed as legal. Yet, are our lives characterized by driveness…. or trust?

Are our lives characterized by a spirit of control? Or one of peace and yieldedness to God and His Spirit.

Are our lives characterized by mercy toward others? Or judgment toward those who aren’t at our supposed “level of maturity.”

Do we define “spiritual maturity” by how well people know their Bible? Or by a life characterized by faith expressing itself through love. There are few things more disappointing than being around a walking, talking human Bible encyclopedia whose life gives off little to no aroma of Christ.

Are our lives characterized by an inordinate focus on sin? Or does the person of Jesus and His grace have preeminence.

Is the center of our focus on things like obedience, discipleship or accountability programs? Or is it the person and finished work of Christ and His love extended towards us in the place of preeminence, from whom and from which all obedience flows.

Are our lives characterized by guilt and condemnation when we screw up….. or are they charaterized by gratitude and thankfulness at these moments for His grace extended towards us which not only forgives us but empowers us and transforms us as we continue to journey with Him?

Is our faith theology one of “performance and reward?” Or one of recognizing that we have already been blessed with every spiritual blessing in Christ.

I’ve stated the above things not with the mindset that “obedience to God” isn’t important. God has always wanted an obedient people. However, how “obedience” is accomplished, and how it manifests spells all the difference in the world as to whether someone is manufacturing obedience through their own pre-determined self effort, or whether their obedience is truly the fruit of their relationship with God, manifesting itself as they respond to the Holy Spirit’s prompting in their heart. This is the obedience indicative of the New Covenant, and the obedience that God is after.

If we’re honest, the majority of us who have been involved in “church” still have varying degrees of religiosity that we need to be delivered from 🙂 Even after being a believer for 23 years and being out of organized religion for 7, I’m still a work in progress. How about you? The only thing worse than legal infection is to have legal infection and be blind to it.

Each of us have a journey that’s unique. For me, God used a few key people in my life to help me make the turn away from legal religion towards living by grace through faith. And there is one book in particular that had a tremendous impact and still does… and I want to share it with any here who could benefit from it. It’s called, “Silent Killers of Faith: Overcoming Legalism & Perfomance Based Religion,” by Dr. Stephen Crosby.

This would actually be a great read for anybody who is a Christian; you’ll see things in this book that you’ve never considered before. It will serve as a catalyst to a more vibrant relationship with Christ, and a much greater freedom in serving the Lord and loving others the way God loves us.

The book is simply awesome.




  1. You have beautiful work


    • Thank you very much for your feedback! Glad you found it an encouragement.


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