It is a puzzle that many people who attend very strict (legalistic) religious churches which tightly control behavior (women can’t wear makeup, pants, large number of rituals like scheduled daily prayer, strict diets, no television, etc.,) ultimately abandon religion completely for secular culture, suffer inward depression, are strongly drawn to perverse secret behavior. They are forced to change their definition of sin to include their worldly practices and allow for a clear conscious.
The cause of this contradiction between religious profession and worldly practice is: the legalist focuses on the flesh and works, while the Spirit of the gospel focuses on change in the heart through focus on Christ. We see legalism in OT Israel who under the law became worse idolaters than the pagans whose religion they adopted because they didn’t love the LORD. (2Chron. 33:2, 9)
Compare: Col. 2:23, “which are indeed having a reputation of wisdom in self-imposed religion and [false] humility and severe discipline [or, non-indulgence] of [the] body, [but which are] not of any value against indulgence of the flesh.”
Excerpt from my upcoming book on Romans 6 in the Overkill series:
Rom 6:14, For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace.
Interpretation: Now this is a statement that stumps many students and bible teachers. What does the law have to do with sins dominion over us? How does not being under the law free us completely from Sin’s dominion? (This is impossible to understand if you interpret sin in this passage as a indwelling principal, sinful nature, which abides with us all, until we get to heaven.)
*Paul will develop our relationship with law more fully in the next chapter (7) but for now; two facts:
1. The law aroused sin. Consequently no law, no sin or no awareness of sin. With awareness comes prominence. (Rom.7:7-9) The more we are aware of a thing the greater its impact on our lives. More law equals more sin, More Jesus equals more fruit (J0hn 15)…”