For nearly as long as I've been a Christian I've grappled with the subject of legalism and the Old Covenant Law. I've read so much and heard so many sermons on the subject and all the while the waters have only grown murkier and my confusion greater. I've heard there are those who disregard the Old Testament entirely, seeing it as useless, something we ought not even bother ourselves with. But, to be honest, in all my years in various church settings (from Pentecostal to Reformed Baptist) I've never, ever met anyone who believes that way. No, what I've encountered are a variety of Christians from a variety of traditions all claiming to be "Bible-believing" struggling, generally with all sincerity, to figure out what to do with the Old Testament in light of the New.
What seems to be the nearly universal practice is a combination of cutting and pasting portions or attitudes from the Old Covenant onto the New. The portions cut and locations pasted differ based upon the traditions and opinions of whoever is doing the editing. The messages I've gotten have been mixed and confusing. Some churches, like the Judaizers of old, require their members to incorporate all of the Old Testament regulations, excluding only the ceremonial portions (priesthood, animal sacrifices, festivals, etc.) Others exclude all portions of the Law save its moral prohibitions: the Ten Commandments along with whichever "secondary" restrictions they find they agree with, say, forbidding tattoos for instance. Others by and large disregard the regulations of the Law, with the exception of the Ten Commandments and then substitute their own system of "Christian" law restricting behaviors never restricted under the Old Covenant (drinking alcoholic beverages, social dancing, women wearing pants or working outside the home, and divorce in cases of adultery, to name a few) and converting the New Testament into a new system of super-spiritual laws by which to judge ourselves and one another. Many still teach that the Old Testament system of blessing and cursing applies to believers today. The blessings are for when they do right, the cursings for when they commit sin. Some believe that the Old Testament Law is God's way of governing men and that it should be replicated in civil government (though I've yet to hear anyone seeking to legislate against covetousness...we've got the economy to consider after all). Some believe that just as God sent the Law before He sent the Gospel, that we Christians must bring the Law to bear on people before we can proclaim the Gospel.
At various points in my life I've been subjected to, or even adhered to nearly every one of these teachings, and various combinations of them. Some of them have come very near to destroying my faith. If you've never experienced this confusion I hope you'll consider yourself blessed and forgive my thick-headedness as I reveal to you the simple truth that has transformed my life.