“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.” (Mark 12:30)
Far too many people see Christianity as nothing more than a long, arduous list of rules and regulations. They think of God as a stern, cosmic killjoy, uttering innumerable, picayune “Thou shalts” and “Thou shalt nots,” all designed to keep us in line and control our lives. I freely admit that there was I time when my thinking was much the same; I believed that Christianity was all about “following the rules” . . . until I learned it is really all about following the Ruler. Read on, and be both encouraged and empowered today!
God’s rules and regulations—the Law of God—are designed to show us just how sinful, wretched, and broken we really are. The Law was never given to be the end-all of our relationship with God, because we have no ability to keep that Law.
“Be perfect, therefore,” Jesus said, “as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:48). Have you ever tried to be “perfect”? Be honest; how long was it before that plan collided with reality? Have you ever loved God perfectly—with all your heart and soul and mind and strength—for even 60 seconds? I rest my case. You and I and everyone everywhere have all sinned and fall miserably short of the glory of God.
God gave His commandments to point us to a Savior who could and actually did keep the Law perfectly, satisfying every one of God’s righteous commands, thereby paving the way for our return to right relationship with God.
The giving of the Law made it clear that following “rules and regulations” is not the way to relationship with a holy God, simply because we are utterly incapable of keeping them. Rather, the Law leads us to a relationship with the only perfect One, who loves us in spite of our guilty inability to full follow His sinless example. The righteous requirements of God’ should bring us to our knees before Him, crying out like the tax collector in Luke 18:13, “God, have mercy on me, a sinner.”
Think about it this way: When you read through the New Testament and follow the ministry of our Lord Jesus Christ, we see clearly that Christianity is rooted in a right relationship with Him, not in obeying a set of regulations. We must keep in view how rigidly scrupulous the Pharisees were about keeping “the rules,” both God’s righteous commands and rules of their own making. Yet the several stinging rebukes they received from Jesus make it clear that they had reserved for themselves the wrath of God. Why? Because they missed the most important thing about keeping the rules, which is keeping in relationship with the Ruler.
Make no mistake, all relationships carry within them inherent rules that must be followed if the relationship is going to function and flourish. But when was the last time you thought that a close relationship with a spouse, child, or friend was a dreary requirement for rule-keeping?
Regardless of where this message finds you today, remember that the primary importance in Christianity is your right relationship with Christ; when you are focused on that, you will naturally begin following more and more of the righteous requirements He has set forth in sacred Scripture. When Jesus pointed to the greatest commandment in all of Scripture it was love, in which the Law of God found its fulfillment. When love is leading our walk with Jesus, Christianity is not about rules . . . just right relationship with Him. And then we will become a beacon of hope to others, the fragrance and the aroma of Christ (2 Corinthians 2:14-15) to those who desperately need to know and experience the saving love of God. This is the Gospel. This is grace for your race. NEVER FORGET THAT . . . AMEN!