I have come to realize that I have a tendency to live by rules. Even as a Christian, there’s still the temptation to believe that I can make myself “good” by the things I do or don’t do. The lie is believing that living a certain way makes me good. The whole point of Jesus coming to this earth to die for us is because we are not good…we are broken and are unable to save ourselves.
The problem with rules
Living by rules tends to lead us to guilt and shame or self-righteousness and pride. Either we are able to follow certain rules, which makes us feel proud, accomplished, and often critical of others, or we find that we cannot live by certain standards and so we are under a constant weight of judgement and condemnation. I have been in both places.
Through Jesus Christ, we live through His righteousness and power, not our own.
“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever. So do not be attracted by strange, new ideas. Your strength comes from God’s grace, not from rules…” Hebrews 13:8-9
Rules cannot bring change within our hearts. The world’s perspective is that we can create a better life for ourselves by doing certain things or thinking in certain ways. God says that the sin in your heart is destroying you and that you need a new heart in order to have a new life. “I’m going to give you a new heart, and I’m going to give you a new spirit within all of your deepest parts. I’ll remove that rock-hard heart of yours and replace it with one that’s sensitive to me.” Ezekiel 36:26 (ISV)
What makes Christianity different?
Moralism tells us that following certain guidelines will make us into good people. Christianity says that we are not capable of being truly good: “We are all infected and impure with sin. When we display our righteous deeds, they are nothing but filthy rags…” Isaiah 64:6. Moralism doesn’t solve the problem of sin. Sin has separated us from God, our Creator. Because of God’s great love for us, He paid the sacrifice for our sins through His Son, Jesus Christ (John 3:16).
“For the sin of this one man, Adam, caused death to rule over many. But even greater is God’s wonderful grace and his gift of righteousness, for all who receive it will live in triumph over sin and death through this one man, Jesus Christ.” Romans 5:17
Living by God’s Spirit
We must first understand that it is by Jesus Christ’s sacrifice that we are declared righteous, and secondly it is through His power that we can live a life for Him. I believe the more we see God as He really is, the more we will desire His ways and not our own. God calls us into relationship with Himself; to know Him, to be made holy – to be made whole. We don’t come to know God by following a set of rules. We come to know God by surrendering all to Him. Relationships are God’s idea and He is calling us into a real relationship with Himself. Rather than trying to follow rules, let’s release all control to God remembering that only He can bring real change within our hearts.
“When we view the Lord’s call to obey as a promise, we won’t so much follow His rules but follow His voice.” –Joni Eareckson Tada
“You have died with Christ, and he has set you free from the spiritual powers of this world. So why do you keep on following the rules of the world, such as, “Don’t handle! Don’t taste! Don’t touch!”? Such rules are mere human teachings about things that deteriorate as we use them. These rules may seem wise because they require strong devotion, pious self-denial, and severe bodily discipline. But they provide no help in conquering a person’s evil desires.” Colossians 2:20-23
“God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it. For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.” Ephesians 2:8-10
-New Living Translation used unless otherwise noted-