At school we have rules, at home we have rules… When we get to work, still more rules – pardon me, there is a “code of conduct.” Then we head to church and- yes of course we are under grace – yet also under it’s membership agreement, more rules and “conditions”. And more often than not violation or breech of any of these will see to you being chucked out or treated in such a manner that you DIY – do it yourself 🙂
The rules at home were made by our parents influenced by their culture, religious values, traditions, social standing / expectations and perhaps educational background and exposure. The code of conduct at work would be subject to the sector and of course legal implications. On the other hand, the church would make up its rules based on its denominational values but yet largely influenced by the cultural values. The family rules would be to of course train up the child in the way they think best (for the child’s welfare) but also to a certain degree to preserve their family values… of what they would deem right. All the institutions (including the church) will have these ‘rules’ to protect themselves and to ensure continuity of their leadership and thus to ensure their living is arranged for..
No wonder we are rule oriented as we are so rule bound 🙂 So we bring this into our faith and make it a religion. Yes, the Old Testament times were full of laws… full of do’s and don’ts. During that era, there was no direct communication with the Lord. To protect them, laws were given. However, now we are not under law but grace as we, our bodies are the temple of God.. We have the Holy Spirit and through Jesus Christ we can communicate with our Heavenly Father. We are now inspired directly… And the work of Christ on the cross has pardoned us from our sins and given us His grace.. amazing grace.
We are believers… it’s not a religion full of rules, it’s a faith, a lifestyle. We don’t obey God because WE HAVE to. Instead, we are spurred on by love. Love motivates us as our Christian faith hinges on the two greatest commandments which centre around RELATIONSHIPS. Healthy relationships are where people are secure. When much love, care and affirmation is given, it is easier to take constructive criticism. We know it’s with our best interest in mind that these words are spoken. However, when we give constructive criticism or when we teach, we also need to be cautious that we could be judging the person without truly knowing the whole story. God gives us free will so we extend that to others too – we speak the truth, not harshly but in love. And when we do so, the relationship continues to be sustained.
With God it gets easier than that if we can truly internalise His sacrificial love for us. We do not need to be guilty when we stumble, when we make mistakes! It is inevitable that we will as we are still in the flesh in part although walking in the Lord… We are being moulded as we surrender. When we stumble, we take it to the Lord with repentance and a heart that seeks His strength to change. Changes are not actions of our works but rather the fruit or the result of us increasingly growing in relationship with Him. He loved us first – if we understand that then we won’t feel guilty when we stumble. Instead we will run into His embrace and accept His forgiveness and continue to hold His hand and move forward. He will not reject us – He promises never to leave us nor forsake us. However, He won’t force Himself on us – if we don’t acknowledge Him or turn to Him, then the situation is different.
The Good Shepherd looks at his 99 sheep and realises one is missing. He goes in search of that ONE sheep. He never said, it’s only one, let it get lost, let it be where ever it is. No He goes to that ONE sheep – as all are important to Him. And when He finds it, He doesn’t chide the sheep and say, “What’s wrong with you? Why did you run away?… come home right now I’m going to punish you”. NOOOOO! Instead He takes the lamb on His shoulders and carries it with joy. Once He gets home, He invites His neighbours and throws a party!! (Luke 15:1-7). Whoaa… what love for someone who ran away or slipped or stumbled.
Do not despair when you stumble. Throw away all the contents of your legalism box full of rules and do’s and don’ts… Understand the Heavenly Father’s love for you – and embrace that. Be spurred on by love… When you are loved by someone, when you realise you are sincerely loved, isn’t it easy to automatically respond to that love (unless of course you have been wounded in the past and need healing!)? Remember Jesus condemned the Pharisees and the religious teachers for their ways and for keeping the traditions of men instead of the Word of God. Jesus broke the traditions setting an example. He was spurred on by the love of His Father… He loved us and went all out for us.
Don’t let the enemy condemn you if you have slipped today. Don’t let the enemy condemn you of the areas you have slipped in the past and you have set it right in God’s eyes. (Setting it right isn’t necessarily set free but rather repentance and a sincere desire to change which takes time). Guilt is not from God. Get back up and lean on God’s strength. Cast away the religious spirit. Walk with your chin high as you are the child of the Most High God. Condemnation is from the enemy. Repentance, forgiveness, grace, mercy, strength are from God.. Embrace the Father’s love. Be spurred on by love… What freedom, what joy, what purpose! Awesome!