Isn’t following Jesus all about following rules?
Jonty Allcock, The Globe Church
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We are born into a world of rules. Hundreds of them. All over the place. Rules that tell us which bits of grass we can walk on and which we can’t. How fast we can drive. Which side of the corridor to walk. Whether we are in an offside position. Every day of our lives we are being controlled by rules.
And they stand ready to condemn us as soon as we step out of line. The speed camera ready to snap us, the referee ready to brandish a red card, the naughty step waiting to welcome the rebellious toddler.
We get that rules are necessary in order for society to function - but we don’t often feel very excited about them.
So it seems pretty natural to assume that if there is a God then he operates in the same way. He is like the big traffic warden in the sky waiting to write out a ticket as soon as we do anything wrong.
It is amazing how many people assume that following Jesus just means a heap more rules for us to obey and load more stuff for us to feel guilty about.
If that is true then I can totally see why you wouldn’t want to be involved. There are plenty of rules already in my life - why would I want even more restrictions and guilt?
But when you stop and look closely at the life of Jesus that is not what you see at all.
In fact you see something radically different - and this is what makes Jesus so deeply compelling in a world of rules. He is different.
There is an amazing sentence in the Bible, in John 3 verse 17, that says Jesus did not come to condemn the world but to save it.
Rules are all about condemnation and punishment. That is not what Jesus came to do. But neither did He come to simply affirm and approve of us. His message was neither - keep the rules or I will condemn you - nor was it - don’t worry you are awesome - be yourself - love yourself.
Rather his message was - I came to save you.
There is a God in heaven who made us. We have offended him. Not just broken a few rules - but completely turned our hearts against him. A few rules aren’t going to help us - the problem goes much deeper. The problem is in our hearts. We don’t need someone to come and tell us to try harder - we need someone who can save us. Someone who can change us from the inside out.
Our rebellious hearts deserve God’s right condemnation. But instead of condemning us he sent Jesus to save us.
Jesus doesn’t hand out parking tickets - he freely hands out forgiveness to all who will ask Him. When He died on the cross - He died to take the condemnation our rebellious hearts deserve. He does what we could never do for ourselves.
And then He begins to change us. He changes our hearts so that we want to live God’s way. We discover that the God who made us is the God who loves us and knows what is best for us. We discover that true freedom is not about being free to do whatever I want - but freedom to be the person God made me to be.
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