Religions of Rules

There are many who claim to follow God saying that they follow God by following the rules that He has given to them. Would it be surprising to us to learn that, instead, God has set us free from the rules? Instead of expecting us to follow a set of laws, God expects us to love Him and love other people?

Yes, this is what God calls us to do. This is who we are to be.

Jesus came and fulfilled the law. He himself followed the law perfectly and yet was killed because he was perfect. In one sense, from a human perspective, you might say that he was punished in spite of his perfection, but in reality, from God’s perspective, he was punished because of his perfection. Specifically because he was perfect, God made him the perfect sacrifice for each of us.

But we should also learn something more, something important: Following the law, following the rules, doesn’t make you right before God.

Do you think that you are righteous because you haven’t eaten certain foods? Not true.

Do you think you are righteous because you have prayed at the right time every day? No, not the case.

Each of us are sinners. Each of us have sinned, so we have an important idea to understand. We are not righteous. Regardless of how much we follow individual rules, we are sinners, and because we are sinners, we stand condemned before God. God is holy and standing before him, we are unclean.

So every time we think that we are doing right because we don’t want to eat something that is unclean, or haram, or in some other way forbidden by God, remember that instead, WE are the ones that are unclean. Already we are unclean. We are dirty as we stand before God.

Following religious rules will get you nowhere, and yet that is the prevailing idea of how we can come to God. Paul refutes this as he writes to Timothy saying:

The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons. Such teachings come through hypocritical liars, whose consciences have been seared as with a hot iron. They forbid people to marry and order them to abstain from certain foods, which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and who know the truth. For everything God created is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, because it is consecrated by the word of God and prayer.

1 Timothy 4:1-5

Paul says that demons want to teach us that we should abstain or forbid from marriage or from certain foods, attitudes that we continue to see even today. But God made everything good. He created these things and they should not be rejected. We should receive everything from God with thanksgiving and live before him in freedom from religious rules.

Instead, we replace the rules with love. Jesus said that the commandments, the rules, are summed up and fulfilled by love. And if we are truly loving, we are already living in a way that will fulfill the rules, that will fulfill the law without ever concerning ourselves with following religious rules.

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

Matthew 22:37-40

Jesus calls us to freedom from religion by, instead, loving God with all that I am, and furthermore loving other people as I would love myself. I give all of myself to God in love to Him. I give myself to others to serve them as I would myself. This is love. This is how we are to live. Religions that purport to show us the way to God through a myriad of rules are useless.

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