It’s possible for rules to get in the way of your relationship with God. I’ll bet those of you who know me never thought you’d hear this pastor say that! But it’s true.
It’s not that I’m against rules. They definitely have their place. I like that it’s against the law for people to steal my stuff. And please keep stopping on red and quickly going on green! And I especially like the golden rule that tells us to “Treat others like you want them to treat you.”
Even Jesus said there are two rules that He wants everyone to keep: love God and love others. According to Him, if we get those two right we’ll have “the rules” covered.
I’m not down on rules, but I am down on rules that can mess up a person’s relationship with God. Rules like the ones Paul told the church at Colosse to stay away from – the ceremonial rules that God gave to the Jews in the Old Testament and man-made rules.
The Danger of a Life Based on Rules
The church at Colosse was in danger of having their spiritual lives messed up by ceremonial laws (like those found in Exodus 24 – Leviticus) and man-made rules. “You can’t eat that, you can’t do that, you must keep worshipping on the Sabbath…”
Those rules and others like them stood to disconnect them from Christ, who was the head of their lives and the church. He was the one who gave them life and would help them grow. But if they focused on rules instead of on their relationship with Christ Himself, they would be separated from the head.
Not wanting to see that happen, Paul repeated himself. He said:
- “Do not let anyone” impose on you rules that had their place before Christ, but not now.
- “Do not let anyone” try to make you obey their man-made commands and teachings (Col 2:16,18).
Rules can keep a person from having a true relationship with God. And for those who are followers of Christ, they can really mess up your spiritual life and growth.
In C.S Lewis’ classic book Screwtape Letters, Screwtape, the senior devil, gives his nephew Wormwood, a junior devil, this advice for seducing a Christian:
Whenever they are attending to the Enemy Himself we are defeated, but there are ways of preventing them from doing this. The simplest is to turn their gaze away from Him toward themselves. Keep them watching their own minds and trying to produce feelings there by the action of their own wills.
Rules vs Relationship
If you want to really cause problems in a church or in the life of a Christ-follower, fixate on rules. It will keep them away from what matters most – their personal, day-by-day relationship with Christ. They’ll get so focused on themselves they’ll forget about the Lord.
God doesn’t want us to be trying to keep a bunch of rules. He wants us to intentionally grow deeper in our understanding of what Christ has done for us and in our relationship with Him. If you focus on building that relationship, rather than on a list of rules, the life of God will increase in you and through you.
by Dave Gudgel