Pursuing Answers to Questions of Faith & Life

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

By Rule or By Faith

The song on the previous post—A New Law is such a convicting song. It relates to the old axiom about helping people and fish. Give a man a fish and he’ll be fed for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.

You could easily turn the message of the song into a similar statement.

Teach a Christian to live by a Rule and he'll walk the Way for a day and stay an immature believer

Teach a Christian to live by Faith and he'll walk the Way for a Lifetime and become a mature disciple

In so many ways, believers can fall for a “living by the rules” lifestyle, instead of a “living by faith” lifestyle. In fact it's easier to and most of us do. As long as we’ve got a rule that we can quote or check off, then we think we’re doing well as a faithful Christian. But what happens when a believer is confronted with something that’s not mentioned in one of the rules? The person then has a hard time thinking for themselves, listening to the Spirit, etc. We become incapable of addressing our faith to the new situation and we become lazy. We become unwilling to examine Scripture for ourselves.

A few lines from the song illustrate this—“don’t teach me about, politics and government. Just tell me who to vote for”—don’t teach me how to examine a candidate or evaluate their positions and measure their consistency with biblical teaching—do the work for me so I won’t have to think so hard.

“don’t teach me how to live like a free man, just give me a new law. I don’t want to know if the answers aren’t easy.” Freedom & Responsibility. Nowadays, people want the freedom but don’t want the responsibility. Most times the answers aren’t easy—especially to live by in a world where we know some will make poor decisions.

“just bring it down, from the mountain to me”—in other words, let someone else go and get close to God, I’ll keep a safe distance. Just tell me what He wants, I’ll try to do it but let me get back to my own life.

“Don’t teach me how, to listen to the Spirit, just give me a new law”. Rules are much easier to follow (in the mind at least), they puff up our pride and help us categorize and justify our breaking of them.

The Law was never capable of producing righteousness but only revealed our sinfulness and the rightness of God’s judgment of us. The “new law” (since we are supposed to be free from the old law) actually keep us farther away from Him, make us less pleasing to Him than a life of faith guided by the Spirit of God. The life based on Law is mostly lived and motivated by fear and guilt whereas the life based on the Spirit is lived and motivated by love, trust and a desire to please Him.

Looking at 2 people—one who lives by Law and one who lives by the Spirit—you may not see a huge outward difference. It is more subtle than that, but the difference is staggering in their heart and their walk of faith.

Joy in all circumstances vs. the fake smiles may be hard to tell apart but the difference is bigger than the Grand Canyon from God’s perspective. Both Worship that is genuine (in Spirit and in Truth) and Worship that is habitual or because I’m supposed to, or b/c that’s what the bulletin says; may both be sung by people with strong, beautiful voices, but only one is truly acceptable and pleasing to God. The personal testimony and witness of one who hasn’t been moved by God in 10 years, who’s life is plagued more by guilt for not being a better Christian is radically different from one who still sins and fails but lives with the confidence in the Grace of God to forgive, redeem and restore.

How are you trying to live the Christian life: by rule or by faith?

1 comment:

Lindsay said...

Hi Again! I have an idea...you never answer my emails so that's why I'm leaving it on here. I think we should start a "Children's" Choir. Not just that little group of kids from Kids Church, I mean like all the kids in like K-6th grade. Paula-Beth who used to go to UBC is always talking about how she loves to lead the Children's Choir and have them sing every or every other sunday! I don't know..just a thought!