Have you ever believed something your whole life and wondered, do I believe what I believe because I believe it or because that is what I’ve been told my whole life?
That is the very question I asked myself when I went away to college and was away from my family for the very first time. I had been a Christian my entire life, but my faith was put to the test when I left home. This was the point in my life was I going to put into practice everything I learned or go along with what the world says I should do? As time went by I found out real fast going along with what the world said I should do got me into trouble. I became more distant from God and wondered why was my life such a mess?
I reflect back upon this time in my life when God was so patient and merciful with me. I can see now how naive I was. In my aimless wandering I became lackadaisical and blind to the realities right in front of me. I came to my senses and realized doing life on my own, without God wasn’t how God designed me.
I started getting back into what I had grown up doing, going to church, praying and periodically reading the Bible. I would have said I was a Christian, but somewhere along the way, my Christianity became more of a routine than it was a relationship with God. Something became lost along the way. I thought by asking Jesus to be my Lord and Savior was all I needed to do to maintain a relationship with Him. How wrong I was. I thought by checking off my boxes of going to church, praying and reading my Bible would make me right with God.
Have you ever been caught in the trap of believing your righteousness came from following a bunch of rules?Click To Tweet
What I discovered along the way, was God cared more about the condition of my heart than me externally conforming to His laws. God reminded me, I was just like the Pharisees in the Bible.
The Pharisees were members of an ancient Jewish sect. They strictly observed the traditions and written laws thinking this made them self-righteous, above everyone else. They thought what made them right with God was living by legalism and keeping the written laws by men. In reality, the Pharisees were hypocrites. They honored God with their lips and not their hearts (Mark 7:6).
Wow, Is that how I was living my life, by only honoring God with my lips and not my heart?
The hard answer was, Yes. God desired all of my heart, not to just do what’s right and conform to his laws. He cares about the condition of our hearts, and I realized I was just going through the motions with a distant heart. Obeying God’s laws with a distant heart is like a puppet master controlling his puppet. God doesn’t want to control us like puppets, he wants all of our hearts and desires a relationship with us.
The Pharisees believed God’s grace only extended to those who kept his law (Mark 2:16). They didn’t understand why Jesus talked and ate with tax collectors who were considered sinners. Jesus was teaching them there was not a place where God’s grace can’t reach—we are to love sinners, but not the sin.
“You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to the traditions of men” (Mark 7:8).
The Pharisees were holding on to the traditions of the elders telling them not to associate with ‘unclean’ men who were sinners. Jesus was telling them, God’s commands in the Bible have more authority than traditions of men. God’s commands (His love) accept and love everyone, not discriminate and condemn.
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” Isaiah 55:8-9
When I was busy checking off the boxes, living by legalism, I realized there was always going to be another box to check, another rule to follow, or another good deed to accomplish, when was it ever enough to please God?
Living a legalistic life puts the trust in ourselves and not what Jesus did for us. When I was living by legalism, I was putting the hope of salvation upon myself taking God out of the equation. Following all of those rules wasn’t going to get me to heaven—putting my trust and faith in God was.
“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” Ephesians 2:8-9
In God’s love, we can be set free from checking the boxes.
There will always be another box to check. The promise of salvation will never come from following a bunch of rules (Galatians 2:21). We are already worthy in God’s eyes don’t have to earn or prove our worth by performing more. If we weren’t worthy, God would have never sent Jesus in the first place.
We receive the righteousness of God through our faith in him.
I realized we become righteous through our faith in Christ, not by anything we do on our own (Philippians 3:9 NLT). Our good works and abiding in God’s commands is a result of His righteousness overflowing from within us—not something we do ourselves.
When I was living by legalism, I was missing out on the beautiful message of the gospel. God’s love transforms hearts and lives. His love is a free gift in which He offers to everyone. No amount of good works could ever repay Jesus for what he has done for us already.
So take the advice from a recovered box checker, you never have to check another box off again when God’s love is living in your heart. Accepting Jesus as my Lord and Savior is the key to my salvation and allowing God to have all my heart is the key to transforming hearts and lives.
It’s all about meeting Jesus right where we are. In Him, we have life to the full that is complete and everlasting (John 10:10). Have a blessed week!
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