Too often, Christianity is summed up by a set of rules we are supposed to follow. Some have chosen not to follow Christ for fear of the restrictions and requirements. Why would anyone willingly enter into a contract that takes away freedom? I've heard people say they will continue to live as they please and joke that they'll go to hell because that's where their friends will be. What they are conveying is their unwillingness to follow the rules that outline Christianity. Sadly, they are missing the point.
I've heard the fire and brimstone messages. After focusing on hell and damnation, the sermon shifts to:
John 3:16 For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son that whosoever believes in him shall not perish, but have everlasting life.And, of course, this is wonderful news! God gave us Jesus so we would not perish. How many have chosen to become a Christian to avoid perishing? If you are a Christian, what was your motive? I'll be honest. I deeply feared dying before I was forgiven. I didn't want to spend eternity in hell.
After I came to Christ, I started to focus on the rules. That's usually the next step for new Christians. I adjusted my lifestyle according to the way I understood the requirements. I made mistakes daily, but I kept trying and slowly got rid of some of the most offensive habits.
As a new Christian, I remember being shocked when I heard about another church member who smoked cigarettes. I looked at that guy like he was the devil himself. How could he be a Christian and still smoke? Over the years, I learned of other behaviors fellow Christians participated in. Each time, I'd feel a sense of superiority because I was not committing that particular offense. My thoughts and my attitudes were driven by my focus on the rules. It served to make me judgmental, legalistic, and arrogant. Those are not exactly fruits of the Spirit.
Eventually, the Holy Spirit gave me a revelation that changed my life. It's still taking root even as I write this. It's not about the rules! It's about the relationship! Look at this scripture:
I Peter 3: 18 For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God.Did Jesus offer up His life so that we wouldn't perish? Yes, He did. Was that the only reason? No! He came to open the door so that we could freely have a relationship with God. He died so that He could bring us to God! Our Christian life should be focused more on this truth than on the set of rules that we perceive to be important.
There are many people who live their life according to the basic rules of Christianity without actually having a relationship with God. Those are the same people who say, "I live a good life, I'm a good person."
Galatians 2:21 For if keeping the law could make us right with God, then there was no need for Christ to die.The rules should not be our focus. As we form a personal relationship with God, our hearts are changed. As we grow to love and trust Him, we want to please him. We want to be obedient. At that point, we don't think about the rules, we think about the heart of God. Will I sin against Him if I truly love Him? The desire of my heart is to follow His leading and direction. The rules fall into the background and our love for Him is forefront.