Christianity Without the Rules

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.  

A Day in the Waiting Room

My husband went in for shoulder surgery a few days ago. We've spent a lot of time in the hospital with my grandson over the past year. I have a tote bag that I've packed many times to get me through a long day of waiting. After all that's happened, I know how to pass the time.

We arrived at 6:30 and I look for a place in the waiting room that is situated near a plug. From experience, I know that midway through the day I'll need to charge my phone and Kindle. The non-experienced waiters will cast envious glances at my charging capabilities, but I learned the hard way. I also brought two new magazines to avoid trying to entertain myself with the wrinkled, month's old copies of People that are usually in every waiting room. I've got mints, change for vending machines, a notepad and a pen.  I'm prepared.

Just as I settle myself, a young man and his father arrive and sit near me.  The father, Jeff, is in a wheelchair with his leg obviously damaged.  I start to chat with them and learn that he was in a motorcycle accident and he's there to get rods and plates put into his leg.

Almost immediately, the Lord impressed on my heart to pray with Jeff.  I paused and considered this. The waiting room was very full and it was unlikely I'd be able to pray with him without drawing attention to us. Personally, I don't mind publicly praying, but I didn't want to embarrass this man. I decided to keep talking with him and see if the opportunity to pray might present itself.

More than an hour went by. I totally forgot about my bag of activities and focused on continuing the conversation and waiting for the chance to pray with Jeff. I tried to steer the conversation in that direction but nothing felt natural.  Finally, they called him back for his turn and I watched him go.  I felt sad and worried that I'd missed the chance. I was certain God wanted me to pray for Jeff and yet, I watched him being wheeled away, feeling like I'd failed.

I sat talking to God and apologizing.  I didn't know how I could have changed the outcome without a really awkward moment for all of us. I kept praying; I'm so sorry Lord.  

A short time later I had to go into the recovery area to see my husband.  It's a large room with about 50 beds. I spent a little time with my husband and then went back to the waiting room.  I was almost to the door when I saw Jeff's son standing near a bed.  Jeff! I paused by his bed. "Are you just about to go into surgery?"

A nurse smiled and said, "We are just about to take him.  Do you want to say goodbye?"

Jeff and I both laughed.  He reached out to me and without thinking, I took his hand and kissed his cheek. "We just met but I'm happy to send you off."  I squeezed his hand. "Is it OK if I pray with you?"  He nodded and I spent a few moments asking the Lord to guide the surgeon's hands, for no complications, no infection, and that he'd heal quickly. I felt the Holy Spirit surging through my hands and a wave of tremendous peace came over both of us. It was powerful!

I walked away knowing that I'd just come from an appointment that God had set up.  I hope Jeff was impacted and that his surgery and healing went well. Later, I pondered it all. To me, the biggest lesson was simply to be obedient.  As soon as I felt the leading to pray for Jeff, I decided in my heart to do it.  Then I spent nearly two hours waiting and thinking about the task. I focused on it but didn't force things.  God, in His perfect timing, provided the way.

If God has asked you to do something, decide in your heart that you will be obedient.  Focus on the task and wait for the Lord to show you the perfect timing.  He won't ask you to do something and then fail to provide the way.