Why all the Rules?
I wrote previously that I don’t know why people wouldn’t want to get God’s order in their lives. There are so many obvious benefits. I have a sneaking suspicion though; many people don’t like structure because they don’t like rules. I think at times we view any kind of structure or parameter as legalism. Legalism being the method that many churches have used in the past, and many religious belief systems have used and still use to get people to adhere to the rules of that specific organization.
These are two different things. When Paul told us we could be free, he wasn’t saying you don’t have to honor, respect and submit to authority anymore, as a matter of fact he said that we should not use our freedom as an opportunity to be rebellious.
There are many differences between legalism and God’s order. The first and most important is the approach. Legalism approaches externally. Rules are given out to force us to obey. God’s order approaches internally. God changes our hearts, and when our hearts change it flows out of us and produces external change. We can make rules to force people to do what we want, but in their heart they may hate it and be rebelling even if they obey. However, if God changes a person’s heart, to want to obey, then when they do it’s based on submission not on condemnation. Jesus himself said in a verse so rarely quoted, John 3:17 For God sent not His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.
Another difference between legalism and God’s order is the attitude of structure. When God tells us we need to do something it is never arbitrary. He never has the attitude, although He could, “you do it, because I said, I’m God.” He wants our obedience because He truly knows what’s best for us. Legalism is crafted by man, and has a manipulative or controlling purpose. Its attitude is very much one that says, “Do it because I said so.” God’s attitude is always about helping His kids. He is continually leading us to understand we can trust Him and if we do things His way, our life will be so much better.
The last difference between legalism and God’s order is its aim. God has an aim or purpose for everything He wants, asks, or commands us to do. His purpose is always two fold as far as I can tell. One, He wants our lives to benefit His kingdom. The bible says “He would have all men to be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth.” His purpose for His order in our lives first, is to bring Glory to His name and draw people to His kingdom. Secondly, he wants to benefit us as individuals. The word says in John 10:10 “the thief comes to kill, steal, and destroy, but I have come to give you life, and life more abundant. He wants to bless us, and that is exactly what His order does to our lives. It puts our priorities in perspective. It places parameters and guidelines in our lives that serve to develop and grow us up as followers of Christ. Legalism is about the outside, order is about the inside. Legalism is about manipulation and force, order is about empowerment and true freedom from chaos. Legalism is about arbitrary rules, and order is about purpose.
Let me give you a visual example of legalism versus order. What if I had a pear tree in my back yard and it was time for the tree to bare fruit. I can see myself walking out to that tree and thinking, “I’m going to get one of those juicy pears off the tree take it in, wash it off and eat it.” What if as I walk up to the tree, I notice, there’s nothing on it. No pears, not one. Wouldn’t it be ridiculous if I said, “that’s embarrassing; my tree doesn’t have any fruit my neighbors are going to laugh?” Now isn’t that stupid? Why would my neighbors care? Do you know what would be even more ridiculous? If out of my embarrassment, I thought, “I can’t let my neighbors see a tree with no fruit.” Wouldn’t they think I was crazy if they looked out and saw me taping pears to my tree, just so the tree would look like it was doing what it was supposed to? That’s what legalism does, it places rules on the external and demands action so everything looks like it is fulfilling its purpose, but it’s really not. Order would say, cultivate the tree, water it, care for it, nurture it and it will produce fruit, then you don’t have to pretend to have fruit, you don’t have to put fruit on the tree, you just have to watch it grow and enjoy it. Galatians says the fruit of the spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, meekness, goodness, temperance and faith. These things can’t be forced, they can’t be demanded, they can only be borne and they are only borne when things are done in order. So let’s stop “putting it on”, and start baring it out.
Today, don’t fear order, embrace it. Submitting to Gods order places us in the center of His will and plan for our lives. It empowers us to grow and lead others to grow. Let order saturate your heart and produce the fruit of the spirit on the branches of your life.