Summary: The Bible isn’t a list of rules. The Bible is a relationship waiting to happen. You need Jesus. And Jesus isn’t going to leave you because you mess up
The Bible tells us how to live. Not necessarily as a list of rules, but, more like guidelines. Sometimes we confuse the Bible with a list of rules and then we really worry about whether we’re keeping them all or not. I know I used to live that way. The problem with trying really, really, really hard to keep all the rules and constantly worrying about whether or not you’ve made it through the day without any wrong doing is unrealistic. Of course you don’t make it through the day without doing wrong.
So maybe now you’re wondering what’s the big deal then if I mess up? Does it matter? Yes, it does, but maybe not for the reason you think. I want you to consider the most important question behind every action you take. The question is one word. “Why?” Your honest answer to this question is what God is ultimately interested in.
For example; you should ask “Why do I go to church?” The answer to that question is important to God. And it’s important for all of us, really. We’re all in this church thing together. The reality is that God knows. He knows why. And the reason you go matters more than the fact that you attend. If a person considers the Bible as a list of rules, then going to church becomes something that is important to do because it’s a rule. In other words, I go to church so that I don’t make God mad. The irony is that the person going to church because they believe it to be a rule has already ticked off God. He’s not interested in church attendance. If He was then we would have a Scripture that said, “Thou shalt not miss church or thou wilt be punished.”
Since I grew up thinking that the Bible was a list of rules I would read a verse like Hebrews 10:25 and think that if I missed church I was breaking one of God’s rules. “And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near.” The word the NLT translates as neglect means ‘to abandon’ or ‘desert’. And so a lot of folks who think the Bible is a list of rules will think this is one verse that says, “go to church.”
Now, I’m not suggesting that it’s a good thing to miss our worship time. What I’m teaching is that why you go is more important than the fact you’re in attendance. Let me ask it this way; is it possible for a person to neglect the church, it’s mission and purpose and yet still be physically in attendance on Sunday? Hebrews 10:25 provides the motive for why God wants us to spend time together. He says He wants us to encourage each other. So is it possible for someone to attend a worship time, to be present, but, completely miss the purpose for being there? I believe it is. This is why attendance is not the rule, but, encouraging each other is the guide that shapes our purpose for worshiping together. This is just one example of how it’s important for us to grasp a deeper truth, and we do this simply by asking ourselves, “why?”
We can apply this understanding to every Scripture in the Bible. It’s more important to ask WHY am I doing something, rather than, WHAT must I do? Ah, now if you’re someone who thinks the Bible is a list of rules, you will point to Acts 2:37 where the folks who heard Peter preach the first sermon after Jesus death and resurrection asked, “What should we do?” And Peter replied, “repent and turn to God.” Turning to God or giving your life to God is not an action, it’s a change of heart, mind and attitude. Then Peter told the people to “be baptized.” But, I don’t see this as a list of rules. The question these people asked, wasn’t the best question. “What must I do? Is not as good a question as; Who must I become?” God has always been more interested in a person’s heart, attitude and purpose than He is in what a person does. Obedience alone is not enough; obeying God with the right heart is what He’s after.
Let’s take a look at another Scripture with this understanding. 1 Thessalonians 5:18; “Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.” When I read Scriptures like this I wonder how it’s possible to be thankful in every circumstance. Frankly there have been moments as we have journeyed with Jared’s cancer treatments that I have found myself to be the opposite of thankful. It was especially hard for me at the beginning of our journey when Jared was first diagnosed. We weren’t sure what we were dealing with and the answers weren’t forthcoming from the doctors and nurses. For example, I had questions about how long the treatment process would take. I wanted to know if treatment would be a few months, a year, or more? Would he survive this? Will his leg be amputated? These were just some of the questions and initially the response to all of these questions was “we don’t know.” I thought at first that they were keeping us in the dark because they didn’t want us to know. That maybe we would lose hope if the predictions were too negative. Or they didn’t want to be too positive because they didn’t want to mislead us.