Likely, we are all familiar with the expression, “Christianity is not about rules, but a relationship.” It rings true, but why is it true? What is the difference between following a set of rules and having a relationship with God? I started thinking about this when I read the following scripture.
2 Corinthians 3:6 (NLT) He has enabled us to be ministers of his new covenant. This is a covenant not of written laws, but of the Spirit. The old written covenant ends in death; but under the new covenant, the Spirit gives life.
In case you’re not familiar, the Bible is made up of two covenants (or Testaments) God made with man. The Old covenant was between and God and Israel when they left Egypt, the second between Jesus and all humanity. The old Covenant is often referred to as the covenant of law and the new covenant is the covenant of grace. The question that haunts me is, “Did God always intend for the old covenant to be so filled with rules?”
Exodus 29:45-46 (NLT) Then I will live among the people of Israel and be their God, 46 and they will know that I am the Lord their God. I am the one who brought them out of the land of Egypt so that I could live among them. I am the Lord their God.
This scripture reveals that God brought them out of Egypt with the intention that He Himself would live among them and He did. However, those who could come into His presence were limited by the law. Only those from the tribe of Levi were permitted to come into the Holy of Holies. This wasn’t His intention. In fact, in Exodus 19 God reveals Himself to all of Israel.
He instructed them to prepare and gather around Mt. Sinai and in one glorious moment, He reveals Himself to them in a cloud filled with thunder and lightning. The Lord descended in the form of fire and smoke billowed into the sky. The whole mountain shook violently! It was scary. Still, it is important to note God’s first instinct was to reveal Himself to His people. He wanted relationship with them and they rejected Him.
Exodus 20:18-19 (NLT) When the people heard the thunder and the loud blast of the ram’s horn, and when they saw the flashes of lightning and the smoke billowing from the mountain, they stood at a distance, trembling with fear.
19 And they said to Moses, “You speak to us, and we will listen. But don’t let God speak directly to us, or we will die!”
It was once the people made it clear they did not want direct contact with God that Moses went to the mountain and the Lord began to give him a very complex set of rules for which the people would be governed. If they would obey all the regulations contained in the law they would be right with God, but of course, no one could ever do that. It was not possible. So God instituted a sacrificial system by which to be made right with God.
Then when the time was right God sent Jesus. The divine Son of God stepped down from Heaven into humanity. He fulfilled every requirement of the law. He knew no sin. The people rejected Him, called Him a blasphemer and called for His death. They nailed an innocent man to a block of wood. As He hung there, this man who had fulfilled the law and knew no sin suddenly too upon Himself the sins of all mankind. He paid the price for our salvation and through Him, a new covenant was forged, not of rules, but of relationship with God through Jesus.
God no longer is hidden and we are no longer cut off from Him. He has restored our relationship with Him and He once again dwells among His people.
1 Corinthians 3:16 (NLT) Don’t you realize that all of you together are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God lives in you?
Why is this important? We sometimes still focus so much on rules that we forget about relationship. We condemn ourselves when we fall short and we love to throw stones at the faults of others. I’m not saying we should abandon rules, I’m saying if we would get our relationship right then the rules wouldn’t be necessary. Out of love for Jesus, we would begin to instinctively live the way He desires. Rules become a mandate only when there is a lack of relationship.
Today, I just encourage you to focus on building a strong relationship with God. Take your focus off yourself, your faults and your shortcomings. Find joy in glorious relationship with the creator of the universe.