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Rules, Regulations or Relationships

Every so often I catch myself operating in a regulatory mindset, one that says “God will love me if I do for Him.” This thought is a performance way of thinking rooted in a belief that I am only as good as I perform, and this kind of thinking can lead to religious activities instead of relational intimacy with God. For me, it is rooted in my childhood and teenage years with my father. I believed I was not good enough for him and I had to do and be a better daughter, constantly. As many of us do, I brought this way of thinking into my relationship with God. At first, performance may appear beneficial; one gets the job done while looking “righteous” in the act, but the heart of the performance-driven person is not right nor is it healthy.

A person who performs for love has likely experienced a broken heart and because of it, cannot fully love because the pieces are scattered in past hurts and traumas. God wants us all, all our hearts, minds, and souls to love Him. Jesus said, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind'; and, 'Love your neighbor as yourself.” Lk 10:27 NIV. This kind of love isn’t possible with a shattered soul, but thankfully Jesus came to heal the brokenhearted and give us a chance at love again.

Some people attempt to keep religious duties as a means of presenting their own righteousness, but others do so because they feel undeserving of the love of God. Apostle Paul explained to the Colossians that they did not need to keep the strenuous regulations and religious rules of the law in order to be saved or have a relationship with God. He asked them, “Therefore, if you died with Christ from the basic principles of the world, why, as [though] living in the world, do you subject yourselves to regulations—" - Col 2:20 NKJV

While the people Paul was writing to were mostly Jews who came to believe in Christ and were being tempted to go back to their old ways of relationship with God, some may have not been able to fully grasp the love of God in a way that set them free from keeping all the rules associated to their past belief system. We can’t fully understand what it means not to subject ourselves to religious regulations when we are raised to perform. Paul encourages the readers to be knitted together in love and exhorts them not to be deceived by persuasive words. Sometimes people can persuade us to do for God’s love and sometimes the enemy of our soul can.

I believe love is an action word, it is not passive, but it is doing. However, we should not love or be loved based on what we do or what someone else does for us. Love cares deeper than selfish thinking, and it is selfish to love someone because of what they can do for you. Jesus said, “We love because He first loved us.” 1 Jn 4:19 Love is reciprocal, it is shared, love is give and take.

In the same letter to the Colossians, we read the words “having wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us ~Col 2:14.” This statement doesn’t mean we are to do away with righteous and godly living, but we are free from the religious requirements of the law that we cannot keep. We should not kill, steal, be jealous, or put other gods before God but that is no longer the entry into the presence of God; Love is. If we love God in exchange for His love for us, we will begin to turn our hearts toward His desires, and our thoughts will begin to think of His kingdom and righteousness first. Love will persuade us to do good works because of our faith in the One who set us free, not because we are bound by regulations to do.

If you find yourself thinking about your unworthiness of God’s love, let me assure you that you are not alone, but you are wrong. The word of God tells us that Jesus is the author and finisher of our faith and for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross. It was a joy for Jesus to take the cross in our place and Isaiah says it pleased the Father to send Him there! When I read the words of the prophet in Isaiah 53:10 and Apostle Pauls words in Hebrews 12:2 I was astounded. I couldn’t believe that God’s plan of redemption was pleasing to Him. I couldn’t believe because I was too caught up in my own failures and unworthiness, but now I am reminded through the ancient writers, that God desires to see me and all of humanity free from the curse of sin that leads to death and eternity without Him! I get it now, and I hope you do too.

Let’s pray,

Heavenly Father, thank You for the cross! Thank You for the love that You have towards Your creation, a love that never forsakes us nor fails us. Your love desires that none perish but that all would come to the knowledge of the saving grace of Jesus Christ. I ask for Your help today to set my face towards Yours, casting away all shame that leads to unworthiness and reach for the love that You send forth. Help me to believe that I am of more value to You than any precious gemstones and so valuable that You ransomed my life for blood. I am thankful and grateful for this new lease on life and want to walk in the fullness of Your salvation. I confess that I often forget who I am in Your eyes and allow the mirror to dictate my worth. Help me Holy Spirit to walk as God sees me. In Jesus name, Amen

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