By: Amanda Frittz
This issue has been heavy on my heart recently. As my relationship with God deepens I have noticed a difference in opinions on how I’m living out my life. As Adam and I conform more and more to the word of God we have been faced with opposition and questioning from some of our friends.
After all, why would we obey an ever graceful and loving God?
John 14:15 “If you love me, keep my commands.”
The most common opposition to our growing faith is concern that we may be going too legalistic or that our church is too legalistic. Before we unwrap that we have to understand what the term legalistic means.
Legalistic – concerning adherence to moral law rather than to personal religious faith.
The main difference from legalism and faithfully following the word is the difference of doing something out of fear vs. doing something out of faith. In other words, are you trying to achieve perfection to obtain salvation? I sure hope not, because Jesus tells us that all we need is him to obtain salvation.
John 3:16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”
If all I Need is Jesus, Why do I Still Follow His Commands?
So why would I bother following all of Jesus’s commandments? Because I want to honor him and his kingdom. My opinion is that Christians are called to represent what God’s kingdom looks like on earth. If you love God, you should want to share his love and truth to all the people around you. How can we do that, if we don’t follow his commandments?
If we don’t follow his commandments we begin to look like hypocrites to nonbelievers looking in. How can we say we’re followers of Jesus but be offended by his teachings? I’m never going to be perfect in this lifetime. I will forever be working on myself and fighting against my fleshy desires. That’s okay. God doesn’t demand perfection from us. I won’t get a higher place in heaven for doing more work than any other believer. Just like I won’t get a lower place either.
What Are You Loving Best?
Matthew 6:19 “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
However, we are warned to focus on building heavenly treasures and not earthly treasures. Now, I don’t interpret this as having anything to do with a social class structure in heaven. What I do take from it is a warning that whatever we work on building up in this lifetime is where our heart will be. So, if we care about building a life that is culturally approved vs. God approved who are we actually loving best?
Don’t Just Listen to Me
All this being said, you shouldn’t follow any word of the bible because I tell you to or because your pastor tells you to. You should follow the teachings of the bible because of a prompted heart change. Don’t ignore that voice saying, “I should be nicer to my husband.” or, “I should stop watching this T.V. show which is making me constantly feel like I have to buy stuff to be fulfilled.” Those are kingdom based thoughts.
Fighting your fleshy desires isn’t going to feel the best at first. We’re loving beings and often times you need practice at doing something before you can love it. Think about changing your diet, exercising, or even reading your bible. Initially, it can be hard and sometimes even painful but ultimately you know it will lead to a better you. God loves when we have a soft heart to practice behaviors that honor him. He literally tells us that’s how we can love him in John 14:15.
So, if you experience a heart change listen to it and try to break the habit of practicing your sin. Don’t feel like you need to change everything about your life all at once. God is so patient and so loving that he doesn’t expect everything all at once. In personal experience at least, I have noticed God will highlight one or two areas in my life at a time that I have a heart change in and begin to work on.
Most importantly, remember the commandment that Jesus tells us is the most important:
Matthew 22:36-40 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”
Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
So while you continue your walk with God remember that Jesus’s most important teachings are 1) to love God with all your heart and 2) to love your neighbor as you love yourself.
Lastly, make sure not to judge where others are on their walk with God. It’s just and right to encourage them in areas of struggle and to highlight their errors in a loving manner but it’s never just to position yourself above them. I am a sinner just as you are a sinner. We are equally wicked by nature yet equally loved by God.