Read His Words Before Ours!
Confession: I’m a rule-follower.
I don’t like to color outside the lines. Black and White, that’s my safety zone.
My growing up, rules didn’t define the relationship, rules were the relationship.
And fear enforced them.
When I read about the Ten Commandments, it made natural sense that if you were going to follow God, you had to follow the rules.
Follow the signs.
Don’t color outside the lines.
Perform. Perform. Perform.
Confess. Confess. Confess.
And if you’re good enough, then God will show you favor. Maybe.
In fact, I distinctly remember inviting a friend to church with me when I was in 5th grade.
The very first thing I did when he got there, was hand him a copy of the Ten Commandments from my Bible. If he was going to be in church, He would need that list first.
As I got older and studied the Bible more, I had a big problem…..
Why was the God of the Old Testament so intent on making everyone follow the rules?
(And there were A LOT of rules!)
Yet, the God of the New Testament, was so kind and gracious, loving and forgiving.
Why did He change?
Years passed and my 5th-grade-self grew older, accepting that, despite the appearance of change in the New Testament, the vengeful God of the Old Testament was still lurking, waiting to pounce on my missteps.
Because of Jesus’ sacrifice, God had to love us. He was obligated to.
But, deep down, He was mad at us.
He was mad at me.
I decided I was always just one mess-up away from His Old Testament wrath to be unleashed.
My legacy of fear and performance held me tight,
coloring everything, including my marriage.
Seven years into a marriage that was careening quickly towards divorce, with my past entangling me at every turn, I found myself sitting on a small couch across from an incredibly kind counselor. Imagine my surprise when I learned in that counselor’s office, that black and white thinking was actually harmful to a healthy relationship!
Suddenly, the black and white seams that had clearly outlined my definition of “relationship”, began to unravel.
As I sorted through what this truth meant for my marriage and other relationships, I was also forced to tear down everything I thought I’d understood about God.
One evening, as my husband was talking about God and the Old Testament, he explained quite matter-of-factly, that the Ten Commandments were the result of a relationship that had begun centuries earlier.
I was rocked to the core at what this could mean.
God didn’t base His love on my performance?
God wasn’t waiting to rain down fire on me?
His love was exactly that….love.
I was undone.
How could my husband be so confident?
God’s Word speaks for itself:
“For what does the Scripture say?
Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him for righteousness.
Now to the one who works, pay is not credited as a gift, but as something owed.
But to the one who does not work, but believes on Him who declares the ungodly to be righteous, his faith is credited for righteousness.” (Romans 4:3-5)
Abraham didn’t earn God’s favor.
There wasn’t one thing Abraham did to become righteous in God’s eyes;
he simply took God at His word.
Genesis records God saying to Abraham, “Look at the sky and count the stars, if you are able to count them.” Then He said to him, “Your offspring will be that numerous.”
“Abram believed the Lord, and He (the Lord) credited it to him (Abraham) as righteousness.”
Following this incredible exchange of belief and radical grace, Abraham questioned the Lord, asking Him what the sign would be that the Lord would do this incredible thing of making Abraham’s offspring innumerable. The Lord God, gracious again, provided Abraham with a covenant. An everlasting, unbreakable vow, as proof that He would indeed do as He promised.
(The actual covenant story is pretty amazing! Check it out!)
Fast forward 430 years from the night that covenant was cut to the day Moses received the Ten Commandments on Mt. Sinai. The Lord was leading His people, who were just the beginning of Father Abraham’s offspring, out of slavery in Egypt and into the land God had promised them in the covenant. (Genesis 15:7)
The Ten Commandments were given as a result of the relationship that had begun long before with a man named Abraham and his faith in the God who could do the incredible.
These commandments were the proof of a relationship that already existed,
not the means to become righteous before God.
In fact, Paul would later use these same commandments to prove that, through the Law, we are able to recognize sin for what it is…a falling short of God’s perfection. (Romans 3:19-20)
Once we can identify sin, we see how holy the Lord is, and how desperate our need for Him.
Just like Abraham, we too can take the Lord at His word.
He is offering us salvation by taking the punishment for our rightly deserved sin upon Himself. He will credit our faith as righteousness!
To the Lord God, it has always been about a relationship.
From Abraham, to Moses, to Jesus, to you and me, the relationship has always been primary. The rules are simply an overflow of how to live inside that relationship of grace!
No, He’s not mad at us.
He’s not obligated to love us; He just does because He IS love.
He freely offers us grace, that we, as an overflow of love and adoration to Him,
might follow Him in obedience and live a life that honors Him!
Embracing God’s fullness in our lives is rooted in scripture and memorizing His word is vital to our continued growth and depth with Jesus. Tap and hold from your mobile device to download this week’s verse and make it your phone’s lockscreen!