If at first you don’t succeed, read the instructions.

27 Apr

“Who reads the rules anymore?” My wife and I were not sure what to do with that question at first. She had just commented on how our grandchildren spend more time watching other people play a game on YouTube than actually playing the game themselves. Instead of more head shaking and tongue clucking, the young parents around us laughed and asked that question.

 Defending our position, my wife threw me under the ridicule bus. “Charley does.”

 All eyes turned to me. “Really? You read every rule?”

 I admit. I am a read-and-follow-the-rules kind of guy. The first thing I look for when opening a box labeled “Some assembly required” is the sheet of instructions. And the furniture in the box? Find and follow the instructions. However, I confess I have used videos from the internet when I’ve encountered a repair project I clueless on how to proceed. For much of life’s challenges, reading the rules works.

 Does not apply to every situation.

A problem arises when we approach Christianity the same way. I know. I’ve struggled between by-the-Spirit and by-the-book Christianity most of my life. For me, life can be so much easier when rules and precedents are clearly spelled out. It’s easier to meet expectations at the workplace when goals and objectives are clear. But life and, more specifically, living the Christian life doesn’t work that way.

The call to obedience makes it sound like it should. The Old Testament laws set the stage for that misunderstanding. But I see that mistaken tendency at work, taking us down the wrong path all the time. Simple age-old examples in the church include: sprinkling or immersion for valid baptism, drums and guitars versus piano or organs (or any instruments at all) for worship, and grape juice or real wine in communion. The established pattern for dealing with handling differing opinions in church matters is to assemble verses and arguments why one way is the right way (happens on both sides of the issue), followed by dogmatism, finger-pointing, and division. It gets passed on to others through discipleship training and raising a family.

Be right (in heart), not do right (in performance)

If you have been following my blogs (especially the grouping on God’s blueprint for the Church), you know I believe obedience doesn’t mean we are to do the right things. At least, not in the follow-the-rules determination we slip into. Obedience that God wants is something we subject ourselves to—in and by faith. It’s an act of worship. We are not to press others into the mold we’ve created.

With each social battle announced in headlines, I have the opportunity to learn this lesson and practice obedience to the Spirit. As much as these skirmishes have major impact on lives and the laws governing us, I remember we don’t wrestle against flesh and blood. Our weapons are much greater. I struggle against my first impulses to push the rules. In its place, I turn to fight God’s way by the Spirit. I ask him to help me see the real enemy and to teach me how to pray against lies, bitterness, and revenge. I ask him to show me how I can display his love—the same conquering love that drew my heart away from the destructive path I was on. And I pray for more of his people to catch this same vision.

What needs to be seen

No other generation in America has had a greater need to see a genuine image of Jesus and not our own painted version of him. We can’t rest any longer on the comforting word that when God looks on a believer, he sees Jesus, while the world sees only people following a set of rules. They need to see Jesus. Can we not dig deeper into, move closer to, become more like Jesus?

I am purposing to press more toward that mark of the prize in Christ Jesus. Who is with me?

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