Rules, Regs, and Relationship. by Merwin Severtson

Rules, Regs, and Relationship.

Have you ever imagined planning the perfect road-trip vacation? The journey, taking in days of beautiful scenery and activities culminating with your arrival at a lovely spot with all your best friends and family members there to greet you?

You have created a very realistic scenario; having generated expectations of difficulties and have prepared the needed funding for the Murphy's Law of possibilities.

And, you have allowed for the length of the journey and provided plenty of time for those surprise adventures, "Oh that looks like fun! Can we go do that?" and you know with these time allowances that you will arrive when you should.

Now, tweak your mental scenario just enough to flip the coin of some abstract possibilities.

Side one. Let us throw in your total disregard for speed limits, traffic lights, any kind of road courtesy and while were at it, leave out any common sense.

What has happened to the beautiful plans you started with? Take it a step further.

You leave your driveway taking out about five feet of hedgerow scattering debris for a block as you force your accelerator to the floor. Not only you break the speed limit you more than double it! Instead of seventy on the freeway as posted, your doing a hundred and fifty! You have heavy traffic all around you and you're weaving in and out, it starts snowing and you don't slow down!

Cops are on your tail and you can't seem to shake them! Then it happens… some jerk, who could not tell there was crazy activity coming up from behind, him cuts you off by changing lanes right in front of you!

"Oh no! This jerk has ruined everything!" you scream aloud. You smash into his Hummer with your RV at a hundred fifty miles per hour and the ensuing chain reaction of destruction brings the certainty of your capture, thereby ensuring the rest of your journey at least, to be very unpleasant and your careful scheduling shot.

Okay, let us look at the other side of this abstract coin.

Again the trip is planned perfectly. This time your concern is for best driving behavior. Proper attention is given to landmarks and lights. Proper lane management for your turnoffs and excursions are observed. You have your GPS dictating optimum possibilities for travel and you have your spouse making adjustments there as needed.

Soon you have left your town and are beginning your journey with gladness. But before long you start to obsess about your perfect performance on the road. The speed limit must be observed perfectly! You have heard that there is a little four mile an hour buffer that the authorities allow for, but "No! I would rather maintain the speed limit exactly, so I do not have to answer questions from an over zealous police rookie!"

Now you begin to encounter those on the road who have no respect for the laws of the land, or common courtesy. "Where is a cop when you need them? Is there nothing to be done about these speeders and tailgaters?"

Worrying begins to accelerate, "Is my scheduling allowing for this construction? My temptation to speed is compounded by this traffic jam. Will I have to take out one of my planned stops? I need an antacid; did we bring any? Whoops! I just missed my lane change better do it now. Slow down, how long has it been thirty-five through here? It used to be forty five!"

The next few days follow sleepless nights; "Those last two stops were hardly worth taking a shower for much less including them on a perfect vacation! Who am I kidding? This stopped being perfect, the day I left the driveway! Slow down! I need to remain courteous even if these jerks are rude! Is that tanker leaking something? Oh… I would love to tell that guy off!

I hope the destination turns out better than the trip. The family seems like they have had a good time, I just feel sick! I hope they aren't putting on a happy face just for me, my headaches are terrible and my stomach won't stop hurting!" Etc, etc, etc.

Rules and regulations have value that can only be ignored at your peril. They provide structure for all, dependable wise guidance that, if followed promises a safe journey.

But they can never promise an abundantly joyful trip.

Our walk as Christians, like the analogy, is to arrive at a fine destination and to have an "abundant life" getting there. And in both sides of the abstract coin the destination may be reached, but neither provides the "abundance" that was planned.

The first side of the coin was bad because of obvious reasons, the second… not as obvious; so let us consider the obsession with rules.

Too often we confuse the observance of common sense and structures with our self-definition of what it means to be Holy. We have been conditioned and reconditioned with, do this and don't do that, so often and over such a long period of time that it is easy to lose sight of the reason the rules were provided.

This type of constant exposure to our own failures, shortcomings, and things to be careful of, is an eye opener at first. It is a continuation of sorts, of our conversion truths, educating us concerning our need for salvation and an introduction to Holy behavior.

The information is there as guidance away from unhappy results, but cannot assure us of abundant life.

Rules and regulations, if followed, at best can only provide one with contentment that his or her behavior has not brought misery. People who pride themselves with good moral conduct are capable of that!

A moralist who is also a believer might reply, "But it also reveals one's heart and is a display of good fruit."

True… in a sense. The ability to follow the law, to "Do this and don't do that" are the fruit of good morals, and in some respects are a revelation of heart status. But this, taken into "innocent" legalism can reveal a heart similar to a good Pharisee, such as Nicodemus or Saul of Tarsus. Both of which were shown the errors of their heart's conditioning by Jesus.

Keeping the law merely reduces the occurrence of sins, of either omission or commission and thereby renders the trip relatively free of despair. This is something that even the unbelieving moralist enjoys. As a result of pride in doing well he might say, "Of course I am going to heaven if there is one… I am a good guy!"

However misguided he may be, his assertion will not give him entry into heaven. And, as worthy an effort as "following the rules" is, it is not a description of a joyful, abundant life.

The joy (and true Holiness) can only come from His nature within us, which is there when He took up residence in our hearts.

Our flesh struggles with this gift that seems too good to be true. Our fleshy pride tries to force us to feel we must somehow earn it. But it is that perception that taints our motives and stifles its flow.

The perception declares, "This wonderful acceptance of us just as we are… must require something of us. It must have performance criterion as we proceed along. Once we are saved then we must conduct ourselves just so and display our good fruit." And the favorite, "He is not giving us license to sin."

He is not giving us license to sin? Very true, but he has given us the knowledge that we have more grace and mercy as believers than we did as his enemies at the time of our conversion…

Romans 5:10 For if, when we enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life.

This verse essentially means that we have more forgiveness for sin and more empowerment from His nature to avoid it after becoming a believer than we did before.

What follows is the description of why the "perception" is tainted and not healthy. And why the "flow" of abundance is stifled by that perception.

Why should our Bridegroom share the credit with any of us… for what his sacrifice accomplished?

His obedience to death removed the barrier that prevented the Father from living within us through the Son. It allowed Him to give us the faith we needed to follow Him. It opened the floodgates of his manifold gifts (grace) to run through his vessels (you and I). It allowed His children to actually experience what the angels and previous saints could only talk about.

And, should our pride (flesh), seek to gain some personal equity from the property that belongs solely to God, then the error will be corrected by the Spirit.

James 1:17 Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.

This means every good thing that we do… ever! Is performed through us by Him. And when sin is avoided… either by doing the right work or not doing the bad one, it is Jesus working through the Holy Spirit in us to accomplish that.

When we grieve the Spirit and interfere with its operation by the sin of non-sanctification, we are forgiven and re-directed.

Allow me to repeat that with emphasis.

When we grieve the Spirit and interfere with its operation by the sin of non-sanctification, we are forgiven and re-directed.

The sin of not sanctifying the Lord is probably the most common of all sins. Similar to Moses at Meribah, who in disobedience struck the rock twice, also did not sanctify God when he said "Hear now ye rebels; must we fetch you water out of this rock?"

Instead, Moses could have appropriately said, "Thus saith the Lord… rock bring forth water!"

These things stifle the flow of abundant grace because it diverts the sanctification… the credit for the good accomplishment, to us rather than the Lord.

If this happens even a little, it would warrant the slowing of the progression of events, for the flow of grace into infertile fields of pride shouldn't continue. Keeping of the law, the doing of righteous deeds, trusting the Lord with all our hearts and minds… is not within our capabilities to perform. When it is done through us, it is accomplished by God's Spirit.

Galatians 5:22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance (self control) against such there is no law.

Self control? Something as small and normally thought of as "us" territory… self control why would that be fruit of the Spirit?

Romans 8:7 Because the carnal mind (the fleshy mind) is enmity (make itself an enemy) against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.

One could rightly say, "Well, what again of the moralist? Why would they exhibit self control in having good morals having supposedly no Holy Spirit?"

Because their flesh who is "making itself an enemy against God", is providing a realistic counterfeit.

Then it could be countered "What then of the believing moralist? Your so called legalist, why would he be able to perform good self control?" The answer to this is more complex…

Galatians 1:6-9 I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel: Which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ. But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. As we said before, so say I now again, If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed.

These are providing a much worse counterfeit, for they use the name of Christ to lift and support their position. And the fleshy, prideful motivation is a misappropriation of what is due only to Him, the credit and praise for the right thing performed.

It remains a not so obvious distinctive difference as one who knows the rules and regulations of the road and travels in joy on his journey to his destination in peace and abundance of Spirit. And one who is obsessing about his performance and making others obsess about theirs.

Either out of ignorance or intention, the legalists are preaching "another gospel" and need to repent.

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