Freedom Found in Obeying Jesus
I have always been a rule follower. If someone drew a line in the middle of the sidewalk and told me not to go past it, I wouldn’t even see how close my feet could get to it. I’d distract myself with things in the opposite direction.
Being a rule follower can be a strength and a weakness for me. It is a strength because when an employer or supervisor tells me how they want or need something done, or if they tell me the regulations of the company, then I won’t push back and undermine their authority. Instead, I will follow what they say—voicing any concerns I may have—all while still submitting to what they say.
The weakness comes when I follow rules to such the degree that I become legalistic—thinking that my following certain rules will make someone love me more, accept me more, approve of me more, etc. Dictionary.com says that legalism is “strict adherence…to law or prescription, especially to the letter rather than the spirit” (emphasis added). In other words, a person cares so much about following the written instruction instead of following the heart behind the written instruction.
Before I knew Jesus, this was my idea of what it would look like to follow Him. Even though I knew this was not the case, I still had a deep-seated belief that what I did—or didn’t do—would make God like me more. This is not the gospel. So if it is true that a person’s actions do not make God love them more or less nor do they save a person, but it is also true that their actions are evidence of their faith, how can we follow God’s rules and not get stuck in a legalistic mindset?
Psalm 19 speaks to the freedom found in following God’s law.
“The law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul; the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple; the precepts of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes; the fear of the LORD is clean, enduring forever; the rules [or just decrees] of the LORD are true, and righteous altogether. More to be desired are they than gold, even much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and drippings of the honeycomb. Moreover, by them is your servant warned; in keeping them there is great reward.”
David is talking here and giving reasons why following God and obeying His commandments is so freeing. Look at the first part of verse 7, “[t]he law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul…” (emphasis added). Not only are His laws more to be desired than gold (v. 10), but following God and being obedient to Him gives you life. Not only that, but His just decrees are true and righteous altogether, His testimony makes you—the simple—become wise, and His pure commandments enlighten you! So many promises if we follow God’s law!
For many, including myself, this idea of freedom being found from obeying rules seems counterintuitive. However, as David clearly tells us, it actually leads to life. Why? Because we were designed to have God as the leader of our lives. When you are in Christ, you have a new life (2 Corinthians 5:17), and this new life craves for God to be the ruler of your heart. When God is the ruler of your heart, you submit to Him and His laws. When you submit to God and His laws, you realize that you actually have more freedom and more life than you did before you fully submitted to God’s law. Why? Because everything was created to glorify God, so when you submit to God and trust that He knows what’s best and follow His direction, then He is being glorified through your obedience to him.
So really, following God and His laws is not actually about you. It’s about God being glorified.
Care has to be taken, however, to ensure that our hearts do not move from being encouraged to follow God and His laws because we love Him to following God and His laws because we are afraid if we don’t, He will feel differently about us.
Friend, may we find this freedom David talks about in following God and His laws. May we know His voice and thoughts so well that when He speaks, we are quick to submit to God and obey Him.