Rules Upon Rules (3/25/13)

Read: Deuteronomy 4:1-49, Luke 6:39-7:10, Psalm 68:1-18, Proverbs 11:28

Do not add to or subtract from these commands I am giving you. Just obey the commands of the Lord your God that I am giving you. (Deuteronomy 4:2)


Relate: I went to a Bible college my freshmen year that had rules upon rules. We weren’t allowed to play cards because of the occultic symbolism they contained. We were, however allowed to play Uno. The four colors equaled the four suits. Skip, reverse, and draw two were the jack, queen, and king. Many a game of hearts, spades, and rummy were played in this way. The men were allowed to have a mustache but not a beard of goatee. This would have been bad enough if multiple professors did not have beards or goatees. They were flaunting their follicles in our faces. We had a uniform that was about as ugly and uncomfortable as you could make it. Grey pants, white shirt, blue coat, red tie… “Welcome to American Airlines, I’d be glad to help you find your seat today.” I scrunched my blue coat up and crammed it between the mattresses of my bed for the duration of winter break. When I came back I pulled it out and it was stiff as a board without a wrinkle on the thing. Disappointment reigned supreme.

The Israelites didn’t do very well about adding rules to God’s law’s either. Nowhere in  scripture does it mention the avoidance of creative activities because they are work, but the Mishnah has a whole list of those. For orthodox Jews today that means you cannot tie your shoes (you created a knot). On the Sabbath Jesus told a paralytic man to rise and carry his mat. That was work, but was it really? Would it not have been a joy for that man to show the world, I was lame but now I am healed?

React: The rules in the Mishnah as well as the rules at that Bible College were born out of good motives. They wanted to avoid the very appearance of evil. They wanted to make sure they were being obedient to God. But as the rules are added to the rules, with more rules thrown on top, one quickly loses focus. We forget about being obedient to God in our effort to keep our rules. For an Orthodox Jew today, as in Jesus’ time, keeping the Sabbath is a lot of work. I mean, seriously, keeping tissues in the bathroom so that you don’t “work” by tearing the toilet paper? I can’t play Scrabble?

Before I get too hard on the rules of others, though, I need to check myself. What are some rules I’ve built up in my own life that have lost their basis in holiness unto God? Do I have my own list of do’s and don’ts that might be turning off those around me to the great God I serve? Have I become so focused on “living like a Christian” that I’ve taken my eyes off of Christ?


God, help me to keep You as the reason for everything I do. Let my actions, and my words, and my lifestyle be an expression of my love for You. Help me to always remember that You are not impressed by my obedience to any rigid set of rules or discipline. What impresses You is a heart of surrender. I surrender my heart to You again. Reign in my life.

44 thoughts on “Rules Upon Rules (3/25/13)

  1. Amen! I am pretty sure that on Judgement Day, God isn’t going to insist, “Hey, let Cecelia through…I mean, she did an amazing job APPEARING Christ-like. What???!!!! RELATIONSHIP with ME???!!! Choo don’t need no stinkin’ relationship with Me!!!”

  2. Isn’t that what the cross was about, freeing us from the LAW of sin and death, and bringing us into salvation via grace (a free gift). The law was based on works and if works would have been a option Jesus would not have had to die…..

  3. I post a hymn every day except Sunday (I hope my readers are at church singing hymns). If you need a specific hymn that you cannot find, I will be glad to look for it in my collection of hymnals, the oldest of which is from 1892.

  4. The way I see it, is that Jesus commanded love and God says he will judge us based upon our works, now if our works our geared towards expanding love then that is about as rigid as I’ll allow myself to be. For love comes in many forms and can be expressed in many ways, but as long as the basic commandments are not broken in the process, one should be fine. Playing cards, is in my eyes an act of spending time with the ones we love and cherish, so I see no harm unless we make it that way. But, you know, I’m still working on the basis of this statement. I guess the biggest question is what exactly are works?

    Thank you for allowing me to think more on the subject.


    • I think that you’ve mixed up the meaning of “works” in scripture and “work” in the context of this post… He’s talking about literal work here. Like, expending energy to get things done. You’re talking about works (deeds, good or bad) as something that we will be judged for.

      • Thanks for pointing this out. But can’t work and works be the same thing? In my mind our daily work can be good deeds. If one does what’s in their heart and uses their talent in a Godly manner, is that not work as well. They are still expending energy. Maybe work should be of works.

        Good food for thought. Thank you!

  5. It is true that we may not understand the reasons for rules sometimes, as I’m sure that the Jews didn’t understand all of God’s rules at Mt. Siniah. But, unless a rule or law violates God’s commands it is best to obey them to keep from suffering negative consequences. The people who made the rules probably had a reason for doing so and we sometimes have to trust their judgements.

  6. Thank you for liking my blog! It means a lot coming from someone with religious knowledge and an appreciation for the funny. Orthodox can be extreme- hence it being orthodox. There are many families who try to hold as many as these rules that they can – so long as they make the sabbath a noteworthy day off. I give those families props – they probably aren’t getting too much love from ultra orthadox, even though they themselves are pretty orthodox. It’s strange how in today’s electronic everything society, some of those ancient rules seem to create an even more special “day of rest.”. But eh, all religions do strange and something even contridictory things. Nothings perfect.
    -Amy – adventuresofagrownup

  7. We used to have a lady in our church who, when the preacher made a point and the sanctuary was dead silent, would intone, “Well…” Exactly 😉

  8. Great post and great blog. I actually almost wrote a post on the exact same idea, but I was too busy this summer to finish it. Glad to see someone else did it for me 🙂

  9. Amen. This was truly a great blog this morning to read. Give it all to the Lord, your time, your thoughts, your passion. Let Him rule/guide you, not the world. May His peace be with you

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  11. Well said! God’s commandments are easy to follow. Excessive rules and man-made doctrines are burdensome. My grandmother, a devout Christian, loved to square dance, but she gave it up because her preacher thought that square dancing was sinful. Thank you for another great post.

  12. I grew up fundamentalist. A depressing sect. The outward appearance to me seemed more important than the growth in Jesus. Christian growth and walk with the Lord will naturally lead one into good works, and naturally show one the right direction in regard to “rules”. As I have grown, the rules I hated have become a natural outpouring of my love for the Lord. TV programs that are ungodly, sigh so many, are distasteful to me now. Music the same. We just need to stress walking with the Lord and the rest will fall into place. When rules are stressed, eyes are taken off of Jesus, which is just what the devil wants.

  13. I read several of your posts and have enjoyed them. I agree with the post above that our focus needs to be on Jesus. When that is present, I won’t lust after my neighbors goods or spouse.

  14. Great Blog! I enjoyed browsing around and discovered you are in New York. I’m in Mississippi! I send blessings to you as your build His Kingdom in that far away place! We also read the One Year Bible and Love it! Good to know that even tho we are in different parts of the country, He is speaking the same words! Love that about the Kingdom of God! Blessings to you

  15. ‘Love the line in your prayer: “Help me keep you as the reason for everything I do.” I, too, grew up with a lot of rules laid down by our church. But I was blessed not to see hypocrisy. Perhaps it was there; I missed it! Instead I witnessed men and women of God truly striving to please Him and serve Him. Attitude and motivation make all the difference, don’t they?

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  18. I really wanted to encourage you (not perhaps that you need but..) I was going through something yesterday so I shut myself away in my room for what ended up as about 6 hours to spend some time seeking the Lord. I gave my phone to my roomie so I couldn’t be contacted. I had reached a point with god where I really needed a word. My roomie comes in and says I have to take the phone back for some other reason. I did, your post came through by email and KAPOW!…there was my word. this post spoke directly into the situation…I left the room!
    God Bless 🙂

  19. I went to one of those schools. When Paul preached against the Judaizers, he was talking about the rules (Galatians 1). The Judaizers wanted to require Gentile Christians to follow Jewish rules. When we add additional rules to the gospel…it is not the gospel at all.

  20. This is part of the sad truth that we as beings who fall short of God’s glory resort to deeds to justify ourselves. Our broken relationship with the Father (God) cannot simply be patched up by going to the synagogue more, or devoting more meditation time, or giving everything that you have to charity — this is why the Father in his wisdom gave his only begotten Son Jesus to become the ultimate sacrifice for our sins…
    Let’s not ever fall for the lie that we can do it ourselves, as this path most definitely leads to boasting (Eph 2:8-9)

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  22. BJ thanks for being on the front line in the battle. Many moons ago, I was a part of a church like yours and I miss it. I attended conferences at Willow Creek and had the vision planted in my brain.Sometimes, I’ve felt like telling people to put their bibles under their chairs so we could talk. They really need to know one thing. Well, two, To love the Lord their God with all their heart, and secondly their neighbor as themselves. What can we do to model that, and what can we do to help others? Who have we offended and who should we make up to?
    Your post was inspiring to me. I’m going to blog about it. The Judean province of Jesus time had switched alliegances. Instead of a theocracy where God reigned supreme amongst His people,there was a nomocracy that prevailed,where the law reigned supreme. It supplanted God, but it allowed their sectarian quests for power.

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