A former boss, who I‘d known for many years, found himself searching for answers after his wife left him. He was living in an efficiency apartment, alone and wondering why his life had collapsed around him. At dinner he asked me, “What’s the magic…and don’t tell me it’s all about Jesus…just how you stayed married for so long?” I responded by telling him that if he wanted me to tell him the truth, I’d have to talk about Jesus! After a few minutes my old friend said, “What I don’t need is another list of does and don’ts, that’s what caused all my problems in the first place. I’m just a guy who does guy things and she just couldn’t deal with it. You know me, I’m not that bad…so don’t even go there.”
One of the greatest misunderstandings or misconceptions about Christianity is that it’s basically a list dos and don’ts and if you follow them, you’re in the club. This was the perception of my recently divorced friend, in that he viewed the decision to follow Christ as simply replacing one set of dos and don’ts for another. Actually, I don’t blame him for his view since this is the general perception of religion and an accurate one at that. However, it is not an accurate picture of what it means to be a follower of Jesus Christ; in fact being a Christian is just the opposite.
A more accurate statement would be that a Christian has gained freedom from human regulations through a life with Christ. I would go even farther by saying that a Christian has more in common with those who reject any faith or religion, for they too have freed themselves from human regulations, unfortunately to their destruction. You see being a Christian isn’t about being a member of a club with bylaws and rules to follow and if you don’t follow them, risk being expelled. What the bible, from beginning to end, is trying to show us is that we have a choice to make. Either to live as slaves to the sin of this world and be bound by its regulations or live in the freedom that Christ made available to us when He went to the cross. The first leads only to misery in this world and the next, while the second brings peace and joy. It would seem to be an easy choice to make, but obviously there is something else in play here.
Everyday we are being bombarded with information from both the “secular world” and the “religious world.” The secularist tells you that this is it and to look beyond the material world is a fool’s errand. On the other hand you have the religious folks that want you to submit to their rules, saying, “Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch (Colossians 2:21)!” It’s no wonder that many of us become confused and choose to cover our ears and reject both the secularist and the religious, since they can find no real joy and satisfaction in either. Both the secularist and the religious have “exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worship and serve created things rather than the Creator (Roman 1:25).”
Who are the religious folks that I refer to? They are those who have added to the simple and liberating message of the Gospel. They may even proclaim Jesus as their Lord but there is always a caveat, something more required. In Colossians, chapter two Paul warns, “Do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink or with regard to religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day…that which is real is found in Christ. Do not let anyone who delights in false humility and the worship of angels disqualify you for the prize.” The simple and liberating message of the Gospel is, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith and it is not from yourselves, it is a gift of God; not by works, so that no one can boast (Ephesians 2:8).” There is nothing in heaven or on earth which could be worthy of adding to Christ’s perfect sacrifice on the cross. Any additions are like spoiled or outdated yeast, which can only lead to disappointment and a life without real peace and joy. We must be intolerant of anything else but not through condemnation, but rather by reaching out in love with the truth that is Christ.
Tool #398 Husbands and wives often mature in their faith on different timetables. Therefore, patience, understanding and a forgiving spirit is the best way to help them mature.