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“I might want to be a Christian, but I’m worried that will mean keeping lots of rules. Is that true?”— Nate
You are not alone — many believers and non-believers assume that being a Christian has to do with rules and regulations.
You should note, first of all, that the New Testament is quite negative toward rule-keeping religionists whose primary goal in life was to follow the minutiae of the Law and to insist that others who would be true to God do likewise.
Jesus condemned legalism as hypocritical, detrimental to the spirit and a distraction from the pursuit of knowing and being faithful to God (Mt. 23.) He emphasized the spirit of the law as opposed to the letter of the law (Mt. 5-7).
Paul echoed this sentiment in his denunciation of the Law as a valid means to salvation. Salvation comes through God’s grace, not works, he declared. No amount of merely “living a good life” can achieve the holiness God is looking for (Eph. 2:1-9).
Rule keeping is regressive. Besides the fact that it can become a source of pride (or depression), the system must continue to invent new rules in order to address new situations.
The painful truth is that no one can possibly obey all the rules all the time and can therefore never measure up to God’s standard of perfection (Rom. 3:23).
Scripture invites a believer into a brand new kind of life, a transformed existence that could never be produced by keeping rules.
It is, rather, the result of trusting God to get rid of old baggage and to create a whole new person (II Cor. 5:17).
It is a life of freedom, forgiveness, grace, hope and love.
It involves being part of a new community (the church) where these things are learned and practiced (Rom. 8; 12:1ff; Eph. 4; Col. 3; et al.).