In this quiet time you will learn how rules affect your relationship with God and how to overcome them.
although I might be able to put trust in myself. If anyone thinks he has a reason to trust in himself, he should know that I have greater reason for trusting in myself. I was circumcised eight days after my birth. I am from the people of Israel and the tribe of Benjamin. I am a Hebrew, and my parents were Hebrews. I had a strict view of the law, which is why I became a Pharisee. I was so enthusiastic I tried to hurt the church. No one could find fault with the way I obeyed the law of Moses. Those things were important to me, but now I think they are worth nothing because of Christ
Paul was somebody who really put a lot of value on following the rules. He thought that was what a relationship with God was all about, but Paul turned out to be wrong.
What rules do you think you have to follow to have a relationship with God?
There are tons of rules we use to make us think we’re close to God. That was what Paul was all about until he changed.
When Peter came to Antioch, I challenged him to his face, because he was wrong. Peter ate with the non-Jewish people until some Jewish people sent from James came to Antioch. When they arrived, Peter stopped eating with those who weren’t Jewish, and he separated himself from them. He was afraid of the Jews. So Peter was a hypocrite, as were the other Jewish believers who joined with him. Even Barnabas was influenced by what these Jewish believers did. When I saw they were not following the truth of the Good News, I spoke to Peter in front of them all. I said, “Peter, you are a Jew, but you are not living like a Jew. You are living like those who are not Jewish. So why do you now try to force those who are not Jewish to live like Jews?”
We were not born as non-Jewish “sinners,” but as Jews. Yet we know that a person is made right with God not by following the law, but by trusting in Jesus Christ. So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus, that we might be made right with God because we trusted in Christ. It is not because we followed the law, because no one can be made right with God by following the law.
We Jews came to Christ, trying to be made right with God, and it became clear that we are sinners, too. Does this mean that Christ encourages sin? No! But I would really be wrong to begin teaching again those things that I gave up. It was the law that put me to death, and I died to the law so that I can now live for God. I was put to death on the cross with Christ, and I do not live anymore—it is Christ who lives in me. I still live in my body, but I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave himself to save me. By saying these things I am not going against God’s grace. Just the opposite, if the law could make us right with God, then Christ’s death would be useless.
Paul broke the rules and he encouraged others to do the same. He also saw how certain rules get in the way of loving God and people.
Of the rules you have listed above, how do they hinder your love?
One of the biggest rules you can follow, especially when you grow up going to church, is the rule about relationships with the opposite sex. We’re actually not supposed to avoid these relationships though because we end up being unloving.
We continued our trip from Tyre and arrived at Ptolemais, where we greeted the believers and stayed with them for a day. The next day we left Ptolemais and went to the city of Caesarea. There we went into the home of Philip the preacher, one of the seven helpers,[a] and stayed with him. He had four unmarried daughters who had the gift of prophesying. After we had been there for some time, a prophet named Agabus arrived from Judea. He came to us and borrowed Paul’s belt and used it to tie his own hands and feet. He said, “The Holy Spirit says, ‘This is how evil people in Jerusalem will tie up the man who wears this belt. Then they will give him to the older leaders.’”
When we all heard this, we and the people there begged Paul not to go to Jerusalem. But he said, “Why are you crying and making me so sad? I am not only ready to be tied up in Jerusalem, I am ready to die for the Lord Jesus!” We could not persuade him to stay away from Jerusalem. So we stopped begging him and said, “We pray that what the Lord wants will be done.”
Paul also didn’t let people and their rules keep him from doing what God put on his heart. Even when spiritual people came to him and opposed him, he didn’t change course.
How do people influence you and the rules you follow?
This can also come up when you’re part of a group that has a low standard of obeying the Bible. It can work the opposite way where people’s rules can make us think it’s ok to just follow the rule instead of following the Bible.
All the other apostles are greater than I am. I am not even good enough to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But God’s grace has made me what I am, and his grace to me was not wasted. I worked harder than all the other apostles. (But it was not I really; it was God’s grace that was with me.)
1 Corinthians 15:9-10
Paul broke the rules in more way than one, he also sinned a ton! The big difference with Paul was that he changed the game by changing his view of sin.
How does seeing your sin affect your attitude?
When Paul saw his sin, it motivated him and spurred him on. He saw it as an opportunity to get closer to God and tap into his unlimited resources.
Not only those things, but I think that all things are worth nothing compared with the greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. Because of him, I have lost all those things, and now I know they are worthless trash. This allows me to have Christ and to belong to him. Now I am right with God, not because I followed the law, but because I believed in Christ. God uses my faith to make me right with him. I want to know Christ and the power that raised him from the dead. I want to share in his sufferings and become like him in his death. Then I have hope that I myself will be raised from the dead.
I do not mean that I am already as God wants me to be. I have not yet reached that goal, but I continue trying to reach it and to make it mine. Christ wants me to do that, which is the reason he made me his. Brothers and sisters, I know that I have not yet reached that goal, but there is one thing I always do. Forgetting the past and straining toward what is ahead, I keep trying to reach the goal and get the prize for which God called me through Christ to the life above.
Because Paul rejected the rules he was able to get something better, a relationship with Jesus. That relationship ended up driving him heart in everything he did.
How motivated are you by getting to know God?
To live this out you have to have the faith to do things that don’t make sense. That means following the Bible when everything is telling you not to.
One of the hardest rules to break is the unspoken rules in relationships. The following challenges will help you break free in those relationships.
- Choose a friend that shares a similar sin struggle with you that you don’t challenge each other on. Challenge them on it!
- Choose someone of the opposite sex and have a conversation with them that you’ve never had with someone of the opposite sex.
- Choose somebody that you’re trying to help. Ask they’re advice on something and challenge yourself to take the advice no matter what it is.