The Gospel Is Not A Rule Book

This semester, I am taking a class called “The Bible and History.” Coming in, I was prepared to hear some things with which I disagreed. The professor is Jewish and I could tell right from the start that he treats the Gospel as a book of rules to be obeyed rather than the living word of God that changes hearts and lives. He doesn’t seem to believe that Solomon wrote Song of Solomon and I get the feeling that he needs the validity of the Bible to be reinforced by additional historical pinpoints. When he refers to “the Bible,” he is speaking only of the Old Testament. I think he is an incredibly nice man and would make an amazing grandpa (he talks about his grandchildren all the time), but I see him misrepresenting the Gospel in many subtle, but dangerous ways to those who do not know any better. The very first day of class, he told us students that there is tag-line, or proverb if you will, that must go along with our reading of the Bible in order for it to be cohesive in its message: “If you obey you prosper. If you disobey, you are punished.”

Moments like that make me cringe a little bit. Because it completely misses the purpose of creation. In the eyes of my teacher, our purpose in life is to try and be God by being pure according to His law and living up to His standards. And it is easy to believe that when you disregard the New Testament which preaches plainly that it is by God’s grace and not our works that we are saved and that it is Christ who is Lord over our lives. The laws in the Old Testament are not simply dos and do nots – they are the character of God revealed to us. Scripture says that all of humanity was created in the image of God and sin cannot exist with God. We find our most joy and satisfaction in a true pursuit of God and His will. We fall into the hands of brokenness and disappointment when we pursue our own sinful desires. Therefore, the law is not calling us to become holy by visible action and it is not out to take away our fun or independence. Psalm 19:7-8 says,

The law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul. The statutes of the LORD are trustworthy, making wise the simple. The precepts of the LORD are right, giving joy to the heart. The commands of the LORD are radiant, giving light to the eyes.

The fact is, you can live independently. You can live in a way that does not honor God or His law. But in doing so, you will not find joy. You can go get drunk every night if you want, but you will still wake up in the morning with a headache, an absence of responsibility, and stuck in a rut of your life. You can have sex with anyone you want, but you will still wake up in the morning alone and without a true sense of what it means to know joy in a relationship. You can live in pursuit of anger, selfishness, impatience, and control, but all you are going to find is that loving yourself is a lonely place to be.

There is a quote from Matt Chandler that I heard about a month ago that is so clear on this issue:

And the hope that we have in the triune God of the universe is that all His commands and all His leadings are leading us to life and not begrudging submission to His power simply because He could command what He wanted to command. That is not our God. It is not the God of the Bible. So even if it feels like it’s pulling…it’s something that feels so much like it’s yours that if you let it go you wouldn’t know how to define yourself anymore; that if you let it go you would be naked and afraid. Those commands are leading you to life. Not to death. He is not trying to take anything from you but what would eventually destroy you. Even if that feels like it’s impossibly woven into who you are as a person.”

If we turn the Gospel into a rule book, we turn the Gospel into something that is about us and we place the responsibility of becoming holy on ourselves. But when we look at the Gospel and see Jesus on every page, we see what the Gospel was truly meant to be, we realize there is nothing we can do with our hands to deserve Christ’s sacrifice or his love, and we submit ourselves to God because we see how much He truly loves us. And we come to embrace joy in the midst of this.

In my last post, I wrote about the band Oh, Sleeper and their brand new album that came out on Tuesday. This past Saturday, a few friends and I had the privilege of seeing them live in Waco. The show was amazing. I got to sing/scream into the microphone multiple times, losing my voice in the process, and then we were able to spend some time with the band after the show. There were two moments that I thought were really touching that night and I wanted to share them quickly. First off, all of the band members’ parents came to the show. After the show, the parents of the vocalist, Micah, walked over to him. They looked like the typical parents who try to support whatever their kids are doing but just cannot quite fit into the fix. But it was so great. His mother was dressed in somewhat of a business casual outfit (slacks and a nice blouse) and his dad walked in with blue jeans, an aged kind face, and an Oh, Sleeper t-shirt. And Micah lit up. They walked over to him and hugged and kissed their sweaty metal head son. And they looked so genuinely proud of him. That was a great moment.

The other moment I thought was cool came while we were talking to the drummer, Matt. We asked him how they went about writing the new record. Was it music first, lyrics second? Or the other way around? And he told us they usually write their music first then Micah goes off on his own in solitude and takes time to simply pray and seek God until the lyrics and ideas come to him. Now you have to get the significance of this to me. We had never met this guy before. He had no idea where our affections were spiritually. Yet he did not even hesitate in telling us that the thing Micah is sure to do when writing lyrics is pray beforehand for ideas and words that will glorify God and proclaim His Word. I think that is awesome. And I have a whole new respect for Oh, Sleeper. Those boys are legit.

Below are pictures of us with Micah (the vocalist) and Matt (the drummer). And check out the video. Luke and I get the microphone from 2:27 until 2:31.

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