Monday, January 12, 2015

The Burdensome Safety of Rules

By Allen White

For if there had been nothing wrong with that first covenant, no place would have been sought for another. But God found fault with the people and said:

“The days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the people of Israel and with the people of Judah. It will not be like the covenant  I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand to lead them out of Egypt,
because they did not remain faithful to my covenant,  and I turned away from them, declares the Lord.

This is the covenant I will establish with the people of Israel after that time, declares the Lord. I will put my laws in their minds and write them on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. No longer will they teach their neighbor, or say to one another, ‘Know the Lord,’ because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest. For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.”

 By calling this covenant “new,” he has made the first one obsolete; and what is obsolete and outdated will soon disappear. Hebrews 8:7-13

The Letter to the Hebrews was written to a group of Jewish Christians who considered returning to Judaism and the old covenant. They were a bit unnerved by their newfound freedom and were ready to return to the bondage of the Law. People often find comfort in familiar surroundings.

We are creatures of habit. We park in the same space at work almost daily. We order the same dishes in the same restaurants. We buy the same brand that we’ve used for years. Why re-decide every time? It’s just too much work.

I sit at the same table in the same coffee shop where I write these devotionals. When I came in this morning, only one person was seated in the entire place. He was sitting at my table. But, after a little prayer, he left, and my writing routine was back to normal. (To clarify – my prayer wasn’t for him to leave, though it was my secret ambition.)

Human nature tends toward rules and patterns. Rules are safe. If we never watch television, then we don’t have to avert our eyes when Victoria’s Secret commercials come on. If we never talked, we would never insult someone or tell a lie. If we never ate, then we would never over-eat. But, it’s not that simple is it?

We could choose to avoid alcohol, tobacco or desserts, but we have to eat. If we’re eating something we don’t like, it’s easy to quit. But, if we’re eating something delicious, it’s hard to refuse another helping. And, if we’re stressed out, then it’s easy to dive into a vat of Ben and Jerry’s. But, where and when did our eating interfere with our relationship with God? Where’s the line?

Rules keep things nice and neat. The problem is that life is messy. When the toothpaste doesn’t go back into the tube, sometimes the best thing we can do is to admit that we made a mess.

The old covenant or the Law specialized in pointing out our faults (Romans 3:20). The new covenant offers unconditional acceptance. The Law of Gravity says that what goes up must come done. The new covenant provides a safety net. God’s grace allows for an “oops,” but prevents a splat.

The old covenant placed a burden on people. The new covenant works from the inside out. “I will put my laws in their minds and write them on their hearts” (Hebrews 8:10).

What’s eating at you these days? What is getting the best of you? God will “strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being” (Ephesians 3:16).

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