Chapter 9. Rules to Live By

Chapter 9.  Rules for Living

per — Capturing God’s Heart Volume #31

It is easy to want rules for living. Something that tells us “do this” and “don’t do that” removes us from the need to walk in true relationship with God.  If we can just figure out what he wants then we simply have to follow a to-do list.

But the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the work of The Kingdom is much more than what we are doing or not doing.  The Gospel of Jesus Christ is about relationship, about nuance, about principles for living (not rules), and about our manner of being woven throughout everything.

If I was to give anyone rules for living the Christian life I would direct them to the book of Micah.

“… O people, the Lord has told you what is good, and this is what he requires of you, to do what is right, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.” Micah 6:8 NLT

From what I can tell this sums up life in Christ.

So let’s take a look at it’s parts:

1.  Do What is Right 

There are many things that are right.  Notice here that we are not instructed to not do what is wrong. Rather the author directs us to the positive.  By this it is reinforced that at any given time we all know what is right.

Our consciences tell us what is right.  God has hard-wired into each and every human being this knowing system that alerts us to what is right.

We find a similar message in James.

“So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.” James 4:17 ESV

This means that sin is a very personal thing.  This verse takes us beyond the rules and law and brings us to the reality of conviction.

Conviction is the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives in relationship and response to our walk with God. Convictions are the thoughts and compelling of the Spirit of God unto good works, kind words, faithful service, compassionate care, and more.

James makes it very clear that we must follow our convictions, and that to do anything less is in fact sin.

What is God calling you to do today? How might he be compelling you?

To what are you being invited into and are you responding positively or negatively?

This is the crux of ‘Do What is Right’. Follow the Lord’s compelling.  (19)

2.  To Love Mercy 

Mercy understands that we are all the same in our inner being. Mercy gets it that the sins of others could be our very same sins.  Mercy does not hold ourselves above others as though we are better than them.

No! Rather, mercy knows that the ground at the foot of the cross is level.  We all stand at the same height before our God.  All of us.

And mercy understands that to put ourselves above another is to refuse mercy to that person.

In Matthew we find this truth:

“Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.”  Matthew 5:7 ESV 

Thing is, we always receive what we give out. We want to be merciful people. We want to live above the letter of the law and enter into the spirit of the law.

The letter of the law says we are all condemned. If we live under this we then come to think we can condemn others also.  We begin to believe that the gospel of Christ is about condemnation.  But it’s not.

Rather, the Spirit of the law says that Christ came to do away with condemnation and to grant us grace and favour when we least deserved it.  Living under this we find mercy and are then able to extend that same mercy to others.

In Exodus we find this mighty declaration of the character of God:

“The Lord passed before him and proclaimed, “The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin,”  

Exodus 34:6-7a ESV

Here we find that the heart of God is about compassion, mercy, grace, steadfast love, faithfulness, and forgiveness.

This is the very same things we are called to walk in.  This is to be the manner of our being as well.

In Matthew we also find this:

“As Jesus was walking along, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at his tax collector’s booth. “Follow me and be my disciple,”Jesus said to him.  So Matthew got up and followed him.  

Later, Matthew invited Jesus and his disciples to his home as dinner guests, along with many tax collectors and other disreputable sinners.  But when the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with such scum?”

When Jesus heard this, he said, “Healthy people don’t need a doctor—sick people do.” Then he added, “Now go and learn the meaning of this Scripture: ‘I want you to show mercy, not offer sacrifices.’ For I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners.”  Matthew 9:9-13 NLT

Notice at the start of the passage in Vs.9 we find Jesus’ invitation, “Come follow me and be my disciple.” 

We might wonder what this means.  What is it to be a disciple of Jesus Christ?

Well, the passage goes on to show us.  Jesus, for instance, ate with tax collectors (a hated despicable people at the time) and with notorious sinners.

We realize, as we look at this passage and many others, that Jesus did not hold himself back from relationship with anyone.  And the church leaders at the time were scandalized.

*Notice, Jesus was hated by the church leaders because he kept breaking all the rules:

1.  He ate with sinners.  Matthew 9:10

2.  He let the adulterous woman go free.  John 8:2-11

3.  He didn’t wash his hands before eating.  Matthew 15:2 + 20

4.  He healed on the sabbath.  Mark 3:1-6

5.  He worked on the sabbath.  Matthew 12:1-8

6.  He refused to come under their manipulative ways.  Matthew 21:24-27

7.  He spoke with Samaritans.  John 4:9

8.  He forgave sins.  Mark 2:5-11

9.  He let the sinful woman touch him.  Luke 7:37-38

And the end of this passage in Matthew points out what the gospel is, “I want you to show mercy, not offer sacrifices.” Matthew 9:13 NLT

We are drawn down to the core of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  What does it mean to become a disciple of Jesus Christ?

It is this:  Mercy.  Given to all.  Freely.

“For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.”  John 3:17 ESV 

To LOVE Mercy.  Fall in love with mercy.  Receive it unto ourselves.  Give it away freely to all.  This is the work of the Kingdom. This is what the Lord requires.

3.  To Walk Humbly with Our God 

In Luke we find some practical advice from Jesus regarding humility,

“When Jesus noticed that all who had come to the dinner were trying to sit in the seats of honour near the head of the table, he gave them this advice: “When you are invited to a wedding feast, don’t sit in the seat of honour.  What if someone who is more distinguished than you has also been invited?  The host will come and say, ‘Give this person your seat.’ Then you will be embarrassed, and you will have to take whatever seat is left at the foot of the table!

“Instead, take the lowest place at the foot of the table.  Then when your host sees you, he will come and say, ‘Friend, we have a better place for you!’  Then you will be honoured in front of all the other guests.  For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” Luke 14:7-11 NLT 

Jesus is wisely advising all of us to never seek after our own honour, but to rather humble ourselves. 

Presuming we are great we will find ourselves brought low.

We are rather to live as Christ himself did.  In Philippians we find this,

“You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had.  Though he was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to.  Instead, he gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being.  When he appeared in human form, he humbled himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on a cross.”  Philippians 2:5-8 NLT

And in 1st Peter we find,

“And all of you, serve each other in humility, for “God opposes the proud but favours the humble.”  So humble yourselves under the mighty power of God, and at the right time he will lift you up in honour.”  1 Peter 5:5b-6 NLT 

This verse, “God opposes the proud.” should bring us to our senses. (20)

Are we getting this? Do we understand fully and completely that when we are proud (and we all start out this way) that God has no other option than to oppose us?

We may be doing the kingdom work, we may be honestly seeking after what is good and right, but listen and listen well: when we do this in a spirit of pride we are not under the covering of our God.

We are in our flesh.

And in our flesh we are opposed by God and in danger to attack of the enemy.

Humility rather, is of the Spirit, and here in the same manner of Jesus Christ we find we are 100% protected and covered and kept in the Lord.

We must lead in humility.  We must humble ourselves or be humbled.  We must put aside our pride or we will be opposed by God.

These are powerful and scary truths.  One I pray you take to heart today.

The Gospel of Jesus Christ advances through us, or not, depending on how well we are acting out the gospel of Christ.

It does no good to be speaking it and then acting in a different manner.

Rather we go forward in relationship and ministry in the spirit by which Peter writes,

“Most important of all, continue to show deep love for each other, for love covers a multitude of sins.”  1 Peter 4:8 NLT

What do Disciples know?  They know that:

1.  God loves them

2.  Jesus covers over our wrong

3.  The Holy Spirit is alongside us to lead, guide, comfort and convict.

Trust this in your own life, and you can trust this in others lives.  Trust the work of the Lord in your own life and you will be able to trust the work of the Lord in other’s lives.

Ministry takes on a whole new meaning as we simply learn to Do What is Right, To Love Mercy, and to Walk Humbly with Our God.

Prayer

“God we come before you today confessing our need of you.  We so like our rules and our guidelines, but God I see today that you in fact call me to relationship with you, not with your rules.  You are right, I do know what is right.  May I grow in integrity as I commit to doing what is right. May I not push away that still small voice that compels me to do good things for others.  May I not ignore your convictions unto compassion and tenderness and grace. 

Teach me to love mercy.  Enable me to accept your mercy.  Please pour your mercy into me and burn away the stuff of condemnation.  We are a people desperate for mercy, teach me to give mercy to others, and to become a person of mercy in all of my dealings.  My pride I bring to you and I renounce this day in the name and blood of my Lord Jesus Christ. 

I confess Father that I cannot remove pride from my own being.  And I realize that pride has in fact blinded me to the depths of my pride.  I don’t even know how bad the problem is. So today I simply bring my whole self to you asking that you do away with my pride and that you teach me humility.  Enable me to walk in sober reality of who I am.  Please help me. 

Thank-You Lord for your heart of justice, of mercy and of humility.  Make my heart like your heart today and every day from here on out.  I love you.  I honour you.  I bless you this day.  In the name and the blood of my Lord Jesus Christ I simply declare Amen and Amen” 

Application

One primary way that pride shows up in our lives is in the words that we speak. Consider this verse,

“Come now, you who say,  ‘Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit — you do not know what tomorrow will bring. … As it is, you boast in your arrogance.  All such boasting is evil.”  James 4:13 & 16 ESV

When we boast about what is to come we are operating out of pride.  When we presume to speak the future we are acting out of arrogance.  We do not know what is to come. 

In my life-coach training I learned about our minds, I learned that when we are attached to an idea or a plan, to the extent that we are feeling it, breathing it, and already applauding our success in that plan, that the mind then believes that the plan has already happened and the mind then ceases to go after making that plan happen.  This is the science behind these verses that we find in the Bible. 

God says, do not speak about tomorrow as though you know what is going to happen.  To do so is to operate out of pride, and when we are in pride, what we expect will not come to be. 

It is better to use our words carefully and to speak our expectations in a reserved fashion, for instance, “It is good to gather, we will see how many the Lord brings.” Instead of making grand promises, whereby our ego’s are stroked but ultimately embarrassed, it is best to speak with care and in the knowledge that God is the one directing our steps.

“The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.”  Proverbs 16:9 ESV

Over the next few days listen to the words you speak.  How many promises are you making?  How many rash statements are you making? Hear yourself speaking out of pride and then look at the fruit of your statements. 

Are you promising great numbers of people at an event? How many people actually came? Are you boasting about where you will be going and what you will be doing? Did it turn out as you predicted?  (21)

When we speak out of pride our plans will not work out the way we predict.  It is therefore very important to catch our own words and to speak with greater care and an attitude of heart that recognizes that only God knows about tomorrow and the outcome of our days and lives. 

When we speak with great respectful understanding of God as sovereign over our lives, then the plans that we make and the goals we undertake will be blessed by the Lord; we must operate out of humility in all of our doings.  

In Conclusion to our study of a devoted heart I ask that you would take some time with the Lord to consider what doing right, loving mercy, and walking humbly with God means to you.  Ask the Holy Spirit to direct your thoughts and to reveal to you how he might have you live. 

To Do Right / Justice To Love Mercy To Walk Humbly with Our God 

Summary – rules for living

We no longer live the letter of the law.  Galatians 3:10-12

We now live by the spirit of the law.  Galatians 5:25

God requires of us:  Micah 6:8

Justice.  Isaiah 1:17

Mercy.  Matthew 5:7,  James 3:17

Humility.  1 Peter 5:5b-6

We follow in Christ’s footsteps.  Philippians 3:7-10

We walk with God.  Psalm 119:10-11

 

Footnotes: 

19. Micah 6:8 in the ESV renders ‘do what is right’ NLT, with ‘do justice’. This is important to further expand our understanding of the heart of God. Justice, we see, is big on God’s list of priorities. In fact, God is justice and he expects us to live out his justice on this earth. What does this mean? Well, for starters, justice will always demand of us more than we may want to give. Justice calls us into the messy realities of our communities and nations. Injustice is to turn a blind eye and to pretend that everything is okay.

For instance, I and my team were once visiting a school overseas. While we were there the director of the school wanted my teammate to pray with a teen girl. She had run away from home and they wanted us to pray with her, to fix her so to speak, so that she would stop being rebellious and making trouble and go home like she should. Turns out, this girl’s father was coming into her bed to sleep with her and so she left the home. Now, this is not a rebellious girl. This is a strong girl who was taking action to ensure her own safety. 

The director of the school, did not at first understand what was wrong. He truly saw the situation as a girl in rebellion, running away from home, making her mother sad, and generally causing trouble. He just wanted her ‘fixed’ and for the problem to go away (by her obedience to submit to sexual abuse once more). Can you see the crazy in this? 

To do justice requires that we look at the injustices in our communities and enter into them for lasting impact and change. No girl should be sent back to an abusive parent, ever. Justice would step in and defend the girl and make a way for her to be supported that ensures her continued safety. 

Justice doesn’t cover over these things and call them something different. And justice never blames the victim for the wrong done to them. Justice, rather, defends those unable to defend themselves. The body of Christ is to be a solution to injustice. We must enter into these complicated and confounding situations and have the wisdom that sees beyond the surface and works to undo the systemic causes of injustice within our societies. This is part of being a follower of Jesus — to do justice. 

20. I once visited a pastor in Africa. He had a very, very large church building, one of the biggest I have seen in rural Africa. Yet when I arrived there I immediately sensed a spirit of confusion and as my visit progressed I came to understand that there was no congregation. None. The only people left were a handful of women who were the intercessors. There was something very wrong in that church. A huge empty structure with no congregation. 

I came to see a lot of sin in this pastor’s life. He was full of pride and refused to work with other congregations. He was intent on being a big person and continued to maintain a certain status (if only in his own eyes). And there was active sin in his life as well. Within just a few days it all became very clear why his church was not a church; he had a building but no congregation, God was clearly opposing him. We must take the admonitions of the Lord seriously and we must take good looks at our lives to see where we might be in sin and pride.

21. So many time as I minister alongside pastors they will promise big numbers and many people coming to a church or a crusade. And always, every time this is promised it does not happen. Pride of speech and puffed up trying to impress will always bring bad fruit to both our lives and to our ministry. And by this, we in fact tamper with the work of the Lord. 

Leave a Reply