Romans 2:29 – …a matter of the heart, by the Spirit…
Some years ago, I had the honor of meeting someone who is a bit of a hero in the faith to me. He is a well-known older pastor widely respected for being a great Bible teacher and having Spirit-filled character demonstrated by the fruit of the Spirit.
He knew that over the years I have been in relationship with some Christian groups who are not big on the ministry of the Holy Spirit. For years, he had tried to build relationships with some of those tribal leaders, but their response was mainly to publicly criticize him. In a kind way, he basically asked why some Christians who say they believe the Bible are more religious than relational.
I’d never really thought in those terms, but it made sense. I told him that we can:
- Believe in the Holy Spirit to convict, teach, lead, control, and change a person in relationship
- Nominate ourselves to do the work of the Spirit with religious rules.
These options are the basic categories Paul speaks of in both Romans and Galatians. In Romans 2, Paul teaches us that God works deep in our heart by the Spirit. When people do not truly believe this, there are 5 ways that religious rules hurt relationships:
- The focus is on the person’s outward behavior and not their inward nature.
- We encourage people to live for the praise of men instead of God by doing stuff we can see to appear holy.
- We put a Bible verse on everything to pretend that what we are telling people to do is what God says, abusing His authority for control.
- We confuse God’s principles and our methods so that if someone does not do things our way, we judge them for being ungodly when they are not.
- We try and cover our past pain with rules and legalisms to prevent being hurt ever again.
Honestly, the most rule-based religious people tend to have the most hurt and pain in their past. They think they are loving people because their motive is to prevent harm for the people they care most about – like their kids. This explains why the deepest religion is usually around parenting. The truth is, religious people and their rules don’t prevent pain and harm, they inflict it. They do the very thing they hoped to prevent from happening. This is why religious parents who don’t do the heart work with the Spirit and try and control behavior with legalistic rules not based in the Bible often see the most rebellious kids. Simply stated, religious rules instead of relationship results in rebellion and explains garbage parenting books about growing kids God’s way as if disobeying its rules is not doing things God’s way.
Who or what are you most likely to make religious rules about? What pain is under that process that needs to be healed?
To find the free Romans study guide for individuals and small groups, hear Pastor Mark’s entire sermon series on Romans, or find a free mountain of Bible teaching visit realfaith.com or download the realfaith app.