Why Rules Can’t Change Hearts

Why Rules Can’t Change Hearts

I stood in the middle of the park, taking in the fresh air and glancing at the bench that was calling for me to take a rest on it. I was tired. I had just been walking around and the sun was beating down on me.

 

And then I saw it.

 

That ugly, menacing, obnoxious sign that warned, “WET PAINT. DO NOT TOUCH BENCH.” What was I, an obedient dog? That sign couldn’t tell me what to do. So I took it as a challenge. “I’ll show it who’s in charge,” I thought to myself. And so, I decided to touch it.

 

Of course I did.

 

I don’t remember whether the paint on the bench had dried or not, but as soon as I touched it, I was immediately made aware of the fact that I had disobeyed the sign. Of course I didn’t commit a criminal offense, but I knew I hadn’t done what the “rule” had ordered me to. And thinking back on that experience has given me a new perspective on some things.

 

Rules don’t change hearts.

 

Mom says don’t eat the cookie, and what do I do? Eat the cookie.

 

So-and-so says don’t go here, do this, say that, and what do I do? I go there. I do that. I say whatever it is I’m not supposed to say. Because you know what? Having a list of do’s and don’ts doesn’t change my heart, it makes whatever I’m not supposed to do seem so much more appealing.

 

Now, this may seem messed up. And it is. We’re obviously not supposed to sin, it’s wrong and all that, but it just-so-happens to be in our nature.

 

Romans 5:12-13

“Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned for sin indeed was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not counted where there is no law.”

 

Adam sinned and passed that sinful nature onto us. From the day we’re born, we’re doomed to have the instinct to do that thing, the selfish thing, the disobedient thing, the thing that puts us first, that thing that elevates us to think we can conquer life on our own.

 

And even if we feel that pang of guilt when we do what we know isn’t right or good, we tend to ignore it and do it anyway. Even the “good people” do, because it’s not something we can control by ourselves.

 

We are dead in our sins on our own.

 

Ephesians 2:1-8

And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”

 

I know that’s a very long and dense passage, but it’s so important.

 

We were dead in our sins, chained to a life of immorality and evil. But because of God’s grace for us, He gave us life.

 

The difference between death and life isn’t just the difference between going to either Heaven or Hell someday. As much as that’s definitely part of it, it’s not all.

 

The difference between death and life is the difference between being controlled by the sin nature or being controlled by the Holy Spirit.

 

People have a misconception that when you’re a Christian, you try to live a decent life, be a good person, and be kind to everyone. That it’s all about trying harder. That if we mess up it’s because we did something really wrong, so we just brush ourselves off and try “harder” next time.

 

But that can be just as futile as is trying to live a perfect life while we’re still entrenched in sin. Trying to impose rules does one thing: shows us that we cannot be perfect.

 

Look at this verse.

 

Romans 3:20

For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.”

 

The Ten Commandments were given to us to show us that we needed a Savior, not to force us to be moral people in order to earn salvation. We’ve already established in Ephesians 2 that grace is a gift, and has nothing to do with our trying to earn it.

 

In our recognizing our need for a Savior, in accepting that amazing and undeserved grace of God that FORGIVES US and removes our sin for us, we are made blameless in His sight. We are given the Holy Spirit inside of us to overcome our sinful nature and make us new.

 

2 Corinthians 5:17

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.”

 

Romans 5:17

“For if, because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ.”

 

The law showed us our sin and revealed to us that we needed someone to keep the law for us – namely, Jesus. He didn’t just keep it, but He gave up His life as a sacrifice.

 

Hebrews 9:22

“Indeed, under the law almost everything is purified with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins.”

 

I’m not advocating disobedience to the law here. I’m really not. I’m not saying we can do whatever we want and it doesn’t matter because we’re forgiven.

 

Galatians 5:1

“For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.”

 

We’re free, and by knowing this, we should not want to waltz back into what we’ve been saved from. We don’t need to “just work harder” at being a “good person,” we need to submit to the Holy Spirit working in our lives. In this way, we throw away slavery and embrace our amazing freedom.

 

Making rules doesn’t change hearts. The Holy Spirit does. Live in your freedom!

 

*aj

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You Have A Purpose

You Have A Purpose-2

Yesterday afternoon, I had a wonderful idea for today’s blog post. “I’ll remember it,” I told myself. Did I remember it? Of course not. So goes the life of a blogger.

 

Recently, I’ve been addressing topics having to do with life and purpose. I haven’t explicitly stated that, but let’s look at the most recent ones and you’ll see what I mean.

 

In There is Always Hope, I discussed how we can have hope even in the darkest situations of our lives. Similarly, in Where Does Your Strength Come From? I explained that we need to rely on God to get through our difficulties. In Don’t Regret Where You Are and There is A Plan For You, I talked about living lives glorifying to God right where we are. That it doesn’t matter what point in life we’re at, but that we make the most of the lives that God has given us. In Christianity: Hypocrisy vs. Authenticity, I wrote about living authentically as a Christian.

 

As you can probably see by my past five posts, life and purpose are important to me. So to tie those posts together, I’d like to explore purpose today.

 

Before we get into why purpose is important, I want to establish what it is.

 

The handy-dandy dictionary.com says that purpose is “the reason for which something exists or is done, made, used, etc.”

 

Therefore, it stands to reason that our purpose is the reason we were made. Why we’re here.

 

As Christians, we’re not left in the dark about this, though. We don’t need to wander aimlessly through life, crossing our fingers and hoping we make the right decisions. We can live a life full of purpose and meaning, and we don’t have to wonder what that is.

 

Firstly, we must acknowledge that God creates our purpose for us. His purpose is worked out in our lives through us.

 

One of my favorite verses is this one.

 

Job 42:2

“I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted.”

 

It’s so encouraging to me to know that God’s plans surpass my own, and that no one can get in the way of His purpose and will. But what is His will?

 

John 6:40

“For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.”

 

I find that to be an interesting verse. It’s such assurance to know that everyone who calls upon the name of Jesus will be saved, and that salvation is not withheld from anyone who wants it.

 

2 Timothy 1:9

“[God] who saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began”

 

His salvation of us is by His grace alone, and not by our works. Because of His grace, we have been called to live in holiness – that is, as new creations in Christ, the holy people He has transformed us to be. We have purpose in this – to live out new, transformed lives.

 

Purpose is what gives our lives meaning. Purpose gives us a reason to live. A reason to get up in the morning. A reason to put others before ourselves and press on through hardships.

 

In this life, we’ll have difficult times. We’ll struggle, and stumble, and mess up because we’re not perfect. This life can get us down, stressed, depressed, discouraged, whatever. But because of salvation, we have such a great hope. We have the hope (and assurance) of everlasting life in Heaven, and God is not withholding that from us.

 

God desires for us all to choose Him, for us all to choose everlasting life.

 

This doesn’t mean that everyone on earth is saved, but that everyone who calls upon Him for salvation will receive it. It’s our choice. And His grace.

 

Romans 10:13

“For ‘everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.’”

 

With this purpose in our lives, a reason to live, and an assurance to inspire us to press on, we don’t have to fumble around. We can live confidently, hopefully, and peacefully, in knowing that there is, in fact, a purpose for us.

 

*aj

Religion vs. Christianity

Religion vs. Christianity

A lot of people dismiss Christianity as just another religion. But it’s not. And I’m here to show you why.

(Yes, I just gave all you awesome readers an abrupt start. Forgive me, lovely lords and ladies. But please read on.)

When people think of Christianity, a lot of times they think of religion. It’s right up there with Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, Mormonism, Judaism…and all those.

But Christianity? It’s not the same. Really. I hesitate to consider it a religion, even though that may be upsetting to some.

Because there is something that stands out about Christianity that other religions do not have.

Freedom and Sincerity.

 

“But Amanda,” you say, “I’m a Mormon, and I’m very sincere.”

I am sure you are. After all, belief in something is much more than just words. Saying the words “I believe” do not ensure that you actually do, for all that it proves is that you have a voice and a mind.

But freedom? I will explain that in a minute.

I’d like to point out a few things about the Christian life.

First of all, God knows we are not perfect. He knows that we are sinners and, by nature, turn away from Him.

Romans 3:23

“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”

But yet, He extends grace to us, at our darkest. And by receiving that, sin has no power over us anymore.

Romans 6:14

“For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.”

And, in turn, we are changed from the inside out.

2 Corinthians 5:17

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.”

Did anyone hear anything about good works earning anything in there? Obligations? Our performance?

Uh, I sure didn’t.

So as I was saying, we have freedom.

Freedom from the power of sin and death over us.

Freedom from eternal life and righteous standing before God being based on works.

Freedom to live for God because of gratitude to Him for your salvation.

Not because you’re locked into tradition.

Not because Mom and Dad make you go to church so that hopefully, religion will rub off on you.

Not because you have obligations to live up to so that you’ll go to Heaven when you die.

Because of the freedom you’ve been given, sincerity springs from that.

 

And that’s why Christianity is different.

Why we look different. Why act different. Why we are motivated to live a pure and holy life.

Perhaps in the future, I’ll write some blog posts reflecting on other religions.

What I can say is this, however.

I’m not religious.

I’m a Jesus-lover, for He loved me first and pursued my soul.

I’m not living to please God because I have to.

I live to please God because it brings me joy, and the only joy that’ll ever last.

I’m not bound by obligations.

I’m set free by the love of my Creator for me.

1 Peter 2:16

“Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God.”

And that’s what I want to do.

*aj

An Open Letter To You!

An Open Letter To You!

This little blogger-writer over here had a grand old idea in February to name her blog Scattered Journal Pages.

And, um, there haven’t been too many of those. I feel as though this lovely little blog is more of a…

You know what, I have no idea. It’s one part website, one part hangout spot, one part Bible study inside my head, one part splotched and weathered journal page, and one part bookshelf. It’s a lot of fun, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

However, it’s called Scattered Journal Pages for a reason, and I’d like to share something that perhaps is remotely journal-related.

You know, something I would write on notebook paper.

A letter maybe.

How about that today. I love letters.

*sharpens pencil* *pulls out fresh sheet of paper*

Dear Person Reading This (yes, I am talking to YOU, the lovely person that’s reading this right now),

Hello. I’m Amanda. You may be my good friend, or you may have never even heard of me.

Maybe I know you, maybe I don’t.

But that’s not really the point here. The point is that YOU are reading MY blog, and this letter is addressed most definitely to you.

And no matter who you are, I’d like you to stick around so I can tell you a few REALLY important things. Because we all need to hear them.

Dear One, you are loved.

You are loved ever so much by your AMAZING Creator, and He wants to have a personal relationship with you. Yes, you. Not just your cousin, aunt, spouse, neighbor, or friend, but YOU.

You wanna know why? Because God is gracious, and love has nothing to do with anything you’ve ever done. Jesus died so that your sins would be forgiven, and He rose again to prove it.

This is real love–not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins. (1 John 4:10, NLT, emphasis mine.)

Lovely Person, no matter where you are in life, you are absolutely never too far gone.

It is always an option to come to God for forgiveness. And once we have accepted forgiveness, we are counted righteous and blameless.

Come to your Heavenly Father. His grace is for you.

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9)

Dear Reader, God has a plan for you.

He knows what He’s doing. He’s in control of your life, and all things are going to work together for the good of those who love Him. If you love Him, that’s you. Your future is bright, even if you’re ninety-three.

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28)

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart. (Jeremiah 29:11-13)

My Friend, I know that it’s not popular to think this way, but it’s imperative that you know that Jesus is the ONLY way to God.

Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. (John 14:6)

And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved. (Acts 4:12)

And lastly, Wonderful Listener (seriously, if you’re still here, you get a sticker), don’t be afraid.

 

God is always with you, no matter what you’re facing. I don’t know exactly what you’re going through, but whatever it may be, you don’t need to be afraid. God will give you strength and He will help you.

Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. (Isaiah 41:10)

Friend, God is for you and not against you. He loves you more than you can fathom. Don’t reject that, but receive it.

Sincerely, Me.

*aj