How to Break Free from Church Laws
“A man is not justified by observing the Law, but by faith in Jesus Christ.”
See Galatians 2:16
“Backslider! There is no hotter place in hell than for a person like you!”
“You have a rebellious spirit! God will rightly punish you!”
“You refuse to give your tithe?! How dare you steal from God! You will miss out on your blessing!”
“REPENT! GET BAPTIZED! IF YOU DON’T, YOU ARE GOING TO HELL, SINNER!”
Have you ever been preached to like that? Maybe the man or woman can’t stand still. They run around all over the place, yelling at you like you’re a dog. Or maybe it’s the opposite, all is calm and quiet. You sit, stand up, sit, stand up, and you feel like a robot? There’s no real relationship with Jesus, just showing up in an effort to keep your spot in heaven?
You get fed a steady diet of bodily movements, robes, and the placing-on-a-pedestal, a particular human who is “holier” than you? Maybe you’ve even experienced a church law which forces you to see a leader as “higher in God’s eyes” than everyone else, even you.
Or maybe you’ve felt the extremely frustrating and impossible church law of, “Confess every single sin, or else you’re not forgiven of it.” You might have to confess to a man in a box, or in front of a congregation. “You gotta be quick to repent!” “You must confess!” and if you don’t, “God is gonna get ‘cha!”
You may have also experienced being told you need water to wash away your sins when you know deep down no amount of water in all the universe can achieve this church law. Or maybe you’ve been told you have to spout out a bunch of foreign tongues in order to “get more of God,” yet, you can’t seem to do such a thing. Therefore, you’re frustrated and scared, thinking you don’t have God’s Spirit in you because you’re not passed out on the floor or wiggling around.
“What am I doing wrong, God?! Why won’t you love me too?! Does your grace not apply because I’m not doing that stuff?”
Friend, this is not the gospel. These are distractions. The gospel brings peace, it’s orderly, and it’s not exclusive to certain actions or rituals. The gospel brings love, joy, patience, kindness, and gentleness. God’s love found in the gospel keeps no record of your wrongs. It does not dishonor you, it isn’t angry, it rejoices in the truth of Jesus’ finished work at the Cross, it always protects you, always trusts you, and always has a hope and a plan for your future (see Galatians 5:22-23, 1 Corinthians 13, Jeremiah 29:11).
I’m all for getting excited about God. I also think the pageantry of some churches is absolutely beautiful. But when a person is trying to create fear, guilt, or condemnation–or placing too much emphasis on a building, denomination, or human being, that is just plain wrong. Jesus was never out of control, so we shouldn’t be either. Even when He got angry in Matthew 15 and Matthew 21, He kept His scruples. Further, Jesus never put any building, activity, or person on a pedestal–again, neither should we.
These issues are called church laws. Church laws are man-made rules that go against the finished, graceful work of the gospel; a work Jesus completed for us in full. Church laws create stress, confusion, and division. They make Christians strive to no end while attempting to achieve a higher status with God and man. Church laws put people on a hamster-wheel, creating fear and Christian classes. In turn, ruining many lives.
Church laws were an early distraction the apostles faced after Jesus ascended, and they continue on today. Just because something is old doesn’t mean it’s gospel. From the beginning we’ve been sliding off course. As a matter of fact, it was church laws–old Jewish traditions–which caused Paul and Peter to get into it! Paul said in Galatians 2:11, “When Peter came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he was clearly in the wrong.”
What was Peter wrong about? Paul heard that Peter was allowing some Mosaic Law to sneak in with the gospel, namely circumcision. This is why he said, “For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love” (Galatians 5:6).
And isn’t that just like us? We get saved and think if we do this or that our saving is even better? We create Christian status departments and hierarchies, naming some First Class, Second Class, Holier, and Not as Holy. THIS IS WRONG! Paul flew off the handle with Peter to get his point across–that it is Jesus plus nothing else!
He stood up and publicly corrected him, “How is it that you force Gentiles to follow Jewish customs?” (See Galatians 2:14). I’d personally bet a day’s wages that nearly all of the people reading this devotional are Gentiles! You and me! We are not Jewish! Anyone who is a non-Jew is a Gentile! We weren’t even invited to follow any Old Testament laws! Only the blood of Jesus brought us in! Paul continued:
“A man is not justified by observing the Law, but by faith in Jesus Christ…For through the Law I died to the Law so that I might live for God” (See Galatians 2:16,19)
Do you see that?! The Law isn’t dead, but as Christians we are dead to the Law and alive in Christ! Church laws included! There is no difference! What makes us think that giving a certain percentage of our money to a church organization is not a law? Or that we won’t “receive our biggest blessing” if we don’t give an offering above the tithe? In Volume 3 of my 60 Days for Jesus book series, I dedicate an entire devotional to tithing. So check it out or search for it on my website: The Truth About Tithing.
WE MUST STOP LEGISLATING GRACE! I’m all for giving as well, but there’s no directive in any New Testament epistle stating we must reconcile our bank accounts with a church building to the tune of ten percent. Not one book in the Bible after the Cross teaches this. The tithe is a church law. We must stop mixing in church laws with the gospel, just like the Jews had to stop mixing in the Mosaic Law!
I know this may be heavy for some of you because of what you’ve been taught, so please allow me to break down “law” for you. This is crucial if you want to escape any religious bondage holding you back from enjoying your life with Christ to the fullest: a law is any act we perform to gain a better status with God or man, or to achieve salvation, or to be sure we keep our salvation.
Grace-confused Christians become furious when you speak against their church laws. By simply asking them a question, they’ll puff up and say, “I’ll pray for you! You need it the most!”
Attempting to pull away grace, another will retort, “So Matt, are you saying we don’t have to do anything? That we can just do whatever we want?”
Yes. But here’s the secret: everything we do is because we don’t have to do anything, so it’s done with love from our hearts; and, we actually want what God wants. We really do! Sure, the sin of the flesh might get a quick thrill from doing what God doesn’t want, but it’s always short lived. If it’s not short lived, we stay miserable until we repent.
So today, my friends, know this: There are no church laws which will make you look any better to God. Instead, you already look good because you’re His kid! We break free from church laws by allowing God to teach us more about our freedom as His children! The more you know, the more you grow!
A prayer for you: Heavenly Father, today I want to thank you for your grace. When I think about how kind you are, that you would allow me to have access to your presence through Jesus—I get excited! I feel so free! Thank you! Right now, I lift up all who are reading this, directly to you. For those who have misunderstood what you truly require, as if there’s more to do than believe Jesus has forgiven them, ease their minds today! GIVE THEM A BRAND NEW OUTLOOK AND A BRAND NEW CONFIDENCE IN THEIR RELATIONSHIP WITH YOU! Let them know there are no special tricks or church laws required! We simply believe in Jesus and receive you in full. And one last thing, I rebuke any legalistic, religious spirit who is pestering anyone reading this! In the name of Jesus set them free! Amen.
This devotional is from 60 Days for Jesus, Volume 2. Get your copy here!