The other day one of our regular readers, my friend, and preaching colleague, David Tant, sent me the picture shown above of a church sign in Marble Falls, Texas.
“No Rules, Just Jesus” the sign opines.
Through the years I’ve seen and heard this idea expressed in various ways.
“You don’t have to follow rules to follow Jesus” advertises one church.
Another church has this curious heading on their web page: “No Religion. Just Jesus.” They promote themselves as a “no religion” church.
A YouTube video from a religious leader says, “Focus on Jesus. Not Rules.”
Finally, another website makes this audacious claim: “Christianity has no rules.”
The idea from all of these sites seems to suggest that if you believe in Jesus, accept Him and have a relationship with Him, you are not bound by any certain rules or specific regulations. “Rule-keeping” today in religious circles is regarded as old-fashioned, outdated, and archaic. It sounds dogmatic. Narrow-minded. And intolerant. It is not compatible with contemporary culture.
So, what about it? Does Jesus have any rules?
By definition “rules” have to do with “principles or regulations regarding conduct.” Rules involve guidelines. Laws. Statutes. And commandments.
Jesus said to the apostle in the shadow of the cross, “You love Me, keep my commandments (Jn 14:15). In the same context, Jesus reminds them (and us) “If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love.’” (Jn 15:10)
John, often identified as the apostle of love, wrote, “Now by this we know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments. He who says, “I know Him,” and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him.” (I Jn 2:4).
Clearly, the Bible teaches that knowing, loving and following Jesus involves more than a mental assent, verbal acquiescence, or some sort of mystical relationship.
Since rules involve regulations regarding conduct, Jesus had a lot to say about our behavior beginning with the “Golden Rule.” In the Mountain Message he said, “So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets” (Matt 7:12).
In fact, Jesus is very specific in the famous sermon as He lays down rules regarding the sanctity marriage, restrictions involving divorce, and the sin of lust (Matt 5:27-32).
In it he reveals the basis of blessedness in the beatitudes. Axioms for developing an attitude like Christ. He speaks of love in action and specific behaviors demonstrating respect toward all people, even our enemies.
Jesus gives guidelines for a worry-free life. Warns against divided loyalty. Condemns hypocrisy. And demands a discipleship that calls for total commitment.
And lest we misunderstand what if means to follow Jesus, he offers this warning.
“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’ (Matt 7:21-23)
Sounds a lot like “rules” may be very important, eh?
In all fairness, maybe the aforementioned churches and religious leaders are simply using “No Rules, Just Jesus” as an eye-catching advertising slogan. However, it is incredibly naive at the very least. And deceptively misleading at the very worst.
Jesus rules today as “Lord of Lord and King of Kings” (1 Tim 6:15). Our relationships are directed by “the law of Christ” (Gal. 6:2). Our religious activities are regulated by His revelation (Eph 3:3-5; 2 Tim. 3:16-17). And our conduct is governed by His Divine decree (1 Pet 1:15-18;2:12).
Jesus rules. Let us submit to Him.
–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman