>Clearly no one is justified before God by the law, because, “The righteous will live by faith.” The law is not based on faith; on the contrary, “The man who does these things will live by them.” Galatians 3:11-12

Most of my own efforts at spiritual growth have been rather pathetic. For many Januarys I have been inspired to read the Bible through in a year only to find myself stuck in the middle of Leviticus in the middle of February. End of story. I can follow the rules for a while, and then I just run out of steam.

Whether we’ve tried to break a bad habit or start a new one, most of us are only self-disciplined to a point. People celebrate our self-discipline. We might even impress ourselves: “I’m on the fast track to spiritual gianthood now.” But, if our self-discipline only produces pride in our ability to follow rules, then how much spiritual growth has actually taken place?

The rules don’t bring us closer to God. In fact, they often put up a barrier. Rule keeping may cause us to feel more secure, but it doesn’t necessarily make us more godly. If following the rules actually worked, according to this passage, it would only lead to following even more rules.

God is more concerned with your heart than whether or not you follow the rules (Isaiah 29:13). Even Jesus broke the rules to do the right thing. (Matthew 12:9-14). The Christian walk is about a relationship with God, not rules.

For some, rules can become an obstacle. For others, rules can become an idol. Anything that we depend on other than God is an idol to us. If I have a financial need and charge it on my credit card rather than asking God to provide, then my credit card is an idol to me. If I avoid sin to guarantee my place in Heaven, then my self-righteousness is an idol to me. If I believe that daily Bible reading will help me avoid temptation and do the right thing, then I’m in for a surprise.

So, what do we do? We surrender ourselves to God. As we give our ideas, our abilities, our problems, our opportunities, our ambition, our comfort, and everything else to God, He gives us something better.

What is it that you can’t live without? What makes you feel secure as a believer? Church attendance? Serving? Reading daily devotionals in your email? None of these things are bad, unless your effort begins to take the place of your dependence on God. As Michael Mack says, “God loves you too much to let you settle for less than him.”

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