It is so easy, especially in Japan, to fall into the trap of trying to follow “the rules” after becoming a Christian. After all, every other group the Japanese are a part of, whether it’s a school club, a company, or even their own families have their own “rules” to follow or “obligations” to fulfill. And so upon becoming Christians, many people try to find out, “What are the rules? What’s expected of me? Do I have to read my Bible every day? How long do I have to pray every day? How much am I expected to serve in the church?”
And if they fail to keep the rules, they start feeling guilty. They start feeling like they’re bad Christians. What’s even worse is when other people start throwing their expectations on these new believers. “Well, a real Christian would never drink alcohol. A real Christian would never miss church on Sunday for any reason. A real Christian needs to give 10% of their income to the church.”
That’s exactly what was happening in Galatia. The Judaizers were coming to the Galatian Christians and saying, “Well yes, you start the process of becoming a Christian by putting your faith in Jesus. But after that, you have to be circumcised. And from that point on, you can’t be eating pork or any other “unclean” foods. Don’t forget to keep the Sabbath too.” And so on and so forth.
And these people were speaking so authoritatively, that the Galatians were buying it. So much so that Paul exclaimed,
You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? (1)
He then asked,
I would like to learn just one thing from you: Did you receive the Spirit by observing the law, or by believing what you heard? (2)
Does God give you his Spirit and work miracles among you because you observe the law, or because you believe what you heard? (5)
The obvious answer was that they received the Spirit and all these blessings from God not through their own efforts to keep the law, but by simply believing the gospel that had been preached to them.
So Paul then asks,
Are you so foolish? After beginning with the Spirit, are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort? (3)
In other words, we don’t just start our Christian walk by faith and then shift over into a life of keeping the rules. Rather, we continue living our whole Christian lives by faith. Our Christian lives start by grace and they continue by grace.
We never ever reach a point where we start living by law, attempting to keep God’s rules by our own efforts. Our lives are never to come to a point where we are to focus on rules.
Instead, our lives are to focus each day on Jesus Christ. To walk closely with him each day, learning to hear his voice, and then putting our faith in him, doing the things he asks us to do. And as we believe him and step out in that faith, he gives us the power to do what he asks. That’s the Christian life. Not keeping a bunch of rules.
So how are you living your life? Are you living your Christian life focused on the rules and doing your best to keep them? All that will lead to is a life of guilt and condemnation, because none of us can keep them perfectly.
Focus on Jesus Christ. Learn to draw near to him. Learn to hear his voice. And learn to follow his leading. That’s what it means to live by faith. And that’s what the Christian life is all about.