These rules may seem wise because they require strong devotion, pious self-denial, and severe bodily discipline. But they provide no help in conquering a person’s evil desires. -Colossians 2:23
We HATE rules! Sometimes we love to hate ’em. Let me explain.
We live in a world where rules abound. Speed limits, seat belt regulations, minimum drinking age, no swimming, no skateboarding, no cell phones, minimum height required… sometimes our rules get wacky:
- Bear wrestling matches are prohibited.
- Dominoes may not be played on Sunday.
- It is illegal to wear a fake moustache that causes laughter in church.
(Those laws are just laws in the state of Alabama! Each state has their own ridiculous laws.)
How does this effect us?
We learn to hate law and authority because of how they restrict us; the abundance of laws seem to reduce us to brainless lab-mice in a maze.
Unfortunately, we’re so tired of man’s laws, it’s no wonder we reject God’s laws and distrust His authority!
Why do we chose to live like this?
So why are these laws put into place? Assumedly, most are to protect us from ourselves and each other, but they bear evidence of our belief that we, as humans, believe ourselves incapable of making right decisions.
For example, the flashing “Do Not Walk” exists because someone thought it necessary. At some time or another, folks must have crossed without looking. Refusing to respect traffic, these ignorant walkers were rudely introduced to the bumper of a passing car — in response, we constructed rules and posted signs to protect ourselves. However, in the process we choose captivity over freedom and rules over responsibility, and remain like stranded castaways standing deserted on a street-corner island.
Freedom is dangerous. Freedom requires responsibility and responsibility demands consequences — a consequence either enjoyed or suffered. Freedom comes with the potential for pain. It means we can get hurt. For this reason, some avoid it.
But is a life without freedom, any life at all?
What have we become?
The deeper question I have is this: have we formed laws around ourselves in such a way as to remove the possibility of pain — but in the process, stripped our ability to lead ourselves? to govern ourselves?
Have we, unknowingly, stripped away our “internal locus of control” — that inner compass that steers us? Have our rules made ourselves blind and deaf to our very own consciences?
I say this, both temporally and spiritually. We’ve come to trust rules and not our very own hearts.
Our abundant rules are evidence that our internal locus of control is undeveloped. We have lost trust of our own ability to wield freedom rightly.
The problem with this is that when we begin to distrust our hearts, we loose something that is truly essential to being human – our will.
C.S. Lewis describes in The Screwtape Letters that while Satan and God are both interested in our will, Satan desires to steal, kill and destroy it, while God invites us to surrender it, so that he can restore it within us. God wants us to have freedom and choice, personality and individuality. Satan only wants to destroy our souls and leave us empty.
Another danger is this: when we lose trust in our hearts, we surrender control to the decision-making abilities of others, and rely on law instead of our God-given internal locus of control. This may not seem like a bad thing, but a society of law-abiders operates out of fear, not love. They obey the rules, but nothing has changed internally. They are one step from utter lawlessness, because that is all that has been developed internally – lawlessness.
Understanding the deceitful heart
The human heart is the most deceitful of all things, and desperately wicked. Who really knows how bad it is? -Jeremiah 17:9
I grew up hearing this verse, and believing it, because it is true — yet it is only true in terms of the unregenerate heart. When the Holy Spirit comes upon our hearts and we surrender our hearts, minds and lives to God, believing that He sent Jesus as Lord and savior, we are made new. Our hearts are renewed as we surrender to the Holy Spirit, and it is important to learn to trust both the Holy Spirit and the promptings within our hearts.
The process of listening and obeying to our regenerate hearts develops our internal locus of control.
This piece is essential to following Christ. Our internal locus of control is essential because it flows out of obedience to a loving Father and is much stronger than an external locus of control. Countless men and women have risen to great places in leadership and authority, only to lose it all because they failed to develop their internal locus of control.
If the Kingdom of God is to come to earth (and it is!), it’s citizens must learn to operate by the law of the Kingdom. This law is “written on the hearts of man” [Jeremiah 31:33].
Developing an internal locus of control
God develops our internal locus of control in many ways. One of the essential methods is through scripture. Regularly put yourself in the Word. Read the Bible in large chunks and pick it apart in small studies… both are good for increasing your understanding of God and knowledge of His heart.
Self-discipline is another way He develops your internal locus of control, freeing you from reliance on outside rules and legalism. I highly recommend Celebration of the Disciplines by Richard Foster. Read through it and test some of the disciplines he writes about.
Listen for His promptings and obey them, even if they seem silly. If you know the Lord as your savior, but you aren’t hearing his voice, pray that you will begin to hear it. If you used to hear His voice, but it’s been a while, think back to the last thing you heard Him say to you; if it was a command, then do it. If it was truth about you, then believe it. But learn to foster an environment where you are actively listening for His voice and obeying it.
This is a part of my life that is being developed, and always will be developed. As God teaches me more and prompts me to share, I’ll be writing more about the subject. My prayer is that, as a people of the way, we would be markedly different from the world in the way we live, love and respond — that we would move by the counter-intuitive influence of the Spirit and that many would come to know Him, in Spirit and in truth, as a result.