Most people are not a fan of rules. We don’t like rules until we catch someone else breaking them. Most of us don’t feel bad about driving faster than the posted speed limit. We don’t think much of standing in the ten items or less line with twelve items. And we have all justified sneaking a bottle of water or candy into a movie theater.
It has become second nature to choose which rules are to be obeyed and which are optional. Rules are seen as obstacles to having fun. The truth of the matter is, rules allow us to enjoy life without impeding on the joy of others.
In every sport, baseball, football, tennis, soccer, hockey, and even golf have designated lines defining the boundary of play. There is either a penalty or a stoppage of play when someone or the ball goes out of bounds.
These boundaries do not hinder game-play but ensure that the game is played fairly, and each team has a chance at winning. We welcome and accept the rules/boundaries in a sports match, but when it comes to daily life, we believe they keep us from living. We need to rethink this concept.
As a kid in grade school at recess, there was nothing more frustrating than playing kickball with someone who wanted to change the rules mid-game. The rule change typically favored the person or team making the amendment. When God formed mankind and put them in the garden, He was upfront about the rules and made it simple.
“16You can surely eat of every tree of the garden 17but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” Genesis 2:16-17
In the beginning, God gave them one rule and framed it as a positive command. “You can surely eat of EVERY tree!” Adam and Eve were given liberty to eat of EVERY tree and indulge to their heart’s desire, minus one tree. Why is it as human beings we crave the one thing we cannot have?
If mankind’s failure in the garden proves anything it’s that even under perfect conditions, we are not better without God. The rules God established do not inhibit life but protect us from death. We do not become wiser or get any closer to finding joy and peace when we reject God’s tenets. We head down a path of pain, disappointment and intense struggle.
In my opinion, this one tree represented three things.
#1 It was a visual reminder that God was the Creator and infinite, and we are the created and finite.
Have you heard the saying, “Out of sight, out of mind,”? God knew our human limitations and gave us a reminder of who He is and who we are.
#2 Choice and free-will.
God did not create robots that would simply do what He said but people with a will and a choice. He gave us free-will even knowing we could choose to reject Him.
#3 A test of obedience.
God doesn’t test us to fail us but to strengthen and build us up. Each time Adam and Eve passed-by the tree they had the choice to trust God or to disobey Him. Genuine trust can’t be forced; it is an act of our will. A test is one way we learn to trust.
When we remove some or all of the rules in life, we create lawlessness and invite immorality. An absence of rules opens the door to every licentious behavior that is the cause of pain and brokenness.
“I will walk about in freedom, for I have sought out your precepts.” Psalm 119:45
Rejecting Jesus Christ or His teaching does not make you free but binds you to another master. Disobedience is obedience to another master. The difference between the two masters is that the one, God, gave everything we need for joy and peace and the other, Satan, takes everything we have.
The rules and boundaries that God established are for our good. The rules provide us space by which we can experience the best life God has to offer without any of the painful side-effects that accompany living apart from Him.
**Check out the full message in audio form on YouTube.