rules vs. relationship. A book titled the rules of life

Are you walking with Jesus in His garden or are you bound in a straitjacket of do’s and don’ts? Are you keeping rules or growing a relationship?



One day at synagogue Jesus spotted a man with a withered hand. The Pharisees were watching too, waiting to catch Him breaking the law. Would He heal someone on the Sabbath? After all, that was work and work was forbidden on this holy day.

The Pharisees were “religious.” They strictly followed Jewish laws and memorized scripture. Everyone admired their faith. However, Jesus knew they plotted to destroy his ministry, and He saw through their plan. He asked them, “Is it lawful to do good on the sabbath days, or to do evil? To save life, or to kill?” Then Jesus healed the man. [Mark 3:1-5]

Religious thinking will kill your destiny. God’s voice always leads to life.



 Famous minister to teens, Josh McDowell once said, “Rules without relationship lead to rebellion.” How true.

As a parent, I can identify. “Do it because I said so!” doesn’t work if you don’t listen to your kids, play with them in the park, or affirm their dreams. I honestly wish I had spent more time being with my kids than doing things for them.

Religious thinking tells us to do things “for” God, like follow rules or serve in some way.

For example, at one point in my life I traveled twenty minutes each way to my church every day. I taught kids in the Christian elementary school five days a week, took my family to church on Wednesdays and twice on Sunday, and Saturdays went to intercessory prayer. In addition, I taught Sunday school and brought my children’s friends home for dinner, and then took everyone back to church Sunday night. I reasoned that a good Christian needed to be in church every time the door was open. One day as I raced down the church basement steps, I sprained my ankle. Stopped in my tracks, I wondered, am I missing something, God?

 I was forced to rest. I began to learn that being in church every day had become a religious ritual for me that could not replace personal time with Jesus.

Rules and service must flow from time spent with Jesus.

 Walk through His flower garden, hold His hand, and smell the fragrance of His Presence.



If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. 1 Corinthians 13:1 NIV

Have you ever felt like a noisy gong?

I have.

I was the religious one in our family, but my husband always walked in more love than I did. Go figure. I knew something was wrong with this picture, but I had to stumble along a religious path for a while before I figured it out.

The Pharisees didn’t have it figured out either.

They were Bible experts, but their very expertise caused them to deny that Jesus was the Messiah. Instead of seeing the miracles, love, and freedom that Jesus brought to the people, they focused on their knowledge of the Bible. In John 7 when people claimed Jesus was the Messiah they retorted (my paraphrase), “You’re just deceiving yourselves! No Pharisee believes he is the Christ! (They were wrong because Nicodemus did.) No prophet ever came out of Galilee! (They didn’t do their homework to see that Jesus was born in Bethlehem, not Galilee.)

They were so focused on what the “word” said that they missed who the “Word” was. The Word made flesh came to save us because of His love for us.



“As high as the heavens are above the earth—that is how vast his mercy is toward those who fear him. As far as the east is from the west—that is how far he has removed our rebellious acts from himself.” Psalm 103:11-12 GW

 Remember the Broadway play and movie Les Misérables? It was based on a book by Victor Hugo and gave a clear picture of God’s mercy.rules vs. relationship, Les Miserable poster

Jean Valjean served a harsh prison sentence for stealing bread to feed his family. When paroled, he couldn’t find a job because of his past. A priest treated him kindly and fed him before sending him on his way. However, Jean returned to the rectory by night and stole some valuable candlesticks. The police caught him and brought him before the priest who didn’t reprimand him for taking advantage of his kindness or hand him over to be punished. Instead, he told him they were a gift. Jean Valjean walked away a free man overwhelmed by God’s mercy. It changed him forever. He never stole again.

God’s love changes people on the inside. Rules can’t change the heart.

rules vs. relationship, garden path
Photo by Joey Genovese on Unsplash

So, what does this have to do with learning to hear God’s voice?

It’s easier to follow a formula about God than it is to develop a relationship with God. Relationships are scary. We can be rejected. But we can’t become familiar with someone’s voice unless we spend time with them.

By the way, you don’t have to do all the talking. It’s okay to spend some time listening. Go ahead and walk with Jesus in His garden.

Lead me in Your truth and teach me, for You are the God of my salvation; for You I wait all the day. Psalms 25:5 NIV







































    2 replies to "Are You Keeping Rules or Growing a Relationship?"

    • Kelly Liberto

      Thank you Cindy. You have shown God’s love to me and I am so grateful for that!

      • Cindy Noonan

        Thank you Kelly! I am honored that you see the love of Christ in what I’ve written.

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