While some of us may dislike them, rules are a necessary part of life. Social rules keep us from talking with our mouth full, eating spaghetti with our hands, or using obscene gestures when talking to others. Governmental rules – also called “laws” – dissuade us from driving through red lights, painting graffiti on local monuments, or robbing a store. Moral rules guide us by discouraging us from committing adultery, cheating others out of what is rightfully theirs, or even committing murder.
Many rules help keep us out of trouble and often, those who are follow the rules regard themselves as “good people.”
However, what of God’s laws? Is it enough to simply follow the rules and be a “good person?” Is this how we gain salvation? This topic can be very confusing for many – especially our young people.
In 2014, the Institute for Church Ministry conducted a study, asking Adventist young people about their views on different statements regarding God’s law and its role in salvation.
Some of the findings were quite encouraging!
- “I know that God loves me no matter what I do.” Ninety-three percent of respondents “strongly agreed” or “agreed” with this statement. This is a very significant improvement from earlier research, which revealed that many Adventist youth believed God only loved them when they behaved correctly.
- “I am loved by God, even when I sin.” Ninety-one percent of respondents “strongly agreed” or “agreed” with this statement. It is vital that our young people comprehend that God loves when no matter what; sending Jesus to die for our sins and rescue us was the ultimate indication of that. How encouraging that many of them understand this beautiful truth!
However, other findings were concerning.
- “I know that to be saved, I must live by God’s rules.” Seventy-nine percent of respondents indicated that they “strongly agreed” or “agreed” with this statement. While Jesus did say in Matthew 5:17, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them,” He did not say that we are saved by simply following God’s rules; we are saved through Jesus alone. Following God’s rules is a reflection of our relationship with Him – a product of our saved condition, not a way to achieve salvation on our own.
Many of the youth leaving Christian churches today cite rigid rules and legalism as their reason for leaving. We must do all we can to change the mindset of our own youth; we must help them understand that they can only be saved through the gift of Jesus’ death on the cross and that following God’s laws are a result of our acceptance of that gift.
Image from Canva©.