A lonely destroyer captain ran his ship with strength and compassion, but he kept almost entirely to himself. He had one curious ritual that puzzled his fellow officers almost beyond endurance. Each day before coming up to the bridge, he would unlock a special drawer in his desk, take out a strongbox, unlock it, remove a small piece of paper, read it carefully, return it to the box in the drawer and lock it again.
During one particularly fierce battle, the skipper was killed. After the funeral, his executive officer led a mad dash to the captain’s cabin, opened the drawer, pulled out the box, unlocked it and took out the mysterious piece of paper. He carefully looked at it while his companions
breathlessly waited. The captain had written six simple words: “Port is left, starboard is right.”
It would be wonderful if we could make all of life as simple as this. Decisions would be easier to make, directions clearer. In religious matters, the Pharisees had made Judaism too complex and legalistic with all their 613 rules. What was Judaism originally except a relationship with Yahweh, a personal God?
Legalism does the same thing today. You supposedly prove you are a Christian by keeping a list of rules, but who has the right list? The list varies from group to group. People need to know that Christianity is more than a list of rules and “Thou shalt nots.” It is a relationship with a personal God and a relationship with His family, the church. Could it be said of your life: “I love God with all my heart?” How do you show it? Do you love your spouse? How do you show it? In the Spanish language, worship means adoration. You cannot worship a God you do not love and adore. That’s why worship services are dull. We do not love God with all our hearts.
Legalism has made that relationship extremely complicated. Jesus simplified it. He distilled everything down to two commandments in Matthew 22:34-40. “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’” Notice that Jesus then said in verse 40: “On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.” Everything depends on your love relationship with God and others.
The Apostle John also repeated a similar idea: “And whatever we ask we receive from Him, because we keep His commandments and do those things that are pleasing in His sight. And this is His commandment: that we should believe on the name of His Son Jesus Christ and love one another, as He gave us commandment” (1 John 3:22-23). Notice again the simplicity of Christianity. Jesus said ALL the law was summed up in the two greatest commandments.
Simple does not mean easy, however. When Jesus spoke of adultery, he said it was not enough not to commit the outward act. Even the lustful thought brought condemnation. Not murdering was insufficient. Even hatred was equivalent to murder.
Who then is a child of God? “For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God” (Romans 8:14). And Galatians 5:18: “But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.” Keeping a list of rules is easy to do. You check items off a to-do list and then pat yourself on the back. Maintaining a relationship is more difficult. It requires constant communication with the person in that relationship.
To be a child of God, you have to follow the Spirit’s leading. He will never lead you to do anything contrary to the written word of God. That is why you must be familiar with the word. You must know the precepts and principles of the word.
Christianity is simple, but it is not easy. That is why believers must remain in constant contact with God daily. It is not enough to attend church sporadically, or even just once a week. Communication with God means a daily basis. We are fortunate that most of us have multiple copies of the Bible to read. We can attend church regularly and openly without fear of persecution. Take time every day to read God’s word and talk to him through prayer.