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Purpose Driven Do's and Don'ts

I remember growing up with a whole lot of don'ts. It seemed like I was always being told there was something I shouldn't do, and the real coup de gras was when my parents would add, "Because the Bible says so." While today I understand the wisdom of many of these don'ts, back then it felt like the Bible was nothing more than a giant book of rules bent on sucking the fun from my life.  


I learned to manipulate the system in my teens by asking, "What's wrong with it?" I wanted chapter and verse. And if there were none to be found I'd feel pretty good about myself. After all, I certainly didn't want to violate any of the sacred don'ts!


But today I understand something I missed in my youth: the don'ts aren't just a collection of abstract religious rules but the infrastructure for accomplishing the do's. If we miss this, we become nothing more than scorekeeping legalists who accomplish little and miss the heart of God.


Letting the do's dictate the don'ts is a common practice. If we do want to lose weight, we don't eat a lot of sweets. If we do want to learn to surf, we don't spend all our time in Kansas.

Does this mean there's something wrong with sweets or Kansas? No! They're just choices we make to achieve a greater purpose.    


God had chosen the nation of Israel as His people to showcase His reality and bring salvation to the world (Psalm 67). Part of that showcasing involved living within the framework of the Mosaic Law because it reflected His character. But they failed miserably:


You who boast in the law, do you dishonor God by breaking the law? As it is written: "God's name is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.”  Romans 2:23-24


The violating of the don'ts undermined their greater purpose and turned the watching world away from God. In all their religiosity and rule-keeping, they lost sight of the big picture.   


Jesus revealed two huge do's when asked His thoughts on the greatest commandment (Mark 12:28-31): love God with everything you've got and love others as yourself. The don'ts of the Ten Commandments…don't lie, don't steal, don't commit murder or adultery, don't covet…as well as the life principles of the New Testament, are simply common sense practices for loving God and loving others.    


But it was Jesus' passion for the redeeming of humanity that trumped everything. So before returning to heaven, He gave His followers another big do: make sure everyone in the worldstarting right where you live—hears the life-giving message of the gospel. Arrange your do's and don'ts to make sure nothing creeps into your life that keeps you from this critical do. 

Jesus was so serious about this that He gave His followers a new title: Ambassadors. They were to live as His official representatives in carrying His message of redemption to the world. Their don'ts—the things they weren't to do—weren't to be rule-driven, but purpose-driven.     


I've often wondered why so many of us as Christians are better known for what we're against than what we're for, and I think I've figured it out: it's easier. It takes less thinking, less effort, and less love to focus on the don'ts. All we have to do is check the boxes, putting us a notch above those who don't. Yet it misses the heart of God and drives people away from His love.  


Jesus lived with purpose driven do's and don'ts and it changed the world. Now it's our turn to do the same.

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