Heart Matters: Rules vs. Relationship

But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look at his appearance or at the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”

1 Samuel 16:7, NASB


Rules vs. Relationship

And so the Lord says, “These people say they are mine. They honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. And their worship of me is nothing but man-made rules learned by rote.

Isaiah 29:13, NLT

countrychurchIt was Easter Sunday, 1994, when I went forward for salvation at my small country church as my Dad played Softly and Tenderly on the old, upright piano. I also remember the floral print, puffy-sleeved Easter dress I was wearing. Did I mention it was 1994?

I absolutely believed that Jesus died on the cross for my sins, but on that day I lacked an accurate understanding of the gospel. I had missed the part about grace and falsely believed I needed to earn or prove myself worthy of salvation.

Not knowing what to do next, I took matters into my own hands with the expected gusto of a typical, albeit misguided, Type A Personality, and jumped into Christianity with both feet. I was NOT going to mess this up! Jesus died for me, and I planned to prove myself worthy!

I promptly threw away my favorite Salt-n-Pepa CD, vowed I would never utter another curse word, and I read the book of Revelation in my rose-colored King James Version Bible. All that same afternoon.

You want to know what happened? I ran out of steam. I backslid. In record time, actually. The Book of Revelation overwhelmed me, and honestly, at that time it scared me. I couldn’t just snap my fingers and stop cursing and I really missed my CD. I was buried under the enemy’s condemnation at how quickly I could mess this thing up, thus leading to a decade long journey as a prodigal.

Hindsight is 20/20 and while many factors led to this particular series of events, my heart was at the root. My heart was seeking to be worthy of the gospel, but I had missed the point that I was worthy because of the gospel. Focusing on outward obedience to prove myself worthy, my actions proved useless because my heart was empty.

I had rules but no relationship.

Maybe you have been there yourself, or maybe that is where you find yourself today. Maybe you’re striving in order to earn His love, favor, or salvation? Friend, there is no checklist that we can keep, no sacrifice we can give, no deeds we can do, and no rituals we can perform that will make us worthy of Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross. Not a single one of us are worthy of His love, yet He loves us anyway!

I pray today that if that’s where you find yourself, you wouldn’t stay there a minute longer. Seek Him, pour your heart out, and pray for a relationship with the One who made you.

Resting in relationship,


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