Ortberg suggests that we have replaced Jesus’ yoke with rule-keeping:

A recent study by the Barna Group found that the number one challenge to helping people grow spiritually is that most people equate spiritual maturity with trying hard to follow the rules in the Bible. No wonder people also said they find themselves unmotivated to pursue spiritual growth. If I think God’s aim is to produce rule-followers, spiritual growth will always be an obligation rather than a desire of my heart.

“Rule-keeping does not naturally evolve into living by faith,” Paul wrote, “but only perpetuates itself in more and more rule-keeping.” In other words, it only results in a rule-keeping, desire-smothering, Bible-reading, emotion-controlling, self-righteous person who is not like me. In the end, I cannot follow God if I don’t trust that he really has my best interests at heart.

The letter kills, but the Spirit gives life. There is an enormous difference between following rules and following Jesus, because I can follow rules without cultivating the right heart.

John Ortberg, The Me I Want to Be (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2010).


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