All too often Christianity is cheapened to the point that it becomes a religion of rules in which the do’s and don’ts (especially the don’ts) govern our lives. In an effort to please God by keeping ourselves separate from the world (2 Cor 6:17), we live lives that are less than attractive to those who don’t know Jesus. Anything that might be “fun” in the world’s eyes is viewed with suspicion by those motivated by religion. (“Don’t drink, smoke or chew or date girls that do.”) When our spiritual walk is governed by obligation and duty and law (this is what I ought to do, this is how good Christians behave) it leads to a lifeless religion based on rules and regulations.
Most people in the West were brought up in a shame-based religion. “People are dying and going to hell. Therefore you should preach the Gospel.” Although it sounds spiritual, the reasoning is guilt-based. It implies, “Christ died for your sins and you are doing so little for him. You are guilty. You ought to be doing more.” It attempts to shame us into different behavior.
The letter of the law kills, but the Spirit gives life! Non-religious Christianity is governed by the life of the Spirit within. As we seek to live close to Jesus, we find ourselves doing what the Scriptures indicate is pleasing to him. Notorious sinners loved to hang around Jesus (Luke 15:1), who was accused of being a glutton and “winebibber.”
The Son of Man, on the other hand, feasts and drinks, and you say, ‘He’s a glutton and a drunkard, and a friend of tax collectors and other sinners!’ (Luke 7:34)
Jesus enjoyed life. And his life won those around him.
What motivates us is important. The grace and love of Jesus operating inside us cause us to want to do what legalism says we ought to do.