While some of us may dislike them, rules are a necessary part of life. Social rules keep us from talking with our mouth full, eating spaghetti with our hands, or using obscene gestures when talking to others. Governmental rules – also called “laws” – dissuade us from driving through red lights, painting graffiti on local monuments, or robbing a store. Moral rules guide us by discouraging us from committing adultery, cheating others out of what is rightfully theirs, or even committing murder.
Many rules help keep us out of trouble and often, those who follow the rules regard themselves as “good people.”
However, what of God’s Law? Is it enough to simply follow the rules and be a “good person?” Is this how we gain salvation? This topic can be very confusing for many – especially our young people.
At the 2014 Forever Faithful International Pathfinder Camporee, the Institute of Church Ministry conducted research on young peoples’ views on various views of Adventist life; this study included 940 participants. One area of focus was their views on different statements regarding God’s law and its role in salvation. Some of the findings were quite encouraging!
- I know that God loves me no matter what I do. – Ninety-three percent of respondents “strongly agreed” or “agreed” with this statement. This is a very significant improvement from earlier research, which revealed that many Adventist youth believed God only loved them when they behaved correctly.
- I am loved by God even when I sin. – Ninety-one percent of respondents “strongly agreed” or “agreed” with this statement. It is vital that our young people comprehend that God loves them no matter what; sending Jesus to die for our sins and rescue us was the ultimate indication of that. How encouraging that many of them understand this beautiful truth!
However, other findings were more concerning.
- I know that to be saved, I must live by God’s rules. – Seventy-nine percent of respondents indicated that they “strongly agreed” or “agreed” with this statement. While Jesus did say in Matthew 5:17, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them,” He did not say that we are saved by simply following God’s rules; we are saved through Jesus alone. Following God’s rules is a reflection of our relationship with Him – a product of our saved condition, not a way to achieve salvation on our own.
- There is nothing I can do to earn salvation. – While nearly half (44%) of respondents “strongly agreed” or “agreed” with this statement, 19% of young people were unsure of their thoughts on this topic, while over a third (36%) “disagreed” or “strongly disagreed” with this statement. While the Bible does tell us that faith without works is dead (James 2:20), Romans 6:23 also tells us that salvation is a gift of God; gifts are freely given – not earned. Balance between the two ideas definitely needs to be taught and reinforced.
Many of the youth leaving Christian churches today cite rigid rules and legalism as their reason for leaving. We must do all we can to change the mindset of our own youth; we must help them understand that they can only be saved through the gift of Jesus’ death on the cross and that following God’s Law is a result of our acceptance of that gift.
Created in collaboration with the Institute of Church Ministry.