Reading The Rules

by Wayne Greeson

"How about a game of checkers?" I asked my wife late one evening.

"Oh, that's a kid's game. I haven't played checkers in years. Okay, set'em up," she replied half joking.

The pieces were laid out and the game begun in earnest. Only a few moves had been made when I moved one of my red checkers in front of one of my wife's black checkers giving her a clear "jump" to take my red checker. My wife ignored the available "jump" and began to move another checker on a different part of the board.

"Whoa! You have a 'jump' and can take one of my checkers," I said pointing to the move. "I see it, but I don't want to make that move," she said.

"But you have no choice," I responded, "the rules require you to 'jump' if you have a 'jump.'"

"But I have been playing for years and I never heard of such a rule!" she insisted.

I opened up the rules and read to her: "A player must 'jump' an opponent's checker in the next square if a square beyond is vacant."

"I guess you're right," she reluctantly conceded, "But that sure does make a big difference."

She made the forced jump which opened up a double jump for me. Still surprised and uncertain by her discovery of a "new" rule, I proceeded to beat her in four games straight. Later that night, just as I was drifting off to sleep the last thing I heard was my wife muttering, "I still can't believe I have been playing checkers all my life and I never really knew how to play."

It was easy to diagnosis my wife's failure to know the proper rules for playing checkers. Almost everyone learns how to play checkers as a child and often the "forced jump" rule is not taught or not even known by the teacher of the game. So many grow up never bothering to read the rules because playing checkers is "an easy kid's game" and many assume they already know how to play.

The failure to read the rules and the assumption "I already know how to play" is not unique to the game of checkers. The same problem is often made with God's rules as revealed in his Word. Many learn "religion" as children but are not taught correctly or not taught "the whole counsel of God." Thus, there are many who grow up in ignorance, never bothering the read and study God's Rule Book because they assume "I already know about religion."

Many people are ignorant of God's requirement that one must be baptized to be saved. "But, I have been a Christian for years and I never heard of such a requirement," people often respond. But simply open up God's Rule Book and read, "He that believes and is baptized will be saved" (Mark 16:16).

Many religious folks are not aware of God's commands under the New Testament concerning worshipping him in music through singing and not through instrumental music. "Well all my life I have attended a church which has had an organ or piano and I don't think it's wrong," such folks invariably say. But what do the "rules" of God's Word say about music in New Testament worship?

True worship is not to be done by "I think" or by "my will" (Col. 2:18; Matt. 15:8-9) but only as God directs. (John 4:23-24). In the New Testament, God commands true worshippers to "sing" (Eph. 5:19; Col. 3:16). To play an instrument in the New Testament worship is to add to God's complete and perfect rules and is sinful (Rev. 22:18).

Imagine someone sitting down to play checkers and placing a set of green checkers onto the board in addition to the black and red set called for by the rules. The addition to the game would violate the rules and the result would not be a true game of checkers. While you can play around with the rules of checkers all you want, God will not tolerate those who play with adding to the commands of his Word (2 John 9).

Many Christians do not understand that Christ's church is not a social activities center that sponsors social functions. Again the familiar refrain is heard, "But I have been a Christian for years and I never heard of any such thing. For years the church where I attend has sponsored all sorts of social activities such as banquets, softball teams, bowling teams, musical entertainment, camps, sewing classes..." and on and on the list could go. It is time to go back and read the rules, God's rules.

The church established by Christ is a "spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ" (1 Pet. 2:5). It is not the purpose of the church to offer food and recreation. "For the kingdom of God is not food and drink, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit" (Rom. 14:17). "What! Do you not have houses to eat and drink in? Or do you despise the church of God?" (1 Cor. 11:22).

My wife's ignorance concerning the proper rules of checkers cost her nothing but a few lost games and a bit of embarrassment. Ignorance of God's rules will cost your soul.