During the 2010 Winter Olympics, Dutch speed skater Sven Kramer was heavily favored in the long-distance track, already being a world champion in all the events in which he would compete. He raced to a world record time in the 10,000 meter event. Unfortunately, his coach accidentally told him to change lanes at the wrong time during the course of the race, which got Kramer disqualified.
This story was brought to mind as I was reading a certain scripture, "Also an athlete can't win a contest unless he competes according to the rules" (2 Timothy 2:5, Complete Jewish Bible). It was heartbreaking that such a tiny infraction would disqualify Kramer from a dominating victory, but there is no room for partiality in these cases. God, too, is an impartial and righteous judge (Acts 10:34), and has a way of life laid out for mankind that is unchanging.
God's rules are His laws. They are real and in full effect today. Christ said that He did not come to abolish the law but to fulfill it, and that it would not pass away until after heaven and earth have passed away (Matthew 5:17–18)!
Yet, many "Christians" today will tell you that the law is done away or "nailed to the cross." But John tells us very succinctly that "sin is the transgression of the law" (1 John 3:4, KJV), and many different scriptures (2 Chronicles 6:36, Romans 3:23, 1 John 1:8) tell us that all men have sinned. This plainly shows that the law is, indeed, still intact, as the "rule" we must strive to follow.
There are a lot of very well-meaning professing "Christians" in the world who would lead you to believe that obedience to God has been replaced by grace, and that Christ lived perfectly so that we would not have to. But just as the Olympic coach genuinely believed he was giving the correct instruction that led to Kramer's disqualification, so are this world's religious leaders blindly leading millions and billions to sin! Satan the devil has deceived the whole world (Revelation 12:9) and continually does all he can to destroy mankind and lead them away from God and His truth.
As we can see from the writings of Paul, this is not a new phenomenon. He tells the early church, "Let no man deceive you with vain words" (Ephesians 5:6), and "let no man deceive you by any means" (2 Thessalonians 2:3). But how can we make sure that we are not deceived? Paul makes it very clear: "Prove all things; hold fast that which is good" (1 Thessalonians 5:21).
Paul knew that we all have to struggle against sin and work hard to receive our eternal crown of glory (1 Peter 5:4). He told the church of Corinth, "I don't run aimlessly but straight for the finish line … I treat my body hard and make it my slave so that … I myself will not be disqualified" (1 Corinthians 9:26–27, CJB). Let us also learn to fully obey the rules so that we can finish and win the race!