Generally those who live by Biblical principles are extremely sincere in their desire to please God. But I have observed that living by principles, even Biblical principles can have two different results.
First, many times we depend so much on Biblical principles that we don’t really learn to recognize the voice of God. This is not good because what God wants is for our lives and ministries to be based on knowing His voice and following Him.1 It seems to me that it is much easier to be guided by principles than trying to know God and recognize His voice. We can substitute principles for knowing God and we make those principles the guides for our lives. Remember, however, that it is not those who are guided by principles but rather those that “are led by the Spirit of God” that are the children of God.2
Jesus Himself said that everything He did here on earth was in obedience to what He saw or heard from His Father and not something based on principles.3 Jesus even broke established Old Testament principles by doing things like touching lepers4touching a corpse5, or a woman who was bleeding profusely.6He also broke principles that were not written down like when He met with a woman all by Himself in the middle of nowhere.7 (What kind of testimony was that?) And He did all this while being led by the Spirit.
We cannot substitute the most important thing in Christianity — the intimate, personal, daily relationship with the risen Christ — for recognized Biblical principles, and run our lives by them. Jesus died and ascended into heaven to open up a new and living way for us through the Holy Spirit. It was even better than the friendship He had with His disciples while He was in the world.
The other thing that I have observed is that apart from taking away the need to be led by the Spirit, that living by principles alone does not work.
Paul wrote that if you are dead with Christ from the rudiments of the world, why, as though living in the world, are you subject to ordinances, (touch not, taste not, handle not, Which all are to perish with the using) after the commandments and doctrines of men? Those things have indeed a show of wisdom in will worship, and humility, and neglecting of the body, but (as the New American Standard says) “are of no value against fleshly indulgence.”8
Many times we Christians use the word principles instead of “law”. We would never say that we were living according to the law of God, but I have said and heard others say that we live according to God’s principles (or as the above verse says, “ordinances”). So, it stands to reason that if we cannot be holy by fulfilling the law, neither can we be holy by following “principles”. This sincere but legalistic way of living fails every time.
The answer to this error is in the verse previous to the one above, Colossians 2:19 which says, “holding fast to the Head” and being part of the body which is “supplied and held together” and “grows with a growth which is from God”. How long has it been since you have waited on God for a personal word for your life? Are you living your Christian life by inertia? “ The one who says he abides in Him ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked.”9
1- John 10:3-27 2- Romans 8:14 3- John 5:19, 19-22, 30, 36; 9:4; 14:10 4- Leviticus 13:45, 46; Luke 5:12, 13; 5- Leviticus 11:24; Matthew 9:25 6- Leviticus 15:19-28; Mark 5:25-34 7- John 4:7-27 8- Colossians 2:20-23 9- 1 John 2:6