I’ll be honest, I’m wrestling these days. These words have echoed in my heart this week; less spiritual, more free. I doubt that I will ever be the same. Although God grabbed hold of me eleven years ago, I feel like I have been reborn again. It’s a bit scary. It’s like losing a foothold and losing control. It’s like having the roadmap ripped out of my hands while traveling at breakneck speed. It doesn’t seem to make sense but at the same time it seems too good to be true! More and more these days I find myself singing these precious words “My chains are gone, I’ve been set free. My God, my Savior has ransomed me. And like a flood, His mercy rains. Unending love, Amazing grace”. What has happened?
I used to think that I was progressing in my Christian walk, and that evidence of my progression was personal holiness. I defined my own spiritual growth in terms of my church involvement, service to my neighbor, Bible study commitments, personal devotion disciplines, and increasing amounts of prayer time. In addition, I measured how I was progressing in how well I loved my husband and discipled my son. All of these things are good, of course, and they are biblical for sure. However, they ultimately have little to do with Jesus and the freedom he died to bring me. At some point, it became more about me overseeing my growth in godliness. You see, the controls I had put in place to keep me on the “right” spiritual path yielded a kind of bondage. It was a straight jacket so to speak – a suffocating routine that made me prideful when I thought I was doing well and left me racked with guilt and self-condemnation when I felt like I had failed.
Paul Bunyan, author of The Pilgrim’s Progress, wrote: “If thou wouldst be faithful to do that work that God has allotted thee to do in this world for his name, labor to live in the savor and sense of thy freedom and liberty by Jesus Christ; that is, keep this, if possible, ever before thee—that thou art a redeemed one, taken out of this world and from under the curse of the law, out of the power of the devil, and placed in a kingdom of grace and forgiveness of sins for Christ’s sake.” Simply put, Bunyan explains that faith looks more like savoring and sensing the freedom and liberty Christ came to bring. The apostle Paul exhorted the Galatians similarly saying, “So Christ has truly set us free. Now make sure that you stay free, and don’t get tied up again in slavery to the law” (Galatians 5:1). Paul was speaking to the church in Galatia regarding circumcision. Circumcision was a religious law that became a divisive issue. Many believed it to be a sign of salvation. Paul preached against it because he believed what Christ said when He spoke these words from the cross, “It is finished.” What exactly was Jesus referring to? In essence He was saying, “I was born, I lived, I suffered and I am dying to make you free.” Which begs the question, “To make us free from what?” Jesus told us himself when he said “Don’t misunderstand why I have come. I did not come to abolish the law of Moses or the writings of the prophets. No, I came to accomplish their purpose.” In other words, Christ came to keep the law perfectly on our behalf. Because of what Christ accomplished on the cross, all our law keeping, striving and self-justification can cease. Paul continues in Galatians and asks; “Who has held you back from following the truth? It certainly isn’t God, for he is the one who called you to freedom”. Their striving and trying to keep the law was not of God. God was the one that had set them free! Bunyan recognized this in the quote above, saying, “You are redeemed and you are no longer under the curse of the law but you have been placed in a kingdom of grace and forgiveness of sins!”
Christian, if you hear only one thing hear this. You live in a kingdom of grace and forgiveness of your sins! And do not hear it just once. Preach it to your sin-sick soul every moment of every day. Live in the liberty Jesus died to bring you. Don’t mistake me, God has allotted work for you to do, but you can now love, serve and obey out of that glorious freedom and liberty!
Compelled By Love
These days I find I am resting more and striving less. I don’t have it all figured out. In fact, I am more aware of my sin today than I have ever been. I hear more intently the apostle Paul’s cry “Oh, what a miserable person I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death?” Then my heart sings more loudly than ever before, “Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord”! Lori is Director of Care Ministries and Women’s Support at Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church. She blogs regularly at www.lorileighharding.blogspot.com.