We frequently talk about the “freedom we have in Christ”. But do we truly comprehend just what that is and what it means? I’ve had my eyes opened on this subject over the last month or so. Now, it maybe that everyone has a better grasp of this subject than I do; but, based on the things I hear people say, I’m guessing just maybe, a lot of them don’t.
First, a short “survey”. Would you “Agree, “Disagree,” or say “I’m not sure,” to each of the following statements:
1. Christianity means I need to make myself more like God.
2. I should try to avoid sin.
3. God will not bless me if I sin.
4. God is more apt to answer my prayers if I do His bidding.
5. If I detour from God’s will for me, I’ll never know what He had planned for my life.
It is amazing to me, how we tend to fall back under the Old Testament Law. And, we do it thinking we are doing what God wants or expects of us. I’ve often referred to the Bible as “God’s Basic Instruction Book for Living on Earth. I’m rethinking that.
Why? Think about it this way. Religion is all about rules. Christianity is NOT about rules. Period. God gave the Law (rules) to the Israelites after they moved out of Egypt.* I believe God wanted a relationship with His chosen people. But the “chosen people” very quickly showed God that they did not want a relationship with Him. In no time at all, they were complaining about His providence for them, even suggesting they were better off living as slaves in Egypt. And then they committed the unthinkable. While Moses was on Mt. Sinai talking with God, they resorted to idol worship and paganism.
God was ready to destroy them on the spot. Moses pleaded for God to give His people another chance. As a result, God gave the Israelites the Law. He knew they couldn’t keep it. It was impossible for any man (except for one) to keep it. No God, wasn’t sadistic, or cruel. He wanted them to learn (the way most of us learn to this day – the hard way) that they didn’t need rules or laws. What they desperately needed was the law giver, …God.
I always considered instructions as rules. OK, rules in a different form, but rules none the less. Now I need to think of the Bible not as an instruction book, but as an introduction to God. The Bible is more an auto-biography than a book of instructions. It tells us who He is, how He operates, and how to develop a relationship with Him. And that, is what God wants from us. Our love, in a relationship with Him. When we give Him that, everything is in His hands. There is no place better to be.
The Bible tells us, and I have personally experienced, that only through Christianity does man gain freedom. And, we do not gain our freedom by our own efforts. Oh, we do have a decision we must make. We must decide whether or not to believe that Jesus (the only man who did live a sinless life) is the Son of God; and further, that He died on the cross as the sacrifice for our sin debt. This is the only way to be forgiven and reconciled to God. Once we ask Jesus to forgive our sins, and repent of them, God has a wonderful plan (for each of us) that kicks in. We become sons or daughters of God. Our eternal destination (Heaven) is sealed. And, the Holy Spirit is sent to live within us.**
At this point our focus needs to change. We are now in a relationship with God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit.
We should not immediately start trying to make ourselves better. We can’t do that by ourselves. How we become more Christ-like, is by spending one-on-one time with Christ. He will “rub-off” on us. Oh, we can try to follow Christ just like the Pharisees tried to follow the Law. They were no better at it than anyone else, but they sure made an impressive show for the people. God, however, was not favorably impressed. Jesus will not be either. The way to follow Jesus is to truly love Him. Burn with love for Him.
Recognize that you cannot buy God’s favor and blessings. No amount of time spent at church, no amount of money contributed, no amount of volunteering or teaching Sunday School is going to get you what you want God to give you. You. Cannot. Buy. God.
If you don’t see answers to your prayers, do not assume it is because he is unhappy with your perform-ance. You are, placing yourself under the Law. i.e., If I’m good, God should bless me. If I’m not getting blessed, then I’m either not doing enough or, God is mad at me because of something I’ve done or not done. Where, I ask you, is the freedom in that? No, that is Satan messing with you. He would like nothing better than to make you think your relationship with God is based on your performance. He understands perfectly well that you cannot buy God’s blessings, but as long as he can keep you thinking that you can, he has you “off-track,” losing trust in your Savior, and becoming a less effective follower of Christ.
To fan the fire of love for God, you must spend time with Him. Find some time every day to be silent in His presence. He may speak, He may not speak. It’s our job to just be quietly there – not praying, not reading the Bible, not listening to music. We are human beings, not human doings. (I wish I’d thought of that phrase, but I didn’t). Give Him control of your time and your will. And above all, give Him your trust, and wait for His timing. Consider the fact that He might be saying “no”. After all, He may have something much better for you in your future.
Finally, as you walk through this life with God, be ever mindful of the unlimited power and perfect love that walks beside you, …or carries you when the times get really rough. And, there will be rough times. We live in a broken world. You will be tested and seasoned. God will prepare you for whatever He has in store for you. You are a child of the creator of the universe! Now, act like a… servant. Jesus did.
Oh, you may want to take another look at that survey, and see if you would change any of your answers.
In Christian love,
* Think about everything the Israelis had been through as slaves in Egypt. Then think about everything they had witnessed as Moses secured their release from Pharaoh, and the how (and with what) they left Egypt. If you are not familiar with the story, you can read it in the Bible, Book of Exodus. There is some “hard” reading in this book; but keep in mind these points. God is a jealous God; and, He is a just God.
** There are only two eternal destinations for mankind: Heaven (with God); or, Hell (in the complete absence of God). God cannot abide sin – that’s part of His very nature. No one who dies with sin on them will go to heaven. God is also a loving God. And that’s why God makes His plan of redemption available to everyone, regardless of background or past behavior. Once you are redeemed (you have accepted Jesus as your savior), He will withhold no good thing. I might add, the Bible tells us that it is God’s desire that no one goes to Hell (2 Peter, 3:9). We however, have free will – so, it’s our decision.