By: Danny Wallace
Jesus has set us free to live a free life. So, if you want to take a stand – stand on this! Don’t ever let anyone put a harness of slavery on you again. This could be said ten thousand times and it couldn’t be stressed enough. The moment you submit to the old rule-keeping system is the moment you squander Christ’s hard-win gift of freedom. Do with it what you will, but I repeat the warning: The person who accepts the ways of religious Law trades all of the advantages of the free life in Jesus for the obligations of the slave life of the Law.
No one intends to do this, but this is what happens. When you attempt to live by your own religious plans and projects, you isolate yourself to prison. Though redeemed by Grace, you choose to live in bondage to Law, rather than freedom in Grace. In Christ, neither our most conscientious religion, nor disregard of religion amounts to anything. What matters is something far more interior: faith expressed in love.
When we mention the Cross now and then, choosing to focus on fear of Hell, and obedience to Law instead – we water down the Gospel of Jesus. What we preach from this compromise of Law and Grace doesn’t matter one way or the other, for it is a worthless message of continuing bondage. It makes you wonder why these agitators, obsessive as they are about the Law, don’t go all the way and castrate themselves.
It is absolutely clear that God has called you to a free life in Jesus. No man uses freedom to do whatever he wants, but rather, basks in the beauty of such undeserved freedom. We use our freedom to serve one another in love; that’s how freedom grows to cover the earth. We understand that everything we know about God’s Word is summed up in a single sentence: Love others as you love yourself. That’s an act of true freedom.
If we bite and ravage each other, watch out – in no time at all we will be annihilating each other, and where will our precious freedom be then? Live freely, animated and motivated by God’s Spirit. If we do this we won’t be feeding the compulsions of selfishness.
There is a root of sinful self-interest in us that is at odds with a free spirit, just as the free spirit is incompatible with selfishness. These two ways of life are antithetical, so that you cannot live at times one way and at times another way according to how you feel on any given day. Choose to be led by the Spirit and so escape the erratic compulsions of a Law-dominated existence.
It is obvious what kind of life develops out of trying to get your own way all the time: repetitive, loveless, cheap sex; a stinking accumulation of mental and emotional garbage; frenzied and joyless grabs for happiness; trinket gods; magic-show religion; paranoid loneliness; cutthroat competition; all-consuming-yet-never-satisfied wants; a brutal temper; an impotence to love or be loved; divided homes and divided lives; small-minded and lopsided pursuits; the vicious habit of depersonalizing everyone into a rival; uncontrolled and uncontrollable addictions; ugly parodies of community. I could go on, but you get the picture.
By the beauty of Grace, Jesus brings gifts into our lives, much the same way that fruit appears in an orchard – things like affection for others, exuberance about life, serenity. We develop a willingness to stick with things, a sense of compassion in the heart, and a conviction that a basic holiness permeates all things, and all people. We find ourselves involved in loyal commitments, not needing to force our way in life, able to direct our energies wisely.
Legalism is helpless in bringing this about; it only gets in the way. In Christ, everything connected with getting our own way and mindlessly responding to what everyone else calls necessities, is killed off for good – crucified. Since this is the kind of life we have chosen, the life of the Spirit, let us make sure that we don’t just hold it as an idea in our heads or a sentiment in our hearts, but live out its implications in every detail of our lives.
That means we will not compare ourselves with each other as if one of us were better, and another worse. We have far more interesting things to do with our lives. Each of us is an original, by the hand of God.