Sunday, May 13, 2018
Faith Brings Freedom
For through the law I died to the law, so that I might live to God. I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I do not nullify the grace of God; for if justification comes through the law, then Christ died for nothing.
The law created a punitive structure. If you couldn’t live up to the list of rules, then you were condemned. There is the realization that living up to these kinds of expectations is futile, therefore we have to die to the law. This, Paul did and realized that he was given the freedom to live for God.
Next comes the famous statement of Paul’s that he has been crucified with Christ. He wasn’t physically crucified, but he did give himself up entirely to follow Christ. Part of that was his identity in his Jewishness and in following the law to the very letter. He had been a proud Jew who was determined to punish the Christians for the things that they were doing. His own selfish ambition and understanding of religion had to be crucified with Christ. The result was that his own personal pride and selfishness was replaced by his new identity in Christ. He realized that he was now connected to Christ and that Christ truly did live in him. This transformed the way in which he lived his life.
Selfish desires and motivations fled with the indwelling of Christ through the power of the Spirit in Paul’s life. His daily life in the flesh became testimony to the work of Christ in his life. Everything that he did, every moment of life in the flesh, was lived by faith in Christ. His gratitude for the love bestowed upon him almost gushes from his very being.
His life became a living example of grace; grace extended, responded to in faith resulted in Paul’s justification, and this made possible though the death and resurrection of Christ. The law simply had no power compared to this.
Legalism will only leave one feeling guilty and with no hope of freedom or joy in life. The problem with legalism is that it comes from the law. No matter how hard you try to fulfill a list of rules, you will never be able to measure up and will be left as a sad, lonely, and judgmental individual. The law will always condemn because righteousness can only come through perfection. This is not the kind of perfection that was meant by Christ’s plan for humanity, but it’s the kind of perfection that the enemy will guilt you into accepting; and will condemn you for never achieving.
Christ’s perfection is for humanity to be restored entirely in the image of God. This is not possible on our own, but only because of Christ’s life, death, and resurrection Righteousness — set right ness — is humanity being restored in a right relationship with God, and hence the image of God is also restored. There is beauty in the reflection of Christ and his holiness in the lives of those who have been set free. I don’t have to be hung up about my behaviors because Christ lives in me. It is Christ who motivates, moves and drives every part of my very being.
When we turn away from the law and into the loving embrace of grace, we no longer have to be confined by the guilt of the law. Far too many are still living in the grips of guilt and legalism. My tribe, for too long, became obsessed with a type of legalistic holiness. Then, in a backlash to that type of teaching, chose to downplay holiness. Sadly, this has the potential of resulting in far too many unhappy, unvictorious, and discouraged “believers” who are half-way trying to make it on their own, and partially depending upon Christ. No wonder we fail to see the power of God at work in and through our lives and in our churches! Maybe we’ve been just as captivated by our own type of Judaiers and have refused to live in the freedom for which Christ dearly paid!
It’s time to let go of the condemnation of the law. Let go of your parents’ critical words; or the Sunday School teacher who spoke so condemningly half a century ago. Let go of the preacher who terrified you. Instead — run to Jesus. Give it all to Jesus and leave the pain with him. Faith in Jesus will bring great freedom. The chains of legalism will be left behind — to the glory of God Almighty.
Lord, today I join the Wesleys in singing, “My chains fell off, my heart was free. I rose, went forth, and followed Thee!” Amen and Amen!