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For Freedom Christ Set Us Free

Really Be FreeCaptivity does something to the human brain. Captivity trains us to act like captives. There have been instances of people having been kidnapped and held captive for long periods of time who, when faced with an opportunity to flee, actually choose to remain in captivity. In fact, that’s what we often do spiritually as well.

Paul wrote in Galatians 5:1, For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.” You see, at one time, we had to sin. It was our nature. It was the principle of law at work in us. Sin was just our thing. But Jesus came into the picture and obliterated our slaveowners. He fulfilled the law and overcame death on our behalf to lead us into freedom. He broke the chains.

But we’re trained for captivity. So even after saying ‘yes’ to the freedom Jesus Christ offers to us, we still spend our lives trying to figure out how to live as free people. We love the idea of grace, but law is what we know. We believe that God loves us no matter what, but performance-based living has ironically been our comfort zone for far too long. So we stay in the cage. We still carry our broken chain and pretend it still fetters us to the unavoidable tragedy of being sinners.

But… for freedom Christ set us free. He invaded the very territory of humanity’s evil slaveowner and broke us out. And the only way we’ll ever escape the mentality of slavery is to keep our eyes fixed on Him, appreciate what He’s done for us, and follow His leadership to freedom. If you’re a Christian, soak in His matchless grace and squeeze the joy of your newfound freedom. Really. Be. Free.

How Can I Be Legalism Free?

I like rules, lines, and boundaries. I feel safer if I have clear parameters, which explains my love for graph paper. I like it when everything is nice and tidy. The problem is, life isn’t always nice and tidy. People around me don’t always play by my rules, and I’m the biggest boundary breaker of them all.

It would seem that the alternative to rules-based living would be no rules living, rebellion, and abandonment of moral restraint. But what if that isn’t the best alternative to legalistic living? Jesus’ greatest confrontations happened with legalists who not only lived by rigid sets of rules, but quickly judged others by those rules as well.

The New Testament message – the gospel – is one of liberation from legalism, but it isn’t an encouragement to rebellion either. It’s about being free to really live. But how? How can I really live a life free from legalism and still grow into the godly character that Jesus saved me to be?

Establish Some Foundational Principles

We can know certain things to be true, no matter what. They are unbreakable absolutes that cannot be compromised. For example…

  • God’s Word, the Bible (including the “Law”), is perfect, good, without any mixture of error, and therefore completely trustworthy as the basis for living life.
  • Holiness, complete maturity, and Christlikeness is God’s goal for every believer in Christ.
  • Legalism never gets us to that goal. (So let’s move on…)

Diagnose Thyself

My name is Brandon Cox, and I’m a legalist. At least I still struggle with the remnants of legalism in my life. I guess I’m a “recovering legalist” who still slips into the old frame of mind sometimes. In fact, I think we all tend toward legalism to varying degrees and the longer we’ve been believers, the more susceptible we are.

How can you tell if you’re a legalist? Here’s a quick checklist…

  1. I determine whether God likes me or not based on how well I’ve kept the rules.
  2. I might acknowledge I was saved by grace alone, but I think my effort has something to do with staying saved.
  3. I tend to pray less when I fear that God is probably mad at me about something.
  4. I think I’m disqualified from the Christian faith because I’ve messed up, in spite of the fact that I’m still alive and breathing.
  5. I tend to notice the “bad behavior” in others without giving thought to their past pain, poor upbringing, or unknown circumstances.
  6. When other sinners suffer for their choices, I hear a tiny voice saying “serves them right.”
  7. I’m more passionate about the rules I find easy to keep, and minimize the ones I personally struggle with.
  8. I’m all about being “in the Word” but sometimes fail to let the Word get into me.
  9. I love going to Bible study more than serving or witnessing because it “feeds me” and makes me feel more spiritually mature.
  10. I recognize that traditions are not necessarily biblical… unless they’re my traditions.

Thoroughly self-diagnosed yet? Let’s talk about the cure.

Heal Thyself

You need to know, up front, that you’ll never completely get over being a legalist. Since the garden of Eden, God has been all about grace. It explains why God made coats of animal skins to cover the shame of Adam and Eve. And since the garden of Eden, we’ve tried (with Satan’s help) to re-write the gospel to somehow include merit. As humans, we are rules addicts.

But we can break free. Jesus invites us to His freedom…

Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.

~ Matthew 11:28-30 NLT

Paul developed a distinctive theology of freedom.

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 NLT

Here are some steps to take…

  1. See your sin for what it is. It’s an offense to God to sin. No, you shouldn’t beat yourself up over past mistakes, but you also shouldn’t vindicate yourself on the basis that sin “isn’t a big deal.”
  2. See Jesus for whom He is. He’s your sacrifice. Nothing you’ve done could have prevent Him from going to the cross just for you. He’s the only perfect and righteous Savior.
  3. See the cross for what it is. The cross was where He died for your sins. In other words, your sins are paid for. Stop trying to pay the debt yourself. Every time you do, you ignore the cross and insult His sacrifice.
  4. Embrace grace. Revel in it. Bathe yourself in the idea of it. Roll around in the concept that you are free… free indeed!
  5. Embrace grace… more. Don’t stop thinking about it. Read about it. Read about how Jesus showed it. Understand that you’ll never totally understand it, but don’t stop trying.
  6. Show grace. In fact, mob people with it. Show it when you don’t feel like it, when it doesn’t make sense, and especially when it would feel better to do otherwise.

I recently joined the People of the Second Chance. No, it’s not a cult. It’s just this…

People of the Second Chance gives voice to a scandalous movement of radical grace in life and leadership. We challenge the common misconceptions about failure and success and stand with those who have hit rock bottom in their personal and professional lives. We are a community that is committed to stretch ourselves in the areas of relational forgiveness, personal transparency, and advocate for mercy over judgment.

We are not ashamed of our scars, wounds, or failures and leverage them as a source of strength and character development.

People of the Second Chance have experienced a second chance so we actively support social justice organizations and advocate for the vulnerable, forgotten, and left behind.

We are People of the Second Chance.

3 CORE PRINCIPLES
1. GIVE A SECOND CHANCE:
We extend grace in our relationships, workplaces, and in the world.

2. RECEIVE A SECOND CHANCE:
We refuse to be victims and are not defeated by our past. We courageously open ourselves to personal forgiveness.

3. BE A SECOND CHANCE
We sacrificially give our time and resources to the work of renewal, restoration, and social justice.

You don’t have to join a movement, attend a Bible study, or wear a badge. Just embrace grace! Celebrate it and never look back. You can be legalism free. Jesus said so!

Also, if you’d like a nice downloadable pdf of this, check out the same post on the Grace Hills Church website.

Legalism Free

Our second message in the Wednesday evening message series, Exposed: Shocking Truths About Liberated Living, pertained to the idea that we can live legalism free! Legalism is perhaps an overused term, but it’s also an over-lived one. It’s defined in different ways by different people and debated in all kinds of religious circles. [Read more…]

Stand Still… Now That You’re Free!

“Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage.”—Galatians 5:1

Jesus said, “the truth shall set you free” and that once set free, we would be “free indeed.” But freedom does not necessarily mean the absolute liberty to do anything we please, but rather to do anything we please within the proper boundaries.

America has become a place in which we are overly sensitive to certain “freedoms.” We’ll protect just about any right no matter what effect it may have on society, so long as it does not directly violate an existing law (and even then we often simply change the law). We fight for “civil liberties” at the expense of the decency and moral excellence of this once great nation. Freedom is a God-given privilege, but even our own law gives evidence that our freedom must know its proper boundaries.

This is true in our lives as well. Christians today will argue tooth and nail for their freedom to do just about anything because we are “under grace.” Strangely, I never remember Paul arguing for the right to do something questionable, rather He was always willing to give up his own rights for the sake of Christ’s testimony. He was a slave, bound to Jesus. Like Paul, we are free not to sin anymore, not to try to live up to the law to please God, and we are free from the condemnation that once rested on us for sin. But also like Paul, we are bound to Christ and therefore our freedom must know its limitations, set by the Lordship of Jesus Christ and the absolute authority of Scripture in our lives.

So run free for God! But don’t use your freedom as an excuse to run away from God. Run, that you may obtain the prize He has waiting!