Readers, I am back. Sorry for the week long sabbatical! I had an unexpected bump in the road, and it resulted in my right hand (my dominant hand) being completely immobile for a while. That means no writing, no typing, no lifting, and not a lot of movement. To be completely honest, it has broken my heart and has angered me greatly. Thankfully, I discovered a dictation software on my Mac and so I am able to hold onto a little bit of my sanity by blogging and typing out a few things.
(Disclaimer: the dictation is not perfect and so if there are more typos than usual in my posts, I apologize; trust me, I can’t wait to get back to hand typing things either.
Today’s post is a slightly altered version of a devotion that I wrote at at the end of last year. As I was going through some documents on my laptop, I came across this one and I felt God tugging at my heart to share it. Rather than worry about offending somebody, appealing to my readers, or facing the judgment of others; I am just going to follow God’s whispers and share this…
A big idea expressed in the Bible is the idea of freedom and what it truly means to be free. For the purposes of this devotional, I’m going to focus on a few verses of Galatians, beginning with Galatians 5:1: “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free.” In this chapter, Paul was reminding the Galatian Christians that they were free from the law. There were these groups of people, mainly Jews, that were putting requirements on salvation. They would say,“If you aren’t circumcised, you can’t be saved!” “If you don’t keep every single command of the law, you can’t be saved!” “If you don’t look a certain way, act a certain way, or dress a certain way, you can’t be saved!” They were essentially playing God in the way that these Jews were deciding whom God can save and whom he can’t. That seems a little silly, doesn’t it? But don’t we, as a church, do the same thing? Let me give you a few examples of things I have heard spoken by many “devout Christians…”
“She says she’s a Christian, but look who she hangs out with.”
“He can’t go to church dressed like that!”
“Wow I didn’t expect to see that family in a pew on Sunday morning.”
(And my favorite…) “Well I am involved in more church activities than she is, so I must be a better Christian.”
Let’s be completely honest with ourselves. How many of us have ever said or thought something like that? So, aren’t we “playing Jews”? We look so much at the outward appearance of people that we forget the fact that 1) it is not our place to decide who can go to heaven and who can’t, and 2) we look at these “Rules of Christianity” as the deciding factor on whether or not we, or someone else, will get to heaven. Which brings me to my next point…
We, as humans, often look at the Christian lifestyle as a set of rules. A law, if you will. We accept things like don’t drink, don’t cuss, don’t be immodest, don’t judge, don’t bully, etc., as laws to be a good Christian. But each of us has a personal “law.” Let me explain, if you are anything like me, you like to please people. I will be the first to admit it, I am a people pleaser. Not only that, but I like instructions. I like knowing exactly what is expected of me so that I can push myself past the limits and complete the task as perfect as humanly possible. I like laws, I like teachers that stick exactly to the syllabus, I like routine, I like my comfort zone, and I love to please. All of those qualities can be good things, but when it comes to my walk with Christ, those things get in the way sometimes. Being a Type A-OCD-People-Pleasing-Perfectionist is my personal law. I catch myself thinking that if I can be perfect in the eyes of the world, in the eyes of my teachers, my parents, or my pastor; I will automatically be perfect in the eyes of God.
So, what’s your personal law?
Paul asks the Galatians what is hindering them from continuing in their race of faith. I shall ask you the same thing: what are some things that you strive so hard to be because you think those things will make God love you more and/or make Him forget the wrong things you have done? Is it pleasing people? Is it being the perfect person for someone else? Is it getting good grades, or participating in every church activity you can? What law are you striving to fulfill in the hopes that it will make you perfect in God’s sight? What is the “little g god” that you are devoting your life to? Be honest with yourself.
Guys, I hate to tell you this, but all those things are 100% worthless if you don’t know personally know the “capital G” God you are doing those things for. If you are doing these things to gain God’s favor, but you never take the time to know Him, you aren’t gaining anything. That would be like trying to write a character reference for someone you have never met. You are trying to justify yourselves, or make yourselves perfect to God by following the law or following what you think God is looking for in a Christian, but you don’t even know who God really is. “You who are trying to be justified by the law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace” (Galatians 5:4).
In Galatians chapter five, Paul is stressing over the fact that people have been telling these believers that they have to be circumcised to be saved because that’s the law. But the truth is, “For in Christ Jesus, neither circumcision or uncircumcision has any value. The ONLY THING that counts is faith expressing itself through love” (Galatians 5:6). We don’t have to rely on being perfect to please God, and isn’t that a relief? God doesn’t have a checklist that says “Straight A’s? Check. Friends with Pastor? Perfectly dressed? Check. Okay, you can enter into heaven now!” No, that’s not how this works. You can be the perfect Christian on the outside but if your actions are not motivated by love, motivated faith, and motivated by the overwhelming desire to love and praise God, you are nothing but the creaking of a rusty gate. You are nothing but an actor playing the part of a Christian on stage. God isn’t asking you to follow your own personal law, no. God is looking for faith in Him, God is looking for your obedience to His call, and God is looking for a heart that loves Him so much that it can’t help but love others too. That’s the kind of law that God is looking to see fulfilled. Once you know that kind of life, you won’t want to return to your previous life, to your previous soul-binding laws. “Formerly, when you did not know God, you were slaves to those who by nature are not gods. But now that you know God-or rather are known by God-how is it that you are turning back to those weak and miserable forces. Do you wish to be enslaved by them all over again?” (Galatians 4:8-9).
How many of you reading this today can honestly say that you are not enslaved to your own law anymore? How many of you can honestly say you have let go of the belief that God justifies strictly by the law? How many of you are 100% certain that you are desiring to please God, not your own law? Because guess what guys, we don’t have to please people. We don’t have to worry about dressing perfectly, acting perfectly, or appearing perfect to the world. We have the freedom to appear broken and in need of our Savior. We are no longer bound by a law that seems impossible to obey perfectly, the only thing we are bound to is love. Christ has set us free from the law so that we could be free to love others. We don’t live in a world where there are laws dictating whom we can associate with. We don’t live in a world where there are laws as to where we can go. The world is our church. The world is our mission field. Christ set us free from the law so that we could love this world. And when we fully accept that, when we fully accept the fact that Christ has set us free from our laws in order to love others; we can finally let go of those personal laws and enable ourselves to completely love others. As Paul says in Galatians 4:7… “You are no longer a slave; but God’s child.” We are free from weak and miserable forces and able to fully accept the love that God has for us, and the love that God has for us to share. Now let’s go out and share it.
“For God did not send His son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him” ~ John 3:17