…some false believers had infiltrated our ranks to spy on the freedom we have in Christ Jesus and to make us slaves (Galatians 2:4, NIV)
Many people think Christianity is a bunch of rules and restrictions. Perhaps this comes from the familiarity of the 10 “Thou shalt…” and “Thou shalt not…” Commandments of the Old Testament. It might be reinforced when people say, “I cannot do that because I am a Christian.” And there are certainly people who identify as Christians telling others what behavior is acceptable and unacceptable.
But authentic Christianity — which leads to far more life — is based on freedom. Freedom from the power and penalty of sin. Freedom to love God and love others. Freedom to admit weakness and wrongdoing as well as freedom to grow and change every single day.
People in Old Testament times did not have this freedom, instead they lived under a system of rules and restrictions. Spiritually speaking they were like young children; they needed clear expectations about right and wrong because they did not have the spiritual maturity to make the distinction. They did not have a personal relationship with God or the help of the Holy Spirit to guide them moment by moment. So the rules and restrictions were put in place so they knew what was required for maintaining a righteous standing before God.
But Jesus ushered in a new system of righteousness, built on freedom rather than rules. Through His death and resurrection, we can be forgiven of all our sins — past, present, and future — and have a permanent righteous standing before God.
This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe… for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. (Romans 3:22-24, NIV)
When Jesus was asked which of the Old Testament laws were most important, He gave a response that pointed us toward the freedom He offered:
“The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12:29-31, NIV)
Jesus summed up all the Old Testament rules and restrictions with this two-part principle: love God and love others. The New Testament is filled with instructions and examples that tell us what this looks like in action (Romans 8 & 12, Colossians 3, I Peter 3). When God’s rules were broken, the people lost His favor until a sacrifice was offered (Leviticus 9). But, with Jesus, our position with Him is secure even when we ignore or rebel against His principles (Hebrews 9:24-28). I appreciate this principle laid out for us about our freedom in Christ:
Everything is permissible for me, but not all things are beneficial. (I Corinthians 6:12, AMP)
God created us with free will, meaning that we have the desire and freedom to make choices. This is apparent from a young age; even toddlers find ways to communicate what they want! Although God gives us choices, not all choices are equal. He has defined some as sinful and others as righteous to help us understand which are best for us and glorify Him. With freedom comes the responsibility to accept the consequences of our choices. God’s design is that righteous choices lead to far more life while sinful ones lead to pain and loss. Sometimes sin looks like the better choice for the moment, and we use our freedom to choose it. But it always leads to pain and loss, whether that is evident immediately or years later. God loves us enough to let us make our own choices, just as human parents love their children enough to give them choices. And He remains faithful to His children, no matter how many sinful choices we make.
One beautiful part of getting to know God — and growing in far more life — is that we want to choose what He defines as right and good. As we grow in love for Him, our desire to choose what will please Him also grows. And as we choose what He says is best, we find that we are happier and more fulfilled, which leads us to use our freedom to keep loving Him and others. Live in freedom today as you pursue far more life!
Are you living under rules and restriction or freedom?
Have you accepted Jesus’ offer to pay the penalty for your sin against God? If not, what is holding you back?
What Biblical instruction has helped you grow in loving God and loving others?
What habits or choices have you found are not beneficial to your life? What do you need to change them?
Thank God for the freedom to pursue far more life through a secure relationship with Him!
Copyright 2020, Shari Damaso