Tuesday, September 30, 2008


It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery. - Galatians 5:1

I recently had a mini-epiphany of sorts related to the doctrine of Christian liberty which I desire earnestly to communicate, but which I am fairly certain I shall muddle so badly as to sound like a most blasphemous libertine. A little personal background will be necessary to understand why this fresh revelation of grace struck my mind as so revolutionary, so outrageous.

I have been aware since childhood of the very sad state into which we humans are born: the natural depravity which touches and stains all our motives and actions, our rebellious and idolatrous hearts, our utter inability (apart from the intervening work of Christ) to do anything meriting the approval or favor of a righteous and holy God. All that said, I was also, from an early age, a very good child. I worked diligently at my schoolwork and excelled academically. I kept my room immaculately clean, and performed household chores with inordinate attention to detail. I was a hard worker and a passionate rule-keeper. Although I indulged in my share of sinful behavior - selfish desires, disrespectful attitudes, childish tantrums, outbursts of anger, etc. - I did earnestly desire to be a good Christian person, to behave in such a way as to bring honor to my parents and to God. I was sincerely grieved, even as a child, at the sin which seemed to spring up in my heart around every corner.

I also understood that - in spite of my very good behavior -anything "that does not come from faith is sin." (Romans 14:23) And, that faith itself was a gift of God. I remember an old King James translation of Proverbs 21:4b - ...even the plowing of the wicked is sin. I understood that, apart from faith, every seemingly trivial thing I did could be counted as sin and wickedness. But, praise God, I grew to understand that through the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit, I could at last indeed do good! I was free! Before salvation, I could only choose what opposed God, because I did not live by faith. After salvation, I could finally choose to do what truly pleased God.

That revelation should have been cause for tremendous rejoicing, but an odd thing happened. Before salvation, I worked very hard to maintain a righteousness that would hopefully satisfy God and my parents. After salvation, it seemed all the more important for me to maintain an even greater righteousness than I had endeavored to maintain before. Now, I had more power - the Holy Spirit himself! Now, I had more freedom - a will made truly free by regeneration. Now, I had more incentive - pleasing a God who had already demonstrated His immense love for me. So began anew the pursuit of being the perfect daughter, the perfect student, then the perfect wife, the perfect mother, the perfect teacher...

In recent months, I have faced situations where I have felt absolutely paralyzed to act on insanely trivial issues. God, I want to do what is right. I want to please you. I would struggle to know what was the right thing to do, but once over that hurdle, doubted that I could even trust myself. God, I'm unsure of my motives in this situation. I found myself overanalyzing every decision, making spiritual mountains out of dirt molehills.

Then the epiphany: I realized that while I had the freedom to do good and right, I did NOT have the freedom to do the wrong thing, to make mistakes, to make bad decisions, to be less than perfect. Sure, I was free to not sin, but I was not free to not not sin. To put it plainly, I was not free at all. I had turned my freedom in Christ into a suffocating prison cell, a crippling bondage.

I John 3:1 says - How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! Those are not the words of someone whose approval is based on performance, on being "good." Those are the words of an eternally secure son, a son confident of his Father's love . . . a son who is free to do what is good and right, and who is also free to err, to make bad decisions, and to fail. A slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. - John 8:36

Sisters, do you know what this means? I AM FREE! I AM FREE! Now, if that thought doesn't shake you in your boots, I don't think you truly realize the implications of freedom! But we will have to save that conversation for another time.

- In the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith (NOT WORKS) from first to last, just as it is written: "The righteous shall live by faith." - Romans 1:17 (emphasis added)

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