Free to Be Like Jesus
The great temptation of freedom is indulgence. Knowing I have been forgiven by the Cross of Christ, it can be far too easy to fall into a casual attitude about sin and holiness. The grace of Jesus is so amazing and freeing, we can take it for granted and coast in areas of temptation, knowing we can always be forgiven if we engage in stuff that breaks God's heart.
Cuss a little? Get a little buzzed on the weekend? Watch some pornography? Enjoy a little gossip? In a weird way, the motivation to change can be lessened by having the "get out of jail free" card of forgiveness. I can relax in the knowledge that nothing can separate me from the love of God in Christ Jesus my Lord (Romans 8:37-39) and keep on living trapped in the sins and habits of the past.
In Galatians, chapter five, the Apostle Paul writes about freedom. He begins with this: "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 NIV)
We have been set free by the death and resurrection of the Son of God! We are free from sin and death. We are free from the guilt and shame of the past. We are also free from the chains of addiction and habits that have ruled our lives.
Most of us men (and statistics now say many women as well) have experienced the lustful pleasure and the bondage of pornography. In the Cross of Jesus Christ, we are not only forgiven for living in that lust, we are set free from the bondage of it. With the power of the Holy Spirit we can stop. Question is, do we want a holy life more than we want indulgent pleasure?
In the middle of Galatians 5, Paul says this about our freedom in Christ: "You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love." (Galatians 5:13 NIV)
Freedom does not equal indulgence. Jesus is a chain breaker! In Him we are set free from all that destroys the image of God in us. With the power of His Spirit and the support and encouragement of other believers who love us and encourage us and pray for us, we can walk in the freedom we have been given. Thanks be to God!
The last part of Galatians 5:13 points to the other side of freedom. We are not only free from stuff that is unholy and unGodly, we are also free to be like Jesus! We are free to "...serve one another humbly in love." We are free to embrace what it means to be made in the image of a God who loved the world so much that He gave His one and only Son for us. We are free to find genuine fulfillment in life in loving and serving others, rather than "grabbing all the gusto we can" and believing "he who dies with the most toys wins."
In my own life, the key to real change--the key to transformation--has been embracing and responding to the ministry of the Holy Spirit to replace selfishness with love and unGodliness with holiness in the depth of my heart. We can grieve the Holy Spirit. We can quench the Holy Spirit. Or we can allow the Holy Spirit to do His transforming work, cooperating with the work of Grace in our lives.
We can believe that this transforming work is not meant to kill our joy, but to deepen our fulfillment. We can embrace the truth that whoever tries to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for Jesus and the gospel will find it. (Mark 8:35)
The freedom God gives is a glorious freedom. He breaks every chain! And He gives us freedom, for the first time, to be like Jesus. And there is no more fulfilling and purposeful life than that!