Freedom in Christ

"Don't judge me."

In the social media world of Twitter and Facebook and Instagram and others, a whole lot of judging goes on. And occasionally, at least, we see those words. "Don't judge me." They usually come with this assumption: you have no right to judge me because you are a sinner, too. Nobody's perfect. So don't judge me.

And it's not just in the social media world. Which one of us has not been guilty of judging a mom in a store or restaurant when her child acts up and disturbs our peace? How many of us have spoken out loud the sentence that begins with, "If that were my child..."?

Sometimes even in the church, where we should know better, we are critical of someone who shows up dressed in a certain immodest way, or having the appearance of being dirty, or showing up only on Christmas and Easter.

In his letter to the Colossians, the Apostle Paul urges the believers there not to buy in to Jewish legalism, which the Judaizers are pressuring them to adopt. "Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day. These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ." (Colossians 2:16-17 NIV)

Keeping religious rules is not wrong as an act of devotion to the God who created us and redeems us. Worshipping, praying, tithing, studying Scripture, and serving in the ministries of the Church all have value in keeping us close to Jesus and growing our soul toward Christlikeness. But practicing them is not what saves us or makes us acceptable to God. Keeping rules does not save us. Trusting Jesus does.

We are saved by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone. Sometimes, whether subconsciously or intentionally, we act like it's our goodness - our good deeds - that causes God to forgive us and grant us eternal life. Only Jesus' death on the Cross and resurrection from the dead has the power to remove the death sentence of sin and grant us salvation.

So why do good works? To give evidence of the faith we have in Jesus Christ, and to show Him to the world. I don't strive to live a life of holiness, love and service to get God to love me. He already does. I strive to live this way because I love Him. And I want others to know Him.

This subtle change of motive and attitude makes a huge difference. It's the difference between slavish legalism to the commandments of God and joyful service to my loving Savior. The results may look the same.

I can refuse to practice drunkenness or avoid sexual promiscuity or give to missions or regularly worship with either motive. I can do these things to try to get God's favor and save myself. Or I can do these things because I already have God's favor, and I am grateful Jesus saved me. One is slavery. The other is freedom in Christ.

Those religious rules Paul is talking about - I practice some of them and not others. The ruling guide in it all is not legalism. It is following the nudging of the Holy Spirit to live a life that is holy and loving out of love for Jesus. A life lived out of love for the One who died for me is a life filled with joy and meaning and purpose. I recommend it.

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