Freedom is more than we give it credit

When I think about the freedom Christ’s life, death, and resurrection sealed and delivered to us for us and I look at my own life and the live’s of believers around me, I can’t help but think we’re missing something. We’ve stopped. We’ve sold ourselves short of full freedom in Christ. How often do we live and walk beat down, carrying about like we’re monotonous drones, feeling victim to our circumstances, past, and emotions? How often do we feel powerless in our fight against sin, in our delivering of the Kingdom?

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If Christ’s freedom is a rain storm, we put up an umbrella to protect us from its full power. We still get wet. We still reap the benefits and see the affect of this freedom in our lives, I can’t help but feel like we’re still missing something. 

I truly believe freedom in Christ is much more than we think, more than we can ask or imagine. I think we put it in boxes and give it a list of rules and a checklist, because to truly be free in Christ would be too much. More freedom than we trust ourselves with.  I know we imagine pure freedom, but without clear cut lists of good and bad we hesitate. There’s the outside pressure to conform and our own inner demons. We fear, so we put on chains, blockades, hurdles in our path instead of walking in freedom.

We exchange fullness of life for fitting in. We dare not be different or step out in faith for fear of being called unbiblical, immature, or wild–too much. And there will always be someone who will throw a stone at anything that doesn’t fit into their own neat, safe Christian box. But if we look at the New Testament (or even the Old Testament), none of these men and women would be characterized as safe, fitting in, or neat. If we know God is not safe (but he is good as Mr. Beaver says), but He is wild and surprising–otherworldly. He thinks in ways and has priorities that we do not, then why do we think our lives should fit so neatly within four 90 degree angles? 

The only answer I can think of it we’re afraid. We’re afraid of what freedom would truly mean, what it would ask of us. To truly reflect the vastness and majesty, the beauty and wonder, the glory and mercy of God as his chosen people we can’t live in a box. We can’t all look the same or make the same choices. We offer the world a truncated view of who God is when we strive to match, when we continue to live up to these checklists and man-made rules. 

What if we were not afraid to be kind without reservation that we’d get hurt…

What if we forgave without fear of being seen as weak or fear of being taken advantage of…

What if we spoke words of grace and healing instead of cutting down with sarcasm to be seen as funny…

What if we didn’t hide our pasts and all its ugly pimples and implications, but truly showed the world what Christ has freed us from…

What if we served out of love instead of as a tool toward our own ambitions…

What if we laid aside man-made rules and checklists for holy living and trusted that God has a better way…

What if we when we asked, “How are you doing?” we weren’t just being polite and had the patient to truly hear…

What if we let go of “I should do this…” and “I need to get better at, do more of…” and went to the Word to see what God actually says we should do…

If we all were truly free (and in Christ we are–do you believe it?), if we all truly walked out our freedom in the magnificent ways God has uniquely and individually created us—can you imagine it?

The weight lifted from our shoulders, no more guilt, free to ask questions and pursue interests, to express ourselves as God has created us. We were not all made with the same purpose and gifts, why do we let ourselves be hindered by human commands and doctrines?

The book of Colossians echoes much of Ephesians. It can read as a condensed version of everyone’s favorite epistle. But Colossians has this pivot in chapter 2,

“So then, just as you have received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him, being rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, and overflowing with gratitude.” Colossians 2:6-7

Live in Christ in the same way you received Christ. And how was that?

Freely. Empty. Gratefully. We brought nothing to the table. We could add nothing to our salvation. We could not perfect Christ’s sacrifice–it was already perfect. We cannot add to Christ’s holiness–he is Holy of Holies.

Live as we have received.

“For freedom, Christ set us free. Stand firm then and don’t submit again to a yoke of slavery.” Galatians 5:1

Christ set us free for freedom. He didn’t set us free so we could fulfill the law. He didn’t set us free so we could let others weigh us down with rules and regulations. He didn’t set us free so we could whine about how horrible we are and how often we mess up. He set us free because he himself is freedom!

Jesus says, “I am the light of the world. Anyone who follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life” (John 8:12) and he continues when the Pharisees think they’re going to call him out as a blasphemer, “The one who sent me is with me. He has not left me alone, because I always do what pleases him” (John 8:29). Jesus isn’t seeking to please the Pharisees, these the ancient timers who loved the check boxes and list of to does. He doesn’t care how he looks to them. He doesn’t care if his disciples think he’s crazy. Many of them leave him, because he was too wild for their sensibilities.

Jesus only cared about following the Father’s will. We see this throughout his earthly ministry (John 4:34, 6:38; Matthew 7:21). He only cared about doing what God the Father wanted him to do. And you know what, that can sound harsh to our modern ears, our sense of justice and tolerance, but if we step back and think of who God is and that he is working out all things for His glorious plan–what is better for us? What is better for the people in our lives? To live to please them, to do what will make us look good? To choose what’s comfortable, what makes worldly sense? Or to do what please God?

After Jesus said these things many believed he was the Messiah, the Son of God. Then he turns to his followers and says, “If you continue in my word [my teaching], you really are my disciples. You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:31-32).

This brings us back to Colossians 2 (are you still with me?), “just as you have received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him…” Paul immediately follows this with a warning to not be swayed or taken captive by heresy, philosophy, human traditions, and on but to instead be taken by Christ. And why? “For the entire fullness of God’s nature dwells bodily in Christ” (Colossians 2:9). Let’s breathe that in for a second, the fullness of God is in Christ…all God is in Christ. Paul doesn’t stop there, in verse 10 he continues, “and YOU have been filled BY HIM, who is head over every ruler and authority” (emphasis mine).

There’s two things here we can’t miss: first, because we, as believers, are identified in Christ’s death and resurrection those things have been appropriated to us. His holiness is now our holiness, His righteousness is now our righteousness. We are filled with God’s nature in Christ! Can I get an amen?! That’s everything. When Peter is writing in his second letter he says, “His divine power has given us everything required for life and godliness through the knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness” (2 Peter 1:3). This is it–we are filled with Christ’s nature. We have everything we need in him!

Carry that with us as we move on–don’t forget it. Second, we have been filled “by him, who is head over every ruler and authority.” This is important as we move about our lives and discern influences. There is no Bible teacher, discipler, social media influencer, theologian, pastor, conference speaker, or friend who has something better to say than what Christ has already said. Nothing of what they have to say can add anything to our holiness. Any of their wisdom, influence, or help should always be tested against the word of Christ.

Paul gives this–it’s not just asceticism, the worship of angels, liturgical rituals, or paganism Paul is warning about. So often that’s what we hear, but what is usually brushed aside or ignored is this, “All these regulations refer to what is destined to perish by being used up; they are human commands and doctrines. Although these have a reputation for wisdom by promoting self-made religion, false humility, and severe treatment of the body, they are not of any value in curbing self-indulgence” (Colossians 2:22-23, emphasis mine).

Think about that. What voices are you giving weight to in your life that are human commands and human doctrines? What looks good, looks like pure religion that comes from God, but is really false humility? What looks like wisdom in regulating or crafting a life of holiness, but has no power against the flesh?

Now, do any of these things that are crossing your mind, do they possess the spirit of freedom? Do they bring you closer to Christ? Do they celebrate freedom in Christ? Would Jesus put himself under these regulations?

Test them, Church. By and by, most of them don’t live up to Christ’s freedom.

There’s so much more to say. Paul continues to expose these appearances of holiness in Colossians 3 with what our heavenly, otherworldly nature looks like.

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Let’s shake off–the list, the rules and regulations, the appearance of holiness. We all feel it. We all want to. We don’t belong to this world, we belong to a heavenly one. Let us live on earth in our heavenly, spiritual, otherworldly nature. Because that is our most true self. 

Let’s get drenched.

 

 

photo credit: one, two

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