Freedom, it’s a great idea, but a reality that very few people ever experience. Jesus came to set the captives free, but what does that really mean? What does that really look like? How do you lay hold of it?
In part 4 of a series, Berni Dymet takes a look at this whole notion of freedom.
YOU HAVE BEEN SET FREE (4)
Let’s face it, grace is a difficult concept to wrap your mind around. Maybe you get as far as the theory but the practice, actually living as though Gods grace in your life is real, well that’s a whole different thing.
Have you ever tried to work yourself into Gods favour? You try and you try to do the right thing but still you just mess it up. Well if you’ve been there you’re not alone. There’s a fine line between responding to God’s grace and falling into the trap of trying to work your way into His favour. Here’s how it happens:
At some point you realise what an amazing thing God did for you by sending Jesus to die for you on that cross. Amazing! And so you turn your life over to Him lock, stock and barrel. There’s a joy, a euphoria almost but then life gets back to normal. You go back to your day to day business and you slip back into your old habits, the sin that’s been robbing you of joy and peace for most of your life creeps back and guilt sets in.
So you say to yourself ‘self, you have to do something about this, there are standards here, there are rules, I shouldn’t be doing this, I shouldn’t be doing that’. You start to work at it harder and harder and harder and before you know it you’re pedalling so hard that it’s just about killing you. Yet still that old sin keeps on tripping you up.
My hunch is that you know exactly what I’m talking about. Jesus promised you freedom but this doesn’t feel like freedom. That’s because it’s not. Have a listen to what the Apostle Paul writes about trying to follow a set of rules, Galatians chapter 2 verses 15 and 16:
We know that a person is justified not by the works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ and we have come to believe in Christ Jesus so that we might be justified by faith in Christ and not by doing the works of the law because no one will be justified by the works of the law.
I am my father’s son not because I followed a bunch of rules and worked my way into that position, no, I am my father’s son because he is my dad and I’m his son. And as I grew up in that relationship my behaviour matured and improved as a response to his love not because I was good at following rules which by the way I wasn’t.
The moment you and I put our faith in Jesus God becomes our Father and the more we grow in that relationship, the closer we get to Him the more we experience His love and the more our behaviour changes. See it’s not about following a bunch of rules, it’s about trusting Jesus and as we experience His love first hand, allowing His love, His grace, His mercy to change us, to set us free in a way that following a bunch of rules never ever will.
It turns out that living in freedom has everything to do with Jesus. A Scripture that is really familiar to many people is this one:
It’s no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me.
But as familiar as that may be to many I wonder whether we truly realise what it means. Freedom is such an elusive concept for us, we want it, we chase it but very few ever really experience it and I mean that especially for people who believe in Jesus. Because deep down inside most of us have this nagging sense that we’re simply not good enough.
In fact the more you grow in your relationship with Jesus the more you see your own weaknesses and failings, it’s just how it happens. The closer you draw in a rich dynamic relationship with Jesus the more aware you become, the more sensitive your spirit becomes to the things that break that fellowship. And sin, sin always disrupts the closeness, the intimacy between you and God, right?
I believe that God wants to deal with this in your life today, Galatians chapter 2 verses 19 to 21:
I have been crucified with Christ and it’s no longer I who live but it is Christ who lives in me and the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave Himself for me. I do not nullify the grace of God for if justification comes through the law then Christ died for nothing.
So what’s God saying to us today through His Word? Quite simply this; the moment you accept Jesus into your life the old you has died, the old you was nailed to a cross. That’s the effect of making Jesus your Saviour and the Lord of your life. The whole point of Jesus suffering there for you on that cross was and is to set you free from the old you and give you a new life, a radically completely abundantly new life. So in Gods eyes it’s no longer the old you who lives but Christ who lives in you.
If you believe in Jesus you have a complete and perfect right standing with God, not because of what you’ve done but because of what Jesus has done for you despite what you’ve done. In fact because of what you’ve done that’s why Jesus died for you, that’s the whole point, that’s why they call this the Good News. You and I, in and of ourselves will never ever be good enough to stand before God, if we were who’d need Jesus, if we were then Jesus died for nothing?
But as it is we’re not and what’s more we never will be but that’s completely irrelevant because it’s no longer you or I who live – that old person is dead and gone but Christ who lives in us. So let me challenge you today about some of the old habits that may be robbing you of that freedom that Christ came to give you.
The older I get the more I realise what a creature of habit I am. We all have routines, little rituals that play themselves out day after day. In the morning when I get up I always shave before I clean my teeth, it’s never the other way around, I never clean my teeth first and then shave, I couldn’t imagine doing it that way.
Why? Well its habit, it’s routine. I’m sure that you have silly little rituals as well, we all do and one of the habits we want to fall back into is believing that the only way we can be in Gods favour is to work hard at it. Now if you’ve believed in Jesus for any length of time you’ll have heard sermon after sermon after sermon about Gods grace.
What’s grace? The free unmerited favour of God. I’m guessing you’ve heard that definition on more than one occasion and grace is such a great concept, the theory of it is so elegant, so simple, in fact deep down we suspect it’s just too good to be true.
I was staying with a man recently, a real man of God who shared something with me of his past, something he regretted, something he was ashamed of and I could tell in his heart of hearts he still wasn’t over it, he still hadn’t really forgiven himself for it and I’m guessing that in his heart of hearts he believed that it was still an issue for God too. You get that right?
Well check this out, this is the Apostle Paul’s reaction, his response to that old habit, Galatians chapter 3 verses 1 to 5:
You foolish Galatians, who has bewitched you? It was before your eyes that Jesus Christ was publicly exhibited as crucified, the only thing I want to learn from you is this, did you receive the Spirit by doing the works of the law or by believing what you heard? Are you so foolish having started with the Spirit are you now ending up with the flesh?
Did you experience so much for nothing, if really it was for nothing? Well then does God supply with the Spirit and work miracles among you by doing the works of the law or by believing what you have heard?
See, they had the same problem as you and me. They were always wanting to fall back to the old ways of working their way into Gods favour through what they did rather than knowing for sure, deep in their hearts that they were already in Gods favour because of what they believed. Knowing absolutely 100% that God had completely forgiven them absolutely.
Listen to me; if you believe in Jesus then you are drenched in the grace of God, in the free, unmerited favour of God today and for all eternity. That’s freedom.
Berni Dymet radio host of A Different Perspective wrote the above article on leaning on God’s grace as we follow Him in our lives.
Listen to the radio broadcast or read it again here: https://christianityworks.co.uk/adp/series/you-have-been-set-free-1/#episode4
His website: https://christianityworks.co.uk
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