Today let’s celebrate freedom in Christ! It’s July 4 in the United States, when we celebrate our country’s independence. I’m grateful for that, but grateful too for freedom in Christ.
Look at some of the freedoms Christ brings:
This is an incredible list and there’s even more! But having freedoms doesn’t mean always living in freedom.
The Apostle Paul writes in Galatians 5:1:
“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.”
The slavery he is talking about is slavery to the Law. How easy it is to become slaves again after being set free.
I scan the newspaper headlines and one pops at me. I read the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette article about Three-time Super Bowl Winning Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.
He spoke for a Christian men’s conference (via video) and talked about his struggles with alcohol and pornography, then went on to say:
“You can get out of it because of the grace of God and him saying, ‘Listen, you’re good enough for me the way you are. You don’t have to be perfect.’”
Powerful words: You don’t have to be perfect. You’re good enough for me just the way you are. You’re good enough because of Christ.
Quarterback Ben reminds me of a question I asked friends of mine: “What do you find yourself doing to make yourself ‘more acceptable’ to God? If the Gospel is salvation by Jesus alone, what is your “Jesus plus?”
I hear from 20 of them, some of their responses:
A tinge of sadness hits me for my friends—what a burden for them to carry, when the cross that Jesus carried was enough.
Then anxiety follows—I do this too. This bargaining, this attempt to buy my way into God’s good graces. As if He’ll accept me more because of my grand efforts.
My Jesus plus is often: Jesus + meeting other’s expectations of me. So, whether they’re my sense of God’s expectations for me or people’s expectations of me, I can live like my salvation and relationship with God teeters on not disappointing others.
If I disappoint others, it’s a long way out of the hole I feel I have fallen into, and I feel it deep in my soul, at an identity level.
Like something is wrong with me because I have let others down.
So, I spin and strive at doing everything I believe others expect of me just to preserve my well-being and sense of self. It can be exhausting.
And I imagine it’s exhausting for my friends:
And even exhausting for Strapping Superbowl Ben, whose Jesus plus may be “being perfect.”
Not only exhausting, it’s futile.
None of us can add anything to the salvation that Christ brings. But we think we can, think we must, the grace of God seems too good to be true or will run out or is “indebtifying.” We don’t easily receive what is so freely given.
But this tendency to “earn rather than receive” isn’t a new phenomenon. It’s why the Apostle Paul wrote so strongly to the Galatians:
“I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you by the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel—which is really no gospel at all.” (Galatians 1:6-7)
“You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you?” (Galatians 3:1)
“You were running a good race. Who cut in on you and kept you from obeying the truth?” (Galatians 5:7)
The Galatians had at first received the Gospel—salvation by Christ alone. But they turned from grace to trying to “earn” their redemption. They were at once freed from having to live by the Law, but then returned to the Law.
It was for them, Jesus + observing the Law, even though:
The Apostle Paul was trying to return them to the Gospel. The Law or piety or performance or approval cannot save us either. Quarterback Ben is right—we’re good enough because Christ was good enough for us.
This Fourth of July, let’s celebrate our freedoms in Christ and not become yoked again by slavery.
It is for freedom that Christ has set us free!
So live free.