When JJ gets out of jail, his freedom doesn’t last long. As soon as he realizes he is now responsible for himself, he is back behind bars.
When KL’s sickly spouse died, he felt instant freedom from the constant demands of being a care-giver, yet also moaned how lonely he is and how difficult to adapt to his ‘new’ life.
Most people do not want to be locked up or feel like a slave toward anything, but freedom is never about ‘doing what I please.’ Free people are still responsible for their actions. Christian freedom is like that also. It releases me from the dictates and demands of sin or any other kind of slavery, but it does not release me from being a responsible person.
For me, the worst slave-drivers and freedom-robbers are pride and legalism. Instead of enjoying the freedom that Christ gives, they dictate what I do, and pressure me into thinking I must be perfect to be accepted. Instead, God tells me . . .
“For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.” (Galatians 5:1)
The author of my devotional book lists and describes legalism, that system of trying to earn God’s favor by keeping a set of rules I have devised. Here is a shortened version of what he says . . .
1. Pride and legalism seek assurance based on what I do instead of what Christ has done.
2. Pride and legalism neglect responsibilities because I feels as if I am never good enough to do anything instead of trusting the enabling power of the Holy Spirit.
3. Pride and legalism focus on punishment and reward which easily transfers to others and becomes either jealousy or a critical spirit.
4. Pride and legalism add my rules to God’s Word —I decide what ‘acceptable Christian behavior’ is instead of trusting the Holy Spirit to do that job.
5. Pride and legalism set me up as a judge of me and everyone else, but none of us measure up.
All of this is contrary to the Gospel. Pride and legalism enslave me; walking with Jesus sets me free. The following passage describes how God releases me from sin and slavery . . . and how I need to respond . . .
· “Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.· “See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ. For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, and you have been filled in him, who is the head of all rule and authority.· “In him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead. And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross.· “He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him.· “Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath. These are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ. Let no one disqualify you, insisting on asceticism and worship of angels, going on in detail about visions, puffed up without reason by his sensuous mind, and not holding fast to the Head, from whom the whole body, nourished and knit together through its joints and ligaments, grows with a growth that is from God.· “If with Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the world, why, as if you were still alive in the world, do you submit to regulations— “Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch” (referring to things that all perish as they are used)—according to human precepts and teachings? These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body, but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh.” (Colossians 2:6–23)
Basically, this rich passage says that if Christ sets me free, I am free indeed. I’m not to pay attention to human pride or legalism, either in myself or from others, particularly the devil who keeps telling me to ‘work harder’ and that I’m not good enough. None of my rules will overcome sin, and pride cannot for it is at the root of sin.
Jesus, wow. You are my freedom. In you, I am out of jail, set free from the tyranny of sin and of always insisting on having my own way. I can laugh at bondage instead of opening myself up to it. Bless You, my Lord, and my Deliverer.