Galatians 5:1 - It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore stand firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery.
Us gun totin', tobacco spittin', God fearin' Americans love us some freedom. Even the tree huggin', coffee sippin', God fearin' Americans love us some freedom. The plain old run of the mill, don't really go to protests, have to work too hard to worry about a cause, just let me live my life Americans love us some freedom. Freedom is kind of what has always defined this country.
We enjoy freedom because the founders of this country won independence from Great Britain back in the 1700's. (That's your history lesson for today.) Because so many of our patriotic songs talk about independence and freedom, we tend to mesh the two together to mean the same thing.
In fact, even if you're not an American, you probably see independence as a form of freedom. How many of us couldn't wait to get out from under our parents' roof? How many of us have bosses that we wish we could liberate ourselves from? How many of us think that being independent from a circumstance is the same as being free?
I guess that freedom and independence often go hand in hand. Until you start talking about the freedom that we are offered in Christ. For the Christian, it's just the opposite. We don't really experience freedom until we totally depend on Christ.
For a lot of Christians, we let our past define who we are. We look at mistakes, failures, flaws, and mishaps and let those things become a part of our identity. So many times I've heard people talk about how bad they were before they became a Believer. They'll spend twenty minutes talking about all the bad things they did, and just how messed up they were. Then they'll say, "And then I found Jesus. Don't you want to find Jesus too?" And that's it.
That's how it seems. I don't know where we got this idea that for the rest of my life I'm going to define myself by the mistakes I've made. I don't know why we define ourselves so often by the bad things that have happened to us.
Well, maybe that's not true. I know why I did that. I did it because my mistakes affected me so deeply that I used them as a crutch to excuse future mistakes. It sounds so messed up, but if I allowed myself to dwell on the ways that I messed up, then I was kind of a victim to Satan's traps rather than someone who chose to make the choices I made. If I walked not totally defeated, but just a little defeated and burned and wounded, then people should understand that I am really struggling to defeat sin and wrong in my life.
Independence. A large part of my performance as a Believer was knowing just how much of the wounded victim to play as it pertained to my spirituality. Another part of who I have been was a huge weight of guilt for so many things done wrong that a lot of people may or may not know about. But I could handle it. I could work it out. That's all independence. It's not freedom.
Paul said of himself that he was chief among sinners. I think we've taken that verse and tried to use it to excuse us from really seeking what kind of life God has for us. Too often in my life I've worn the "chief sinner" thing as a badge of pride. "See? I can relate to people who mess up. I don't look like all the other overly religious Christians, I'm just a big screw up." All the while completely embracing my failures and my past as part of my identity.
The truth that God is showing me, however, is that if Christ really did die to set us free...why do I go back to the chains? Why do I go back to the prison? Why do I hang around in my failures and mistakes?
How can we who are dead to sin live any longer therein?
Freedom in Christ requires DEPENDENCE on God. I can't tell you how refreshing that is to me. For a long time I carried the weight of my walk with Christ on my shoulders telling God, "I got this." Thinking that God expect to me "have it."
But in Christ, I'm a new creation that isn't created to walk in mistakes and failures. Hebrews tells us to "lay aside the sin that easily ensnares" us. Then James tells us the way to do that. "Submit to God, resist the devil and he will flee."
It all starts with depending completely on God. I didn't do anything but trust Him to be saved. Why is it that I should do anything but trust Him to live saved?
I'm free from my past. I'm free from my failures. I'm free from my sin.
I guess I'm saying this: While my mistakes, failures, and sins should inform my life....if I'm in Christ, my mistakes failures, and sins can never define my life.
Why would I let the enemy control me with a past that God has forgotten? Why would I continue to beat myself up over mistakes that have been truly forgiven?
Why not just depend on God and trust His love and grace and move forward?
God loves us so much. When He looks at us, He isn't so much concerned with our mistakes and failures and imperfections as He is concerned with what we can truly be in Him. He doesn't want us to carry the burden of the chains of sin and failure. He wants us to be free from it. Knowing that it hurts, and trusting Him to not go back to it.
In searching to find my smile again, I feel the corners of my mouth twitch upward as I realize that God has given me today to live free from the guilt of yesterday. God has given me today to breathe fresh and new. Scripture tells us that His mercies are new everyday. So if I should mess up today or tomorrow...He's ready with grace for that, but I think I'm beginning to understand what Paul said when he said, "The love of Christ constrains me." I'm amazed by the love of God that offers freedom if I'll just trust Him. It's that love that causes me to truly be done with my past.
Have I learned lessons from my past? Of course. But, I won't let the echoes of past failures cause me defeat anymore.
There is now therefore no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus.
He doesn't condemn me...He just says, "Get up and walk with me." That's something worth living for...that's something to smile about.