But the people of Judah are stubborn and have turned against me. They have turned aside and gone away from me. They do not say to themselves, “We should fear the Lord our God, who gives us autumn and spring rains in their seasons, who makes sure we have the harvest at the right time.” But your evil has kept away both rain and harvest. Your sins have kept you from enjoying good things. Jeremiah 5:23-25
Sin isn’t widely accepted in today’s world – at least not the acknowledgement of it. Emphasis seems to be on freedom: the freedom to do, support, and tolerate whatever someone wants. (The irony is that one freedom seems to be left out: the freedom to judge or condemn. Not that we need to personally judge or condemn someone by assuming God’s role as judge, but we can and should certainly discern between God’s right and wrong and encourage others to live by God’s standards in order to fulfill the purpose God has for each of us.)
As with so many areas of life, we have redefined God’s meaning of a concept.
We have freedom now, because Christ made us free. So stand strong. Do not change and go back into the slavery of the law. (Galatians 5:1)
My brothers and sisters, God called you to be free, but do not use your freedom as an excuse to do what pleases your sinful self. Serve each other with love. (Galatians 5:13)
Let’s highlight what God is telling us.
- Our freedom comes from Christ.
- Christ makes us strong.
- We should choose freedom over slavery.
- God plans for us to be free in him.
- Freedom cannot be used as an excuse for sin.
- Freedom requires service.
- Service should be accompanied with love.
How does what God’s Word says about freedom and the world says about freedom differ?
Freedom from God is not a burden. We leave the burden behind when we replace slavery with freedom.
Has freedom in God ever felt like a burden to you? How?
Living life for God isn’t always easy. We can feel as if we’re under a weight of pressure, wanting to insure we do everything as God intends. God certainly has high expectations of his children, but God doesn’t intend for us to feel the same pressure felt by a child of parents with extremely high expectations when one slight slip might mar the child’s possibilities and the parents’ favor for a lifetime.
But God had special plans for me and set me apart for his work even before I was born. He called me through his grace. (Galatians 1:15)
What do the following verses reveal about God’s expectations of you?
But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Glory be to him now and forever! Amen. (2 Peter 3:18)
Jesus has the power of God, by which he has given us everything we need to live and to serve God. We have these things because we know him. Jesus called us by his glory and goodness. (2 Peter 1:3)
I do not mean that I am already as God wants me to be. I have not yet reached that goal, but I continue trying to reach it and to make it mine. Christ wants me to do that, which is the reason he made me his. Brothers and sisters, I know that I have not yet reached that goal, but there is one thing I always do. Forgetting the past and straining toward what is ahead, I keep trying to reach the goal and get the prize for which God called me through Christ to the life above. (Philippians 3:12-14)
God has high expectations and intends for you to live a purposeful life for him, but his purpose includes a process of spiritual growth. God’s plan involves both purpose and process. Both the purpose for and process of our lives in Jesus include freedom. God’s gift of freedom comes with the release of burden and the commitment to set aside sin.
We cannot allow sin in our lives because of the freedom God gives us. Of course, that doesn’t mean we’re perfect here on earth. Remember, spiritual growth is a process. However, just because God meets us where we are, forgives our sins, and extends his grace is not an excuse to continue doing something we know is wrong. Define “wrong” by God’s standards, not the world’s. Wrong is anything that pulls you away from God. It’s anything that isn’t right on target with God’s will. It’s missing the mark of what you’re supposed to do and who you’re supposed to be, which is the same thing as…sin.
Refusing to excuse sin because of the freedom God gives us means we don’t say it’s easier to ask forgiveness than permission. If we know we’re doing something that might require asking for forgiveness, we probably need to deal with it before moving forward. Refusing to excuse sin because of the freedom God gives us also means we don’t compare ourselves to others, justifying “at least we’re not doing what that person is doing” or, phrased in a positive way, “at least I’m generally a good person.” Being good isn’t good enough. We can’t be good enough for God, because that means we’re relying on our own works, not his grace. That’s not to say we don’t work our best for him, but our work comes out of his grace. Our work is the fruit of our faith. We do good works because we want to honor God, not because we’re trying to earn our way to heaven. There’s only one way to do that:
If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and if you believe in your heart that God raised Jesus from the dead, you will be saved. We believe with our hearts, and so we are made right with God. And we declare with our mouths that we believe, and so we are saved. As the Scripture says, “Anyone who trusts in him will never be disappointed.” That Scripture says “anyone” because there is no difference between those who are Jews and those who are not. The same Lord is the Lord of all and gives many blessings to all who trust in him, as the Scripture says, “Anyone who calls on the Lord will be saved.” But before people can ask the Lord for help, they must believe in him; and before they can believe in him, they must hear about him; and for them to hear about the Lord, someone must tell them. (Romans 10:9-14)