"It is absolutely clear that God has called you to a free life. Just make sure that you don't use this freedom as an excuse to do whatever you want to do and destroy your freedom. Rather, use your freedom to serve one another in love; that's how freedom grows. For everything we know about God's word is summed up in a single sentence: Love others as you love yourself. That's an act of true freedom. If you bite and ravage each other, watch out - in no time at all you will be annihilating each other and where will your precious freedom be then?" -- Galatians 5:13-15 The Message Translation
I was talking to someone yesterday who said that he knows people who don't want to go to church or even think about God or a relationship with Jesus because of all the things or habits of their life that they would have to give up. Everyone knows you can't go to church and go out drinking on the weekends, right? Going to church for many means rules, regulations and changing a person from the outside in. Clean up your act and you will be saved.This man went on to say that when he came to Christ, there were several things that he gave up...but he WANTED to give them up. That is the most important idea right there...when you seek out a relationship with God, he finds you and and brings you to him...God is powerful enough to change you from the inside out.
I have heard some talk of this change happening instantly, like they FELT God moving inside them and they had a deep, moving experience that changed them...a revival if you will. But for me, and for most, I am guessing...this change happens gradually over time. I have believed in God since I was a child, but it has only been in the last several years of my life that I have developed a relationship with God...talking and praying with God led me to a relationship with Jesus and I feel I was changed from the inside out. I was free.
I think, in my mind, there is a difference between free will and freedom in Christ. God gives each of us free will - we can choose to believe and follow him, or we can choose to go our own way. I often wonder why God gives us that free will. It would be such a better world if EVERYONE believed and followed God. But, it wouldn't be real. When we freely and honestly find our way to God and believe his word and his promises, it becomes real devotion. We find the amazing love in Christ and then we experience true freedom...freedom from rules, and regulations. Yes, we still have free will to live any way we want, but when we receive the Spirit of Christ in our hearts, we don't WANT to live any way we want. We want to live in God's ways and give up destructive behavior. We are drawn to love...drawn to the simplicity of loving others as yourself.
Freedom in Christ is not a magic pill...it is not always easy to live the life we WANT to live. Our old, selfish ways slip back...we are drawn back to the rules...we are drawn back to behaviors that we were comfortable with before. That's why it's important to keep in constant contact with God...keep learning and growing in Christ. God is always there...but so is our free will. He will never hold us against our will. He wants us to WANT him...he wants us to find that freedom in Christ again and again.
Dear Father God, I pray that the people reading this today will search you out and reclaim their freedom in Christ. Help us all to learn from you and have the strength to love others as we love ourselves and demonstrate that freedom today. Amen