freedom

Day 24: Not yet perfect

Paper Tigers & Impressing God

A Write 31 Days Series

Have some of you noticed that we are not yet perfect? (No great surprise, right?) And are you ready to make the accusation that since people like me, who go through Christ in order to get things right with God, aren’t perfectly virtuous, Christ must therefore be an accessory to sin? The accusation is frivolous. If I was “trying to be good,” I would be rebuilding the same old barn that I tore down. I would be acting as a charlatan.
— Galatians 2:17-18 The Message

I feel this sentiment.  Have you noticed that I'm not perfect yet?  (If you're not sure, just ask my kids.)  Is it a surprise to anyone that I'm not perfect yet?  I've been a Christian for 27 years now.  Shouldn't I be getting closer to perfect?

We are sanctified as Christians, but we will never be perfect here on earth.  Oh for that glory in Heaven!  We all long for it, especially on Mondays.

I'm still sinning up a storm in my life.  (Again, just ask my kids.)  Is Christ an accessory to that sin?  Did Christ aid and abed my sin?

The English Standard Version of the Bible phrases the question like this, "Is Christ then a servant of sin?"

In either case, Paul says this, "Certainly not!"  Christ is neither an accessory to my sin or a servant of sin.

The sin has been dealt with, once and for all.  He finished that wrath-appeasing on the cross.  He paid the wages of those sins when He died that death.  He brought us forgiveness from those sins when He rose from the dead.

Christ is not an accessory to your sins.  Christ is not an accessory to your friends' sins.

Our goal cannot be to just have good behavior, and if you are a teacher, your goal cannot be just teaching and expecting good behavior.

Paul says that "trying to be good" would be rebuilding religion that the Jews had before Christ came.

Jesus is greater than religion.

Paul says that if he were to promote "being good" that he would be a charlatan, a fraud.  The ESV phrases it like this, "For if I rebuild what I tore down, I prove myself to be a transgressor."

I am trying to hold myself to the same standard as Paul.  I am trying to live in grace and truth without striving to define myself by my good behavior.  I am trying to teach heart changes when I teach God's Word because behavior changes save no one.

 

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Day 23: Charade

Paper Tigers & Impressing God

A Write 31 Days Series

Later, when Peter came to Antioch, I had a face-to-face confrontation with him because he was clearly out of line. Here’s the situation. Earlier, before certain persons had come from James, Peter regularly ate with the non-Jews. But when that conservative group came from Jerusalem, he cautiously pulled back and put as much distance as he could manage between himself and his non-Jewish friends. That’s how fearful he was of the conservative Jewish clique that’s been pushing the old system of circumcision. Unfortunately, the rest of the Jews in the Antioch church joined in that hypocrisy so that even Barnabas was swept along in the charade.

But when I saw that they were not maintaining a steady, straight course according to the Message, I spoke up to Peter in front of them all: “If you, a Jew, live like a non-Jew when you’re not being observed by the watchdogs from Jerusalem, what right do you have to require non-Jews to conform to Jewish customs just to make a favorable impression on your old Jerusalem cronies?”
— Galatians 2:11-14 The Message

I always felt icky after those conversations I talked about on Day 21: Reputation.  Whenever I would engage in agreements to conform to whatever friend group I was around, assuring them of my conformity to their pre-set parenting methods or behavior, it felt dishonest.  I was seeking their approval.  I would agree and nod my head.  I would throw ideas out that I knew they would like.  It felt like an over exaggeration of the "good job" I was doing as a parent.  I would leave those conversations with a yucky feeling.  I had just affirmed the choices we had made as "right" even though they were decisions made from privilege.  I could feed my kids healthy food when I could afford it.  Others cannot.  I could stay home with my children and home school because I had a husband with a full-time job.  Others don't have that luxury.

I would leave my conversations affirming our privileged decisions that defined "good parenting" to us, and I would go downtown to minister to single moms who couldn't cut McDonalds out of their lives or home school their children.

It felt like I was setting a standard for "good parenting" that could never be achieved by the majority of moms.  And I felt icky.

I didn't fess up to the times I had yelled at my kids trying to get to the gatherings of moms either.  I didn't fess up to the times we ate McDonalds or Burger King with our church group or as a family.  

It felt dishonest.  And I felt icky.

I don't know if Peter felt this ickiness when he conformed to the conservative Jewish men from Jereuselum.  Maybe He did.  Peter wanted to fit in with the Jewish click, and he was pulling back from the gentile Christians that he was discipling.

Paul confronted him for his actions.  Paul told him that he was not living in the freedom that Christ had brought us.

If something is true, worthy of defending, it will be just as true for the mom stuck in poverty as it is for the middle-class mom.

Conforming to friend groups just to get their approval compromises your honesty and vulnerability that allows you to connect with others.  If the parenting or behavior rule isn't true for the single mom struggling in poverty, then it is a cultural decision, not a spiritual one.  It isn't something we define our Christianity by.  We shouldn't hold others to standards set by our middle-class culture.

When we create or conform to these standards, we create cliques among believers.  We create an "us" and a "them."

Let go of this charade and live in the freedom Christ died to give us.

 

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Day 17: Doer who's free

Paper Tigers & Impressing God

A Write 31 Days Series

But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing.
— James 1:22-25 ESV

Here is my question, “Can a doer be free?”

I’m task oriented.  I like doing.  I am a doer.

Maybe you are like me too.  Maybe you are a doer as well, but maybe you are not.  Maybe doing sounds like too much work and you would rather be spending time at the feet of Jesus.

That sounds free!  Worshipping Him, praying, and lavishing in His goodness and love.  That sounds like freedom.

What about all the tasks:  studying, teaching, going, proclaiming, making disciples, nursery working, cleaning, preparing, orphan care, raising awareness about injustices, giving, feeding the poor, welcoming the stranger, visiting the sick, visiting the imprisoned, clothing those without.

We could all just get tired from the list.

How do we stay free in the midst of all the doing?  Is it possible?

We can’t forget the doing and just hide behind our faith because Scripture tells us that faith without works is dead.

What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.
— James 2:14-17 ESV

Works is as simple as this, living your life as if you believe the Bible is true.  If the Bible is true, it will lead you to love, trust, and worship God.  Your love of God will lead you to love others.

What is freedom anyway?

Let’s go back to Galatians, where we are getting these ideas of freedom from fear of paper tigers and freedom of striving to earn God’s approval.

 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

Paul says that freedom grows out of love.  Love is the key.

 

Reasons to DO that will not bring you freedom:

  • guilt
  • striving to impress
  • selfishness
  • wanting accolades
  • growing our importance
  • promotion 

 

Reasons to DO that will bring you freedom:

  • love

 

It is possible to be a doer who is free, and love is how it is done.  That is so good to know.

 

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