Galatians 5:1 English Standard Version (ESV)
For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit
again to a yoke of slavery.
There are two types of people in our churches today: the Disciple and the Detainee. One compelled by love, the other compelled by fear. One by the power of Grace, the other by the power of the Law. The Disciple follows willingly, out of love seeking to draw nearer to Jesus by grace through faith. The Detainee follows under duress, striving to somehow earn the favor of a ruthless master by effort and good deeds. The Disciple finds unlimited and unmerited mercy for every need. The Detainee finds shame and regret at every turn. The Disciple has been invited to follow Jesus as He does the work of seeking and saving that which is lost, healing that which is broken, lifting that which has fallen and setting free that which is bound. Do you know the joy of willingly following Christ as He brings the Gospel to your community? Or do you fear that you will never measure up to His lofty expectations and ultimately find yourself separated from Him for eternity? What if I told you that it is His good pleasure to set you free, completely and eternally free.
There is now and has been forever, an evil doctrine of devils that we have labeled Legalism. The premise of this terrible lie is that we as mortal, fallen men and women can and must obtain immortality through our own effort. Everything about this doctrine flies in the face of every Gospel promise uttered throughout the whole of Scripture. Did God set requirements and stipulations in the Garden when He told the serpent, in the very presence of Adam and Eve, that from Eve would come One who the serpent would wound but this One would crush the serpent's head? No, He offered a Sacrifice and invited Adam and Eve to willingly follow. There was nothing they themselves could do to remit or appease their sin. Did God demand perfection from Noah before He called him to build an Ark? No, He just looked down and saw that Noah continued to offer the Sacrifice that God offered for Adam and Eve in the Garden. This great truth of man's inability and God's willingness to save was passed down through the generations to Noah. He then passed this on to his children who had to decide for themselves if they would continue to obey the call to offer a Sacrifice in honor of the One to come. The whole of the human family had the knowledge of the Gospel given to them at the time of the receding of the flood waters via their fathers; Shem, Ham and Japheth. It was through the line of Shem that Abraham would come. He was a man that understood the Sacrifice that he would offer pointed to that great day when the One promised to Eve would come. Did God demand that Abraham perform some great works to be worthy of the call of God? No, He looked for Abraham's willingness to trust in the Sacrifice to come. Nowhere does God ask for perfection from man, but everywhere He looks for faith. Faith in the coming Sacrifice on the other side of the Cross, faith in what Christ did on our side of the Cross. Consider these words of Jesus spoken to the first of the Disciples He would call:
Matthew 4:18-20English Standard Version (ESV)
18 While walking by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon (who is called Peter) and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen. 19 And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” 20 Immediately they left their nets and followed him.
He asks them to follow Him. To follow willingly, out of choice and because of what He could do for them. And notice their response. It was immediate. They followed Him without hesitation. In Him they found what they longed for. It was what He could accomplish for them, not what they could accomplish for Him. Jesus later says this:
Matthew 16:21-25English Standard Version (ESV)
21 From that time Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. 22 And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, “Far be it from you, Lord! This shall never happen to you.” 23 But he turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.” 24 Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 25 For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.
Why does Jesus rebuke Peter so strongly? Because Peter had become lured into the trap that ensnares so many today: the idea that because we belong to Christ and we have such a powerful influence on society that we no longer are committed followers of Christ but rather we are elevated leaders of the Church. Jesus reminds Peter that we must ever keep our eyes, keep our hope fixed upon the Cross that sets us free from this world. Legalism had begun to attempt it's overthrow of Peter's faith. Has it attempted to overthrow your faith as well? There is a sure way to tell. Do you still sense the desperation to see Christ move in your home, your Church and your community? Do you still passionately long to hear the voice of the Lord in your personal prayer life and personal Bible Study time? Do you still long to be used by God as you follow Jesus' example through the empowerment of the Holy Spirit? Or have you become comfortable? Are you somehow satisfied with what God "did" and see no need to pursue Him for anything else? Are you critical of everyone and everything? Are you bitter and hard hearted over things that you should have forgiven and forgotten? Is He your treasure, your prize, your portion or have you fallen for another? Today, right now, cry out to Jesus to reinvigorate your relationship with Him, thereby breaking the hold of Legalism on your life. Greater is He that is in you. You are not the slave to this world that you once were. You were made for freedom, fitted for redemption and liberated by grace. Be free today! Identify your enemy and his devices and cry out to Jesus to deliver and restore to you the joy of your salvation! Stand in that freedom, trusting Christ who set you free to keep you free until that wonderful day when we are forever severed from this fight on this earth upon which we currently reside. That day when we receive the promise of our eternal, sin free existence in the presence of Christ and His angels. At home with the Father, Son and Holy Spirit never to know the struggle of mortality and the sting of sin and death. This is your inheritance, this is your reward. Not for what you have done, but we reap the reward of what He has done. Freedom!!