Yesterday we observed Freedom Day in South Africa. It was, ironically, one of the least free Freedom Days that we have experienced in recent years, due to the restrictions on our movement during the lockdown. I got to thinking about what freedom means and the words of Jesus were brought to mind:
34 Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. 35 Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. 36 So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. (John 8:34-36)
There is so much to be said about the freedom that we have in Christ but there is one aspect that I want to focus on in this blog post. Jesus set us free from enslavement to sin, and not only that, he also set us free from trying to earn God’s approval and acceptance. As Jesus said, a slave has no permanent place in the family, they have to work hard to prove their worth, to earn their place. A son is a member of the family by virtue of his birth, he does not need to earn his place in the family.
Through Jesus, the Son who set us free, we are brought into God’s family by grace. We don’t earn our way in, nor do we have to relentlessly strive to keep our place. So many Christians don’t realise the full impact of the Gospel truth. Jesus is our righteousness, it is through Him that we are made right with God and receive God’s approval. We are so used to having to go to the ends of the earth trying to please people that we struggle to fathom the amazing truth of God’s grace. Instead we try to be the “perfect” Christians, doing more and more for God and then harshly judging ourselves for not meeting the standard. Or, disheartened, we stop trying at all, defeated by the impossibility of the task. Yet when we begin to fully appreciate and understand the incredible gift of grace that God has given us, we finally experience the true freedom we have in Christ.
I came across a wonderful testimony that illustrates this point:
“The harder I tried to be perfect, the more miserable I became. It took me almost having a nervous breakdown before I internalized the gospel truth that Jesus saves me by his grace — period. How emancipating to realize that I couldn’t be good enough for him to love me more, or bad enough for him to love me less! Gradually, I learned to love Jesus freely and accept his ludicrously lavish love. Instead of being bound to a list of do’s and don’ts, I began to serve God out of gratitude for all he accomplished on the cross.”
There’s the amazing thing. Realising that we don’t need to strive to earn God’s approval doesn’t mean we stop serving the Lord. In fact it has the opposite effect. It frees us to serve the Lord from a place of gratitude, and not obligation. As a result we will be far more effective at shining our light and glorifying God. Free indeed!