It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened by a yoke of slavery. Galatians 5:1-12
Freedom is the state of being free, from among other things, restraint, necessity, and constraint. The meaning of freedom also includes the ability to open and outspoken.
Slavery, on the other hand, and quite simply put, is the exact opposite of freedom. Traditionally, when we hear the word slavery, we think of one person who is a chattel, or property, of another. There’s another meaning of slavery, and it’s one that we don’t always think of, which is the state of being under a dominating influence or belief.
If you were asked to name a couple of the freedoms that were gained for us when Jesus died on the cross, you’d probably include freedom from sin and freedom from eternal damnation, just like I did. But would you think about including freedom from slavery on that list? After all, slave conditions existed for years after Jesus’ death. As a matter of fact, some forms of slavery still exist, not only in our world, but in our country!
Before I continue, I feel compelled to mention something…
Religious freedom is a topic that I’ve mentioned many times on these pages, and I’m quite sure that I’ve devoted at least one entire post on this subject. While I don’t like being repetitive, this topic is one that holds a huge place in my heart because the lack of religious freedom prevents so many of us from having full and complete relationship with God.
For the first fifty-six years of my life, I was one of the untold thousands, make that millions, of people who went to church every Sunday because I had been taught to, because I felt obligated to do so, and because I was afraid of the consequences of not going. I didn’t know that going to church, and worshipping God, and having a relationship with Him could be FUN. No, your eyes aren’t playing tricks on you; I said fun.
The slavery to which Paul was referring is “legalized religion,” which is for the most part, rules written by men for men. Did you know that when Paul wrote his letter to the Galatians the benchmark for measuring a man’s Godliness was based on whether or not he was circumcised, and what he ate?
As soon as you’re finished processing that last question, chew on this one for a moment…
Do you realize that even today, many judge a Christian’s worthiness based on his religious denomination? It’s true. Many Baptists are of the firm belief that the only way is through the Baptist Church. Of course, the same can be said for many Catholics, Methodists, Presbyterians, Episcopalians, and so on.
The sad truth is that greater emphasis is placed on what makes Christians different than on the one single and most important thing that they have in common: Jesus. It is Jesus who sets Christians apart from Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, and every other non-Christian denomination.
Why do Christians lose sight of this? Why are the peripherals, such as traditional ceremonial religious rites, what we eat, what we drink, and dancing more important than Jesus, his life, his death, and the redeeming grace that we received by his death? How can rules made by men for men possibly be of more importance than the fact that God sent His son so that we may know the depth of His love for us, that we may know His mind, and that we may receive His Spirit?
If what you want are rules to live by (the real rules of religion), check out the Ten Commandments. If you feel that they’re not strict enough, try living each one of them to the letter every day of your life! If you’re seeking God’s wishes for the way we should live our lives, treat others, love others, and love Him, read the Bible. It’s His Word, and it’s alive.
How and where do you begin the process?
· Start with prayer. Ask God to reveal something to you about Him that you’ve never known. Ask Him to open your eyes, mind, and heart to see Him and feel Him in a way that you never done before.
There’s a worship song recorded by Mercy Me that includes the lyrics:
Open the eyes of my heart Lord,
open the eyes of my heart.
I want to see you,
I want to see you.
Do you want to see and feel God in a different way, to have a more meaningful and deeper relationship with Him that you have now? Do you want to experience the God that you’ve heard other people talking about? Then ask Him!
· If you’re not running to church with a smile on your face and anticipation in your heart, you might consider trying a different church. It doesn’t have to be a different denomination than the one that you’re accustomed to and most comfortable with. Just try a different church.
If that doesn’t work, then you might want to consider trying a different denomination. Yes, I know that what I’m suggesting is a big step. We’re most comfortable with what we know best, and when it comes to churches, we’re most comfortable in the one we grew up in. I know that for many, the mere notion of attending a different church is sacrilegious, because for fifty-something years I shared the same sentiment. I would rather have not gone to church at all than enter a different church!
· Take the first step, which is to look for God; not in a particular building, in a particular location, with a particular name on it. Contrary to popular belief, God doesn’t live in a building. We’re called together to worship God as a family of believers, but that’s not where He lives. He lives in our hearts and minds. You want to find Him? Take a look inside. I promise you that He’ll be there.
Take advantage of the freedom that Christ gained for you on the cross. Love God, worship Him, and seek Him in the manner that draws you closer to Him and fills you with His love. Then you can cast aside the yoke of slavery, and you will experience the sweet taste of freedom that Jesus died for!