1 Peter 2:16. Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God.
Freedom may be the greatest gift God has given us in Christ, along with the new heart. A new heart that finally desires, loves, and is satisfied by God, combined with the freedom to live from this new heart, is what allows us to be what we were always meant to be – servants of God.
This may sound like a paradox – a free slave? But this is precisely what it means to be human. To freely place yourself under another is to truly live in love. To be in Christ. To image the triune God that is perfectly free and perfectly submissive at the same time. Maybe it only sounds like a paradox because we, as humanity, have used submission to make slaves, rather than free servants. And what we all know is that bondage makes for terrible servants. Servants in bondage don’t care about their masters, their work, and eventually even life itself. And understandably so. Their very humanity has been stolen. No person was ever meant to be in bondage to another. Yes, we were meant to serve one another, but from love, not compulsion.
But as we saw yesterday, God has not only rescued us from slavery, he also ransomed, or purchased us as his own possession. We are his free servants. But notice (this is important) that the freedom came first, then the servanthood. And now, in Christ, both our freedom and our service are empowered by the new heart, or the new nature, that he has placed in us by the indwelling Spirit of Christ.
But even though in Christ we have perfect love and with it perfect liberty, it’s rare that we actually live in this glorious freedom. Why? Because we have given in to a culture (even a church culture) that is so obsessed with getting it right that we are in bondage to our own performance. Like a piano recital where the student plays the piece perfectly, focusing on each and every note, but is not free to simply enjoy the music, we care more about how we look to others than we do about how much we are enjoying and experiencing Jesus. That’s bondage my friends, not freedom.
By constantly mixing performance and freedom, law and grace, we Christians seem to offer freedom with one hand and take it away with the other. “The gospel sets you free indeed,” we say. But then, when someone becomes a Christian, we almost immediately give them all the do’s and don’ts of the Christian life. We expect their growth in Christ to look a certain way and proceed at a steady pace. No set-backs. No struggles. Failures are often met with judgment and disgust. Confessions become non-existent. Prayer requests are never about the inner person.
Or maybe your Christian experience has been the complete opposite. For you, freedom in Christ means taking advantage of God’s forgiveness and grace to the point of passivity, or even license. “I’m saved and going to heaven.” OK great. But are you a servant of God? If not, then you’re not actually living in the freedom of grace. You’re still running back to the bondage of your own selfishness.
But freedom in Christ is truly freedom from the bondage of the self-life. True freedom is receiving unconditional love that molds us into joyful servants of God, and therefore servants of one another.
But how does this work in my heart and mind?
Freedom begins by remembering that who we are, our identity, our “enoughness,” is wrapped up in who Jesus is, not in who we are. Nothing can add or subtract from who you are in him. Do you believe this? Do you believe that you are free from all earning, all performing, and all the judgment that comes with it? God’s not keeping score. He’s not listening for you to misplay a note at your piano recital. He just wants you to love the music.
Only as we experience our exaltation in Christ, as we find our glory in him, as we embrace just how high he has lifted up our head, only then will this freedom produce the ability to go lower and lower into servanthood. Lower and lower into submission. Into selflessness. Into love.
“To live is Christ” has made us truly free. Free to be a slave to God and servant of all. Empowered by all Christ’s own praise, glory, and honor (1:7), we can finally set aside our own pursuit of these things and enter into the true love of selfless service.
In what ways are you living in bondage to yourself?
You in Christ
How has Christ set you free?
Christ in you
How might you live as a free servant of God today?
Playlist: Free In Christ.
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