It’s Monday Grace!
Have you ever felt free in your relationship with Jesus?
Jesus said that He came to set us free. In John 8, Jesus spoke to the crowd and told them that the truth would set them free. In fact, they would experience the ultimate freedom.
Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed.
They didn’t understand. They had never been slaves, they said. But they were in bondage.
They were in bondage to sin, of course. Before the cross, sin held power over the Jews and the Gentiles, just as it does over the lost today. It was the power of the cross that set people free from sin.
They were also in bondage to the law and teaching of the Pharisees. The rules bound them to performance but offered no hope, no freedom. The best they could hope for was that God would not be angry with them if they did their best. That gave the Pharisees the opening to tell them what their best would look like.
Legalism is a system of bondage. Do this. Don’t do that. Keep the rules. And just in case someone actually does well in keeping the rules, the legalists will make up more or hide some so that you continue to fail. Under legalism, under the law, you will never know freedom.
Probably the most consistent charge against the teaching of grace is that it opens the door to sin. The legalist says that our message tells people they are free to sin. The legalist wants to bind people against sin. If they have enough rules, enough chains, they will stop sinning. That’s what the legalist thinks.
But when have rules stopped people from sinning? Think about that. Rules don’t stop anyone from doing something wrong. From murder to adultery to shoplifting to cursing, rules do nothing to stop sin.
What stops people from sinning? Consequences and knowledge. If you obey the speed limit signs, it is probably not because of the sign. It’s because of the fear of getting a speeding ticket. Some people accept some speed limit signs as warnings of real danger. The sign in the school zone is to protect kids. But even that is about consequences. I don’t want a child to suffer or die because of my need for speed. There are consequences for breaking the rules.
Now, I am free to sin, and so are you. Whether we are under law or grace, we are the ones who choose how fast we drive or whether we steal. There is a great deal of sin among the legalists. There is also sin among the grace folks. We are all free to sin. No lightning strikes the sinner. No angel steps in to force us away from sin. You and I sin freely.
So, what did Jesus accomplish for us in regards to sin? Two things. First, Jesus took away the eternal consequences for sin. Sin no longer separates us from the Lord who loves us. Sin cannot overcome what Jesus did for us. Sin, either in the past or tomorrow, cannot define our future. Heaven is ours, forgiveness has been applied, and we are free from the stain that marked us. We have been washed clean.
The second thing is just as amazing. Jesus took away the power of sin over us. Not only did sin mark us as belonging to evil, it somehow controlled our thinking. We had no alternative. We grew up with sinful parents, in a sinful culture, and as sinners. We were part of the darkness. But Jesus set us free. He broke the chains of sin by the power of the cross!
What that means is that we don’t have to sin. Think about that. Because the Spirit is in me, my thinking is changing. I don’t have to sin. And my heart has been changed. I no longer want sin like I used to. The draw of sin is less. It still pulls at my flesh, but I don’t have to obey my flesh. I understand sin, even my sin, more. That’s new, and it’s from Jesus.
Our freedom does not come from the ability to sin without eternal consequences. The temporal consequences of sin are still just as real. Our freedom is in the wisdom and love of the Lord who walks with us. We are free when we belong to Him. It isn’t just the consequences and our thinking that have changed. We have changed.
You see, freedom isn’t about what we do. It’s about who we are. I am separate forever from the bondage of sin. That’s who I am now because of Jesus. There may be earthly consequences for my sin (that’s why the Spirit warns me against it) but I will never again be defined by it. Nor do I have to do it. I have the power from my Lord to say no to sin. I have a new mind and heart. My flesh, which is forever of this world, is still drawn by the old habits and values, but the Spirit in me offers new motivation and promise.
To answer the legalist: Are we free to sin under grace? Of course, just like we were under law. But now, in Jesus and under grace, we are free from the definition and control of sin. That’s new, and that’s real freedom.