Friday, October 12, 2012

FREE


FREE

 

For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.” – Galatians 5:1

For most of my life I’ve lived in the country where the closest neighbor was far enough away you had to use a phone to talk to them.  A house was not built on a lot, but on acres.  When I first moved into small-town suburbia, I had to adapt to the fact that if I scream too loudly, the neighbors might hear!  I had to make adjustments in how I lived.  One of those adjustments was with my two little dogs.
Living in the country Lindsey and Caesar were able to roam about the yard, the woods, the hillside, and there were no boundaries or limits to their freedom.  But when we moved into a neighborhood that had restrictions, and where neighbors might not be so friendly to dogs, I had to buy a pen and put them in it. 

They’re Jack Russell’s, so being penned up meant that their energy stayed encapsulated in their little bodies until I let them out.  And when I went to the pen to get them, the jumping would begin.  They don’t really walk as much as they jump from place to place.  Every day I would put them on a leash and try to take them for a walk.  Oh, those first few days I was sure they were going to be the death of me!  It was like they had suddenly grown nine more legs!  They went everywhere! They entangled me in their leads, crossed over each other, got knotted up, ran into the woods, and got tangled in the trees and briars. And there I stood, trying hard to maintain control of two small dogs, and losing!
I finally gave up!  I finally just let them be out all day, roam about the neighborhood and the adjacent woods.  But after a few days I found they calmed down.  They learned to enjoy the yard.  I credit God for answering prayers to make them stay in their own yard.  Now six years later, they are let out of the pen every morning, and spend most of their days just lying on the patio.

They remind me a lot of myself growing up.  I was raised in a very legalistic church.  There was a rule for everything and a punishment to follow.  I wasn’t allowed to wear pants until I started school.  I wasn’t allowed to wear shorts, swim suits, or go to the county pool.  I wasn’t allowed to dance.  There were restrictions on everything.   Church was also restricted as women were not allowed to say “Amen”, or lead in prayer.  We were also not allowed to clap our hands.  Tithe was given by walking to the front of the church and placing it in a box because “that’s how they did it in the Bible”.  Baptism was done in a river and not a baptistery, because “that’s how Jesus was baptized.”  I read my Bible out of a fear of displeasing God, and guilt that was inflicted on me if I didn’t do so.   I do credit my upbringing to creating a strong foundation of His word, but I also credit it for many untruths that I’ve had to resolve.
When you have rules and laws placed on you, you become much like my dogs were in a pen.  When there’s no room for error because the laws are so strict you can’t win, you give up the fight.  You fight for a chance to be free – and when you are – you run for all you can away from the pen!  And that was what my teen years were like, a lot of running in the opposite way of my raising.  It was a struggle to be free. 

But then I changed churches.  For the first time in my life, at 25 years old, I learned that God was loving, and not just wrathful.  I learned that my sins had already been forgiven, past, present and future.  I learned that His love for me was greater than any other love I could find.  I learned that His grace and mercy were enough.  I didn’t have to try to abide by every law I’d learned because God never expected us to be perfect, but to just be obedient.  Guilt was gone.  Shame was gone.  The chains of legalism were gone.
I learned that it was okay to put tithes in a plate that was passed rather than a box at the altar, because God never gave all those rules – man did.  I learned that God was okay with me dancing, and that even David danced before Him.  I learned that yes, I too can pray in church and say “Amen” and it’s not a privilege I take lightly!  I learned that having a Sunday School book written by men, and reading books written by men about the Bible was okay and not contrary to God’s leadership.  Bit by bit, the fence that legalism had put around me came down through an understanding of the grace of God. 

Now I don’t have to obey God’s every law out of fear, but I desire to do so out of love for who He is.  He is the one that give unconditional love and unending acceptance.  I can’t disappoint Him.  He’s already seen and covered my sins through the shed blood of Jesus.  Just as my dogs don’t run in rebellions to a leash when they’re let out of the pen, I don’t have to run either.  Just as they wait by the door for their master, Don, to come out to spend time with them, I can wait in peace as well.  We’ve become content. 
Galatians 5:1 calls legalism a yoke of slavery, and says “FOR FREEDOM Christ has set us free”.  Verse 18 of the same chapter says “But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.  Many look at the chains of legalism as necessary to develop holiness.  But if you could have been made holy by your own actions, Christ would not have been a necessary sacrifice.  The freedom He gives doesn’t cause us to want to live wickedly, but because His Spirit lives in us, we desire to please Him.  But if you cannot see the chains on you from church laws made by man, you may never experience true freedom.

Test every law, every denominational decree, every church rule, every judgment, every punishment, against God’s word.  It is HE you live to please and give glory - not man.      

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