It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery. – Galatians 5:1 NASB
I think I am finally beginning to understand the implications of this verse. The past two years of studying Galatians has been a roller coaster of the Lord ripping the sin of legalism out of my heart. A very difficult process. A very painful process, but I think I am finally beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel. I am finally starting to taste some of that freedom that Paul speaks of.
Legalism: believing the lie that by following the Law, or any self-made religion, that you can gain approval or right standing with God. It is the belief that works do gain approval.
As this lie has been exposed in my heart a war has begun. A war between the flesh and the Spirit. The flesh desires to find its own way to gain approval-to seek a relationship with God on its own terms instead of His. This comes from pride, from the age old idea that we can be level with God Himself. Scripture tells us this is an impossibility.
For all of us have become like one who is unclean, And all our righteous deeds are like a filthy garment; And all of us wither like a leaf, And our iniquities, like the wind, take us away. – Isaiah 64:6 NASB
All our good deeds are filthy rags before the King of kings, because He demands perfection. The Spirit inside of me confesses my weakness, confesses my sin before a Holy God, and joyfully revels in the mercy and grace that is extended through the cross.
What I have discovered through this process is that all my “good” deeds are like muddy water. Clouded by selfish ambition, and the desire to be seen and approved of by men. I have tutored kids and pursued campers out of a desire for God and those in authority to approve of ME. Just like the Pharisees, I’ve been like a white washed tomb. This sin is so deceptive and so evil.
And heres the thing: Serving the Lord out of pride and selfish ambition is EXHAUSTING. You live in fear, just waiting for the moment when the judge will bang down the gavel and declare you unfit to enter His heaven. It is a burden, an tiresome yoke of service under a tyrant. This is NOT the God we serve. This is what the Scripture says:
And if I give all my possessions to feed the poor, and if I surrender my body to be burned, but do not have love, it profits me nothing. – 1Corinthians 13:3 NASB
He paid the price of perfection so that we wouldn’t have to spend our time striving for approval. We have it in Christ. So that we could serve Him and others out of love. So that He could forever be the loving Father for us. And what I have found is that when I serve out of genuine love, I experience the freedom, and suddenly serving is not toilsome or burdensome, but a joy.
Now let me be clear, this kind of service, the kind that comes out of love, is HARD. This is the kind of love that led Jesus to the cross. But when His love lives inside of you and is working through you, you never think twice about the so-called “sacrifices” that you make. In fact, you don’t consider them sacrifices at all.
Suddenly, when the burning all consuming love of Jesus overtakes your heart, there is no cost too high, no time too much. You can’t spend time ministering to people, treating them as objects for your own self-righteous gain, and walk away indifferently. Your love for Jesus and others affects every part of your life. Your heart breaks over your own sin, and it breaks for the sanctification and growth of others. You are prayerfully invested, and you give of yourself spiritually physically and emotionally. But once again, you won’t even be aware of this. Its easy. It is the natural fruit of love.
What I find is that when I love the Lord and when I love people this way, accepting my weakness and my inability, its easy. Its heart-wrenching, it brings heart ache over my own sin and the sin of others, and forces me to rely on the Lord, BUT this is SO FREEING. Instead of trying to climb up a mountain while pulling a semi truck behind me, I am like a weaned child laying on my mother’s chest. Just resting and relying on the Lord.
May the all-consuming love of Christ invade your heart, and make you unaware of your service and submission. May you be overtaken by joy as you lean on your heavenly Father’s shoulder.