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Before the age of ten, I was a carefree tomboy who ran in the wind and spontaneously attacked every day of life like it were her last. Most of my hours were spent reading, dancing, eating, swimming, talking, and volunteering. I loved animals. I loved Jesus. And I loved living life. Very few of my days included chaos, anxiety, stress, and fear.
As Macklemore and Ryan Lewis’ song featuring Kesha notes,
“I wish somebody would have told me babe
Some day, these will be the good old days
All the love you won’t forget
And all these reckless nights you won’t regret
Someday soon, your whole life’s gonna change
You’ll miss the magic of these good old days”.
I wish somebody would have told me that a quest for perfection would rob me of mistakes that enable me to learn.
I wish somebody would have told me that eating disorders and obsessions with exercise as coping mechanisms for control never keep the promises they offer.
I wish I didn’t have to grow up so fast and would have realized that adulthood is inevitable, but Christ desires for us to be life-long children at heart.
I wish I would have loved and served friends and family more when I was too preoccupied with maintaining religion.
I wish I would have realized that being robbed of freedom never shows up like a robber but the fulfillment of everything you ever wanted.
Freedom in Christ
In Galatians 5:1-12, Paul describes freedom in Christ as freely given to us for the sake of being free. Christ gave us freedom and set us free because He desired to do that for us.
“It is for freedom that Christ has set us free” (Galatians 5:1a, New International Version).
But quickly, we learn in that same verse that one can easily enslave themselves if they aren’t on guard.
“Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery” (Galatians 5:1b, New International Version).
Whenever we feel bondage in this life, it is often and usually because we have placed unrealistic expectations on others and ourselves. We do it to ourselves. Others do it to us. Christ never does it to us.
Although Galatians 5 highlights Paul’s address to the Galatians, it is a message that still rings true in this day and age.
In Galatians 5, Paul told those telling the Galatians that they needed to be circumcised to be saved and that to make such an accusation would discredit the cross of Christ.
“Mark my words! I, Paul, tell you that if you let yourselves be circumcised, Christ will be of no value to you at all. Again I declare to every man who lets himself be circumcised that he is obligated to obey the whole law” (Galatians 5:2-3, New International Version).
People in the year 2022, nine times out of ten, are not questioning circumcision. But we all often let ourselves be burdened by yokes of slavery-like things that claim us, and it is a challenging fight. If it were not, why else would Paul tell us to stand firm?
If the Galatians went back to this belief that it was the Law that made them right with God, how much more likely are we to fall into the same trap? But if the Law made one right with God, there would be no reason for Christ to have died.
Stand By Grace
Works cannot, do not, and will not set us free.
We cannot save ourselves, and the same applies to us when we run back to religion, reading, volunteer hours, service, and works to set us free. Or things that disguise themselves as freedom (addictions, struggles, perfection, disorders that attempt to convey peace), but only breed discontent!
Addictions offer temporary relief.
Struggles remind us of why we are not worthy to be saved.
Perfection tricks us into thinking if only then I will be accepted.
Disorders and diagnoses offer comfort but leave us in earthly bondage.
But let me be clear: It is by grace through faith and not the Law that sets us free. It is Jesus’ death on a cross and not our works or attempts at religious perfection that make us worthy to be saved. If that were the case, we would aimlessly and hopelessly strive for an impossible destination for the rest of our lives.
“You who are trying to be justified by the law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace. For through the Spirit we eagerly await by faith the righteousness for which we hope. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love” (Galatians 5:4-6, New International Version).
Stay In the Race
At one time, the Galatians ran in Christ’s freedom race. This is why verse 7 says, “You were running a good race. Who cut in on you to keep you from obeying the truth” (Galatians 5:7, New International Version)? But perhaps they started hearing other voices and opinions that made them doubt the truth. Voices that sound like:
If you aren’t productive, you aren’t worthy.
Did Jesus really fulfill the Law?
Did God really say?
Has Christ truly set you free?
If you don’t read your Bible enough, can you really call yourself a Christian?
What if you get all these people saved, but you aren’t saved?
Those doubts mean you aren’t saved.
You must be perfect and maintain perfection.
You need to be circumcised to prove yourself.
Would someone love you enough to die for you?
No one would love you and choose to die for you.
Don’t you know who you are and what you have done?
These voices grow loud, and before we know it, they are all we hear. All we listen to and bow down in obedience without realizing it.
As Galatians 5:7-9 remark, however, it is clear that these voices and oppositions of persuasion do not come from the one whose name is the Prince of Peace. They come from the one whose name is synonymous with the Father of Lies.
“You were running a good race. Who cut in on you to keep you from obeying the truth? That kind of persuasion does not come from the one who calls you. “A little yeast works through the whole batch of dough” (Galatians 5:7-9, New International Version; bold emphasis added).
Paul boldly told the Galatians this: You were running a race. Stay in the race. Don’t listen to anything other than the Word of Christ. And if it counters Christ, throw it off! The Devil comes to kill, steal, and destroy, but Jesus, who you know, came to give free life and life to the full (John 10:10).
Paul also boldly preached the Gospel of Scripture and was not afraid to do so faithfully. Anything else the Galatians or we believe that is not Christ crucified discredits the miraculous grace of the cross.
Don’t Discredit the Cross
Every time we accept a lie as God’s truth, every time we trade in His gift with an attempt to prove ourselves or win our way to His grace, we discredit the dignity, mercy, and salvation He has graciously bestowed upon us. But Paul tells us, don’t discredit the cross!
In response to those causing and claiming these beliefs, however, he says, shame on you! You should be emasculated (deprived of male role/identity/ and entire male parts)! Yikes! Talk about bold and graphic, but Paul makes a point.
To make anything other than Christ the sacrifice He gave with His body and blood on the cross is a poor substitution for righteousness that will fail every time.
“I am confident in the Lord that you will take no other view. The one who is throwing you into confusion, whoever that may be, will have to pay the penalty. Brothers and sisters, if I am still preaching circumcision, why am I still being persecuted? In that case the offense of the cross has been abolished. As for those agitators, I wish they would go the whole way and emasculate themselves”(Galatians 5:10-12, New Living Translation)!
The next time we are tempted to run back to the Law, let us be reminded that doing so rejects the grace shed for our forgiveness and freedom. Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 14-17 that if Christ did not die, and had not risen from the dead, his preaching, and our faith would be useless. We are slaves to sin without Christ.
But Christ crucified brings freedom. How much sweeter is that than attempting to fill your own Law or religion?
This? This is what freedom feels like.