During my college years, I had several opportunities to go on mission trips to share the Gospel with fellow college students. I was blessed to have many rewarding and humbling conversations with students who believed different things about God. Many thought Christianity was simply another religion where you had to adhere to a strict set of rules and give up your freedom to fit into a narrow box of following commandments and sacraments. On the opposite side of that, one question I received a lot was if Jesus really did die and pay the penalty for our sins. Does that mean we can continue doing whatever we want? Why does it matter if we engage in the pleasures of the world if we have already been saved from condemnation? Paul addresses both sides of this question in his letter to the Romans:
What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? Romans 6:1-2. NIV
You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness. Romans 6:18. NIV
But now, by dying to what once bound us, we have been released from the law so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit, and not in the old way of the written code. Romans 7:6. NIV
Paul’s response is pretty clear. As Christians, we have died to sin, meaning that Christ’s work on the cross did much more than wipe away our sinful record and clear away the consequences. He fulfilled all of the commands of the law so that we are free from being judged by a standard no human could live up to. In Christ, we have been given a new life and a new identity. We have been given something else to live for. We have been redeemed from all of our past mistakes, heartbreaks, and rebellions. Experiencing this radical transformation, and getting to know Jesus through God’s Word and prayer, can only leave you wanting to become more like Him. And, because of these truths, we can experience true freedom in Christ.
In our society, the word “freedom” can mean a lot of different things. Largely, it is the belief that you should be able to do whatever you want that makes you happy. But, this is not a picture of Biblical freedom. In Genesis 3, Adam and Eve wanted to eat the fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. They thought it would bring them satisfaction and happiness. Instead, it caused separation between them and God. That’s how sin plays out in our own lives. What we think will bring us joy, love, admiration, and pleasure actually only leaves us hungry and in search of the next best thing. We are slaves to an endless search for something to satisfy our deepest physical and emotional needs.
Another way to think about this is to imagine a fish who wants to live on land. If he does what he wants, if he jumps out of his bowl, he will surely die. We keep fish in the water, not because we want to constrain them, but because that is how they were designed to live. So it is with us. When we rebel and act out of the way God designed us, we are not experiencing true freedom. We are slowly dying to the false promises of the world. But, when we experience and understand all that Christ did for us, we are invited back into God’s design for our lives. Yes, we will still fall short of His glory. Yes, we will still slip into sin. But, we will deny the grip that sin once held over us. We will fight for truth to prevail in our lives. We won’t succumb to the vacant allure of sinful pretenses. Instead, we will embrace the freedom found only in following Jesus Christ: the freedom to a relationship with God and the freedom to serve Him without fear of failure and rejection.
If he does what he wants, if he jumps out of his bowl, he will surely die.
Finding freedom in Christ also means you no longer have to seek approval from others in order to feel justified. You no longer have to succeed professionally in order to feel useful. You no longer have to worry about having the right clothes, or finding the perfect spouse, or making your family proud. In short, you are free from everything the world claims you need in order to be happy. And, when you are free from sin and the pressures of the world, you can be free to experience abundant life in the arms of the God who created you, who loves you, and who is ready to give you every good thing simply because you are His.
You no longer have to seek approval from others in order to feel justified.